United States Senator John McCain was in Budapest last Friday leading a seven-member delegation from the U.S. Congress on a brief stopover en route to the Munich Security Conference.
Reading a prepared statement on behalf of the bi-partisan delegation, Senator McCain mentioned the upcoming elections, saying, “there is no better way for the world to witness and affirm the expression of [Hungarian] democracy than by having respected, objective international groups present to observe the vote.”
And that’s exactly what we aim to have: objective, international observers. Just like we had in 2010, and the elections before that. It’s the standard course. And for this election in the spring, the OSCE — the international organization that sends observers to all its member countries, including to the U.S. to observe elections – has already had a fact-finding mission to Hungary and deliberations are now underway to decide what shape that observer mission will take. Again, contrary to what some will say, that’s all part of the standard process.
So, there will be international observers in Hungary. My personal view is that the observer mission should be of the most robust kind. They’ll see a great “expression of democracy” at our April elections.
As for the rest of it, you’ve probably heard about the statement (available here). It’s been all over the Hungarian media, evoking a strong response from both left and right. When a figure like John McCain speaks, people tend to take notice, but it would be unwise to make something sensational out of the statement where it’s simply not. I’ll tell you why.
Aside from the press conference, the delegation had a private meeting with Prime Minister Orbán and discussed a wide range of issues. They talked about some current Hungarian matters like the 1944 monument – which Congressman Deutch mentioned in the press conference, saying that the prime minister’s response was reassuring – but the talk was not preoccupied with Hungarian democracy.
What did they really talk about? Little of it revolved around those supposed “concerns” about Hungary, but instead they spent much of the meeting talking about real issues like current events in Ukraine.