quinta-feira, 27 de abril de 2017
Hungary’s Freudian political fight: Orbán vs Soros
Hungary’s Freudian political fight: Orbán vs Soros
The two men once walked a common path but now are sworn enemies.
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN 4/27/17, 4:30 PM CET Updated 4/27/17, 10:57 PM CET
Viktor Orbán has spoken openly about how his father beat him as a child and his struggle with self-esteem.
These days, a different emotional drama is playing out between Hungary’s prime minister and the billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros. The elder Soros, who in many ways is Orbán’s political godfather, is now a sworn enemy — and their running political dispute mirrors and to a degree defines the ideological divide between liberalism and nationalism that’s shaping Europe’s present and future.
Unusually, the duo almost crossed paths this week for the first time in years, appearing in Brussels within 24 hours of each other. They were in town to fight their corners with the grandees of the EU. This time, the dispute involves the Soros-backed Central European University in Budapest, which the Hungarian government is moving to push out of the country.
It is an encounter that Orbán seemed to seek out. He invited himself to the European Parliament this week to face down his critics, knowing that a day later the Hungarian-American billionaire was due to visit Brussels. Speaking before the chamber on Wednesday, the Hungarian prime minister bluntly warned, “We Hungarians never give up the fight.” A day later, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker welcomed Soros with a greeting fitting of a head-of-state.
The fight against authority is a recurring theme in Orbán’s life. He led the anti-Soviet student movement Fidesz in the late 1980s and after communism collapsed fought on behalf of liberalism.
Interviewed for a documentary filmed in the late 1980s, the activist and budding politician talked frankly about his upbringing. “I remember when he used to beat me, he would yell that I should keep my hands down and things like that, I remember I had some pretty bad experiences,” Orbán told an interviewer about his father. Later in the interview, he said: “I was never delighted with myself, I always had a bit of a schizophrenic inclination; I was able to view myself from the outside.”
But there was also a hint of defiance against parental rule: “There came about a new rule that I can’t go out of the house after 9,” Orbán said. “That was the order … and I said ‘I’m going.’ They said, ‘There’s no way.’ And I said, ‘I’m going,’ they said, ‘No.’ I got dressed and got going. And my father went to the door and beat me up insanely, I remember.”
In his youth too, Soros was a political father of sorts. As a liberal democratic crusader against Communism and the Soviet Union, the future prime minister attended Oxford on a Soros-financed scholarship. Soros was a major financial backer of Fidesz (the name stands for the Alliance for Young Democrats), which Orbán founded with other pro-democracy student leaders in 1988. Soros even provided financing for a group called Black Box that made the documentary about Orbán, which was part of a series on current affairs.
“Obviously, you don’t have to be Freudian to conclude that [Orbán] has had a problem with authority ever since and the authority of the European Union as much as the authority of George Soros is a factor here” — Charles Gati
Their once common path split sharply when Orbán transformed Fidesz into a center-right conservative party in the mid-1990s, a move that helped catapult him into the prime minister’s office for the first time in 1998. He was forced out by subsequent electoral defeats only to win back the job in 2010. Since then, he has maintained a tight grip on power by shifting even harder to the right, in part to prevent being outflanked by the radical nationalist Jobbik party.
Soros and other supporters of liberal democratic political causes have watched with dismay as Orbán has adopted increasingly nationalist policies, particularly by putting up fences to keep out unwanted refugees and bitterly opposing the EU’s efforts to resettle migrants across the Continent.
Disdain for authority
Charles Gati, a senior professor of European and Eurasian studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, who has known both men for years, said Orbán’s vilification of Soros fits a lifelong pattern of rebelling against authority figures: his own father and the Soviets, while growing up in the town of Felcsút in the Communist era, and later against Washington and Brussels.
“Obviously, you don’t have to be Freudian to conclude that he has had a problem with authority ever since and the authority of the European Union as much as the authority of George Soros is a factor here,” Gati, who is Hungarian-American, said in a telephone interview from Stockholm.
“The European Union lectures him all the time like his father,” Gati said. “And of course Americans, all of us, have a tendency to lecture abroad and he resents that because he sees a father figure in America as well and in George Soros.”
Gati said he believed that Orbán was driven away from Soros and the liberal path by advice from another fatherly figure, former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who once warned Orbán that the biggest and most persistent political threat he would face would come from the right not from the left.
Soros declined requests for an interview.
‘This election is about survival’
Orbán, in testimony before the Parliament, unleashed scathing criticism of Soros, describing him as a malevolent force, an “American financial speculator” and an enemy of Hungary and of Europe’s common currency, the euro.
“I know that the power, size and weight of Hungary is much smaller than that of the financial speculator, George Soros, who is now attacking Hungary and who — despite ruining the lives of millions of European people with his financial speculations, and being penalized in Hungary for speculations, and who is an openly admitted enemy of the euro — is so highly praised that he is received by the EU’s top leaders,” Orbán said, according to the Hungarian government’s English transcript of his remarks.
At a press conference later, Orbán said he had not seen Soros since a meeting in 2010, and he insisted that the real problem was not the new education law, which is viewed in Brussels as targeting Central European University for closure, but rather the opposition of Soros and the EU to Hungary’s immigration policies.
“The real issue here is the refugee issue and that’s the reason we are in strong confrontation with the Commission, I suppose the majority of the Parliament, and Mr. Soros, and his whole NGO empire,” Orbán said. The prime minister also repeated his earlier line of attack, noting how Soros had gained fame and wealth by breaking the Bank of England in a successful currency bet.
“We as Hungarians, as talented Hungarians, have to face a financial speculator, a person who has ruined the lives of tens of millions of people when he attacked the British pound and other currencies,” Orbán said.
“The real issue here is the refugee issue and that’s the reason we are in strong confrontation with the Commission, I suppose the majority of the Parliament, and Mr. Soros, and his whole NGO empire” — Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
Balazs Jarabik, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that the real issue was Hungarian national politics. He said Orbán’s stepped-up attack on Central European University began just days after the far-right Jobbik Party put up campaign billboards across Budapest criticizing Fidesz with the slogan: “You work. They steal.”
“This is the kick-off of the election campaign,” Jarabik said, and that the thinking within Fidesz was: “We need to have a conflict and mobilize our voters. This is a fight that we can win at home.”
“I think Orbán is using Soros’ overall image,” he added. “This election is about survival.”
Jarabik and Gati said the attacks on Soros, who is Jewish, could also tap into an undercurrent of anti-Semitism that runs through Hungarian society.
“There is hidden anti-Semitism about this,” Gati said. “It’s so obvious to any Hungarian reader that underneath it all, though Orbán would never concede it, it’s there.”
David M. Herszenhorn