Ladies and gentlemen, get to the table! Hungarian electoral strategies

On December 6 Medián released its November poll about Hungarians’ party preferences. Fidesz is still leading. MSZP and Jobbik are neck to neck. LMP and DK wouldn’t reach the magic 5% of the votes necessary for parliamentary representation. All this was pretty much expected. What everybody was waiting for was whether Gordon Bajnai’s “Együtt 2014” would keep up its fantastic record.

Well, it didn’t. At the end of October, when Medián first included the new civic formation in its monthly poll as a separate entity, Együtt 2014 would have received 14% of the votes of eligible voters and 22% of those who would certainly cast ballots. By the end of November these numbers had dropped considerably, from 14% to 10% and from 22% to 16%.

One reason for the drop might be that  Együtt 2014 hasn’t managed to speak with one voice. The far too frequent interviews with Péter Juhász (Milla), for instance, may not be exactly to the liking of either the socialists or the liberals who, let’s face it, will be the ones who will vote for the opposition forces in 2014. Because in my opinion it is illusory to think, as I’m afraid Gordon Bajnai does, that this new coalition of parties will receive extensive support from the moderate right. For starters, according to most observers there is no such thing in Hungary as the moderate right. And Juhász’s constant harping on the sins of the socialists and the liberals is turning MSZP and former SZDSZ voters away from Együtt 2014.

Péter Juhász and to a certain extent Viktor Szigetvári, who is in charge of campaign strategy, seem put “moral” issues ahead of practical plans for the future. Even in these exceedingly difficult times the bad Hungarian habit emerges: turning toward the past instead of looking foward to the future. One can almost hear the echo of LMP’s, especially of András Schiffer’s, constant moralistic harangues against everybody who has ever had a part to play in politics. Moreover, one always has the feeling that these “sins” cannot be atoned for or forgiven by these moralists. It doesn’t seem to matter that all former politicians admitted that they made mistakes; these admissions don’t satisfy these perfect human specimens.

This moralizing surfaced again after MSZP’s letter to the various parties and civic associations. The answer from Együtt 2014 was that before they sit down to talk about the actual strategy on different issues, “the moral and theoretical issues” must be discussed. Without sharing the “same basic values,” they argued, cooperation cannot be successful. When ATV specifically asked Szigetvári what he had in mind, his answer was not especially illuminating. He mentioned opening the secret police archives and political corruption. Among the issues Szigetvári brought up there is one that might be a more serious matter. MSZP doesn’t want to give voting rights to new Hungarian citizens who were born and live in the neighboring countries. Együtt 2014, I think correctly, argues that an entitlement given shouldn’t be taken away. In addition to the legal argument, I think the Bajnai group also believes that this issue is important in their quest for supporters from the right. I think they are wrong on this score.

So, to sum up the reasons for the drop in enthusiasm for Együtt 2014. While MSZP, MSZDP, and DK expressed their wholehearted support for a coalition of parties running together on one list, Együtt 2014 is dragging its feet. Instead of acting, it is constantly criticizing the “old regime.” (Even the pro-Fidesz university students announced today that it was a great deal better than the Orbán government.) Együtt 2014 demands an apology, which has been offered several times before. It can easily happen, if this goes on for awhile, that liberal and socialist voters will get fed up hearing the same old stories about the autumn of 2006 and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s lies. They have their own opinions which will not likely change anytime soon. So while Együtt 2014 may lose some supporters from the left, it is very possible that they will not gain new voters from the right. This is a real danger.

What is this, a hyphen? No, this is an em-dash!

What is this, a hyphen? No, this is an em-dash! / Gábor Pápai, Népszava

In today’s Népszava Ildikó Lendvai, former chairman of MSZP and one of the clearest thinkers in the Hungarian parliament, wrote an opinion piece entitled “In praise of the hyphen.” In Hungarian the hyphen is called the “sign of connectedness.” She first describes the three possible ways to enter the elections in 2014: a single party formed for the elections; an association or coalition of parties (pártszövetség); or cooperation of certain parties on an ad hoc basis. MSZP opted for the second alternative. This way the individual parties wouldn’t lose their identity. Instead, they would appear as a hyphenated entity in the association of parties. In this case Együtt 2014 would have to become a party; as far as I know Bajnai and his associates are contemplating this move. So, against Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik there would be a new identity called MSZP-Együtt 14-DK-MSZDP and whoever else joins this new association or coalition.

Lendvai also thinks that dwelling on the sins of the past will lead nowhere. As she puts it: “The starting point of the negotiations cannot be mutual understanding on the person or the scapegoat of all political events. Why should we think exactly the same about the fall of 2006 when the country itself doesn’t think so? The young policeman who was attacked in front of the television station will see it differently from the one who accidentally ended up in the way of the attacking policemen taking revenge on their attackers. Both are right, but we don’t have to agree on the proportions of that truth in the aggregate.”

Ildikó Lendvai brought up autumn 2006 for good reason. In the last four years Fidesz “communicators” have managed to rewrite the history of those days to the point that by now perhaps the majority of the people think that vicious policemen attacked innocent bystanders for no reason whatsoever. It is time to set the record straight. The first book on the subject was published about two weeks ago by József Debreczeni, biographer of József Antall, Viktor Orbán, and Ferenc Gyurcsány. Debreczeni has the distinction of having predicted exactly what would happen if Orbán achieves a landslide victory. Everybody said that he was exaggerating. Well, he was the only one who was right among the commentators.

And now he has written another book entitled A 2006-os ősz (The fall of 2006). It is already topping the bestseller list. Debreczeni went through the events minute by minute. Perhaps we will get a little closer to the truth after reading it.

Until then I suggest together with Ildikó Lendvai that the ladies and gentlemen “get to the table! because that hyphen means that we are not the same but are still connected.”

*A footnote to the cartoon, em-dash in Hungarian is ” gondolatjel,”  which literally means “sign of thinking.”

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32 comments

  1. I don’t know how Hungarians would react to it, but over here something like “MSZP-Együtt 14-DK-MSZDP” on a ballot paper would be greeted with derision – and would be an easy target for the other parties, press, comedians, etc. Surely an umbrella name like The Democratic Coalition, or Parties for Democracy would be better?

  2. Paul :

    I don’t know how Hungarians would react to it, but over here something like “MSZP-Együtt 14-DK-MSZDP” on a ballot paper would be greeted with derision – and would be an easy target for the other parties, press, comedians, etc. Surely an umbrella name like The Democratic Coalition, or Parties for Democracy would be better?

    If MSZP asked me I would have also advised them to be one party name. My would have been Egyesült Ellenzék (United Opposition). But they didn’t ask me.

  3. Wow, it seems that Együtt 2014 has a good possibility to split apart the liberal voterbase, and shoot Jobbik to second place, what do people think of that?

  4. Csaba :

    Wow, it seems that Együtt 2014 has a good possibility to split apart the liberal voterbase, and shoot Jobbik to second place, what do people think of that?

    I still believe that they will agree among each other because otherwise they have no chance at all at the elections.

  5. Off topic. Just read that crazy Katalin Szili whom I always disliked came up with an amendment to the Criminal Code that would punish anyone who “insults or offends the Hungarian nation” in addition to the normal things like hate mongering, incitement or behavior that would cause fear in the members of a community. Three years the poor fellow would get for simply insulting or offending. And what about if the individual gets offended very easily? Or if someone criticizes the government which is translated in Fidesz circles as “insulting the nation” or exhibiting anti-Hungarian attitudes?

    The article is in HVG:

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121210_Bortonnel_buntetne_a_magyar_nemzet_megser#utm_source=hirkereso&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=hirkereso_2012_12_10

  6. Eva S. Balogh :
    Off topic. Just read that crazy Katalin Szili whom I always disliked came up with an amendment to the Criminal Code that would punish anyone who “insults or offends the Hungarian nation” in addition to the normal things like hate mongering, incitement or behavior that would cause fear in the members of a community. Three years the poor fellow would get for simply insulting or offending. And what about if the individual gets offended very easily? Or if someone criticizes the government which is translated in Fidesz circles as “insulting the nation” or exhibiting anti-Hungarian attitudes?
    The article is in HVG:
    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121210_Bortonnel_buntetne_a_magyar_nemzet_megser#utm_source=hirkereso&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=hirkereso_2012_12_10

    Well, I can totally see this as Hungarian citizens arriving ti Hungary from a foreign land, who may posted something critical of Fidesz on this blog, and being arrested at the airport. Now, if someone still wonders why don’t we use our real names for posting? I predicted this at the moment Fidesz came to power.

  7. The Opposition can win, if they can put together a team of 4-5 intelligent political pundits, who can shot down every Orban lie every morning until the election day.

    So simple.

  8. Operation Opposition :
    The Opposition can win, if they can put together a team of 4-5 intelligent political pundits, who can shot down every Orban lie every morning until the election day.
    So simple.

    What is an ‘objective’ lie is one thing: what is a lie to the true believer is another.
    Try to pin a lie on a Fidesz member before a true-believer and you’ll be damned as a commie fink, homo, stinkin jew, anti-christ. That’s Hungary for ya.

  9. Dealing with “moral” issues has one reason really. Szigetvári is very pragmatic. You can’t and you don’t want to promise anything tangible since most likely (a) any new opposition government will be drawn into a constitutional fight which itself will be a war of attrition and (a) in order to make some order in the economy (recession and contraction is very likely for 2013 and I just don’t see why 2014 would be better – the funny thing is that agriculture with its 4% weight in GDP, but which is very volatile, got to be the key in making the difference between stagnation and decline) new priorities will be needed (for example taxation of pensions and transfer to investments and education) and it will be very unpopular to say the least. Also (a) and (b) are actually very much connected because without (a) effective economic governing is impossible, as tax laws, land laws, municipality financing, etc. may only be amended with 2/3s.

    Obama campaigned with “Change” in 2008 and not really with concrete ideas, and it is suicidal to promise something and do the exact opposite. It is better to do the unpopular thing without first promising the opposite.

    It has been a rule of thumb (which may or may not be applicable any more) that 1/3 are strongly right wing (translate into Fidesz/Jobbik voters), 1/3 are strongly leftist (MSZP) and 1/3 is always up for grabs. For various reasons this does not work any more, but note that in 2010 Fidesz won about 51% of all votes (on the party list), taking in all the votes from the centre and wavering voters. You can rest assured that those centre people will not vote for Fidesz (although we should never forget that we have registration, so what really matters is taking your votes to vote and not to convince wavering people, who might not even go to vote after all their talking).

    If the pendulum swings back, and I think it has a chance to do so, an MSZP-lead conglomerate with Bajnai could very well get 55-60% simply because people are so fed up with the government, its incompetence and agressivity, meanness and its most thorough corruption (guys, if you had any idea, how public procurements work in Hungary now, it’s insane; it is really directed down to the lowest subcontractor, only the trusted Fidesz people, who have to pay kick back of course, may actually win, no exception. TI is a bunch of amateur who detected an improvement this year, bullshit).

    So without ideology, I would say 55-60% could be won by the opposition (without LMP). Since it will not come as a total surprise, by that time Fidesz will have amended the election law to a proportional system. Fidesz can say that they only do so for MSZP as MSZP’s experts truly ( I can attest) wanted a simple proportional system back in 1998, 2002, 2008, 2012 when the possibility of an amendment was raised at all. So Fidesz – they will say – is really doing the biggest favour possible: create an election system that its archrival always wanted. “Show me any government that has ever done this to its opposition?”. So the EU conservatives will support Fidesz, that it is really Fidesz how is the nice guy, when in fact it’s really just to maintain the 1/3 veto power to Fidesz/Jobbik.

    So this majority of 55-60% in a proportional system could not amend the constitution. However, perhaps with LMP they may have the 66% (though with Schiffer, ever the primadonna, I am not sure they can agree on anything) or they may transfer themselves into a constitutional assembly and accept a new constitution (just to be able to govern really, but trying to tear down Fidesz power network, though MSZP is too tame in that so I wouldn’t hope for too much in that respect, but for government you need to be able to amended 2/3s laws).

    This latter constitutional assembly will be difficult because the EU conservatives (supported by the legalist Sólyom, Schffer etc.) will say (scream) that everything has been legal and the rules are there, you need 2/3, the government can amend the constitution easily, if it agrees with someone else (LMP, Jobbik or Fidesz) as it is usual in any democracy.

    I guess MSZP/Bajnai’s most difficult decision will be to go through regardless and to prepare international community that this time its not possible to compromise. But they will need to show that they don’t want to put their people into positions of power (as would have been the case 10 years ago), they only wan fair treatment, which you simply can’t get from an effective Fidesz Second Chamber (what the Constitutional Court really became), from Áder (who wrote the judicial law), the Media Authority, the courts (where the leaders are BFFs of the Orbán family). They should invite the EU for example to manage a “beauty contest” to put new, competent and non-political people to a new constitutional court.

  10. I am also more “optimistic” because unfortunately, I am more pessimistic about actual policy matters. There is no way to turn around the economy or to reach any useful or respectable policy results until 2014.

    Fidesz truly put everything on one card: it wants to spend the foreign currency reserves (after Simor left in March) on popular moves (increase pensions, salaries of teachers and doctors – both state emplyoees, who are in contact with a lot of potential voters, so they better be at least neutral about the government in the months ahead of the election). It is suicidal, but perhaps the glut of money (the FED and ECB effectively print money) means that the market will not care too muvh, there will be investors to Hungarian bonds anyway (when you get almost 0% for a US bond, you will spend some on Hungarian bond, even if it is junk, because it pays 5-6%).

    But this will not work, in my view for a number fo reasons and Fidesz will badly lose.

    Median is probably the best pollig company, but still their numbers are difficult to interpret. Though Bajnai’s decrease is porbably true.

    But remember that before the recent US elections pollsters complained than 20 years ago 40% of those asked actually answered questions, these days it was less than 10% (in the US). So you have to make projections from a very special sample. It the US it still worked and predicted Obama’s victory quite well.

    In Hungary, the numbers have to be even smaller, so 9 out of 10 people does not even talk to pollsters. And half of those answering, will say they don’t know their preference yet or won’t reveal their preferences or simply lie. I am pretty sure that Fidesz is already being overestimated currently (as they were in 2000), but there is just no way to ascertain this suspicion.

  11. OT: Friends of Hungary. This US-based “civil” organisation (set up by the Orbán government, but by who exactly?) is receiving HUF 3.8bn (USD 17m) this year and 2.6 (USD 11.8m) next year from Hungarian taxpayers’ money.

    I assume the money goes to lobbyists – knowing Fidesz’s style I guess some middlemen gets rich in the meantime – to reach out to mostly Republican conressmen and perhaps to a few senators to improve the standing of the Hungarian government. Or is it – partly – an intelligence service front?

    However note the giant amounts. Who disposes over these amounts, who are actually behind it, what is its real purpose?

    Is it – paid – friends of Orbán and his bunch or really of Hungary?

  12. @Devon:

    Thank you for your insights! It’s really marvellous how much inside info and political acumen is exchanged between our hostess and the commenters here.

  13. Petofi1: What is an ‘objective’ lie is one thing: what is a lie to the true believer is another??????????
    Try to pin a lie on a Fidesz member before a “true-believer” and you’ll be damned as a commie fink, homo, stinkin jew, anti-christ. That’s Hungary for ya.

    The “true believers” are empowered insecure cowards, carrierist, pedalists, or human caricatures. The are hiding something, and want to succeed beyond their qualifications.
    Like Orban, Morvai……

    The Stephanopoulos/Begalla/Cargill trio achieved a historic result in the 1992 Clinton victory. They analyzed and defused every Bush move.

    There must be 2-3 intelligent Hungarian pundits, who should support the Egyutt 2014.

    Let them aim at the patriotic liars.

  14. Sorry! Back to the Tution. Even if you do not speak Hungarian you will understand the following live report on HVG. It is worth to take a look for a good laugh.
    THe question the reporter is asking in front of the Parliament from the Fidesz MPs is quite simple: Will be a tuition? Is there a tuition? tuition = tandij (sounds like “tondy”) yes = igen (sound like “eegen”), no = nem.
    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121211_Jo_hir_a_diakoknak_nincs_tandij_es_nem_is

  15. To Some1: You forgot another important word: nincs (ninch). This was the very first Hungarian word an American friend of mine learned when she visited Hungary in the late 1960s, Nincs basically means “there isn’t.” So, the question is “Van tandij vagy nincs?” meaning there is tuition or not, the answer is always “nincs.”

    By the way the other word she learned in museums: “mása” meaning “copy of.”

  16. Eva S. Balogh :
    To Some1: You forgot another important word: nincs (ninch). This was the very first Hungarian word an American friend of mine learned when she visited Hungary in the late 1960s, Nincs basically means “there isn’t.” So, the question is “Van tandij vagy nincs?” meaning there is tuition or not, the answer is always “nincs.”
    By the way the other word she learned in museums: “mása” meaning “copy of.”

    You are right!!

  17. When you wrote “get to the table” I thought you will continue “Fait vos jeux!”. It’s a bit like a casino. A giant roulette wheel with only black and red – no numbers. At least that’s how Hungarians see politics unfortunately.

    I think your “observers” are wrong. There has been several sightings lately in Hungary of the mythical animal called moderate right. The question is of course what is right and what is moderate with Hungarian measures. The word “right” became a curse word lately – just as the word “left”.

    There are creatures who are “very” proud Hungarian, but shiver when the government officials are running around with Holy Right Fist or whine about Trianon. Who have all the Albert Wass books and read them twice but do not want the guy in national curriculum. Who would like a Christian democratic party (a real one, like the CDU in Germany) but are horrified seeing what the Church is doing (again). Who are sort of religious, but not Church goer and don’t want to be called an arrogant zealot. Who mutter about gipsy crimes but spend their weekends helping in soup kitchens. Who like the illusion of independence but strongly support the EU membership. And first of all they put the emphasis on the economy, that they want an expert government, not Matolcsy, the brain surgeon. These people even though they benefit from Orban’s flat tax they would give it up for a more just progressive tax system (gee, does this make them left).

    These creatures bought Orban’s lies about the FIDESZ in 2014 – About the national, conservative party that is capable to turn the economy around. Now they are willing to change but as little humiliation as possible.

    These people are waiting to be scooped by a moderate, conservative and pragmatic party. I think Bajnai’s party, if there will be one, can be close to this.

  18. The orban era will be called – political desert mirage.
    \nothing seemed real\
    nothing could be easier than to explain the quintessential csaba, huba, csanad, kovach that the orban leadership is a hungarian don quixote mirage with the potential of some violence.

  19. pundit x1 :
    The orban era will be called – political desert mirage.
    \nothing seemed real\
    nothing could be easier than to explain the quintessential csaba, huba, csanad, kovach that the orban leadership is a hungarian don quixote mirage with the potential of some violence.

    Vitéz Orbán The Magnificent helped to fix Hungarian economy, stabilized the country and prevented us from becoming an EU colony!

  20. Csaba :

    Vitéz Orbán The Magnificent helped to fix Hungarian economy, stabilized the country and prevented us from becoming an EU colony!

    Oh my God! I bet you didn’t major in economics. The country is in economic decline. Leave out the stupid colony business. I’m afraid you are infected by the absolutely empty Fidesz propaganda. You know where Hungary would be without the EU? Nothing but nothing would be built in the country. Total bankruptcy would follow the withdrawal of the EU subsidies. That’s why Orban is so eager to have a deficit under 3% because otherwise the faucet might be turned off. And that would be truly the end of him and his government.

  21. Egyutt Pundit :
    Petofi1: What is an ‘objective’ lie is one thing: what is a lie to the true believer is another??????????
    Try to pin a lie on a Fidesz member before a “true-believer” and you’ll be damned as a commie fink, homo, stinkin jew, anti-christ. That’s Hungary for ya.
    The “true believers” are empowered insecure cowards, carrierist, pedalists, or human caricatures. The are hiding something, and want to succeed beyond their qualifications.
    Like Orban, Morvai……
    The Stephanopoulos/Begalla/Cargill trio achieved a historic result in the 1992 Clinton victory. They analyzed and defused every Bush move.
    There must be 2-3 intelligent Hungarian pundits, who should support the Egyutt 2014.
    Let them aim at the patriotic liars.

    They can ‘aim’ all they want: there are no receptacles to hit.
    The average Hungarian can no longer think. Between Orban’s lies and the soft, cuddling lies
    of the Catholic Church, the native Hungarian has nowhere to turn. Should he try another tack, he is immediately labelled a turncoat and betrayer. No, they’ll stick to what is told them; and will follow the path laid down for them whether it’s good for them or not. If not, the mind-benders can always claim that their heroic efforts have been attacked by ‘bankers’ (read jews)
    and commies (jews again).
    And here’s where the foul education process comes again: who wants thinking idividuals?
    Better that diplomas are handed out by Church or party-controlled universities. Need I mention Debrecen U. and some of the papal colleges?
    The country is stuck in mental-feudalism with no ostensible way out since legitimate western
    influences are discredited before they even begin.

  22. Csaba :

    pundit x1 :
    The orban era will be called – political desert mirage.
    \nothing seemed real\
    nothing could be easier than to explain the quintessential csaba, huba, csanad, kovach that the orban leadership is a hungarian don quixote mirage with the potential of some violence.

    Vitéz Orbán The Magnificent helped to fix Hungarian economy, stabilized the country and prevented us from becoming an EU colony!

    Listening to too much Matolcsy lately? How about those brain operations in the Hungarian tribes Matolcsy spoke about. Are you believe in that too? How about Santa?

  23. A personal report: What I am hearing from many sources again and again is that the older generation (those close to retirement age or those active after retirement) feel as though they were living in the fifties, again. People, who are in a more difficult situation (ie. if fired they could only get a new job with great difficulty) simply stopped making any signals whatsoever about their political leanings or sympathies, interests. (The younger generations also feel this, but can only make the connection to the fifties based on their readings or stories heard.) The smallest sign (reading anything other than Index or Origo on the internet, reading Népszabadság, talking about an ATV tv show etc.) can be revealing and so everything must be done not to raise doubts about the “reliability” (obviously reliability was of paramount importance in the fifties) of the person in question. These stories I heard really apply to a more educated, active, urbanized group of people, but the thing is that there is a pervasive feeling of fear, a feeling that people must be vigilant at all times not to risk firing, which was made very easy with the new Labour Code, because obvioulsy there are in this economy a lot of candidates with great political credentials for every open position. It is also the same feeling as it was prior to 2000, but it is now much more pervasive (people realized the agressivness and ruthlessness of Fidesz), so that it reached a new qualitative level and of course the economy is really bad now. So below the surface, below what the polls can touch, there is a huge resentment brewing, probably much bigger than what Fidesz anticipates. They attribute almost all the negativity and unpopularity to economc reasons only (and put a lot of faith in their election system) and so they expect unpopularity; it is not surprising for them. But their political problems run much deeper than the economy. The bully rarely realizes that he is actually quite unpopular.

  24. London Calling!

    ReverendBloom Your highlighting of the ‘fear’ in Hungarian society – which we have only ever ‘glanced’ on here is I believe all pervasive.

    When I was in Gyor recently – I certainly detected a reluctance to discuss politics. The restaurateur going bust talked quietly and only because no one else was around. The neighbours who are leaving – with very good English – refused to discuss Hungarian Spectrum.

    Even though I believe they read it – as government employees I was sensitive to the fact that they are in fear of loosing their jobs – so don’t talk.

    I know my partner’s friend has to tread really carefully too – the government department has ‘downsized’ several times – and the survivors just keep their heads below the parapet.

    I hope when they go into the voting booth – they will have the courage and security (and confidentially) to vote against Orban.

    I’m sure they have a way of finding out – and I believe the people fear that too. But let’s hope they vote en masse believing that there is a critical mass to oust Orban.

    This is all resonant of the ‘informers’ system of the 50’s – where neighbour spied on neighbour. The fear level must have been similar.

    Orban is destroying the fabric of society.

    Regards

    Charlie

  25. Reverend Bloom wrote:”The bully rarely realizes that he is actually quite unpopular.”

    RB gave us a good narrative.

    He could be the pundit team member.

    The team can shred the FIDESZ – jobbik leaders into dust, to strip them of their power.

    Those glorious dear leaders can be easily charged with crimes, up to treason of the state.

  26. CharlieH :
    London Caling!
    O/T Please can someone explain this?
    Can some one in the Ukraine claim a Hungarian pension – even if they have never lived in Hungary?
    If so can I have one please?
    Regards
    Charlie
    http://www.hir24.hu/gazdasag/2012/12/10/import-nyugdijasok-csapoljak-a-magyar-tb-kasszat/

    Yes. Several of my in-laws do. And that was before 2010. There was some sleight of hand involved – the claimant lived with their Hungarian relatives for a certain period to ‘prove; residency, I think – but I’m sure everyone knew what was going on and turned a blind eye.

    In the part of Ukraine my wife comes from (near Ungvár) a Hungarian pension is a pretty good income. Although the pension is often actually used by the families of the pensioner, not the claimant his/herself.

    A little OT, but this last reveals one of the vast cultural differences between the UK and Hungary – the relationship between parents and children, especially where money is concerned.

    In the UK parents are thought to deserve the money they have accumulated during their lives and no one would think it wrong for them to spend it on themselves – children are expected to make/earn their own way in the world. But in Hungary it is the complete opposite – the parents, and even more so the grandparents, will give their last forint to the children to help them get on in the world, and the children seem to accept this as entirely natural, without any thought to how the parents/grandparents will get by.

    Can you imagine a UK pensioner going out of her way to claim a pension in order to give it all to her grandchildren? And the grandchildren, who already enjoy a standard of living the grandparent couldn’t even start to imagine, accept this money as their right and never stop to worry about how the grandparents will make ends meet?

    There are many differences between the cultures that I struggle with, but this is one of the most difficult for me to accept.

  27. London Calling!

    Thanks Paul – it’s bonkers!

    So someone who has never contributed to the state pension system is entitled to claim a pension – which is actually higher than a Hungarian pensioner’s – simply because they have just stayed in the country?

    Goodness! – Presumably this is because Russia once ‘owned’ Hungary?

    In England, as Paul knows, you have to pay into the state pension for 30 years for a FULL pension with the ‘National Insurance’ contributions being taxed at source – (It has recently been changed from 44 men/39 women – years and the entitlement age is rising to 66/67/68 in future years). It is reduced pro-rata dependent on the actual working years.

    It is not generous, except compared with other country’s it is – because we are living too long (in Hungary it just seems like it!) and advances in medicine have resulted in radical changes to make it affordable. But whatever it is – it will always be a burden on the young as it is a direct tax payout, that is, taxes in – pensions out. There is no sovereign wealth fund like, for example, Norway has.

    No wonder the pension system is so penurious in Hungary (bankrupt?) – my partner’s mother’s pension is so meagre – and impossible to live on – that we supplement her income. It’s hardly a comfortable existence for having worked so many years in humble employment.

    It’s good to know that all those Hungarians in England who contribute to our pension system will at least have their years’ work reflected in the pro-rata system here.

    No wonder too that only 37% of Londoners are indigenous English! Everyone works here for a fairer democracy! Welcome to them!

    Orban and Matolcsy need to establish the right priorities – stop this ‘Russian largess’ and money for ‘Friends of Hungary’ abroad and concentrate on problems nearer home – massive problems nearer home.

    Regards

    Charlie

  28. It’s not quite as bonkers as it sounds – and nothing to do with OV (as far as I know).

    I think what the law says is that Hungarians moving into Hungary from one of the old Greater Hungary areas are eligible to claim Hungarian state pension. To get this they have to prove residence in Hungary – and this is where the system falls down or blind eyes are turned. All you have to do to claim residency is apply and then prove you are living in the country – which means you have to be resident at a Hungarian address for a certain period (6 months, I think).

    So the pensioners from ‘abroad’ move in with their relatives in Hungary, apply for the pension, and then live there for the required period. Then, once the pension is agreed, they move back. As far as I know pensions are only paid to Hungarian addresses in these cases, so you would need to rely on your relatives to pass the money on each month (and presumably change it into dollars). But, as I said, it is frequently (possibly nearly always) the relatives in Hungary who actually want, and get, the pension, not the real pensioner.

    So it’s actually pretty cast-iron fraud – first because the pensioner is falsely claiming residency, and secondly (and in my opinion worse) because they don’t even get the money – the whole ‘scam’ is carried out so that Hungarians non-pensioner citizens can get an extra income.

    The more you get to know Hungary, the more you’ll discover this sort of thing is going on – and it is regarded as perfectly legitimate (getting your own back on the system/state). Very typically Hungarian, I’m afraid.

  29. London Calling!

    ..But they haven’t contributed to the system? – or there seems to me no condition for doing so.

    This is a gravy train!

    How many ‘repatriated’ Hungarians do you think do this? Any idea of the possible amounts?

    My understanding is they receive more than the genuine pensioners.

    I suppose it is on a par with our (England’s) social security scams – but Hungary can so ill-afford it.

    Regards

    Charlie

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