'The Monster at Our Door' Hungary Prepares for Shift in Power
Part 3: 'Chimneysweeps Wear Black, Too'
Orbán long held an undisputed role as the country's most talented tightrope walker. In his younger years, he was courageous in demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. Later, he worked to have the role of Miklós Horthy, Hungary's regent through most of World War II and a supporter of Hitler, cast in a gentler light by historians.
Budapest's "House of Terror" museum, opened while Orbán was in office, devotes most of its exhibition space to the socialist dictatorship. As a result of such policies, today only 4 percent of eligible voters under 30 understand the term "Holocaust." At the same time, a collective yearning is growing for Hungary's former days of greatness and the thousand-year rule of the Kingdom of Hungary.
"Viktor Orbán is our favorite politician and we're his favorite paper," says András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Magyar Demokrata. Bencsik stands to become one of the most powerful journalists in the country under the future government.
Bencsik is one of the founding fathers of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, which was legally banned in 2008 -- and then reformed as the New Hungarian Guard Movement. When asked whether the black uniforms worn by this Jobbik-backed entity evoke those of the SS or even the Arrow Cross Party, he responds: "That's a joke. Chimney sweeps wear black, too." The fact that Orbán, a vice president of the Christian Democratic-oriented European People's Party, doesn't shy away from contact with people like Bencsik is disorienting even for conservative Hungarians.
'We Saw Ourselves as the Immaculate Generation'
Magyar Hirlap, a newspaper affiliated with Orbán's party, printed an appeal in 2008 that Jewish journalists should no longer be "allowed to piss and blow their noses in the country's pool." Instead the paper called for closing ranks and keeping Jews out.
That text was written by Zsolt Bayer, a 1988 founding member of Fidesz. Bayer's name can be found fifth on the list in the original party membership register and, as he says, he still has the boss' ear. "We saw ourselves as the immaculate generation," Bayer says in retrospect. "We wanted to get rid of the old tensions in society between the capital and the provinces, and between Jews and non-Jews. But we didn't succeed." Now he sees the continuation of the Hungarian nation as the main concern. "Sooner or later," Bayer says quietly, "the patience of the majority of society will run out."
If Viktor Orbán and his party achieve their aim of a two-thirds majority in parliament, then he would have a free hand to make groundbreaking changes to the country's laws. Immunity for members of parliament could be revoked and criminal proceedings initiated. Orbán has said he would issue passports to millions of Hungarians living in neighboring countries and election law reforms would be possible as well.
Orbán says he dreams of Hungarian politics "not being determined by a dual force field in the next 15 to 20 years" -- driven not by endless quarreling between Socialists and Conservatives, but by politics with "constant governance as its goal."
It's a goal that is still familiar to older Hungarians -- from the Communist era.
- Part 1: Hungary Prepares for Shift in Power
- Part 2: Proud Hungarians Struggling with Role of Beggars on EU Stage
- Part 3: 'Chimneysweeps Wear Black, Too'