Hungary’s first ever shadow government was announced by Democratic Coalition (DK) MEP Klára Dobrev a couple of days ago. Hooray, good for the Democratic Coalition. At least they take themselves seriously and are getting down to work, preparing programmes and getting ready for potentially taking over the helm of the country at some point (in the distant future, I might add, but it would be unwarranted sarcasm…) Not to mention the fact that for the first time in Hungary’s history, a female would-be-prime minister has announced the members of her would-be-cabinet. Three cheers for her!
Unfortunately, there are quite a few problems with this promising initiative that spoil the picture.
Most obviously, DK is a typical champagne socialist party. Or rather, limousine liberal. They like to pose as a left-wing party—in the European Parliament, DK is a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats—but if one looks at what their leading politicians do and say, it becomes clear that the party is a globalist liberal formation. Most recently, former LMP chairman András Schiffer has explained why none of the (parliamentary) opposition parties are genuinely left-wing, so I will not go into that here. But it is an important fact that a party that likes to pretend it is the advocate of the little man, while its shadow prime minister, a huge promoter of the never-to-materialise European Union minimum wage, is a billionaire who lives in a huge villa in Buda, has serious credibility issues.
But it is not only Ms Dobrev who fails the credibility test. Zoltán Bodnár, a former advisor and bureaucrat of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party (aka the Communist Party), who has been appointed shadow finance minister, was the Hungarian Liberal Party’s Budapest mayor candidate in the 2014 municipal elections. A former banker and lawyer, he is currently the chairman of the supervisory board and the of the board of directors respectively of two major local government-run property management companies in opposition-controlled Budapest—facts that were conveniently left out of his profile on the shadow government’s website, Mandiner noted. The nomination of Bodnár is the quintessential embodiment of the hypocrisy of Hungary’s left.
Varju is currently a defendant in a criminal case, being charged with grievous bodily harm
Another glaring example of the shadow government’s personnel problem is László Varju, appointed as shadow energy and utility cost affairs minister. Varju is currently a defendant in a criminal case, being charged with grievous bodily harm (he was one of those opposition politicians who illegally entered the headquarters of the Hungarian public media in 2018, got into a scuffle with security guards, allegedly injuring one gravely and several others lightly.) But the fact that he might be sentenced to a prison term at some point in the future is just part of why Varju is more than controversial. He has been a loyal and consistent supporter of renegade socialist, ex-PM, now DK president Ferenc Gyurcsány, we will give him that. But he has been equally consistent in leaving out important pieces of property of his asset declarations submitted as an MP. These include real estate he bought for peanuts from the Socialist Party, which he then converted into a pension and has operated for years (and putting it up for sale for sixfold of what he had purchased it for); and a more than 100 square metre flat owned by his wife in Budapest’s most elegant neighbourhood, which he conveniently forgot to mention when applying for and receiving housing benefits from the state as an MP in 2010. (MPs who reside outside Budapest are entitled to housing benefits). Well, maybe Ms Dobrev thought that shady dealings are becoming of a shadow minister when she picked him. But Varju not only lacks credibility as an honest politician, but also as someone we would entrust with overseeing a nation’s energy and utility cost matters. While even Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed the introduction of a windfall tax on energy giants, Varju vehemently opposed the Hungarian government’s decision to impose a tax on energy companies’ extra profits. A clear-cut liberal position, which promises little good for the little man should Varju become minister one day. (Luckily, that is highly unlikely.)
The shadow government strikingly lacks diversity
Another major issue with the Dobrev shadow government is that it strikingly lacks diversity. While DK, like most opposition parties, has been lambasting the Hungarian government for the small number of female officials in it, its shadow government includes only two plus one women: Dobrev herself, Ágnes Vadai as defence minister (we may not like her, but her expertise is unquestionable) and former reporter and television host Olga Kálmán (also a seasoned media expert, no question about that) as government spokesperson. All the other ministers in the government are men. While of course it is not my place to speculate about anyone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or ethnicity, since none of the members of the shadow government have come out as gay or LGBTQI, and have not publicly embraced any minority ethnicity, I have to presume that Dobrev’s government is one of white, cisgender, straight men. Certainly not progressive enough, many left-liberals might argue, on the contrary: this composition of the shadow government only serves to perpetuate male hierarchy in our society. Time to do better, Ms Dobrev!