Merkel came and saw, while a giddy opposition waited with bated breath

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán didn’t have an exceptionally good day. He almost certainly could have avoided an embarrassing press conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel if only he would have taken the more pragmatic route of distancing himself from comments made last summer in Transylvania, about the possibility of turning Hungary into an illiberal democracy. Mr. Orbán was answering a question from Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), in which the Hungarian prime minister was asked to explain what he meant when he spoke positively about an “illiberal democracy.”

Mr. Orbán and Ms. Merkel in Budapest on Monday. Photo: Parliament of Hungary

Mr. Orbán and Ms. Merkel in Budapest on Monday. Photo: Parliament of Hungary

“Not all democracies have to be liberal,” answered Mr. Orbán, as Ms. Merkel looked on with a brief expression of astonishment. “Those who say that democracy is necessarily liberal are trying to put one school of thought above the rest and we’re not going to grant that privilege,” added the Hungarian prime minister, digging himself further into a political hole entirely of his own making. Ms. Merkel was unequivocal in her response and did not hesitate to publicly reject what her Hungarian counterpart and Christian Democratic “comrade” was saying.

“I personally don’t know what to do with the term,” said Ms. Merkel of Mr. Orbán’s illiberal democracy. And within minutes, this was the headline on all major Hungarian news sites.

The left-centre opposition jumped on Mr. Orbán’ public chastising. Népszava’s feature article was entitled Orbán gets a lesson in democracy,” while Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy of the Democratic Coalition (DK) wrote on Facebook that thanks to the Merkel-visit, “the ball is now in our court.” He noted that Mr. Orbán must have received “sharp criticism” in private from the German chancellor and echoed Ms. Merkel in saying that being socially sensitive and respecting liberalism is part of Christian democracy. Mr. Kerék-Bárczy is himself a conservative politician within Ferenc Gyurcsány’s hybrid party, a practicing Catholic and formerly associated with the now defunct Hungarian Democratic Forum.

József Tóbiás, the leader of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) commented on Facebook that today proved that “Mr. Orbán can’t even hide his anti-democratic views during a brief press conference.” MSZP then quickly issued an official statement confirming that the Socialists firmly believe that “the Europe of the future is based on social, Christian and liberal values.”

MSZP then went a bit further to confirm that the Hungarian Socialist Party and Ms. Merkel “basically think the same thing about democracy, even though we did not meet with her today.”

MSZP’s press release was dire, but not too much worse than what DK produced shortly after Ms. Merkel got onto her plane and flew away.

“Mr. Orbán looked like a frightened child standing next to his teacher,” said Csaba Molnár. The Hungarian text refers to Ms. Merkel in this context as the “tanár néni,” which is hard to translate, but I would ask my readers to think of a no-nonsense elderly, female schoolteacher. The word “néni” means “aunt.” What is unfortunate, is that the Hungarian opposition, in large part, actually sees Ms. Merkel precisely in these terms: a strict German model democrat who will carry a whip when she meets the out-of-control Mr. Orbán.

DK also felt that it was very significant that Ms. Merkel thanked the Hungarian people as opposed to thanking the Hungarian government during her visit. This, however, isn’t really a slight to the current government, it is simply recognizing — as Mr. Merkel’s press secretary did through Twitter — that Hungary played a critical role 25 years ago in the dismantling of the Iron Curtain.

It says something about the psyche of Hungarian society, and the Hungarian opposition in specific, that people could get into such a frenzy and could expect so very much from an eight hour visit of a right-wing politician, whose track record on social justice and democracy actually isn’t stellar. Gáspár Miklós Tamás (TGM) wrote about this in January, as opposition parties, many activists and media personalities all seemed to wait with bated breath for Ms. Merkel to crack down on Mr. Orbán and teach him a lesson that he would not soon forget.

It’s just a pity that the Hungarian opposition is so servile and ineffective, that it needs to sit and pray for a miracle, in the form of a foreign right-ring politician coming down hard on the man that they are unable to defeat.

“Auntie Merkel, would you please free us from Mr. Orbán and tell us how to introduce freedom in Hungary?”–writes TGM, mimicking the Hungarian opposition. “Some of them think that the adults of Europe will put the rotten kindergarten kids in their place, who happen to be ruling Hungary purely as a fluke of fate,” he added.

It may have been a better day than most for the Hungarian opposition, no thanks to anything that they have done. But Ms. Merkel is now gone, and they can either look to western Europe to sort out their problems for them, or finally grow up, put away this bizarre servility and try to do something that would let them take charge of their own fate.



  1. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Excellent analysis! It is absolutely astounding that the Hungarian opposition is expecting from a right-wing Merkel, a long-term ally of the hyper-conservative, slightly revanchist CSU to slap Orbán. They still don’t understand that Merkel’s views are quite close to Orbán’s, she is his friend and continue to shelter him in the European Peoples Party.

  2. Avatar Robert Ferber says:

    As Mr. A. Kertesz wrote 2 years ago: “The Hungarian people have slave mentality.” The Orban regime will only end when the starving will riot and the special police will shoot them.

  3. “…put away this bizarre servility and try to do something that would let them take charge of their own fate.”

    😀 hmmmm

    No way, that will just not happen. It’s a kind of overbearing servility when they bravely and naively trying to take control of someone who would tell them what to do, who would do the dirty work and take charge of their very own life for their benefit. If only they knew what they want. They are always saying “we are a small country”. It’s not the size of the country that creates a problem. It’s the size of their brain.

    They warn and advise and lecture Merkel, in a lordly and overweening fashion, they tell others what to do. Good, that was rich. Smart people.

    No, Chris, that’s not gonna happen. They can’t get out of this on their own without getting help from outside, but the problem is if you or anybody else wanted to help them, then at first you have to cringe before them, pray for to be allowed to help in a right way and not the stupid way they dictate, win their goodwill and friendship, pretend that it is their superior mind that solves the problem, and when its achieved and you are allowed to help, only then can do the dirty work that they will graciously accept but strictly as a favor they gave to you. And be sure after the job has done they come out to ask for a reciprocate favor for being so generous allowing you to do it.

    That’s the spirit there. They never learn and they don’t even want. That is much to humiliating for the overbearing servants.

  4. I am not overwhelmed by anyone in the democratic opposition either but (1) I’d take any of them over Orban and his crooked cronies any day.

    (2) Orban is not maintaining power because of the incompetence of the opposition but because of the unscrupulousness of his ways (and the opposition’s main weakness is also its virtue: they do not lack all scruples).

    But even with media control, corruption and intimidation we cannot leave out the worst culprits of all: (3) the petty jingoes who vote for and adore Orban and the apathetics who look the other way. They’re the ones keeping Hungary in its petty, shameful state. And, frankly, they are getting exactly what they deserve. It’s the decent minority that I pity.

    But the petty jingoism runs so deep in Hungarian culture that it is just as firmly rooted in the Hungarian expat community that has been free of Orbanian media control and has been freely sampling democracy for decades and more.

    There’s something truly aberrent there, wrapped in a thin pastry shell of citizenship and civility.

  5. Sebaj, a viktort a TEK komái este hazaviszik házába, ott bezár ajtót, ablakot, jó kis házi bort, pálinkát iszik, ettől aztán jókedve kerekedik, jól megveri Anikó feleségét, aztán mindjárt elfelejti Angela Merkel kritikáját.

  6. No problem! The viktor was taken home by the TEK bodyguards in the evening, where he closed the doors and windows of his house. He drank from his home made wine and brandy, it cheered him up, gave a good beating to his wife and by the morning he will sleeps off his drunkenness along with the criticism he got from Angela Merkel. Life will go on as before in Orbanistan.

  7. Avatar András Göllner says:

    There was a forgettable soap opera years ago on daytime television – maybe it still exists, who knows – As the World Turns. The Merkel visit to Hungary, and the behavior of Hungary’s political elite reminds me a bit of this show, that I’d watch when I could stay home from school with an upset stomach.

  8. Avatar Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    Adam, I think it is too much responsibility to comment this historic visit, so the easy way as you approached the problem is not really feasible, I think. It is not a Sylvester-eve parody. I read the comment of the New York Times about this meeting and it was much ore objective and serious.

    In fact our Prime Minister did com out again with this idiotic phrase of “illiberal democracy”, which is really a synonym of the “iron ring of wooden”, or “peace-fight”, what he ought have to forget about. Frau Merkel “did not understand” this term. Neither I…

    Well, if it meant that the smart guys of culture and moral should be replaced gradually by idiots and neo-barbars and young palace-owners as advisors, and the friends by enemies, then I understand. But let me hope that it is not the case.

    The New York Times however, remind the Reader, that Mr. Orbán took important steps back on the dangerous road toward Moscow. The NYT thinks what I hope that Mr. Orban will turn back from this dangerous path, and does not see so much differences between Hungary and Germany as you do, Free Press. TGM is right, when he, who cannot be considered as a friend of Orbán, found ridiculous the behavior of the so-called Hungarian left, who are unable to provide a perspective to the Hungarian nation but runs to the “Tanitó Néni” to help.

    The sorry-looking fellows around the moral insanity Fleto Gyurcsány are ridicoulous light opera figures. No weight of their words. This Barczy-Kerek for instance…

    • Look uncle Habil Andras Fodor. You’re one of the ugliest troll I have ever seen. Once maligning and now foolishly patronizing and lecturing Christopher Adam. You’re not gonna discourage anybody.

      He is doing good and I like reading his articles, and you might as well refrain from littering this site talking nonsense as if you were the eyes of Nostradamus who can tell what will happen in the world politics in the future and how Orban will react accordingly. Just hold your pants on uncle Habil.

      I am not writing this to defend Chris as he doesn’t need me, I am writing because you disgust me, nutter.

  9. Avatar Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    If this aberrant junior is amongst the partners, I am going to leave you, boys …. Good bye….

  10. Avatar András Göllner says:

    Me thinks Dr Habil is labil…..Let’s turn the page and get ready for the head of the Russian kleptocracy’s visit to Orbanistan. Perhaps Dr Habil well become more stabil after Putin’s visit.

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