Abuse scandal: Is Orban losing control?

Victor Orban / Photo: EPA-EFE / STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Viktor Orbán can't bring the scandal under control by pardoning a man who helped cover up a child abuse case. But the angry public seems unable to threaten the Prime Minister's system in general.

Every year, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán gives keynote speeches on precisely fixed dates, which his supporters look forward to. One of these speeches is scheduled for February. Then the previous year is reviewed and the new political season begins. On this occasion, Orbán usually speaks triumphantly about past successes and belligerently announces new offensives.

This year it is completely different. Orbán's speech, expected for days, was overshadowed by the so-called abuse affair: President Katalin Novak resigned on 10.02.2024 over the pardon of a man who helped cover up child abuse.

Due to the resignation, last Saturday (February 17.02.2024, 2024), Orban began his account with the sentence: "2010 could not have started worse." The prime minister's speech was similar – he seemed tired, uninspired and unstructured. It was one of Viktor Orbán's weakest speeches since he took office in XNUMX. Not only an expression of the fact that the abuse scandal has hit the Hungarian prime minister significantly in recent weeks, but also a sign of the general stagnation in Orbán's system.
In the shadow of the abuse scandal

Due to the abuse scandal and the great public anger about it, not only Katalin Novak, a longtime Orbán loyalist, resigned, but simultaneously with her, the former Minister of Justice, Judith Varga, who was recently Orbán's main candidate, retired from political life. Fidesz party in the campaign for the European elections.

What is behind the resignations? A man named Andre K., who was pardoned last year, was convicted of helping his supervisor, the head of an orphanage, cover up the systematic, severe sexual abuse of children in at least one case. The president's pardon came to the public by accident at the beginning of the year due to the appeals process that the pardoned person was conducting in the meantime - the pardon certificate was included in the publicly available documents about his case.

Public anger over the case has reached a rarely seen scale in Hungary. Orbán has made child protection a central pillar of his anti-LGBTQ propaganda in recent years. The prime minister's equation is: homosexuality is synonymous with "pedophilia", a common term in Hungary for child abuse.

Resignation of Bishop Balogh

Meanwhile, it also came to light that one of Orbán's closest confidants, the Calvinist priest and former Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, lobbied the President to pardon Andre K. Balog.

Balog, who has been a bishop since 2021, initially did not want to resign as president of the Synod of the Hungarian Reformed Church. In the wake of the extremely large demonstrations in Budapest last Friday (February 16.02.2024, 2010), Balog finally resigned from his post. The protests were one of the largest demonstrations against Orbán's system since 50.000 - at least 150.000 and some estimated as many as XNUMX people gathered in Budapest.

Protesters were united not only by their anger over the abuse scandal and double standards in Orbán's system. The rally was about much more: Orbán's actions of sacrificing loyal associates where he himself should take responsibility, his autocratic style of government and, above all, the widespread corruption and abuse of power in his system.

Mass demonstrations in Budapest

The exceptionally high number of protesters in a country where the majority has meanwhile become politically indifferent, according to political scientist Daniel Mikec, is the result of what he calls "influencer activism". According to Mikec's statement to the Qubit portal, "the most popular Hungarian social media influencers" left their online world, organized offline demonstrations and ensured a high level of mobilization.

In his speech, Orbán did not address this protest, nor the details of the abuse affair. He blamed the situation exclusively on the former president - with a short explanation: Her office embodies the unity of the nation, and Novak could no longer maintain this unity because of the anger after the pardon she gave. That is why her resignation was inevitable.

In the further course of the speech, Orbán suddenly spoke in detail about the opportunities that Hungary will have if it invests heavily in the development of renewable energy sources.

Later followed the usual attacks against the European Union, against "Brussels bureaucrats" and against "LGBTQ activists" who allegedly wanted to destroy Hungary's traditional family model. Orbán also repeated his usual narrative about Russia's war against Ukraine: the European Union plunged into a "Slavic fraternal conflict" and Hungary, according to Orbán, was the only representative of peace in Europe.

Orban on the defensive

The Hungarian Prime Minister, as his speech makes clear, is currently on the defensive and seems confused and out of ideas. In the long run, however, the abuse scandal is unlikely to affect him much. The current wave of protests is a moral outrage, the organizers and participants of the demonstrations have no political agenda and currently have no intention of organizing into a movement or party.

The existing opposition parties also have nothing to offer but anger at the double standards of Orbán's system. The Democratic Coalition party, led by socialist former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcan, has even coined the term "pedophile lover" for Orbán and his fellow party members – apparently keen to hit the prime minister with his propaganda weapon rather than engage in humanist-based criticism of Orbán's LGBTQ equalization persons and child abuse.

For the Hungarian lawyer and well-known expert on children's rights, Silvia Gyurko, the victims of the long-standing propaganda and the current debate are, above all, the children themselves.

"It would be important that the terms child abuse and pedophilia no longer serve to stigmatize each other in the political arena," says Gjurko for DV.

"It would be good if there was a political will that is serious about the fact that children are our future."

Source: Deutsche Welle/ Author: Keno Verzek

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