Hungarian Conservative

A Quarter-Century of a Civic Hungary

Gyula Horn (L), Chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party, the sitting prime minister at the time, and Viktor Orbán during their 20 May, pre-election debate at the University of Economics (today Corvinus University) in 1998.
Gyula Horn (L), Chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party, the sitting prime minister at the time, and Viktor Orbán during their 20 May debate at the University of Economics (today Corvinus University) in 1998.
Lajos Soós/MTI
This new generation renewed Hungarian politics not only in the use of language but also in the nature of governance. It was open about its value choices and did not accept that politics was merely the dispassionate administration of affairs. After decades of humiliation, it wanted to once again raise the Hungarian nation to the heights that its thousand-year history destined it for.

The following is a translation of an article written by Tibor Navracsics, Minister without portfolio for Regional Development, originally published on Mandiner.hu.

A large part of the Hungarian public, accustomed to election results turning out to be as predicted, were taken by surprise on the evening of 10 May 1998, when it became clear that although the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), considered the most likely winner, was leading in terms of votes cast for party lists, it could not take victory for granted, as Fidesz was at their heels. Then, after the second round,

the surprise turned from foreboding into an irrevocable fact.

Thanks to its well-coordinated alliance policy, Fidesz alone had more representatives than any other party, and was able to form a stable majority government with its coalition partners.

The government formed under the leadership of the then thirty-five-year-old Viktor Orbán literally opened a new chapter in Hungary’s political history: it closed the eight-year period characterised by the continuation of the structures of the communist era. The first democratically elected government stood no chance of getting rid of the forces of the past, and the Horn cabinet that came to power in 1994 actually returned to those forces. Finally, with its victory four years later, a generation whose members had only experienced socialism in their school years could enter the main stage of Hungarian politics. They in fact formulated their political identity in opposition to socialism, and with the programme of a civic Hungary, they had been consciously preparing for a governing role for years.

They broke with the technocratic–administrative political language of the previous periods, reminiscent of the party documents of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSZMP), and finally spoke to the people about public affairs in a way that everyone understood. It was a revolutionary innovation that was not only important for scholars: unlike its predecessors, this government believed that politics belonged to everyone, to the public.

‘The nation once again learned to dream and to realise its dreams’

This new generation renewed Hungarian politics not only in the use of language but also in the nature of governance. It was open about its value choices and did not accept that politics was merely the dispassionate administration of affairs. After decades of humiliation, it wanted to once again raise the Hungarian nation to the heights that its thousand-year history destined it for. In the Millennium Commemorative Year in 2000, for the first time in their history, a minister or state secretary visited different settlements to personally hand over millennium commemorative flags local communities, thus expressing the government’s respect for the people living there. In addition, at the beginning of the millennium the continuity of Hungarian history was also symbolically restored by transferring the coronation jewels to the Parliament.

It was then that Hungarians realised for the first time that it is possible to pursue a government policy that not only draws attention to the insufficiency of the available resources, but also provides tangible help to those who raise children, are about to start a business, or take care or want to take care of themselves and others. The housing programme that started in those years gave many citizens, for the first time in decades, the chance to own a home. In addition, the Széchenyi Plan provided the Hungarian entrepreneurial world with a development opportunity that it would never have dreamed of before.

The dynamism of young Hungary seemed to have spread to the whole country. A nation famous for its cynical humour, bitterness, and despondency for decades once again learned to dream and make its dreams come true. It is no coincidence that the most popular exhibition of the last period of the first Fidesz government cycle, titled Dreamers of Dreams (Álmok álmodói), made the creativity and innovation of Hungarians fashionable again. Besides, the new National Theatre and the House of Terror, which opened in 2002, also set the course for the coming years: the path of a civic Hungary.

However, the all-out political war against the Fidesz government, conducted by the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) under the leadership of Ron Werber, a strategic consultant for scores of parliamentary campaigns, and the narrow Socialist victory it led to in the 2002 elections, thwarted the possibility of Fidesz implementing its plans for eight years. Ultimately, however, Hungarian society had to pay a price for the Socialist victory that made it clear to everyone:

the left cannot be trusted to run the country.

It was this recognition that then resulted in Fidesz’s two-thirds victory in 2010.


Related articles:

The First Orbán Government Was Formed 25 Years Ago
Celebrating Thirty-Three Years of Hungarian Democracy

Click here to read the original article.

This new generation renewed Hungarian politics not only in the use of language but also in the nature of governance. It was open about its value choices and did not accept that politics was merely the dispassionate administration of affairs. After decades of humiliation, it wanted to once again raise the Hungarian nation to the heights that its thousand-year history destined it for.

READ NEXT

CITATION