András Göllner: Comparing Canada’s Harper to Orbán relativizes predatory rule in Hungary

Popular talk radio host György Bolgár of Hungary’s Klubrádió interviewed Professor András Göllner, founder of the Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter (CHDC) on Wednesday. (Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 here.) The Montreal-based academic and civil liberties activist was asked to speak to an article appearing in the New York Times, in which Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is presented as a leader who for nine years “consistently limited the capacity of the public to understand what its government is doing, cloaking himself and his Conservative Party in an entitled secrecy, and the country in ignorance.”

This stinging criticism from a reputable international paper appeared, at least on the surface, to surprise Mr. Bolgár, and perhaps others in Hungary who have perceived Canada as a safe, model haven of enlightened liberal democracy. Could it be that authoritarian Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is not alone in the western world when it comes to the wholesale dismantling of checks and balances, pluralism and liberal democratic governance?

One of the most important points in Dr. Göllner’s 15-minute interview on Klubrádió is that he throws a bucket of cold water on such parallels between Mr. Harper and Mr. Orbán, which are frequently made, and which unwittingly relativize the predatory and authoritarian nature of Fidesz rule in Hungary.

Dr. András Göllner

Dr. András Göllner

Dr. Göllner notes that a New York Times article about Canada’s prime minister is not such a “hot” news item here as a similar piece about Mr. Orbán would be in Hungary. It will have virtually no impact on the electoral outcome or on public discourse, he suggests.

In the Klubrádió interview, Dr. Göllner argued that unlike Hungary, the Canadian parliamentary system works: checks and balances, pluralism, constitutionalism and justice have not been eradicated, there is scrutinization inside and outside of Parliament, the ruling party is “not the only show in town.”

Critically, the Conservative Party of Canada is not a hegemonic power – while in Hungary virtually all the regional governments are Fidesz run (with only sprinkles of Socialist and Jobbik administrations, as well as independent, or nominally independent mayors in the smallest communities), in Canada the Tories don’t run everything. Alberta elected the New Democratic Party (NDP), Ontario and Quebec are Liberal, municipal governments are even further removed from one-party control and the kind of collusion that exists for example between the municipal governments of Budapest, Debrecen and Fidesz.

Despite the differences, it is worth pointing out, and Dr. Göllner does just this, that Mr. Orbán and Mr. Harper share the same campaign strategist – Arthur J. Finkelstein – which is naturally reflected in their approach to the press, to information and campaigning. But the ability of “getting away with murder” in Canada is much more restricted here than in Hungary. The leaders’ impulses may be the same – but their capacity is vastly different. Canada is a just society. Hungary is not. While Mr. Harper’s grip on power is brittle, the Fidesz-Jobbik’s grip is very firm.

The Montreal-based Hungarian Canadian academic talked about the fallacy of “betting all of Hungary’s taxpayers’ money on one Canadian horse – a horse, that is likely to lose the race.”

The Orbán government, of course, is doing whatever it can to “buy” votes within the Hungarian Canadian diaspora, and is pumping larger amounts of money into the Hungarian Canadian community than ever before. The Hungarian Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto (Torontói Magyar Ház) received nearly $600,000 from the Orbán regime this summer, in order to complete the construction of a new building. The planned Victims of Communism monument in Ottawa received some $115,000 in funding from Budapest this month.

“While Mr. Orbán may be able to get a significant proportion of the Hungarian diaspora to vote for him, he cannot manipulate them to the same degree as far as Canadian federal or provincial voting behaviour is concerned. The ethnic Hungarian vote is widely dispersed in Canada’s ridings, the impact in individual constituencies is virtually zero”–argues Dr. Göllner.

The CHDC founder also pointed out that while the Harper government’s support for Fidesz may be strong now, it could easily crumble, since the relationship is asymmetrical. Mr. Harper is far more important to Mr. Orbán, than Mr. Orbán is to Mr. Harper. At the moment, the Canadian opposition parties have nothing to do with Fidesz.

“In time, the Tories may follow suit, and bail out from the love in, despite the heavy investment by Mr. Orbán”–suggested Professor Göllner.

“Indeed the Fidesz’s one-sided approach, coupled to the growing evidence of Hungary’s rule of law violations, and Orbán’s pro-Putin stance could create serious problems for Hungarian Ambassador Bálint Ódor in the corridors of power in Ottawa. More evidence about the duplicitous nature of Fidesz’ approach to multiculturalism, immigration, ant-Semitism could turn into a serious liability,” Dr. Göllner added.



    Excellent points by Professor Gollner about the night vs day differences in democracy, constitutionality and rule of law in Hungary (Orbanistan) compared to Canada. Yes, Harper can and will be voted out. There is no “Harpistan.” But the NYT opinion piece by Stephen Marche — The Closing of the Canadian Mind — was right about Harper too. It is impossible to read it without seeing the parallels (in direction, though not in degree), and they are explicable only in part by the fact that both have hired the same scruple-free image-maker. The two share similar personality tendencies (especially unprincipled opportunism), but Harper’s are constrained by the Canadian constitution and electorate, whereas Orban seems to be answerable only to himself.

    Hungarian Ambassador Odor should be feeling at home in his new post so far; his boss back home and the prime minister of his host country are kindred spirits. The rocky ride begins once the Canadian electorate heaves Harper.

  2. Mr. Goellner has no voice in the matter of Hungary at all because he is making nothing else, as only propaganda in own case.

    My diagnosis for Goellner: hypochondriac.

  3. Message to Mr. Stevan Harnad:
    Please give a explanation why did you change your hungarian name in a combination of serbo/rumanian?

    Why you are explicitly so much against Hungary? Why you are in that case member of the hungarian academic nevertheless of the fact, you are getting seeks if you are spelling the name of “Hungary”. You and the Goellners like hates that country of a rest of only 28 %.

    I would suggest, forget Hungary and you will sleep better. Please read Heinrich Heine, “Wenn ich an Deutschland denke”.

    • Avatar Christopher Adam says:

      Kindly replace the ad hominem attacks with an actual critique of the points raised by the article and by those who comment, if you wish to continue commenting on this site.

  4. Mr. Goellner foto is very intelligent made. But the question is, for what the hell is good that poses? Hungary needs not the Goellners because he is not making some democratic proposals for looking after the best way of problems, but only spreading hatred among the people in the world. Hungary and the democratic elected Orbán government needs critic but not with VOLKSVERHETZUNG.

    The language of your autors is a kind of antihungarian antisemitism. Remember that and use self criticism.

  5. And at least:
    What kind of democracy you are representing if you are delating my point of view? Because you have no idea or arguments for democratic views of mine?

    And this are short for the presence and the future like this:

    FrEnRUSa /France, England, Russia and the USA as a colonial monster/ delated the historic world with one strokes, so that of Hungary. So the future in the relationship between countries is mutual allegation. Who is a bad and worse. Therefore my allegations primery the UK and the USA and France /who destroyed the historic Hungary, about their Holocaust against the nativ people of America, by killing only there about 60 millions Indians. Thats ca. 10 times so big as the terrible holokaust of the Germans. Because without the intervention of the US in Europa, there would be no Holocaust but also the historic Hungary would be existing.

    And your writing kind is not unthers as already totally allegation in that case of Hungary.

    This political dids with the pencil are very dangerous kind of relationship and will soon or later end in a military conflict. I do not know if the Goellners, Adams and the Eva Baloghs are aware of that?

  6. Avatar Charlie London says:


    Please stop posting your unintelligible rubbish here.

    I can’t write or speak Hungarian either – so I wouldn’t test my reader’s patience like you do.

    In England we see graffiti artists whose keenness to impart their wisdom is far outweighed by their mental ability to say anything even worth the effort of reading.

    Ditto you.

    Knock it on the head eh?

    I know you have shown yourself to be anti-semitic, racist and just a plain nasty person – enough to be banned from another website (how they made sense of what you wrote is a mystery to me).

    You’re just the sort of person who supports Orban Viktor – but there are plenty of others to do your dirty work. At least we can understand them.

    Have you heard of Hungary Today? Try them – see how long you can last there? They love Orbanistas.

    So knock it on the head eh?

    Christopher is too polite to tell you to go.

    But go, vamoose, begone, allez vous en, depart.

    And take your nonsense with you.

  7. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    I will spare the kind readers of this paper any reactions to Mr Macaroni’s limp comments about me. It’s hot enough in Montreal without putting one’s head above the pot in which he is stewing.

  8. To Charlie London:
    I am writing so good in English how I even can. You a angry even as tylical English with the behaviour of master of the world. But nevertheless I like the English kind of people. Do you know why? If you believe or not, the most similar people in the world to the Hungarians are the English. But even England destroyed on the first place Hungary after 1918. Until 72 %! Do you know that and therefore a extermination of the Hungarians on that 72 % lost territories is going on till our present days.

    The rest of your more than agly words are nothing else, as your face and your very agly minds.

    England among others are destroyed by our present days other countries and societies but the many refugees should the rest of Hungary take in.

    About me: I am a very well educated open minded democratic man with obligation so to my name and so to from England destroyed Hungary. Try to be self critically because we are all seeting as human being in the same boat.

    About my English: this languages should be reformed for common use. I had to live England “so soon as possible” so sorry if you are speak only that languages with ca. 4000 words of maybe 70.000. Do you know how many words have the Hungarian language? 2, 5 millions and you English wont to delete also this language? Do you know how many languages are I am speaking? Not well, but 28. So be a more moderate. Ok?

    • I hate to say it to you Macaroni, but if you speak the 28 languages as well as you speak English…….don’t bother. Maybe try to focus on just one or two languages besides Hungarian so you can at least learn to speak them well. There is no point in “knowing” 28 languages if it is unintelligible.

  9. I wish, if only Professor Göllner was right about the uncertaintity of the continued conservative Canadian – and generally speaking Western ( and especially German, this latter is the main imperialist driving force against existing democracy in Europe ) – backing of Orban’s neo-fascist regime. The pro-Putin stance doesn’t mean anything in itself, there are several post-Soviet states in Eurasia ( Orban’s role models ), that maintain close realtions both with the Euroatlanitc and Eurasian power-blocs. Indeed the state of democracy and the rule of law is uncomparably better in Canada than Hungary, but the dinamics of capitalism inherently favor authoritarian behaviour. This driving force can be contained in more developed societies like Canada for instance and it is uncontrollable in such backward, reacitonary, almost medieval-minded ( just think of the significance of the next day ) societies as Hungary.

  10. Avatar Judith Kopacsi says:

    I’m glad some one else can see the similarities between Orban and Harper. And I’m even happier that I live in Canada, where we can vote Mr. Harper out of office. It can’t happen soon enough for me.

  11. Giorgio,

    you’re lovely. You getting better day by day. You’re my best entertainer (possibly because yo cannot be bothered to read the pieces and post that you are commenting).
    Sadly your incognito has gone and I found your photo picture on the net.

    Never mind. 🙂

  12. Avatar Ferdinand Lengyel says:

    I have read the latest comments some of which seem to be offensive. What happened to the basic principle of “I may not agree with your opinion, but I will defend your right to express it”?

    Being critical of someone’s limited knowledge of a language, especially English which has the most borrowed words than any other language is below contempt. The claim of an opinion’s being unintelligible whilst criticising that opinion is somewhat senseless and farcical. To make it clear, how can an opinion be criticised if unintelligible??

    Being Hungarian born and having left Hungary as a baby after the second world war, I am extremely grateful to my parents that I am fluent in Hungarian and as many Hungarians, had the opportunity, unfortunately, to learn and forget a few languages.

    I read all the available opinions and am always aware that they are opinions, not necessarily substantiated by cold blooded evidence.

    Hungarian is a precious language. As reference please do some search on Gabriel Pascal and: George Bernard Shaw- Hungarian.

    • Avatar Charlie London says:

      You are such a goody two shoes, Ferdinand.

      • Avatar Charlie London says:

        Btw ‘unintelligible’ means ‘difficult or impossible to understand’.

        Your non-sequitur posting is just that – non sequitur.

        But maybe only other readers will appreciate the nuance.

        I suggest when you read GBS you fully understand the English version before you attempt the Hungarian?

        • Avatar Ferdinand Lengyel says:

          It made my day of being labelled “goody two shoes” even though is is usually directed to women. Still amused!

          To assist and to make it clear for Charlie, please insert before the point where the non sequitur begins the words: “On a different subject”. There was no inference to be drawn from the previous premiss.

          It is not clear on what basis Charlie makes any assumption of understanding the English version before attempting the Hungarian without any knowledge of the person who effectively did not enter into any political debate.

    • Ferdinand, there has not been a post ever, not on this forum or any others that Magyaroni has frequented, that were not offensive. Yes, he may be forgiven for the bad english, but his trolling is out of control and really his comments usually are of little substance or opinion, but rather an attack on anyone who voices a single negative word about the Hungarian government. His opinion may not be clear due to the lack of language skills, but his name calling is pretty clear. It is almost impossible to have a proper debate or conversation with this troll, and quite frankly, guys like him you are wasting your time trying to. I am tired of cutting these guys slack quite frankly, they are simply paid to post. Interrupt proper debate, disrupt websites and take topics off in another direction.

  13. The trolling has (again) been successful. No substantive discussion here of any of the issues discussed by Professor Gollner and summarized by the editor. Just empty opining (and ad-hominem swipes by anonymous opinionauts regarding the work of historians and political analysts who provide evidence for their assertions and answer for them with their names and reputations). (If I were editor of HFP, all ad-hominem commentary as well as discourteous commentary would be rejected, as well as all incomprehensible or incoherent ranting. Commentaries may be fewer, but more substantive. — Or maybe filtering out the trash will actually encourage *more* comments from serious, informed commentators…)

  14. (I would also encourage all commentators to publish under their real names, except if they are at risk of retribution from the Orban regime.)

    • Avatar Charlie London says:


      Your comments would be valid ……… Only….

      If this website was yours – and not Christopher’s.

      Publishing under a nom de plume makes tracing more difficult – and contributors would be well advised to seek anonymity if my experience of Hungarian ‘security’ is untypical – which you acknowledge.

      I have a residence in Hungary and without being paranoid know that the immigration authorities have more information on me than the average indigenous citizen.

      They have refused to remove it and I am particularly vulnerable to identity fraud inter alia.

      Let me reassure you – and I resent your pious assumption – that responding to a troll prevents me or others from contributing to a subject if I feel, or others feel, they have something to add. The arrogance.

      I have seen many implorings of yours to the effect ‘don’t feed the trolls’.

      It simply doesn’t work.

      Let me also refute the implication that I say anything different under a nom de plume than if I was fully identified. I don’t – and I believe most don’t. The arrogance.

      My response to someone who is now referred to as ‘Macaroni’ on here was to make him understand that he is not getting through – and to ask him directly to desist.

      Desist geddit? A request.

      It’s not my website so I simply requested him to desist.

      A recognition that if he doesn’t wish to he won’t. His democratic right unfortunately – provided he sticks to lawful comment, which of course we allege he doesn’t.

      Now you respond please and leave yourself vulnerable to hypocrisy if you dare.

  15. Stevan,

    the trollling hasn’t been successful. It just backfired. Trolling is a part of all online publications and trolling here just attracted and activated more posters who just couldn’t take the unjust attacks, thus created more stir and attention. The number of HFP readers are growing and recently even Hungarian online publications are paying attention to HFP mentioning and quoting from it.

    Active trolling from payed troll has also highlighted the importance of the HFP pieces and clearly show the Orban government paranoid fear from thinkers, from democracy and freedom of speech and desperate attempt to silence them.

    The dirty pointless fight picking fashion of the trolls also proves that the Orban government is simply defenseless when it comes to intelligent discussion therefore their only means that remained is filth throwing.

    Trolls will anger more and more readers. Trolls will speak; no one marks them. The growing number of comments will attract and encourage more readers to read HFP and participate.

    • Amending:

      Active trolling from payed trolls has also highlighted the importance of the HFP pieces and clearly shows the Orban government paranoid fear from thinkers, from democracy and freedom of speech, and their desperate attempt to silence them.

  16. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    If we accept, as we do, that it is the prerogative of an editor to decide what gets printed in a paper, why can’t we accept, that the prerogative also applies to the contents of the comments section ? I’m frankly dumbfounded how Mr Magyaroni manages to dump his load underneath virtually every article in this paper. If he could express his ideas in a clear and comprehensible manner, if he could follow the basic rules of rational discourse, I would see the logic of this editorial generosity, but unfortunately, the man strikes out on all fronts, every time he steps up to bat. The problem with Magyaroni’s exhibitionism is not political – it’s his inability to follow the rules of English grammar, and the ethics of rational discourse. How the man got past high school is a puzzle to me – but it is equally puzzling why he should be allowed to treat this medium as if it was his personal landfill. Keeping his dump-truck off this site is not censorship but a step in the direction of environmental sanity. Freedom of expression is not a license to pollute. Could we please raise the bar higher and preserve the integrity of this otherwise fine publication from those who want nothing else than to use it as their personal out-house? Please??

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