Political transition and social transformation in Hungary

Fecha de publicación:
Rudolf Tökés

The dynamics of Hungarian society and politics in the mid-1990s are shaped by the interaction of two forces. These are long-term processes of socioeconomic, spatial, and cognitive transformation of human actors and their physical environment, and rapid short-term changes in political institutions and public policies that the label “transition” denotes. The task at hand is to determine the salience of each to Hungary’s chances of implementing the region’s new postcommunist agenda of democratization, marketization, and the rule of law. Pretransition pacts and understandings between the outgoing and the incoming politicial elites yielded ambiguous political and socioeconomic outcomes. Whereas these initial agreements made well-crafted provisions for Hungary’s institutional transition from a one-party communist system to a parliamentary democracy, such volatile matters as political justice and societal consensus on postcommunist policy, especially resource allocation, priorities were left in abeyance. At issue is the way in which the new institutional architecture and key political actors — the government, the Parliament, the political parties, the president of the Republic, and the Constitutional Court — have responded to public expectations for employment, stable living standards, and the state’s delivery of social-welfare services. Hungary’s institutional transition was essentially completed in 1994 with the election of its second-round postcommunist government. However, the country’s socioeconomic transformation is still in progress. From this, I propose as the main hypothesis of this paper an open-ended scenario of manifest conflicts between the requisites, on the one hand, of democratization, marketization, and the rule of law, and the imperatives of societal priorities and inherently unattainable social expectations for public goods, on the other. The task of reconciliation of requisites with imperatives is central to the new Hungarian democracy’s policy agenda.