Democracy And Mass Media In Hungary

The Hungarian democracy is changing. The former 20 years of the country’s democratic transition was based on the rules of the consensual democracy. This model was a result of a consensus among the members political elite at the period of the regime change. The system of checks and balances, protected by constitution was challenged several times in the former years (blocade of taxi drivers in 1991, the economic reform in 1995, attack on the TV building in 2006, economic crisis in 2008). However these storms of public life did not have any effect on the fundaments of the Hungarian democracy. The political elite respected the rules of the established political system. In 2009, a radical right wing party (Jobbik) succeded in entering the European Parliament and the result of the elections had an important effect on the party system. The peoples party, Fidesz have started a communicational offensive to attract voters of Jobbik. In 2010 after the general elections the former party system has completely changed. Emblematic parties of the regime change have disappeared, new parties (the green party Politics Can Be different and the radical right wing party Jobbik) have entered the Parliament. The former governing party (MSZP) has collapsed, while the right wing party Fidesz received 53 per cent support from voters at the general elections, and due to the electoral system, this translated into a two-third majority in Parliament.

The two-third majority of Fidesz allows the elite of the governing party to break the rules of the consensual democracy. Since the inauguration of the second Orban government, the instituions of the Hungarian democracy are under permanent change. Hungary is heading toward a political system where power is concentrated in the hands of the party winning the elections. The MP’S and intellectuals of the governing party stress the democratic legitimation of the government and while reforming the political system, they refer to the majoritarian model of democracy established in the United Kingdom. As a conservative party, Fidesz often refers to the traditions of Hungary, and regards the democratic traditions of the United Kingdom with great sympathy. However, the ideological standpoint of the government is paradox. Following the results of the 2010 general elections, Orbán declaired that the election was “a revolution in the voting booths”. The revolutionary vehemence of the government’s communication is influenced by the intention of attracting voters of the radical party. Since that moment, the 20 years of Hungary’s democratic heritage is criminalised by rampant populism. Although Fidesz is declaired to be a conservative party, the party elite has little respect for established democratic norms and little self-restraint toward the checks and balances of the liberal democracy. Every moment, when they break the rules, they refer to their assignment to change the political system of Hungary and their commitment to the majoritarian model of democracy.

The ideological paradox of Fidesz is intensified by the revolutionary wehemence of the government. The turbulent reforms of the government stands in contrast to the idea of the rule of law in several cases. The Hungarian media law became a symbol of this contrast because of three main reasons: the law threatens one basic value of the democracy; because the legislation process is not based on democratic consensus (the law has passed the Parliament without any accepted amendment of the oppostion) and bacause of its timing: the law was accepted right at the beginning of the Hungarian Presidency of the European Union. The media law seriously threatens the freedom of the press and will throttle diversity in the media. The new legislation slackens regulations where it should do the opposite and tightens them where it makes no sense to do so. The regulation of public media and the oversight of the entire media sector, including print and online journalism, will be subjected to party control. The law has serious impact on reporters and on public opinion: in a country where 40 years of dictatorship has a vivid impression on the collective memory of the society, the right of the media authority to issue disproportionally high fines through flimsy arguments will lead to self-censorship.

The present situation in Hungary is the result of the loss of credibility of democratic politics of Hungarian citiziens. When citizens ignore politics, politics ignores citizens. Narrow group interests easily prevail against weakly represented common interests, thus destroying the environment around us and endangering the lives of future generations. Although the change of the political system is explained by the government as a path toward a majoritian model of democracy, several measures of the government are endangering the foundations of social solidarity and people’s faith in democracy itself.

Daniel Oross, Ökopeace, Hungary