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Strasbourg, “a tiny victory for PM Orbán”

June 28th, 2013

A leading liberal expert describes the vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe as “a victory for Orbán, albeit a tiny one”.

In his analysis of the vote (See BudaPost, June 27) on Galamus, Mátyás Eörsi, who served under two Socialist-Liberal governments, first as SZDSZ floor leader, then Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and is now a national board member of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition party, enumerates three factors that prevented the critics of the Hungarian government from succeeding in having Hungary placed under official monitoring for insufficient compliance with democratic standards.

1. In addition to the People’s Party, the Hungarian government was also supported by the conservatives, including the British Tories, Putin’s United Russia and Turkish PM Erdogan’s party.  The Russians, Eörsi writes, intend to undermine the institution of monitoring as such, for they themselves are under that procedure. As for the Turks, Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Zsolt Németh praised Turkish democracy while the police were oppressing anti-government demonstrations, killing four people. Eörsi thinks that compliment was now paid back in cash by the Turkish MPs in Strasbourg.

2. In addition to those delegates, the government also enjoyed the support of the representatives of Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia: all of which are being monitored by the Council of Europe.

3. Some of the 22 amendments proposed in Hungary’s favour to the original text were endorsed by the monitoring committee, while others were rejected. And the majority vote depended on the momentary presence or absence of one particular Socialist MP (Eörsi does not reveal his identity). And since most “neutral” delegates usually follow the recommendations of the relevant committee, they adopted many amendments, including the one that happened to cancel the word “monitoring” from the resolution.

Eörsi acknowledges that during the debate, the Hungarian position was convincingly defended by British Conservatives. They argued that Hungary is a free country, with no political prisoners. They also remarked that the population does not protest against what he terms the government running amok. Eörsi thinks the government has not been mandated by the people to introduce all the changes it has put through, but warns his readers that if it is confirmed in office at the elections next year, its policies will have been solemnly legitimised by the electorate. And “as the stars stand at present, the name of the winner of the elections in 2014 will be Viktor Orbán”.

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