The sudden scandal, whose victims have already become the president of Hungary and the ex-minister of justice, has become perhaps the biggest political challenge for Viktor Orbán’s regime in the 14 years of his continuous one-man rule of the country.
And although Orbán does not currently feel the threat of losing power, he is unlikely to be able to emerge from this crisis stronger. Which in itself is unprecedented.
The pardon by the Hungarian authorities of a man accused of assisting a pedophile was a blow to Orbán’s image and opened up space for his criticism even from yesterday’s allies.
And although this story has no connection with Ukraine, because of it Viktor Orban will become more dangerous and can strike, including, our state.
On the evening of February 10, Hungary was shaken by the news of the resignation of President Katalin Novak, elected to the position less than 2 years ago.
Almost synchronously with her, another important person of the Orbán regime announced her political resignation – ex-Minister of Justice Yudita Varga. She announced that she was leaving public life, giving up her parliamentary mandate and the announced first number on the list of the ruling Fidesz party to the European Parliament
Despite their formally different statuses, both Novak and Varga were favorites of the Hungarian prime minister until recently (almost as well-known to Ukrainians as the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Peter Siyarto).
Their careers were buried by the scandal with the pardon of the deputy director of the orphanage in the 12,000-person town of Bicske, west of Budapest. He was behind bars for covering for his director, Janos V., who, in turn, was found guilty of sexually abusing at least 10 underage boys.
However, on April 27, 2023, Endre K. was on the list of 22 Hungarian citizens pardoned by President Katalin Novak. The pardon procedure also requires the signature of the Minister of Justice, so the head of the Ministry of Justice gave the OK.
That is why they have now resigned, publicly announcing that mistakes were made last year.
No one could ever find out about all this, because the pardon procedure involves secrecy. However, Mr. Andre K, even after the pardon, decided to go to trial, proving his innocence. Therefore, in September of last year, his case appeared in public access in another proceeding, and on February 2, the Hungarian opposition liberal publication 444 wrote about it following a tip from one of the readers.
And after that, as they say, “it took off”.
This story outraged the public so much that Viktor Orbán had to force his favorites to resign. Well, that is, they announced that they were leaving their post of their own free will, in the best traditions of democracy.
Although this is not usually done in Hungary. Only when it smelled really fried.
Already after the resignation of Novak and Varga, it became clear that the scandalous pardon was not an accidental mistake.
Reliable journalistic investigations say that the current head of the Hungarian Reformed Church, Zoltan Balogh, until recently the Minister of Human Resources in the Orbán government (responsible in particular for education), is involved in the scandalous pardon.
Zoltan Balog does not belong to Viktor Orban’s close circle, but he and Katalin Novak are very close.
It also turned out that Varga’s office initially refused to sign a pardon for the accused of assisting a pedophile, but the president insisted on it, and the Ministry of Justice agreed. But what made the Ministry of Justice change its mind? One can only guess whether Katalin Novak was the real initiator of the pardon, or whether she reported that she was fulfilling someone’s will. (But the question is already being heard in the country – and who? Or not the prime minister’s office?)
It is important to understand that in Orbán’s Hungary, the protection of children and family values is absolute. When the ruling team, which builds its ideology on this, at the same time pardons the accomplice of a pedophile, even those voters for whom Orbán’s support has become a religion may think that something is wrong here.
That is why the heads of important people flew off. favorite
And Viktor Orban himself, after a sharp and categorical statement at the beginning of this story, is now silent.
And at the same time there are hints that the real initiators of the story did not resign.
But the one who spoke was Judith Varga’s ex-husband, Peter Madyar, who announced his resignation from all public positions almost at the same time as President Novak and his ex-wife. But for completely different reasons.
“I don’t want for one minute to be part of a system in which real responsible people hide behind women’s skirts“, he said at the same time as he resigned.
Until recently, not many people knew about the existence of Peter Magyar, and even then – only because of the story of their divorce in the spring of 2023, which the mass media wrote about at the time.
Now he has become a hero of the anti-Orban movement.
The 42-year-old corporate lawyer and diplomat comes from the Hungarian elite (his relatives include the ex-president of Hungary and ex-judge of the Supreme Court), and he built his career as a cog in the Orbán regime.
However, since Saturday, February 10, Magyar “woke up” and publicly criticizes and exposes the ruling team. Corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, eavesdropping, mafia and cronyism – Peter Magyar tells the details of the inner kitchen of the Orbán regime, about which everyone who is interested in the internal politics of Hungary is actually familiar.
The only difference: now what a person from the system tells about it.
Currently, it is difficult to understand Mr. Magyar’s motives and where he has so much courage. The piquancy of the situation is added by the fact that Peter Magyar is a friend of the minister-in-charge of the administration of the Prime Minister of Hungary, Gergey Guyás.
And there is an assumption that Peter Magyar’s “anti-Orban” rhetoric is actually an echo of the voices of other members of the ruling team, where there are those who are fed up with Orban’s arbitrariness – because no one wants to become the next sacred victim.
At first glance, this is purely internal Hungarian history that does not affect Ukraine. Moreover, given the anti-rating of Viktor Orban and his team in Ukraine, many will be angry.
However, in reality, the consequences of the scandal are threatening for us
First, with the resignation of Katalin Novak, Ukraine lost almost the only potential political ally in Viktor Orban’s team.
Novak was sincere in promoting a pro-Western and pro-Ukrainian agenda (although she lacked the clout to do so, and so her success was limited).
Secondly, after such a high-profile scandal, Orban needs revenge and a lightning rod, and unfortunately, Ukraine may become the defenseless victim on which Orban will demonstrate his determination to the voters.
Moreover, the temporary warming in the relations between Kyiv and Budapest has already begun to “freeze”. For what it’s worth Orbán’s absurd display of indignation in the words of Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba that Orban and Siyarto are not pro-Russian, but pro-Hungarian.
Being indignant at words that you yourself constantly repeat, and which you emphasize as your political vision, is Hungarian know-how.
So in the near future we should expect even more strange unacceptable statements like the last one, about Ukraine as a buffer zone, as well as the actions of concerned Hungarian farmers. Because the matrix of Orban’s action is unchanged: “in case of a scandal, generate new enemies and shift attention to them”
Because of this, a personal meeting between the leaders of Ukraine and Hungary may turn into a distant dream. Nothing personal, Viktor Orban is just saving his rating.
Author: Dmytro Tuzhanskyi,
director of the Institute of Central European Strategy
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