Regulators’ job is more therapeutic than effective. Whenever something bad happens, authorities are posturing and Do Something so we feel safe. In the end, the new rule they make in the wake of a tragedy is only designed to stop the very same thing happening from again in the very same way – but not much else. As long as human stupidity and malevolence cannot be banned, every regulatory attempt will only be a very poor proxy to ban those two things – creating unintended consequences and spawning new regulations to stop the negative consequences of the old ones.
The proof? That authorities can’t even stop something that they really do want to stop. In our case, the opposition from winning an election.
There have been many proposals by Fidesz since the October local election defeat that were meant to prevent the very same thing from happening again, in the very same way. Think tanks, communicators, opinionators have been out in force with suggestions on how to block even the last chance of the opposition, some openly wondering how come traitors like them are still allowed to breath air.
But only one of those proposals was made into a rule – for now: the new house rules for the parliament. In it the Fidesz supermajority gleefully voted in a few changes that are a testament to their ignorance of even the basic principles of representative democracy – let alone a liberal one.
Take, for instance, the models of parliamentary representation – and Fidesz’ complete disregard for it. A Fidesz MP is punished if he fails to heed the party line, even if he mistakenly punches to wrong button at a vote. The fine is a few hundred euros, but it is not difficult to calculate how many of those wrong votes a Fidesznik can afford before going bankrupt. Forget representing their districts, these buffoons only represent Fidesz. Which means Orbán. They don’t make judgement calls, they don’t even have time to read the bills. They are button-stomping conduits of Orbán’s will so there’s no point pretending that a Fidesz MP is a representatives of a district – let alone “his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience”.
No wonder they didn’t understand why their latest set of rules for parliamentary work spits the ethos of their job in the face. They would’t even vote against their party line, they are loyalist party soldiers sworn to roll with the gang no matter what – no wonder they don’t understand why anyone would change parties or (the unimaginable) be independent.
One of the lessons the Fidesz comrades have drawn from the October defeat is that non-Fidesz voters are eager to rally behind an independent candidate that all opposition parties support. Being formally independent takes some of the sting out of voting for unsavory options. Most opposition voters hate all other opposition parties, many hate all of them. Their motivation to vote was to vote against Orbán, not to vote for the alternatives. An independent candidate is symbolically easier to vote for as a protest vote against Orbán.
So the new house rules try to quell any future surge of independent candidates – in 2020 there will be a general election when the opposition is expected to rally with the coalition model tested in October 2019 – and stack as many incentives against all-opposition coalitions as possible. Like banning independent candidates from joining any party after they got into parliament. That way they suffer disadvantages, lose the privileges that MPs who belong to gangs enjoy. Clearly, Fideszniks don’t understand why would anyone even want to vote freely?
The new house rules also allow the speaker to fine unruly MPs (up to 6 months of salary, 12 months if they resist) or expel them (for up to 2 months) – after opposition MPs protested against absurd procedure by holding signs and doing stunts last year. One even dared to hold a sign by the face of King Orbán, that set off the speaker of the house to the point of hysteria.
When this approach will seep into election law – it is yet to happen but it’s unlikely that Fidesz would refrain from any further tinkering with the election law in light of October’s lessons – they will probably make it financially disastrous to form coalitions, parties who join the anti-Orbán coalition are expected to face an extreme amount of hostility from authorities (think farcical “audits” like last time) and face an uphill battle converting their votes into seats. They will lose their brands as the rules of how one can name their movement or parliamentary fraction had also got more strict – obviously trying to crack down on a few things that worked in this campaign.
One more thing MPs were allowed to do until now – but not anymore – is entering public buildings. You’ve read that correctly. After the protests last year when opposition MPs tried to walk into the very public building of the public broadcaster (but were kicked out like stray dogs) MPs now have to humbly request an appointment to enter public buildings. Not because it worked for opposition MPs last time, but because Fidesz is really, really tired of pretending democracy, comrades grew really, really impatient with the opposition and they genuinely can’t understand how come that traitors of the homeland are even still allowed to live. Is all that’s said about them is true, they should be jailed for life, not sit in parliament.
The essence of Fidesz’ state of mind is that those who are not with Orbán are the enemies of the nation, the entire white, Hun ethnicity, traitors, and this is a war and we should shoot them. They didn’t make that up themselves, they were just listening at Fidesz team buildings and read too many government information billboards.
Our only chance is that regulators are as incompetent as they are vile and vain and they will fail to achieve their goal.