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Illiberalism and the Emergence of a New Political Community: The National System of Cooperation

Unsurprisingly, no normative legal document, formal political manifesto or official government communication ever provided a coherent description of the nature, design, or constitutional philosophy of the Hungarian illiberal democracy model. It is therefore the task and challenge of academic analyses to decipher its normative and analytic content. Thus, this chapter sets forth a thought experiment to fill these gaps and provide a conceptual framework for the Hungarian illiberal democracy. A widely cited and debated speech by the new regime’s founding farther, Prime Minister Viktor Orban, delivered at the Summer Open University of Balvanyos in July 2014, will serve as a starting point for this endeavor. Here orban identified his regime as illiberal in the following manner:

... while breaking with the dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West and keeping ourselves independent from them, we are trying to find the form of community organisation, the new Hungarian state, which is capable of making our community competitive in the great global race for decades to come.... a democracy does not necessarily have to be liberal. Just because a state is not liberal, it can still be a democracy.... until now we have known three forms of state organisation: the nation state, the liberal state and the welfare state. And the question is, what’s next? The Hungarian answer to this question is that the era of the work-based state is approaching. We want to organise a work-based society that, undertakes the odium of stating that it is not liberal in character... .we must break with liberal principles and methods of social organisation, and

in general with the liberal understanding of society.......and forge a

new method of Hungarian state organisation..., following (in the sense of bypassing..., ALP) the liberal state and the era of liberal democracy. .. are attempting to construct Hungarian state life around this idea, that (liberalism) should not be the principle on which society is built.... the Hungarian nation is not simply a group of individuals but a community that must be organised, reinforced and in fact constructed. And. .. the new state that we are constructing in Hungary is an illiberal state, a non-liberal state.... we want to organise our national state to replace the liberal state, construct a new state built on illiberal and national foundations within the European Union. ...the Government has come to a decision according to which within this new state concept, this illiberal state concept, the reorganisation of the Hungarian state is underway, in contrast to the liberal state organisation logic of the previous twenty years.

It has been argued above that the new constitution, the Fundamental Law sets forth several value preferences, but it does not actually take up the task of declaring a new political community. But Orban claims no less than having created such a political community. This is reflected for example in his change of the official name of the state from “Magyar Koztarsasag” to “Magyarorszag.” The former, commonly referred to in English as the “Republic of Hungary,” in Hungarian was actually “Hungarian,” a grammatical syntax with the noun “republic” (“repiblic”) specified with the adjective “Hungarian” (“magyar”). Magyarorszag, (“Magyarstan”) means “Hungarian Country,” grammatically a morpheme, a complex word derived by the agglutination of the words “Hungarian” (“magyar” - can be either a noun or an adjective) and “Country” (“orszag”) (Takacs 2015).

The new political community is declared in a formally nonbinding, unique pre-constitutional document, Political Declaration 1 of 2010 (16 June) of the Hungarian Parliament on national cooperation. This document foresees and legitimizes a total break with the preexisting political community and declares the emergence of a new political community, the named National System of Cooperation (NSC), which originates retroactively from a “voting booth revolution,” a term used by Orban to describe the election that created the parliamentary supermajority of the governing coalition (FIDESZ and the Hungarian Christian Democratic Party, the two parties that ran jointly).2 The political credo of the new regime and the new political community reads as follows:

At the end of the first decade of the 21st century, after forty-six years of occupation and dictatorship and two turbulent decades of transition Hungary has regained the right and ability of self-determination... In the spring of 2010 the Hungarian nation once again summoned its vitality and brought about another revolution in the voting booths.... The National Assembly declares that a new social contract was laid down in the April general elections through which the Hungarians decided to create a new system: the National Cooperation System.... We, members of the National Assembly declare that we shall elevate the new political and economic system emerging on the basis of the popular democratic will... that connect the members of our diverse Hungarian society. Work, home, family, health and order - these will be the pillars of our common future.... The National Cooperation System is... an opportunity for, as well as a requirement of, everybody who lives, works or has an undertaking in Hungary. We firmly believe that we will be able to change Hungary’s future through the solidarity represented by the National Cooperation System and build a strong and successful country. This solidarity that releases tremendous energies and gives great hope to every Hungarian... and... after decades gives a chance to the Hungarians to fulfil their own goals at last.3

Arguably, Hungarian illiberal democracy manifests itself in the NSC—a vaguely defined, yet even normatively presented political construct in which majority rule may operate unbounded by the rule of law, separation of powers, and other constraints of liberal democracies. The NSC, which was never actually defined or explained in a normative document or even a political manifesto, is arguably both the conceptualization and a metaphor of the political community. And although it is not a formalized set of political institutions, it is the conceptualization of the illiberal democratic decisionmaking process, which makes traditional constitutionalism obsolete.

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