Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Comparing Orbánism and Gaullism the Gaullist Physiognomy of Orbán's Post-2010 Hungary *

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Comparing Orbánism and Gaullism the Gaullist Physiognomy of Orbán's Post-2010 Hungary *

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

After 1989, Hungarian politicians rarely referred to France as a model. However, the right wing Hungarian government instated in 2010, the politicians and intellectuals around the governing party Fidesz - Alliance of Young Democrats, frequently refer to French Gaullism as a source of inspiration. This may either mean that 1) Gaullism and the political figure/work of de Gaulle serve as example to be followed by Hungarian politicians; 2) or that they are simply instrumentalized to the benefit of Fidesz.

When forming his government in 2010, Viktor Orbán stated that the Hungarian situation was similar to France in 1958, because both countries suffered from a leadership crisis1. In early 2012, Viktor Orbán referred to de Gaulle as a role model, while also mentioning the concept of "grandeur nationale" so dear the famous French president2. In October of the same year, without however mentioning the French case, Orbán elaborated on the idea of leadership, claiming that a presidential system would be perhaps more able to cope with difficult reforms and decisions than a parliamentary one3. Viktor Orbán is not the only member of government to refer to de Gaulle or to the French case: in August 2012, then Vice-Prime Minister Tibor Navracsics also emphasized the similarities between the Hungarian situation and de Gaulle's France during the 1950s, their common characteristic being the rapid setting up of a new political system4. In December 2012, when students filled the streets of Budapest, protesting against the education reform of the government, a debate about the similarities between 2012 Hungary and 1968 France was engaged in the blogosphere and the press5. Last but not least, the de Gaulle-Orbán comparison received international coverage, most notably on the pages of the French Le Monde newspaper6.

This paper asserts that indeed Gaullism is a viable analogy for better understanding the nature of Orbánism, not because the latter is a Hungarian version of the former, but because the similarities and differences between them can serve a better understanding of Orbánism. Is Gaullism the genuine source of inspiration for Victor Orbán and his party in government, or is it only a piece of a party identity-building strategy? We will not really address this question here, which calls for a thorough qualitative inquiry on Hungarian politics. Instead, we will use the comparison for heuristic purposes.

At first glance, there are striking similarities between the two political movements: the accession to power during a period of crisis, the political weakness of the predecessors, the personal charisma of the leader, the high importance given to the nation and to preserving its sovereignty, a sovereignist conception of the European Union, a tendency to make use of discretionary executive power, the accusations of systemic authoritarianism. These similarities are sufficient reasons for engaging in a deeper comparative analysis. This paper aims makes the first steps in this direction.

Firstly, we will define Gaullism for comparative purposes. Secondly, we will clarify what post-2010 "Orbánism" is. Third, we will draw up the first elements of a comparison between Gaullism and Orbánism, and between de Gaulle's France and Orbán's post-2010 Hungary. Finally, we will examine the merits and the limits of the analogy.

Gaullism: A Certain Idea of France

Historians7 showed that Gaullism is a dynamic movement and an ideology "compatible with many practices"8. The General himself was very pragmatic when it came to policies. For instance, de Gaulle was often considered an anti-American and an anti-British politician. If President de Gaulle was reluctant to postwar US dominance, General de Gaulle stood firmly on the side of the Allies during the war and even considered the possibility of a French-British union in 1940 to be able to continue the war against the Third Reich9. The same goes for his allegedly anti-European policies (like the famous "empty chair crisis"), when in truth, the European Community was undoubtedly developing and consolidating during his presidency. …

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