Hungarian Watch

Hungary’s Sleeping Liberal Giant, Maybe Not So Sleepy?

In Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Tuesday, March 15th marked the 163rd anniversary of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution in which freedom fighters lashed out against Hapsburg rule wielding a list of 12 demands, not the least of which included freedom of the press and the abolition of censorship.

It’s funny how history repeats itself.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban marked the occasion with an impassioned speech in front of the National Museum.  As he is want to do in most of his addresses to the Hungarian public, Orban compared his party’s 2010 mandate to the populist uprisings of 1848 and 1956. He also didn’t miss an opportunity to demonize the EU or the US or any of those darn “outsiders” who dare point out the more dangerous aspects of his authoritarian rule.

“The real free Hungary of  ‘48 and ‘56 cannot be found in the world of ideology or theory, and nor will we find it in the examples of Brussels or other metropolises; neither will party deals lead there…We should look within rather than to the outside to find the Hungary we’re looking for.”

Problem is, many people aren’t falling for it anymore.

Just down the street from Orban’s pep rally, one could find tens of thousands of members of a new era of Hungarian freedom fighters (the largest group of demonstrators since 1989) standing up and saying, “enough is enough.” They were there to protest the new media law, they were there to protest the stripping away of their individual rights and civil liberties, they were they to send a message to their prime minister–our Hungary is not YOUR Hungary.

Is there a trend here? Is the Hungarian left close to a tipping point?  The Economist thinks this might just be so.

In the article Budapest’s liberal awakening?, The Economist makes a prophecy that both excites and gives those of us at Hungarian Watch some hope for Hungary’s future:

“Tuesday’s demonstration was not linked to any specific party, but showed that as the old left-right paradigm fractures, especially under a government which combines a robust patriotism with statist rhetoric, substantial numbers of Hungarians are seeking civic engagement on their own terms. From the conservative blogosphere to the salons of Budapest’s chattering classes, there is increasing talk of the need for a new party, one that combines tolerance, diversity and, most of all, modernity. If and when such a grouping is born, March 15th 2011 will likely be seen as the date of its conception.”

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