Two more opposition politicians accept positions from Hungary’s Fidesz

A growing number of left-centre opposition politicians in Hungary are wrapping up their careers as advocates of parliamentary democracy and constitutionalism and are instead accepting positions from the government that they have long argued is an authoritarian, illiberal regime. The Orbán government has named Alexandra Dobolyi of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) Ambassador to Moldova. Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Péter Szijjártó met with Ms. Dobolyi, formerly a Member of the European Parliament and the chair of MSZP’s Foreign Affairs Secretariat, as well as the wife of former Socialist Finance Minister János Veres, and offered her the diplomatic posting in Chisinau, Moldova. She will take over from outgoing ambassador Mátyás Szilágyi in early 2017.

As the left-leaning Népszabadság daily noted, Ms. Dobolyi was once seen by some as MSZP’s “rising star.” Ms. Dobolyi, however, has long expressed an interest in foreign affairs and it was Hungary’s former Socialist Minister of Foreign Affairs, László Kovács, who lifted her from obscurity into  political life, starting in 1998. She began her MSZP career working for the Socialist caucus’s foreign policy office.

MSZP was furious after the appointment became public. “This is a regime which, through appointments and offers, tries to compromise the opposition,” read the party’s statement. “Anyone who accepts such an offer from Fidesz turns his or her back on the community, of which he or she was a member. We are disappointed, but the person involved has to first and foremost answer to her own conscience”–the Socialist party’s statement added.

Alexandra Dobolyi

Alexandra Dobolyi

The Hungarian Socialist Party is right and Fidesz has been remarkably successful in this regard. One day after news broke of Mr. Dobolyi’s appointment, we learned that another politician, a former Member of Parliament for the Politics Can Be Different green party (Lehet Más a Politika – LMP), Katalin Ertsey, has been offered a job as a diplomat. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade noted: “the ministry’s leadership sees foreign affairs as a portfolio of national significance–having served in the opposition is not a reason to exclude someone from this work.”

The Ministry also commented, in terms of Ms. Dobolyi’s appointment, that professional skills, education, experience and knowledge of foreign languages are deciding factors when it comes to appointments. Ms. Dobolyi speaks English and German at an advanced level and has a basic knowledge of Greek. In Moldova, of course, the official language is Romanian, but Russian and Ukrainian are also widely spoken and are official languages in some regions.

In any other context, a democratic government appointing respected and competent members of the opposition to foreign affairs portfolios would not be cause for surprise. But in Hungary, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and his immediate predecessor Tibor Navracsics both had a track record of gutting the Ministry of career diplomats and bringing in Fidesz party hacks with no foreign policy credentials or experience. As such, there is little doubt that Fidesz’s political strategy is to gradually silence and compromise the opposition by bringing its key members into the government’s fold.

In addition to Ms. Dobolyi and Ms. Ertsey, we recently wrote about how prominent liberal politician and staunch Orbán-critic Mátyás Eörsi sought and received a nomination from the Orbán government, causing an uproar in opposition ranks.

Others from the opposition to cross over to Fidesz, after receiving appointments or nominations, include János Kóka, former chair of the now defunct Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), Lajos Mile of LMP, who was appointed Hungary’s consul general to Kolozsvár (Cluj) Romania, Ágnes Osztolykán also of LMP, who worked for the much maligned Soros Foundation, but is now an adviser in the Ministry of Human Resources, István Szentiványi, a founder of SZDSZ who continued to serve as ambassador to Slovenia, even after the Fidesz purge of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Katalin Szili, MSZP’s former nominee for President of Hungary in 2005 and long-standing prominent Socialist politician.

It always takes two to tango and it is clear that many opposition politicians, who were previously apoplectic about the authoritarian Orbán regime, are just as willing to be a part of it, when offered a position.


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