The First Generation
Edited by James B. Rule
Chapter 6: Hungary
Ivan Szekely Constitutional democracy had barely triumphed in Hungary when, in January 1990, the scandal called ‘Budapest Watergate’, better known to Hungarians as ‘Duna-gate’, broke out. (Duna is the Hungarian name for the Danube, widely regarded as the great national river of the country.) What happened was that activists belonging to certain new political parties, who used to be called ‘dissenters’ during the not-so-distant days of the overthrown regime, now clandestinely entered the offices of the internal security agencies, and filmed what they found there during the night. The footage presented at a press conference proved that the infamous ‘III/III Division’, which kept the ‘internal enemies’ of the communist regime under surveillance, had actually survived the symbolic date of the democratic turn (23 October 1989), and continued tapping the phone lines of new party leaders and activists, keeping their private lives under surveillance and preparing reports on the information thus collected. Although several commentators later suggested that this was nothing but the aimless and dysfunctional reflex of an apparatus left to its own devices after the collapse of the political system that had created and employed it, the scandal was hyped up by the printed and electronic media, which contributed in good measure to the devastating defeat of the successors of the single party in the free elections that took place a few months later. (The surviving reformcommunist party received only 10 per cent of the votes, the new democratic parties about 90 per cent.) Two weeks after the scandal...
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