Commentary

Those who worry about bad precedents somehow only worry about future precedents – not past ones

About constitutional changes and holding politicians accountable for theft.

There are two issues that keep non-Orbánists up at night: 

  1. Whether Orbán’s self-cementing basic law can be replaced without a 2/3 supermajority
  2. Whether it would create a dangerous precedent to hold thieving politicians accountable for corruption after they left office  

It may sound odd for someone socialized in a free society, but unfree minds follow different rules. One of them is to keep looking for excuses for the politicians – and to keep making up justifications for the politicians’ interests. 

And since it is obvious that thieving politicians (and their family members) do not wish to be asked how they became Forbes-rich while in office and swallowed so much EU-funds that they don’t even remember why they should hide their helicopters, yachts and castles any more – that is what the submissive minds look for justification for. 

One of them is that a it would create a dangerous precedent “if politicians would start arresting each other after every election“. They don’t add that “if they stole in office” because that goes without saying for a submissive mind who sees no way to ever stop that.

But they seem to forget what effect it had on Orbán to see that the political elite of the previous autocracy got away rich and without consequences – either political or criminal. Orbán has been very vocal about his pain to watch old socialist comrades occupying the positions of economic power after the regime change in 1989 and keeping their influence. And at some point he apparently said f*ck it, if they were allowed, so am I. If nothing happened to them, nothing will happen to me. 

He recreated the same system of enriching the core group of cronies at the expense of the country. He just calls it anti-communist, but that is just to confuse lesser minds. He even had the historically unprecedented cash shower of EU funds to channel into crony pockets – something the communist comrades didn’t have because there wasn’t a lot of money to steal under communism. It took capitalism and EU-accession to render the country rich enough to rob. The last couple of years were akin to the then western European elite pocketing the entirety of the Marshall plan after WW2. And we are supposed to let them keep it because it is a dangerous precedent to hold a thief accountable. But only when he steals more than a piece of bread, apparently. 

The other issue is how the rule of law would protect Orbán himself after a hypothetical loss at the 2022 elections. If the pro-democracy opposition holds itself to their own principles, the laws must be obeyed, even if they were written by an autocrat, for the autocrat – and they render the country ungovernable by anyone other than the aforementioned autocrat. Legality, morality and legitimacy a different things and one can think more broadly about the law. The debate is huge right now. 

Whatever one thinks about either question, one thing is striking: that those who worry about creating dangerous precedents only worry about creating them in the future – they ignore the dangerous precedents that have already been created by Orbán.

Like purposely rendering the country ungovernable in case he loses.

By continuously tinkering with the basic law, by nominating loyalists into positions for decades who can then thwart any future government while in office – and only removable by another 2/3 overmajority. 

Or openly and proudly channeling funds to his hand-picked cronies and family members – and them only – leaving no room for non-loyalists to ever win any government or EU-funds.

And no, there is no honest, pure business success that can exist independently. Independence is the ultimate political sin in a statist system like Orbán’s. That is why they call revenues that are not under their control “foreign agent”.

A market-based business can not survive alongside such an avalanche of state support for cronies. Orbán also makes economic life untenable for those who don’t receive such funds – not that eastern Europe needed any more reminders to stay statist and to stop thinking that we are like the capitalist west where business success can be achieved without state help. There are entrepreneurs who want that – the state doesn’t want it to take root. 

Or take corruption.

The glib methods by which EU funds are given 100% to cronies in villages, controlled down to the lowest levels, is something that is all too familiar for those who lived under the previous autocracy, the one that called itself socialist. Only the selected ones can win and they give back from their subsidies to those in office who decided to give them the funds. Why else would anyone go into politics if not to participate in the public money giveaway? With EU funds it is barely concealed as competition, with invented competing offers or cartels who split the wins, with Fidesz strongmen telling mayors what to apply for, who can write the paperwork and who will win and how much the winner has to pay to the strongman. They terrorize local mayors to participate. They don’t even try to keep it a secret – they want everyone to know this is how it works, this is who the boss is. 

Whatever the result of the elections half the country will not consider the other legitimate. Thank Putin’s Stasi-developed mental disintegration techniques for it. If Orbánists lose, they will even fight on the streets. But given the totalist ambitions of Orbánism to subdue the entirety of society on all levels and to penetrate all issues, it is odd not to worry about the precedents he created. Of political gangsterism, of political christianism, of treating a country like his own personal piggy bank. When will those precedents be forgotten – if there are no consequences for the politicians who created them? 

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