Real existing Orbánism

Should a constitutional supermajority even be allowed?

Most parties have politicians in them. That is, individuals with opinions, who may disagree. Fidesz is not such a party. Arguably, it is not even a party but something else.

A little piece of news caught my eyes the other day. Slovenian Orbán fan girl and prime minister, Janez Janša decided to cut the funding for the the country’s national press agency. 

That would be a slow news day, wannabe dictators everywhere need the media to sing their praise, and their praise only – because, you know, they are sooo good at governing that it speaks for itself. Oh wait…

So Janša set out to Orbanize the Slovenian national press agency and cut their funding for not being his loyal propagandists. So far so good. But the rest of the article made me chortle: 

“Coalition partners in the Slovenian government – the pensioners’ party DESUS and Modern Center Party (SMC) — also condemned the move to cease funding.”

Seriously? The dude needs coalition partners for a majority but still wants to pull an Orbán? 

I understand that the young Padawan got mesmerized by Darth Vader’s seductive recital of how he did it “and you can do it, too”. I can almost see the scene as Orbán hosted Janša in his fuck-all castle residence and shared his stale wisdom of dictator lore, while smelling of pálinka and garlic. Better minds have fallen for that, young Padawan. 

But how did it escape his little attention that Orbán did it without coalition partners, without an opposition, and – most sinisterly – with a party that is not even a party but a voting machine of militantly loyal and subservient creatures who would never dare to vote against their don. They actually get a fine if they accidentally vote against the party line. And if it is not an accident, God help them. 

Orbán achieved what he achieved not through some evil genius, but through dumb luck.

In 2010, when he came back into power, he didn’t just return with a majority. The disappointment with the previous government for (a thousand time less) corruption and the economic crisis was so great, it happened to give Orbán a constitutional supermajority. His infamous 2/3. That was the secret ingredient without which he could never have pulled this off.

Ever since then he is wearing it as his middle name wherever he travels, as in:

“Mine is 2/3, how big is yours?” 

A constitutional majority for a government is not unprecedented in Hungary, but previous governments have refrained from using it to change the constitution without all-party consensus. Not Orbán. Orbán doesn’t play gentlemen’s agreement (in case you haven’t noticed). He changed the constitution into something he calls base law, then changed it again five or six times until it meant what he wanted it to mean (those pesky typos…) and started his reign from there. 

Orbán never had to consult a coalition partner. Nor did he have to gain approval within his own party. Fidesz is a non-democratic organization, even if it goes through the motions of reelecting Orbán every other year. (Once they even forgot to hold the conference, the press had to remind them.) But Fidesz has never had a leader other than Orbán – and never can. Orbán doesn’t even have a second or third line of strongmen within his party to count with. He removed them long ago. He doesn’t even have to deal with the oligarchs – they are all Orbán-made, and their career will end the day Orbán says so.

And so do his MPs. Orbán personally selects them at an infamous casting ceremony in his village home, and if he has any of the brains a real godfather has, he uses sticks as well as carrots to keep them in line. Imagine them lining up with an envelope of nude selfies, and handing it over to Orbán with a deep bow to assure him of their loyalty. 

And a 2/3 parliamentary supermajority is absolutely necessary to govern (and to Orbanize). Orbán was a lame duck between 2015-18, when he became just one MP short of his precious 2/3. He couldn’t let that happen again. That is why in 2018 they were counting as long as it took until they reached the magical 2/3 for Orbán. Even Fidesz members were shocked – just not Orbán. That is why laptops and tons of free potatoes were handed out in a byelection district in 2020. No step is too far when the magical 2/3 is at stake. 

So Orbán has an iron grip – and not just on his “party”. Because of the 2/3, he doesn’t even have coalition partners or a relevant opposition. No one can pull an Orbán with coalition partners. Or even without a constitutional supermajority. 

What was Janez Janša thinking? 

And more to the point, should a supermajority even be allowed to just one party? Is it OK if just one party has the power to change all the rules and enact even a dictatorship if they like – completely “legally”? 

3 thoughts on “Should a constitutional supermajority even be allowed?

  1. “Orbán achieved what he achieved not through some evil genius, but through dumb luck.”

    Worth to mention that that dumb luck involved the improper constitution Hungary had between 1989-2012, which led the country first to a de facto two-party system, then to the excess constitutional power of Orbán. The former constitution gave too much weight to parliamentary majority and also gave an opportunity for the executive power to gradually chip away all the influence and resources from municipialities – just to name a few problems. It is not widely known that the 89 constitution was written on the assumption that the Soviet Union will persist for decades and the communist party will be an essential (but not single) part of the new government. That assumption was overturned in months, but the constitution remained generally the unfixed for two decades, because elected political powers in the 90’s and 2000’s either lacked the influence (supermajority) or the short-term motivation to fix it.

    A few Hungarian publicists have pointed all this out previously. I first read about it on the former blog of Tokfalvi Elek (a pseudonym), which is not accessible anymore. There’s also a series of essays on this titled “Az nem úgy van” (“That’s not how it is”) from Széky János and Tallián Miklós (https://parameter.sk/kategoria/cimkek/az-nem-ugy-van).

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  2. Orban does have a coalition partner -the KDNP. Admittedly it is closer to a satellite party than coalition partner. However OV would to have the 2/3 majority without it -esp given its often ovelooked use in moblisiing the ethnic Hungarian vote across the border in Transylvania.

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    • Technically, maybe. But KDNP is not a party, no one here seriously believes that. They are an excuse to throw christianist political flash bombs into the public discourse and to occupy twice as many allocated positions in committees.

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