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What does Fidesz want from the state and why?

March 1st, 2012

A centrist analyst believes that Fidesz did not embark on a wholesale overhaul of scores of political institutions in order to put an end to democracy in Hungary, but because the party felt that the institutional environment has always favoured its adversaries. Fidesz decided, therefore, to change that environment.

In his blog, Gábor Török challenges the two dominant narratives which attempt to explain the constitutional reforms taking place in Hungary. He thinks it is just as mistaken to praise the reforms as elements of a new form of majoritarian democracy aimed at increasing the efficiency of the state machinery, as it is to condemn them as an attempt to destroy democracy, to build a dictatorship, or to hurl the country back into the last years of Communism.

Török thinks the key to understanding the legislative fury that has characterised the first two years of the Fidesz government, is the governing party’s conviction that the political football pitch is on a slope, and that it has always had to “play uphill”. While it is true, Török contends, that until recently it was indeed hard to encounter an expert in almost any field of public life who was on their side, that situation had changed by the start of the new Millennium. Fidesz appears to have failed to notice the improvement of its own position in the intellectual life of the nation, Török suggests, and the party remains convinced that it is an underdog.

Török also dismisses those left wing critics who accuse Prime Minister Orbán of trying to construct a hyper-centralised form of government. If that was Fidesz’s real intention, he argues, the large right-wing parliamentary majority would have subordinated the prosecution service to the government, instead of bolstering its independence. It might even have set up a presidential system. Instead, Fidesz left the political system established in 1989 basically unchanged.

The real intention was to use their overwhelming parliamentary majority to change “the status quo”. Török suspects however that the conflicts those changes caused, for example as a result of the electoral reform, were too high a price to pay. The same results could have been more easily achieved, he writes, simply by appointing their loyalists to key positions.

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