Cracks in the Monolith

József Ángyán

József Ángyán

Over the past few weeks, two Fidesz legislators and one powerful, pro-Fidesz businessman have come into open conflict with the Orbán government over its recent moves to further increase its direct and indirect command over Hungary’s economy.

On June 21, Fidesz National Assembly representative József Ángyán withdrew from the party’s parliamentary caucus to sit with legislative independents after his fellow caucus members adopted a new Land Law that Ángyán said would preserve the hold of major capital interests and party-affiliated “maffias” over agricultural property in Hungary to the exclusion of local farmers. Speaking to the news website FN24.hu after announcing that he was leaving Fidesz, Ángyán said “I hope that an honest third platform comes into being. They say that there are no other possibilities—either Orbán or the Bajnai-Mesterházy group. In truth, a mafia network is pulling the strings in the background, while in the foreground morning and afternoon political-shifts replace one another. An alliance composed of honest people needs to rise up instead. Those who have taken part in government since 1990 cannot be considered, because they are all tarnished, they have all become intertwined.”

Ángyán had long been the only member of the Orbán administration who dared to raise his voice against its construction of a Fidesz oligarchy exercising ever-greater control over political and economic life in Hungary. In January 2012, he left his post as Rural Development Ministry state secretary, telling his supporters after a month-long period of silence that he had resigned because “a coalition of greedy, plundering economic interest-groups, not to say ‘maffia families,’ speculative capitalist ‘oligarchs‘ and major land-owning ‘green barons‘” had emerged to prevent implementation of the ministry’s program to help small independent farmers acquire agricultural land. Ángyán confirmed reports in the media that Prime Minister Orbán had angrily told him he would not have him kicked out of the Fidesz National Assembly caucus, because he did not want to do him the favor of making him into a martyr. 

Sándor Demján

Sándor Demján

On June 26, construction magnate Sándor Demján, one of the wealthiest and most influential people in Hungary and previously an open supporter of Fidesz (source in Hungarian) , wrote a letter to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stating that the de facto nationalization of the country’s savings cooperatives announced two days previously “violates the protection of private property, the freedom of enterprise and the conditions regarding fair competition contained in Hungary’s Fundamental Law.” On July 5, Demján, who serves as the head of the National Savings Cooperative Association (OTSZ) representing most of the roughly 135 savings cooperatives operating in Hungary, said at a press conference that nationalization of the cooperatives “opens the way for interest groups to appropriate the profit center.” Demján said that OTSZ would seek legal redress for the law “integrating” the cooperatives within every Hungarian and, if necessary, European forum.

On June 27, Fidesz local council member Ákos Hadházy from the town of Szekszárd announced that he was leaving the party because the government had failed to properly investigate his claim that the state-owned company overseeing the process of granting 6,700 concessions for the retail sale of tobacco in Hungary under a state monopoly had selected the winning bids based on family connections and political allegiance to Fidesz rather than non-partisan economic and business considerations.  

Ákos Hadházy

Ákos Hadházy

Hadházy broke the so-called “tobacco shop scandal” during an April 30 interview with the online version of the weekly HVG in which he claimed that Fidesz National Assembly representative and Szekszárd Mayor István Horváth had gone over a list of local tobacco-concession bidders with local-council members from the party during a private meeting in order to determine which of the bidders were sufficiently loyal to Fidesz to be selected as winners. Following the expected denials, HVG published audio recordings in which Horváth is heard to say while examining the list that “one must be a committed right-winger” and “good, good, don’t let the socialists win!” 

Shortly thereafter, in one of his regular Friday-morning interviews with state-run Kossuth Radio, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán flatly rejected the notion that politics had played a role in selecting the winning bids to open the so-called National Tobacco Shops, though noted that “We will never turn our backs on our own supporters.” The prime minister then posed the rhetorical question: “Why would it be a problem for that matter if entrepreneurs who subscribe to our value system win if they submit suitable bids in the tenders?”  

Hadházy told HVG that he decided to reveal the pro-Fidesz political bias in the selection of tobacco concessions in Szekszárd because “I came to the conclusion that I am doing the best for Fidesz over the long run if I say these things. Over the short run it is certainly unpleasant, its popularity could fall by a couple of percent, but I think that this is what can help the party over the long run.” Hadházy added that “The Fidesz membership is disciplined and I think that the unity of the right wing is valuable, though it has moved beyond a certain point. Debate, either due to a lack of time or for some other reason, does not take place and that is very bad.” In another interview with HVG after withdrawing from Fidesz, Hadházy compared the process of establishing the government monopoly on the retail sale of tobacco to the nationalization of Hungary’s economy following the Second World War: “I could make the very grave historical parallel that the communists took the homes of people considered to be class enemies and gave them to others.” In reference to Prime Minister Orbán’s comments on Kossuth Radio regarding the criteria that had been used to determine the winning bids to open National Tobacco Shops, Hadházy continued “Comrade Rákosi, if he would have given a Friday radio interview, would have also certainly said that ‘we cannot turn our backs on our own people.’” 

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