Interview for „Neues Deutschland”

Felix Jaitner, former representative of Transform Austria now lives in Berlin and works as an editor for Eastern Europe and the post-soviet space for the left newspaper „Neues Deutschland”. Yesterday (Saturday 20 June 2020), they were planning a special edition on Hungary. As far as he is informed, Orban´s temporary emergency measures ended. Therefore, they would like to take a look on what is going on in Hungary, and to what extent the emergency measures have shaped societal relations. Against this backdrop, he was particularly interested in the role of the political opposition (and especially the left: parliamentary and non-parliamentary).

For preparing myself on 17 June 2020 I wrote a Question and Answer to Felix Jaitner as follows:

Question 1 What is going in Hungary?

Answer: The state of emergency was set to end today by the government. Yesterday Gergely Gulyás, Orbán`s Chief of Staff said:” The government had special power to pass laws, but this is over”.

The Hungarian government with its supermajority in the unicameral Parliament could do what it wanted for 3 months, it could deviate from any law or suspended its application if it could justify that it was necessary to control the epidemic. There was always a reason, the virus threat proved to be a good disguise for further concentration of power.

By ending the law of empowerment we can see the new face of Orbán`s power: there will be school guards, hospital commanders, the garbage collection business will be taken over by Orbán`s close friends/clients of the System of National Cooperation (NER).

Question 2 What extent the emergency measures shaped societal relations?

Answer:Some of the measures of the law will continue to live on, e.g.

a.) medical epidemological preparedness will take effect, which means the operational staff will continue to operate;

b.) the government may impose shop opening restrictions as well as a ban on visits, if necessary;

c.) in the event of a so called health crisis the government may take epidemological restrictive measures instead of the chief medical officer. In this situation even the army will be able to be envolved in the defense with the right to use weapons;

d.) The law empowers the government to determine the rules for holding events. This may apply not only to concerts or festivals, but also to demonstrations falling within the scope of Assembly Act.

Question 3 The role of the political opposition, especially the left?

Answer: The Hungarian opposition is extremely weak and fragmanted. There are significant shifts from the hetherto leading Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) to the Democratic Coalition (DK). The previeously quite strong LMP (Politics Can Be Different) after a split has been weakened. New parties came into the fore, like Momentum. On the extreme right the Better Hungary Movement (JOBBIK) is falling apart, many leaders and members are leaving the party. Paralelly with this change the extreme right radical Our Home (Mi Hazánk) is getting strength.

On the non-parliamentary side the most important for us is the Workers Party 2006 – European Left. And a new party, Former MEP Tibor Szanyi`s Yes Solidarity Movement (ISZOM) emerged.

We keep close connection with Civil Society Organisations, like: Roma Parliament, ATTAC Hungary, Hungarian Antifascist League (MAL), Karl Marx Society, Eszmélet periodical,Latin-America Society. Organizers for the Left (SZAB) – organizing the traditional Leftist Island Festival at Horány (abt 25 kms North of Budapest)

Budapest 17th June 2020.

Matyas Benyik, Chairman of ATTAC Hungary

The interview was published yesterday and available here:

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