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The idea arose a few weeks ago, and now it's an acknowledged fact: major changes are brewing on the Right; even new parties may emerge. I have been living in this nightmare country for long enough to know that the most startling bits of news tend to be baseless. But things are different this time.

As a witness to the events of 18 and 19 September and 23 October, I am certain that the largest opposition party is pursuing the wrong goals. It has been paralysed by an unknown disease, which has prevented it from winning the last two election and made it unable to exploit the Gyurcsany government's political and economic crisis. As if this were not enough, Fidesz has promoted the spread of a strange world-view in the right-wing press which is at once anti-American, pro-Russian and, extraordinarily, closely allied to the proto-Marxist regimes of Latin America. Where is the anti-Communist Fidesz of the 1980s? Where is the Fidesz of the 1990s? Either would be better than today's confused party.

Leading Fidesz politicians have claimed that the prime minister used trickery to win the elections. (Istvan Stumpf and Laszlo Kover said the same after Fidesz's 2002 defeat). They declared that the government was responsible for allowing innocent people to be beaten up on the most important anniversary this country has seen since 1990. How did Fidesz and Viktor Orban, the party's leader, react to all this? They started collecting signatures for a referendum. How many referendums has Hungary held since 1990? And how many were significant? I was standing near the synagogue on 23 October. Tear gas pellets and rubber bullets were flying to my right, and to my left the Fidesz leader was calling for another round of signatures. I felt like I was in a Monty Python sketch. Others had a darker view: they felt things were turning into a George Orwell novel. And so we come to Maria Schmidt's ominous reference to Farmer Jones. In her article in the liberal daily Nepszabadsag, she wrote: "Our country is falling apart. Those who would squander the last opportunity to reach a consensus for fear of Farmer Jones's return share the blame. Father Jones will not return. But Gyurcsany is still here."

This would not have been a problem in a democratic party that could sustain constructive criticism and open debate. But what was the response? Inside Fidesz, people close to Orban's and Lajos Simicska's power base decided the appropriate response was to unleash a hail of abuse, and thus the conservative daily Magyar Nemzet ran a pseudonymously authored piece criticising Schmidt, who was recently widowed. Naturally, it turned out that 'Zsolt Horvath' did not exist. Were Fidesz or the Magyar Nemzet embarrassed? It doesn't seem so. It may be the only 'conservative' paper in the world that praises President Putin and the Leninist Hugo Chavez while thinking George Bush worse than Saddam Hussein. It is hard to work out what drives this paper. (What will the next article be about? How wonderful North Korea is?)

We could easily see three new parties emerging on the Right this year. One group has already come knocking at my door. The group is ready to take a responsible approach to those burning questions that Fidesz will not touch. (To avoid all misunderstandings: this is not the 'Schmidt-Stumpf' group, if 'Mr Horvath' should happen to be reading this article.) I think this is a good thing. Politics is not about two parties' viewpoints. If we believe in democracy, then a party cannot be wholly uniform in its view of the world.

In recent months, I've been trying to persuade the prime minister of a historical fact: a revolution is a revolution because it is impossible to predict. I feel both political wings need to be warned. After 16 years and two failures, it is time for renewal. Viktor Orban must learn lessons from what has just happened to Edmund Stoiber in Bavaria. An all-powerful leader became a spent force over the course of a few days. It is time for a dignified departure. Otherwise he could suffer from that same 'Stoiber effect'.

If the next Fidesz congress brings no changes, it is easy to predict what will follow. Neither the Socialists nor Viktor Orban will win the next election. We need somebody who can put an end to the situation we see today, which is symbolised by the barriers surrounding Parliament. We need a statesman. Hungarian Right, wake up!

The author is the director of Developing Democracy and the International Security Institute.
hvg.hu English version

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