Orbán’s to blame

The prime minister has released the long suppressed, xenophobic hatreds festering in Hungarian society.

By THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND, BUDAPEST
November 14, 2012 13:45
2 minute read.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban 300 R. (photo credit: REUTERS)

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NUMEROUS statues and memorial plaques are being unveiled and prominent squares and avenues renamed up and down Hungary in honor of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the country’s wartime regent and the politician most responsible for the Holocaust murder of close to 600,000 Jews.

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Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, recently returned a prestigious decoration bestowed upon him by the Hungarian government in protest against its rehabilitation of two minor deceased writers whose only claim to fame was their anti-Semitism. The latest International Religious Freedom report issued by the US State Department criticized the rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary and the failure to prosecute the disseminators of anti-Semitic statements.

Much of the blame for all this must lie with Viktor Orbán, the authoritarian, populist, ultra-conservative Hungarian prime minister. But, in a timely and brilliant new political analysis, Paul Lendvai, the doyen of European foreign correspondents, carefully and rightly refrains from calling him an anti- Semite.

In his unbridled lust for personal power, Orbán has released the long suppressed, xenophobic hatreds festering in the collective consciousness of this much-abused society.

Those demons are now poised to destroy him and capture his people. Lendvai and many others well disposed towards Hungary fear that, in the absence of a credible, coherent, democratic-minded parliamentary opposition, the rising discontent of the electorate may one day force Orbán’s Fidesz administration to share power with the aggressively growing far-right Jobbik party, a creature of his own making.

Lendvai has been based in neighboring Vienna since the failed anti-Soviet Hungarian revolution of 1956, in which he participated as a freedom fighter. He is a Jew, who lost much of his family in the Holocaust and witnessed, as a young adolescent in Budapest, the gratuitous murder of tens of thousands of civilian captives by the Nazi rabble of the Hungarian Arrow Cross – the role models of the Jobbik party today – during the final phase of World War II.

His sympathetic coverage of Hungary’s now floundering efforts to build a liberal democracy after the painful decades of Soviet tyranny that ended nearly a quarter century ago have won this country many friends abroad.

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