The long overdue actions taken by the European Parliament on September 12, 2018, and by the United States Senate through Resolution 30 of January 25, 2019, authored by Senators Feinstein, Durbin and Murphy, condemn in no uncertain terms the Viktor Orban led government’s dismantling of Hungary’s fledgling democracy. Based on the Sargentini Report, the European Union charged the Hungarian government with political as well as economic and financial corruption. Pursuant to this Report, since 2010, Hungary has increasingly become a rogue state. Actually, Hungary has been taken over by political gangsters, headed by the Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who have shamelessly robbed the Hungarian people blind. Democracy has been replaced by “illiberal democracy”, meaning the personal cult of Viktor Orban. The Alliance of Young Democrats (Hungarian acronyms: FIDESZ) dominated Parliament passed a new constitution which was already amended seven times to accommodate the changing needs of the Prime Minister and his accomplices. This new constitution has curtailed the independence of the judiciary, has made a mockery of the freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, the freedom of association, the right of equal treatment, the right of minorities, and has practically abolished the main economic and social rights.
In the same vein, the Senators’ Resolution point to the rampant corruption coupled with “poor governance.” In this context, the Resolution emphasizes the ”security challenges which undermine democracy, the rule of law and economic development.” The Resolution also repeats the charges contained in the Sargentini Report concerning the systematic violations of the constitution, the wholesale government total takeover of the media, and the neutering of the judiciary. Moreover, the Senate Resolution goes into great details about the systematic destruction of the democratic institutions of the government and the re-establishment of a totalitarian state. The Senate Resolution concludes by urging the President “to vigorously defend the universal freedoms and democratic norms under attack by the Orban government in Hungary.”
Both actions came almost three decades after Hungary regained its sovereignty on June 19, 1991, two decades after it joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 12, 1999, and fifteen years after the country became a member of the European Union on May 1, 2004. Naturally, the questions arises: How did Hungary get from being the “happiest barrack in the Soviet block” to being the least democratic, the most regressive, and assuredly the corruptest country within the European Union? The answers lie partially in the turbulent history of Hungary, partially in the ossified Hungarian political culture, and partially in the psyche of the Hungarian people. Throughout its history, Hungary has oscillated between powerful foreign occupiers and unsuccessful attempts at national liberation. Clamped between appeasement of their foreign masters and the desire for freedom, Hungarians have never developed a positive political culture. The resulting ambiguity has given birth to an enduring national schizophrenia. Accordingly, in the absence of coherent domestic and foreign policies, successive Hungarian governments have slavishly followed the occupiers diktats, while complaining privately about their lack of free agency. In the face of these centuries-old vulnerabilities, Hungarians have lost their collective and individual sense of responsibility for their destiny, and consequently, have stopped respecting their politicians and each other.
When the restoration of national sovereignty came on June 19, 1991, neither the governing communist party nor the disorganized opposition was ready to assume the political responsibility for Hungary. The communist party, officially called the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party, fell apart and ceast to exist. The opposition was comprised of disgruntled communist party members, previously sidelined intellectuals, and the easily excitable members of the working class. The free elections produced a cabinet of political amateurs headed by a high school history teacher with a penchant for nostalgic revanchist mentality. Four years later, they lost the elections and their party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, disappeared into the proverbial dustbin of history. The voters brought back the former communists with absolute majority in the Parliament. The renamed Hungarian Socialist Party, however, was afraid of governing alone, lest they will be accused of the restoration of the one-party dictatorship. Its coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats, was a hodgepodge of egomaniac individuals. In 1998, this government was also voted out of power. The new government was headed by Viktor Orban whose party, the Alliance of Young Democrats got only a minority of the votes. Having teamed up with the Smallholders Party, they also lasted only for four years.
Already then, the Viktor Orban led government displayed autocratic tendencies and unashamed penchant for boundless corruption. Voted out of power in 2002, Viktor Orban turned his party in opposition into a mercilessly destructive political force. His uncompromising resistance to the government of Socialists and Free Democrats, coupled with the listless governing of the latter, bore political fruits. In 2010, FIDESZ returned to power with 52% of the popular votes and an absolute majority in the Parliament. Since then, FIDESZ was re-elected two times, in 2014 and in 2018, with a minority of the popular votes but with the same absolute majority in the Parliament.
Simultaneously, the opposition has remained fragmented and without credible leaders. To wit, Viktor Orban was not concerned with this opposition either in the Parliament or with the electorate. In the Parliament he completely disarmed it. During the election campaigns, he argued that the various opposition parties and groups were inexperienced and profoundly insincere in their devotion to Hungary and the fate of Hungarians living in the neighboring countries. To add insult to injury, he has relentlessly accused the opposition of being the Trojan Horse for the Hungarian born, Jewish billionaire, George Soros.
Even more than the pervasive and highly destructive corruption of the current Hungarian government, the politicization of morality by Viktor Orban has turned the country into a divisive and intolerant society motivated by visceral hatred against everybody not associated with the inner circle of his party, and especially against the predatory Jews across the globe. In reality, Viktor Orban’s “illiberal democracy” has been quintessentially despotic and racist. This despotism has also permeated the economy. Faced with free markets and government control, Viktor Orban chose the latter. Total lack of accountability invited brazen graft and untold corruption.
The list of Viktor Orban’s political, economic,social, cultural, and moral transgressions would take, if enumerated, several volumes. Political and economic freedoms have fallen to the “pay to play” mentality that has introduced absolute corruption in every sphere of the Hungarian economy. Today, there is no democracy, there is no rule of law, and there is no free market economy in Hungary. Human rights of Hungarian citizens and non-citizens have been violated on a daily basis.
More alarmingly, Viktor Orban have set about to destroy the unity of the European Union and NATO, in order to cover up the criminal nature of his regime. In fast every instance, including serious criminal cases involving Russian citizens, he has refused to cooperate with the United States and his European allies. The economically unnecessary expansion of Hungary’s only nuclear power plant in Paks, for example, was awarded without a public tender to the Russian firm Rosatom under great secrecy and false pretenses. The overall chaos surrounding the construction of the two new reactors has fueled serious allegations inside and outside Hungary about Russian bribery and the likely corruption embedded in the entire deal.
Unfortunately, successive American administrations have paid little attention to the burgeoning malignant tumor inside both organizations. The just departed Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, A. Wess Mitchell was an unmitigated failure, who unsuccessfully tried to play nice by seemingly pacifying Viktor Orban. Similarly, the American Ambassador to Hungary, David Cornstein, a bumbling amateur without any experience or knowledge of Hungary, has decided to outrightly lie about the situation, claiming that rumors about corruption on the highest levels of the government does not exist, and that Hungary is a genuine democracy. In this manner, President Trump and his Administration have not been able to receive accurate information on Viktor Orban and the situation in Hungary.
Currently, the Hungarian malignant tumor has metastasized to the member states of Central and Eastern Europe, to Italy, to Austria, and to Spain within the European Union. Musing about Hungary’s neutrality by moving closer to Russia and China, Viktor Orban seems ready to inflict even more damage to the unity of NATO and the European Union. Using the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries, including in the Ukraine, as political pawns, Viktor Orban has also introduced an additional dose of racism into both multi-ethnic alliances. His refusal to sign the bilateral Defense Cooperation in Armaments (DCA) between the United States and Hungary is nothing short of appalling. For these reasons, Viktor Orban cannot be tolerated any longer as the Prime Minister of Hungary.
The United States must move beyond “defending the universal freedoms and democratic norms under attack by the Orban government in Hungary” and do everything in its powers to facilitate a change in government prior to or latest at the next elections in 2022, in Hungary. A good start will be setting in motion the Global Magnitsky Act by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Treasury against Viktor Orban, members of his family, and his closest associates. Motions regarding the implementation of the Global Magnitsky Act against nine Hungarian citizens, including Viktor Orban, were submitted to the Secretaries by the Frontiers of Freedom Institute already on March 6, 2018. Moreover, President Trump should consider the imposition of sanctions against Viktor Orban and eight other Hungarian citizens. These are: Mr. Janos Lazar, the former Minister in Charge for the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office; Mr. Antal Rogan, Minister in Charge for the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office; Dr. Peter Polt, Chief Prosecutor of Hungary; Mr. Gyorgy Matolcsy, Chairman of the National Bank of Hungary; Mr. Gyozo Orban, Father of Viktor Orban; Mrs. Aniko Levai, Wife of Viktor Orban; Mr. Lorinc Meszaros, Mayor of Felcsut and Viktor Orban’s childhood friend; Mr. Istvan Tiborcz, Son-in-Law of Viktor Orban. Finally, the bank accounts of these individual must be frozen, where ever they can be found. In this context, the bank accounts of companies owned wholly or partially by these individuals must also be frozen, where ever they can be found. These monies have been stolen from the Hungarian people. Therefore, these monies must be returned to them.
In closing, Viktor Orban and his clique have crossed the line that cannot be overlooked any more. Their unwillingness to be good partners and allow Russia and China to interfere with the work of both alliances threatens their unity and effectiveness. Clearly, it is high time for Viktor Orban and his accomplices to make room for a new breed of politicians who are incorruptible and committed to build a democratic Hungary. Equally important is the prospect that these politicians will be loyal partners within NATO as well as the European Union.