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Where Fukuyama was mistaken

February 3rd, 2012

A conservative philosopher contends that Francis Fukuyama’s criticism of the Hungarian government was based in part on erroneous assumptions. Magyar Nemzet predicts that Hungarian intellectuals who stand up in defence of the government will not impress leading Western media outlets, in contrast to the credit left-wing opponents of the government enjoy.

I don’t think the Prime Minister would use his position to shut down the opposition press” – writes Ferenc Horkay-Hörcher in Mos Maiorum, reacting to an article by Francis Fukuyama, the world famous political scientist.

In January, Francis Fukuyama wrote an article in the American Interest, pondering whether the institutional framework of democracy can guarantee democratic stability in itself, or if democratic traditions are more important than the rules and the institutions themselves.  Hungary’s legal setup, he argued, was democratic, but there was not enough faith in the democratic intentions of the ruling élite. In addition, the swift way the new constitution “was rammed through” without too much concern for the opinions of the opposition, prompted him to assert that “Orbán’s behavior betrays an authoritarian thin skin that would rather ban opposition than engage with it.”

Horkay-Hörcher believes those statements are grossly exaggerated. He lists a few factual mistakes Fukuyama made in describing the events of the past 18 months in Hungary, but believes the main problem is a series of general judgements stigmatising the Hungarian government which are not duly supported by facts. The Hungarian philosopher admits that enshrining the tax system into the constitution was not in conformity with either his taste or Western political culture. He also deplores the fact that left wing Klub Radio has apparently been stripped of its frequency (although pending two court rulings). Nevertheless, he contends, to accuse the Prime Minister of an inclination to ban the opposition or the opposition press, is totally unsubstantiated.

Horkay-Hörcher cautions against reacting to harsh statements coming from the United States in the same style, and hopes Washington will understand in an election year that it is not in its interest to totally isolate an ally.

Commenting on an open letter by Hungarian intellectuals, a leading commentator in Magyar Nemzet describes the international pressure Hungary is under as bewildering. However, Zsuzsanna Körmendy continues, Hungary’s conservative intelligentsia resists that pressure, and reject the accusation of backing a Chávez-style dictatorship.

A group of conservative professors, the Writers’ Union and the Arts Academy have issued a joint statement condemning international “slander which accuses Hungary of a democratic deficit”.

The pro-government commentator admits that the right wing in Hungary has failed to establish the same kind of friendly ties in the west that its opponents have. “But to liken the legally elected Hungarian government to the Belarus dictatorship is outrageous”­. Körmendy predicts that “the Guardian and Le Monde will find the stance taken by the conservative intellectuals less exciting than charges of populism by left-wingers”, but ends her editorial quoting George Orwell: “The truth exists, even when it is being denied”.

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