Hungarian 'Democracy': First Political Casualty of The Pandemic
There has been much discussion already as to how our experience with this pandemic will affect the way we conduct our politics in the future, and possibly the way our constitution is re-framed as well.
Interestingly, the idea I floated a few days ago on this blog concerning the need for a virtual Parliament, or at least a virtual Grand Committee, has now been voiced by Parliamentarians themselves. Concern over policing and the protection of civil rights has also hit the headlines as senior lawyers are now questioning what is happening or potentially could happen. And, does anyone think the daily Government Press briefings are examples of good practice? I can't help every time they mention statistics that Disraeli got it right all those years ago when he said, 'there are lies, damned lies, and statistics'. He would be having a field day with Government briefings. How I wish it was Dizzy standing at the podium rather than the pedestrian Gove or the rabbit in the headlights Raab. At least Dizzy would be giving us a fashion parade alongside measured and positive leadership.
But our own political state during this crisis, and the inevitable calling to account afterwards, pales into insignificance alongside what is happening in Hungary. Viktor Orban's Government has always been populist ( a word that masques fascism) but in the light of the pandemic he has moved far more decisively towards authoritarian rule. He can now govern by decree, changing the law as well as adding new laws, all without Parliamentary scrutiny, Spreading, what Orban decrees is, fake news or false information that could lead to civil unrest has been criminalised. A clear attack on independent journalism. There has been no time limitation set to these sweeping powers (you may remember that a few weeks ago this was an issue in Britain, not no time limits but rather the length of such limits).
Hungarian democracy, came under pressure after the breakup of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, in the wake of defeat in the First World War, during the rule of Admiral Horthy; it was destroyed during the war by the Nazis, and after the war when a Marxist state was formed under a Russian umbrella. Some of us can remember the hopes we had in 1956 that Hungary would break free from The Soviet Union's iron grip, only for those hopes to be dashed as we witnessed Russian tanks rolling through the streets of Budapest. And now, the high hopes of 1989, as The Soviet Empire came crashing down, have themselves been blighted, many would argue ended, by Orban's government.
This latest Hungarian attack on democracy has finally propelled some MEPs to voice a view that Hungary has breached the essential values of The EU and must therefore be excluded/suspended. This realisation has long been held by many in Britain, and not necessarily those in the Brexit lobby.
The new powers granted Orban in Hungary were granted by Parliament, and surely no one needs to be reminded that Hitler too came to power legitimately according to the then constitution of Germany. Democracy is a fragile plant that carries the seeds of its own dissolution within it, unless it is guarded scrupulously and continuously.
An Hungarian anti Orban journalist, Peter Erdelyi, has been quoted as saying, 'This is present day Hungary, a member of NATO and the European Union. And right now, it might sound alien and even unthinkable to you, but I can assure you it can happen in your country too.'. Well, Britain may be a long long way from being a second Hungary but lesser dangers are there. In a wider Europe, Poland cannot be far behind Hungary - watch this space. In 'The World in 2019', published by the Economist, we can read, '....Poland's ruling party will gut more institutions and stuff them with incompetent loyalists......'.