Saturday, 28 April 2012

What politics sounds like in Hungary - a translation

János Lázár is a leading figure in Hungary's governing Fidesz party. He was being interviewed by András Pugor for the weekly 168 Óra. I translate a few chunks.

The interview begins by exploring the effect of the plagiarism scandal of ex-President Schmitt that Lázár dismisses by suggesting that the claiming of false doctorates is common so nothing to make a fuss about. Schmitt was a good guy, just unlucky, unlike other people.

It then moves to the newly appointed President of the country, János Áder. Why, asks the interviewer, should Prime Minister Orbán, having lost a highly manipulable supporter, immediately appoint another very manipulable supporter to this key constitutional post. The answer:
Being a member of a [particular] party is not an obstacle. One may still be honest, correct, and capable of representing the people as a whole.

The interviewer wonders how such a figure could claim to represent the whole country.

Maybe he doesn't want to. Once elected the President is officially independent. It's his business how he goes about  representing national unity...The President of the country should be someone with values but, at the same time, capable of understanding other people's values. Áder fits both these descriptions.

Why not appoint someone, the interviewer asks, who doesn't simply listen to what Orbán tells hims at night so that he might turn it into law the next morning?

You can't possibly say that about Áder, a figure regarded as the Charles Bronson of the angling world, not one of the elite but a man of the people...[On registering the scepticism of the interviewer] I'm sure you'll come round to him in due course.

The interviewer challenges Lázár about parliamentary procedure, accusing Fidesz of foul play, aggression and contempt of the opposition, using individual amendments to block the possibility of agreement. He asserts that the amendments are often at the last moment when there is no chance of proper consideration. He gives as an example how a bill about MP's pay is then used to rush through measures about electricity and gas, and how another about water manages to outlaw a doctors' strike. Lázár doesn't quibble about the details simply answering:

Thank God parliament is full of representatives whose job is to write laws...If we make a mistake we put it right. We shouldn't forget that there has been an acceleration in legislative procedure. There is some justice in what what you say but we need to take quick decisions.

What about the willingness of two ministers of state to engage in dialogue with representatives of  Jobbik? [The Wiki entry has clearly been modified by Jobbik itself, but it's interesting to see how they would describe themselves. Jobbik denies being a fascist party, of course, but if it walks like one, talks like one, refers to the same flag as the wartime Arrow Cross, etc. Go compare, as they say. It is most certainly fascist, down to the military wing.]
Most unfortunate. The electorate voted them into parliament nevertheless a party with a two-thirds majority should not regard such a party as fit for dialogue. Not with the Jobbik whose representatives have made the kind of statements we have heard these last two weeks. [He means the strongly anti-Semitic speeches, references to the blood libel and the questioning of the Holocaust].
And did you say as much to your colleagues in the party?
I did.
They didn't agree with me.

We now move on to the issue of Lázár's own personal attacks on András Schiffer who was the leader of the LMP, Politics Can Be Different,  parliamentary group. The interviewer accuses him of being 'extraordinarily crude' on account of Schiffer's parents who had held positions under the pre-1989 Kádár regime.

[Such attacks] are only a problem in our society. They are everyday practice in the West.

But, complains the interviewer, they don't attack the son on account of his father.

That's not what history shows us. Someone who was a beneficiary of the Kádár system, enjoying all its advantages, should not go around telling people how bad that system was. History must be on the losers' side. Schiffer's family benefited from the old system. This is a matter of credibility.
But why not discuss Schiffer's proposals [rather than make ad hominem attacks]?
Unlike Schiffer I was in Vásarhely revealing the names of seven hundred agents of the state with all the risks that entailed. I didn't make a big noise about it. Schiffer tried to make political capital out of that. If he does that he shouldn't be surprised when he is criticised...Schiffer's case shows how the left-liberal elite will not tolerate any opinion other than its own. [He then launches an attack on 'the sickening lies' of the 1989 change of system that, he asserts, failed to deal with ex-agents of the state]


Etc etc, ad inf.  The everyday political life of a healthy country.

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