Friday, 15 May 2009

Hungarian democracy

Becoming an oxymoron?

As remarked before on Conductive World, what happens in Hungary is still capable of disproportional effects across the little world of Conductive Education, perhaps most particularly because, for any foreseeable future, Hungary remains the only potential mass-producer of conductors: a most economically and politically fragile basket for such rare and precious eggs!

Everyone involved in planning a future dependent on the still largely Hungarian conductor workforce would be acting most imprudently not to be keeping a close eye on what is happening in that country.

More generally. though, Conductive World's most recent article on Hungary, also suggested that Hungary bears watching by everyone else too, as a sensitive canary in the present economic and political coal mine that we are now all groping around in, with perhaps particularly resonance for the United Kingdom:

A financially enmired economy, a deeply unpopular centre-left Prime Minister called Gordon, next elections due in 2010, a centre-right opposition party waiting in the wings… Watch the canary!

Hardly the hardest political parallel to spot!

That was all of a month back. This week in the current issue of the New Statesman magazine, political journalist Neal Clark makes depressing report on the present dire state of the democratic process in Hungary and brings English-speakers up to date with a little more detailed

His approval ratings are among the lowest ever achieved by a prime minister. As the former manager of the country’s finances, many blame him for its current economic predicament. By nature an introvert, he is finding it hard to build up a rapport with the electorate. His name is Gordon B....

No, not Gordon Brown, but Gordon Bajnai, who last month was sworn in as the new prime minister of Hungary.

Neal Clark also points to important differences...
... so far

Britain’s Gordon B may not have had his elevation to the premiership endorsed by the electorate, but he is nonetheless a democratically elected member of parliament. Hungary’s Gordon B has not been elected to any office...

Bajnai is not a member of any political party...

As well as the Prime Minister other unelected 'experts' hold ministerial positions in the Hungarian government, the finance minister, the economics minister and the minister for transport, telecommunication and energy. Neal Clark cautions, we should all be worried about what is going on in Hungary, not just the Brits.

The fact that unelected figures hold so much power in a European country that styles itself a democracy is alarming. The formation of 'non-political' governments to introduce swingeing cuts in public expenditure – and privatise health care, lower pensions and drastically reduce welfare provision – is an undemocratic development that could spread.

Such governments are a long way from being 'non-political. On the contrary, they are espousing ideologically motivated economic policies, but do so under the smokescreen of 'financial necessity'. Unable to receive a popular mandate for their reforms, neoliberals in Hungary have stuck two fingers up at the democratic process. As the economic crisis deepens and public unrest grows, don’t rule out their counterparts in other countries following suit.

The Hungarian canary in the European coal mine.

Except, upon reflection, the Brits at least have no need of a canary, in this last respect anyway, having long been past masters of slipping unelected mates into government (doing and disguising this is one of the functions of the House of Lords: think, for example, of Lord Mandelson).

Over the last couple of weeks, though, the British political class has followed the Hungarian one in another respect, down into unplumbed depths of public contempt, for its own apparent contempt for financial probity.

Note and references

Clark, N. (2009) Hungary tears up the ballot paper: observation on European democracyNew Statesman, 14 May

Sutton. A. (2009) Meanwhile in Hungary: that ‘faraway country’, Conductive World, 8 April

Neal Clark's article is also published on his blog:

His blog was last year's winner of the UK 2007 Weblog Awards, and a runner up for Best UK Blog in 2008. He must know something then that I don't (brevity for one!) and his blog makes salutary reading for anyone blogging in CE.

No comments:

Post a Comment