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US Senator McCain’s “neofascist” comment

December 5th, 2014

The leading left-wing daily considersSenator McCain’s apparent description of PM Orbán as a “neofascist dictator” a gross exaggeration. A pro-government commentator believes that Senator McCain’s statements are confused, unfair and motivated by US economic interests.

Before the vote on the appointment of Colleen Bell as ambassador to Hungary in the US Senate on Tuesday (see BudaPost through November 13, 2013), Senator McCain described her as a totally unqualified individual to be ambassador to a nation which is very important to our national security interests. Senator McCain added that Hungary is on the verge of ceding its sovereignty to a neofascist dictator, getting in bed with Vladimir Putin. Hungarian news outlets who contacted Senator McCains staff in order to clarify the meaning of that sentence were told that Senator McCain used the term neofascist dictator to describe PM Orbán. BudaPost reads it as referring  to President Putin of Russia. Our analysis is that ceding national sovereignty must refer to foreign powers. Ceding sovereignty to Mr Orbán would not therefore make sense. (That said, Senator McCain is very critical of Hungary as he set out in a subsequent statement issued on Wednesday, in which he detailed his concerns over the erosion of democratic norms in Hungary). However, both the Hungarian media and the state authorities interpreted the remark as a reference to the Prime Minister. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned US Chargé dAffaires Andre Goodfriend to protest against Senator McCains remarks. US State Departments Spokeswoman Marie Harf distanced the US. administration from the language McCain used. She said I think it’s no surprise that there are a number of views Senator McCain has espoused that we don’t share.

PM Orbán is not a neofascist, Népszabadság comments in a front page editorial, although adding that he is “an authoritarian politician”. The leading left-wing daily suggests that despite his harsh rhetoric, the Prime Minister could not behave as a dictator even if he wished to do so. He would have to observe certain basic norms, all the more so, since Hungary is dependent on the EU’s financial support. Nonetheless, Népszabadság finds the government guilty of efforts to silence its critics; of helping its economic hinterland to gain lucrative business deals, as well as having introduced electoral rules in its own favour. All this explains, according to the left-wing daily, how the impression can be created in the US that PM Orbán is indeed a neofascist dictator.

Magyar Nemzet’s Zsuzsanna Körmendy suspects that Senator McCain’s rude and unfair statement was motivated by the pursuit of sheer economic interest. The pro-government columnist surmises that the US wants to punish Hungary for trying to establish economic ties with eastern powers at a time when the US wants to strengthen its economic positions on the European subcontinent through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and by and selling shell gas in Europe. By setting an example with Hungary, the US wants to make sure that no other countries try to find alternatives to US resources, Körmendy suggests. Concerning the “neofascist” label, Körmendy finds it peculiar that a politician of the oldest democracy should liken a Prime Minister elected in free and democratic elections to dictators. She wonders how it would be possible for a nation to cede its sovereignty through democratic elections. Körmendy adds that Senator McCain visited Hungary earlier this year, and so should be fully aware that it is absolutely groundless to liken Hungary to totalitarian dictatorships including Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany. In conclusion, Körmendy urges the Hungarian government to increase its efforts to dispel harmful misconceptions and outright lies about Hungary.

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