Protesters in Budapest demonstrate against an amendment to the constitution. Their banners read: "Constitution. Democracy. Rule of law"

The opposition struggles in vain

The Hungarian parliament's reform of the country's constitution was decried by the opposition and sparked controversy within the EU. However, for one pro-government newspaper, the protests were nothing more than a rear-guard action by an opposition without legitimacy.

Published on 12 March 2013 at 14:58
Protesters in Budapest demonstrate against an amendment to the constitution. Their banners read: "Constitution. Democracy. Rule of law"

If there are similarities between Hungary and the Russia of [President Vladimir] Putin, it is the opposition's current attitude; in the tactics used by movements that oppose authority. This fact is best illustrated by the March 7 attempt, described as a civic protest, to occupy the headquarters of the ruling Fidesz party. One can also note that opposition support comes from foreign sources, not from a base rooted in the population, as well as from a clear desire to provoke those in power.

The principal goal of the opposition is to embody protest, even if that means going to the limits of legality – even crossing those boundaries – or presenting themselves as the victims of arbitrary power, if possible in news stories on CNN.

In Hungary, for the past 18 months, the Left and the Liberals have tried to present themselves as martyrs. Without great success for the moment, in part because – compared with 2006 [when demonstrators were charged by police during a commemoration of the anti-Soviet insurrection of 1956] – our country became one of the regions on earth where the freedom to demonstrate is greatest.

But the frustrations of the Left-Liberal opposition to [Prime Minister] Viktor Orbán are different than those of Putin's opposition. It is beginning to realise that the Hungarian world that it could, up to now, dominate through its financial resources and through a highly fortified "monopoly of thought" – even if it sometimes lost its thread – is slowly fading.

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The new Constitution[adopted in 2011 and in force as of January, 1, 2012] has been accepted by Europe, the battle around the regulation of the media, has died down; the policies aimed at forcing the country to follow the advice of the International Monetary Fund, that would have inevitably caused the fall of the government, are no longer on the agenda and the Central Bank is no longer an obstacle to government policies.

Death of the opposition

There are many signs that, orchestrated by the two-thirds majority [of Fidesz in the parliament], the government has shifted from a transition phase into a consolidation phase, even if the path was sometimes stressful and meandering. If the government manages to achieve a balanced budget and to revive the battered economy, it will have the opportunity to help voters in another manner than by lowering utility costs. And if it is possible it will use it as would any other sane government in power.

Consolidation would be the death of the opposition. It can be said that the recent attack launched using the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, supported by a powerful international barrage, is false and nauseating but is hardly surprising. Foreign Affairs Minister János Martonyi explained it best in an interview to weekly Heti Valasz. "Let's not expect an end to these political attacks because the struggle between parties is engaged in all countries as well as at the European level," he said.

As concerns the contested Fourth Amendment of the constitution, it comes as no surprise. When the Constitutional Court – which is responsible for the balance of power in relation to the government majority – rejected the transitory measures of the Basic Law, Fidesz clearly stated that most of the rejected measures would be included nonetheless for procedural reasons.

Of course, Fidesz should not use the Constitution to systematically solve every problem it faces. But it is indisputable that the task of the Constitutional Court is to interpret the dispositions of the Basic Law, not to judge their merits. [The constitutional reform bans the Court from ruling on substance or referring to previously-set precedents.]

Failure threat looms

Elections are only a year away and the opposition is right to fear them. Another failure could be fatal. It will thus use all the tools at its disposal to discredit the government, tools which include serious international partners and civilian volunteers; anarchists ready to lend their voices to hate videos.

The campaign will be ugly, the sound of battle deafening. But let us not forget that this is a rear-guard action. The Constitution itself is no longer under attack – only a proposed amendment.

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