An isolated Hungarian government, growing political unrest

What really surprises me as I am following the government’s response to the first major internal crisis is their political ineptitude and total lack of comprehension of the seriousness of the situation. As if the leading politicians of the Orbán regime didn’t really live in the country. As if they didn’t notice anything about the growing dissatisfaction. The leading figures have become completely isolated and have begun to believe their own propaganda.

But what can one expect from a government that hires pollsters whose data bear no resemblance to reality or who signs up a company to collect news summaries for politicians and government officials whose associates are so far to the right that they practically automatically filter out all news that doesn’t suit them and who consider every negative remark only a political ploy having no foundation in reality.

Yes, one cannot expect much from people who live in a bubble of surefire legislative victories. The spineless or stupid or both Fidesz-KDNP MPs vote and vote without really knowing what they are voting on. One hundred and thirty amendments in five minutes. Nothing to it. Mind you, even that servile Constitutional Court finds bill after bill unconstitutional. The latest is the law on the family. Earlier the bill on the homeless also failed. I can predict many more failures unless next year’s newly appointed judges are Orbán’s toadies.

As for the total lack of comprehension of the situation, here are a few remarks from László Kövér. I consider Kövér the perfect embodiment of Fidesz: crudity, lack of solidarity with others, an anti-democratic worldview, and aggressiveness. Everything I consider unacceptable in human behavior. Kövér obviously considers the educational policy of the government perfection itself. Less money, fewer students! How could this possibly be the answer to Hungary’s economic and social ills? Yet Kövér thinks that the only mistake the government made was that “they leaked bits and pieces of information without preparing the political groundwork for them.” And the government didn’t count on “those people behind the students” who for political reasons incite the students. In plain language, the democratic opposition parties are using the students. He called the student leaders “paid revolutionaries.” The leaders of the student revolt were not elected leaders just as the KISZ leaders were not elected. The HÖOK leaders, just like the KISZ leaders in the Kádár regime, don’t represent the interests of the students. Oh, where is that old revolutionary Kövér of 1988?

How to solve the problem? According to Kövér one has to sit down and calmly discuss matters. The hysteria should be quieted down. Even more important is to quiet down “those who create this hysteria.” I wonder what kind of method Kövér would recommend.

As one sees the videos of the demonstrations and the messages the students are sending to the world via the Internet, I don’t think that these young people need much coaching. The student leaders seem to be very much with it. Moreover, even their historical knowledge is greater than one expects. Surely, it wasn’t a coincidence that last night the demonstrators headed toward the public radio station to have one of the student leaders read their six-point demand. After all, they know about October 23, 1956. They call their movement “télirózsás forradalom” (Revolution of the Winter Rose). Surely, the reference here is to the October Revolution of 1918 called “őszirózsás forradalom” (Revolution of Michaelmas Daisy or “autumn rose” in Hungarian).

If Viktor Orbán and Fidesz will stay much long very soon the whole country will look like that

If Viktor Orbán and Fidesz stay much longer the country will be in ruins.

Kövér thinks that this whole thing will just blow over. Yesterday when some MPs expressed their concern over the demonstrations, Orbán told them “nyugi, nyugi,” which in this context means “calm down! calm down!” However, I disagree with this government interpretation of the events. This series of demonstrations will be a defining moment in the lives of this generation of college students. Just as the events of October 23, 1956 were a defining moment for those who lived through it.

In any case, there seems to be a total disconnect between the government and parliament on the one hand and what’s going on outside on the other. While the discontent is raging on the streets, inside the MPs are pushing their “yes” buttons to a piece of legislation against which the demonstrations are being staged.

What’s going on with the so-called negotiations with the students is surreal. First, Viktor Orbán meets about 15 hand-picked students who all belong to Fidelitas, the youth organization of Fidesz. A few hours later Zoltán Balog asks HÖOK to meet with him as early as Monday. Eventually there is a meeting on Tuesday but HÖOK insists that HaHa, another student association, should also be present. After officials try to bar HaHa, eventually its representatives are allowed to join the meeting, but the students are not there for long. After a short time both associations break off negotiations. Later the student leaders claimed that Balog delivered a monologue that even included accusations that the university students have been also responsible for the sad state of the country after eight years of liberal-socialist rule.

Balog had absolutely nothing to offer. The students demanded more money for education but Balog couldn’t promise anything. Although Orbán in the last minute made a few changes in the wording of the law, they consisted of simply renaming the objectionable parts of the law. Just as  Dávid Nagy, chairman of HÖOK, said, just because “we call krumpli burgonya it is still krumpli,” a reference to potato (krumpli) and its more elegant equivalent (burgonya).

So, at the end of the meeting Balog stood alone in front of the microphones and announced that “the students didn’t hear the voice of the government.” On the other hand, the government “did hear the voice of the students.” Therefore there will be no tuition fees. They will not have to become indebted. In fact, he claimed that next year at least 40,000 students will not have to pay a penny. The problem is that Balog most likely lied. One of the student leaders present told György Bolgár that there was not a word about 40,000 tuition-free places.

I really wonder how long Orbán and his friends can play this game. Not for long because the Conference of University Presidents is squarely behind the students. Moreover, the university students have other supporters. Yesterday they were joined by high school students, one of the teacher’s unions, the association of healthcare providers, and a group of theater people.

Meanwhile one piece of legislation after the other is being passed, all of which inflict further and further pain, not just on education but on health care as well. If the government doesn’t wake up the house will fall on their heads.

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50 comments

  1. Sorry, Éva, but is “discontent is [really] raging on the streets”?

    I truly wish it was, but I see very little sign of it, even now.

  2. Paul :

    Sorry, Éva, but is “discontent is [really] raging on the streets”?

    I truly wish it was, but I see very little sign of it, even now.

    Paul, one doesn’t have to break windows and blow up cars. There are strikes, thousands on the streets and are not ready to stop. The student leaders walked out on Balog. I think this is not bad for the beginning.

  3. There are more and more frequent demonstrations. One passed my window yesterday night. Having said that, this time last year was ‘protest season’ too, and that seemed to lose steam after a while.

  4. The connotations of the “Winter Rose Revolution” also reflect the Fidesz henchman/woman delivering the reform Rózsa (Rose) Hoffmann. In an earlier demonstration roses were distributed, stems symbolically broken and trampled underfoot as Hoffman’s name was mentioned.

    Also, the shift in register for vocabulary is reflected in “krumpli” which would be equivalent to “spud” in the England (“tatties” in Scotland), compared to the neutral “potato” (“burgonya”)

  5. This: ““télirózsás forradalom” (Revolution of the Winter Rose). Surely, the reference here is to the October Revolution of 1918 called “őszirózsás forradalom””
    is very good news. Finally, people are turning to very useful references. (The removal of Karolyi may have some unintended (for OV) results…)

    Paul, no matter whether this will be “the” turning point or not, these people are lost for OV. And he cannot govern long with young people massively opposing him. He cannot even “blackmail” them through denial of valuable higher education, no, this is already their reality. The future that he promises is one of poverty and dependence (on OV). I hope they continue after Christmas.

  6. Vándorló :

    Also, the shift in register for vocabulary is reflected in “krumpli” which would be equivalent to “spud” in the England (“tatties” in Scotland), compared to the neutral “potato” (“burgonya”)

    I don’t want to play here the amateur linguist but “krumpli” is the original Hungarian word for potato (1768). Burgonya came later (1803). The origin of the word “burgonya” is not at all clear but it may come from “potato from Burgundy (bourgogne krumpli).

    The spud versus potato comparison is not quite right because you cannot say in English that “I ate spud soup today for dinner” while you can certainly say that “I hate krumplileves.” In fact, you would sound mighty phony if you said that you ate “burgonyaleves.”

  7. OK, apologies in advance for going completely off topic with this:

    Unfortunately the etymology of the words doesn’t play that much of a part in how they are used now. Some people don’t like ‘krumpli’ due to its German pedigree, as opposed to its French/Italian alternative. Not forgetting the possible ‘pityóka’, of course.

    As it happens, people do use burgonyaleves quite a lot these days. The word ‘krumpli’ is frowned upon in most contexts, but is still a rival in this compound word. Social context and register does play a significant part in the use of these words. Similarly, “burgonyaszirom” has the edge over its rival. Whereas “burgonyás tészta” is easily outdone by “krumplistészta”.

    Difficult say where the power of collocations ends and compound words begin with some of these.

    A better candidate for a compound in which krumpli cannot be replaced is: “krumplibúcsú”.

  8. Having been out of the country some time–Franz Kafka on a day trip to Baden-Baden–I’m gearing up for my return. Lo and behold, the madness continues in Orban-land: Angyan is being fined for not voting ‘the party way’. Let’s forget ‘Democracy’…this isn’t even Parliamentary practice in any modern country that I know of.

    Eva, follow this story along and let’s see how Brussels views this sort of Parliamentary ‘intimidation’…Will Europe tolerate this?

  9. Fidesz dare to ignore & look down on the people because they know they will rig the next election, and their fraud will be approved by the Fidesz-appointed judges and the hand-picked Election Commission.

  10. Petofi1 :
    Having been out of the country some time–Franz Kafka on a day trip to Baden-Baden–I’m gearing up for my return. Lo and behold, the madness continues in Orban-land: Angyan is being fined for not voting ‘the party way’. Let’s forget ‘Democracy’…this isn’t even Parliamentary practice in any modern country that I know of.
    Eva, follow this story along and let’s see how Brussels views this sort of Parliamentary ‘intimidation’…Will Europe tolerate this?

    THis is exactly how the “independent” committee selected Vidnyanszky to become the new manager of the Hungarian National Theatre.

  11. Here is another argument that the Fidesz regime cannot be overthrown by legal means, since they distorted the laws into the tools of their single-party tyranny:

    The term limits of the judges of the Constitutional Court

    Opposition nominees (with Fidesz consent):

    Hollo 2013-04
    Bragyova 2014-09
    Kiss 2016-02
    Levay 2016-04

    Fidesz nominees (with MSzP consent):

    Kovacs 2014-09
    Balogh 2014-11
    Paczolay 2015-02
    Lenkovics 2016-04

    Fidesz appointees:

    Dienes-Oehm 2015-01
    Szivos 2019-12
    Szalay 2023-09

    Fidesz politicians appointed:

    Balsai 2017-04
    Salamon 2017-12 (takes over in 2013-02)
    Pokol 2020-05
    Stumpf 2022-07

    One can see that the recent Fidesz appointees with extreme views
    will have the majority after April 2013, and the

    right wing – left wing (I hate these one dimensional labels) difference will be
    12 -3.

  12. I’ve watched on ATV.HU the demonstration of students. They passed by a building and from 3 windows mothers with their babies in their hands saluted the young crowd. The students changed their slogan from “mi vagyunk a jövö” (we are the future) to “ti vagytok a jövö” (you are the future)

  13. Yet another reason why Fidesz’ share of the vote next time in Budapest will plummet but there are very many people in the provinces who associate Budapest with everything they dislike in the modern world (internationalism, liberalism, the service sector rather than “proper work”, to name but three) and Kövér seems to epitomise that view. Maybe Hungarian politics is entering a new phase but I can’t see the tipping point yet.

  14. Éva, you argue that „I consider Kövér the perfect embodiment of Fidesz: crudity, lack of solidarity with others, an anti-democratic worldview, and aggressiveness. Everything I consider unacceptable in human behavior.”

    I could not agree with you more! In fact, he is a kind of Lenin in this bolshevik movement as he owns Fidesz membership card Nr. 0001! At one of his birthday parties he told his friends: „Fidesz is the business of my life. I do not let anyone to spoil it!” Indeed, Fidesz is being operated like a closed joint stock company.

    He was enrolled to university during the Kádár era without entry examination as his father had been decorated with one of highest medals (’Szocialista Hazáért Érdemérem’). So I guess he has indeed all the moral background to preach about the motivations of revolting students.

  15. @Paul I lived trough the riots in London a year ago and I live a few miles from one of the hotbeds, where it all went bonkers. Well, you would not have known, bar the sirens of the police cars on occasion. That, and watching the news. So, no just because students are not marching in front of the house it does not mean this is not serious.

  16. For those who don’t speak Hungarian (link below): at the Balatonalmádi English-Hungarian bilingual High School all students and teachers were specifically asked by the headmaster whom they support in the student – government conflict. They were told that the county level governmental adminsitrative office needed the info. It is not clear why this office needs the info and what it intends to do it (though my suspicition that the info will surely be saved by mr. Kubatov, Fidesz’ campaign manager in order to improve his data base).

    So, this is an answer to yesterday’s question as to why in Hungary – as opposed to the US – people are vary if they are listed by Fidesz’ GOTV lists as either a supoorter, neutral or E (ellenség-enemy).

    It is also a stark reminder why political question polls are now gettig completely unreliable and may seriously underestimate opposition (though including Jobbik), although this flaw is almost impossible to measure or estimate reliably (since most people simply dont talk to pollsters, who obviouly would try to use indirect questions to estimate leanings).

    http://index.hu/belfold/2012/12/18/balatonalmadiban_jegyzokonyvezik_a_diakok_nezeteit/

  17. Growing political unrest? I don’t see it. There are students, present and prospective, protesting but what are the rest of the regime’s victims and targets doing? Wallowing in a sea of apathy or working in a London restauarant cleaning the dishes. We have had protests each of the last two years (media independence and the constitution) and absolutely nothing has come of them.

    Orban will win the next election either democratically or by crooked means. At that stage, then those still left and supporting democracy will be left with a choice. Continue to play to the regime’s rules or attempt to bring it down with extra-parliamentary (passive) resistance. You don’t bring down a dictatorship through democratic elections- that may be an unpalatable truth but truth it is nevertheless.

  18. Petofi1 :

    Having been out of the country some time–Franz Kafka on a day trip to Baden-Baden–I’m gearing up for my return. Lo and behold, the madness continues in Orban-land: Angyan is being fined for not voting ‘the party way’. Let’s forget ‘Democracy’…this isn’t even Parliamentary practice in any modern country that I know of.

    Eva, follow this story along and let’s see how Brussels views this sort of Parliamentary ‘intimidation’…Will Europe tolerate this?

    I have the feeling that this is fairly common practice in the Hungarian parliament.

  19. Ron :

    Slightly OT I assume that you know the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In that movie one of teachers called in student for information and torture. Well in Hungary there is apparently something similar in Almadi.

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121218_Kozepiskolasok_nezeteit_jegyzokonyvezik

    Only this time the information was sent to the government in Vesprem.

    Welcome the Hungary of Voldemord.

    What can I say? The “commies” are back!

  20. Well not so isolated as it seems maybe….ooops I must stop to be cynical. Sorry Eva.

    18.12.2012

    Belarus, Hungary to develop inter-parliamentary cooperation

    MINSK, 18
    December (BelTA) – Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
    of Belarus to Hungary Alexander Khainovsky met with First Deputy
    Speaker of the National Assembly of Hungary, Head of the
    Parliamentary Group of Friendship “Belarus-Hungary” Sandor
    Lezsak on 18 December, BelTA learnt from the Foreign Ministry of
    Belarus.

    “The parties discussed the prospects of Belarusian-Hungarian inter-parliamentary relations and agreed on expanding cooperation in the area. The Hungarian side was updated on the formation of a group of cooperation with Hungary in the
    Belarusian parliament,” the ministry said.

    The sides also specified projects to promote Belarus-Hungary contacts in
    culture, education and youth exchanges.

  21. Ron :
    Slightly OT I assume that you know the movie Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In that movie one of teachers called in student for information and torture. Well in Hungary there is apparently something similar in Almadi.
    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20121218_Kozepiskolasok_nezeteit_jegyzokonyvezik
    Only this time the information was sent to the government in Vesprem.
    Welcome the Hungary of Voldemord.

    Ron, that is not Voldemort’s Hungary, it is Rakosi’s Hungary Part Duex. I think if we stick wit the book, Orban is the Hungarian Horntail from it.
    “Oh, don’t worry about ’em, Harry, they’re seriously misunderstood creatures–
    …Although, I have to admit that Horntail is a right nasty piece of work.”
    (i)Hagrid about the Hungarian Horntail(/i)

  22. Over breakfast we were talking about the Balatonalmádi case and I said that in my opinion these kinds of things happened only in the Rákosi era. After 56 and especialIy after 63 these methods were more or less abandoned.

    I also had a nasty experience when I was dragged in to the principal’s office to be interrogated.They made me sign a statement. I was only 12. The reason for this interrogation was that our Hungarian teacher told one of the girls that she shouldn’t be using journalistic expressions in an essay. The topic was something about the war and the Germans and “their hordes.” It was the word “hordes” she didn’t like.

    Upshot: she lost her job. Two or three years went by. I was already in high school. One day I was ordered into the school-commissioner’s office along with another girl who was questioned at the time I was. They wanted to know whether they threatened us or not. Yes, they did, we said. This time it was the turn of the principal and the guy from the party who did the interrogation. That’s how things went.

  23. Perhaps it is too early to say, but it seems that the Orbán government caved. They claim that 55,000 free places will be available next year. But the restriction on accepting jobs abroad remains. The student leaders seem to be rather skeptical. They want to see the promises in writing.

    Of course, the “solution” is not a solution. Students should pay tuition but that tuition should be reasonable. There should be “financial aid” for poor students and the quality of higher education should be raised. If there were no “free” education then the government wouldn’t need to tie the kids to the land (röghözkötés the name in Hungarian).

  24. Dear Eva,

    Orban has not caved. Last year, there were
    b=37 thousand BS & BA students and
    m=18 thousand MS, MA & PhD students tuition-free, while
    x=6 thousand had to pay a reduced, 50% tuition.

    Fidesz will now make x’=0.

    So, in the academic year 2011-12, there were b+m+x students for 61 thousand places.

    This number will be reduced to b’+m’= 55 thousand.

    This is still better than their early December plan of b’+m’ = 11,000 and x’= 40,000.

    Other readers, please correct me, if I am mistaken.

    Sources:
    http://eduline.hu/erettsegi_felveteli/2012/12/4/Jon_a_feketeleves_2013tol_harmadara_csokken_325BIN

    http://eduline.hu/erettsegi_felveteli/2012/12/6/Keretszzamok_2012ben_es_2013ban_3ZGXH3

  25. Yes, tappanch is right, they are just playing with the numbers. Practically,they seem to offer to keep last years’ numbers (so they caved in in that they seem to have given up plans to reduce the number of fully financed places to 10,000), but scraping the partially funded places totally.
    As always, the devil is in the details that are not quite clear yet, so student leaders are right to be skeptical.

    My guess is that they may try to keep the students happy with some concessions before the 2014 “elections”, and then will be back with the same plan after that.

  26. In Balatonalmadi, the principal, Gránásiné Bácsi Tünde is Fidesz commissar. She was installed in August. They nicknamed here “Szentfazek” (the female version of the Holy Joe). She is/was the member of a Reformed Church’s presbytery in a region. The first thing she did after taking over the school was installing CCTV surveillance. It seems she is obsessed with watching and reporting people.

  27. I suggest that you read Kristóf Varga’s op-ed “Hogy lesz vége” in this week’s Magyar Narancs. I completely agree with his psychology based approach to interpret main trends, it is a very important piece.

  28. My favourite:
    Michl József, az Országgyűlés oktatási bizottságának KDNP-s tagja az MTI-nek azt mondta:
    Orbán Viktor miniszterelnök most is, mint mindig, állta a szavát, így teljesítette azt az ígéretét, hogy végiggondolják a hallgatók javaslatait, és hajlandók eszerint alakítani eredeti elképzeléseiket.

    Josef Michl, Christin Democratic member of of the National Education Committee, told to MTI:
    Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, now as always, stood to his word, he has fulfilled his promise to reflect the students’ suggestions and, accordingly they are willing to revamp the original ideas.

  29. Media Authority’s made a new legal step this very afternoon to silence Klubradio:

    http://www.klubradio.hu/cikk.php?id=16&cid=150838
    http://nol.hu/belfold/a_mediatanacs_ujabb_lepese_a_klubradioval_szemben

    To summarize, the Prosecutor advised the Authority to withdraw and annul the tender
    that Klubradio won a year ago according to the rulings of the Courts.

    The next step, I think, will be to issue a new tender to Klubradio’s frequency.
    In the meantime, they will change the media law. After the change, the venue of the judicial appeal against the Authority’s decisions will change to the Kuria, which was packed with Fidesz appointees in 2012 by the unconstitutional law that had retired hundreds of judges.

  30. Eva S. Balogh :
    I think this Michl is the guy who recommended that teachers use corporal punishment in schools.

    According to the Wikipedia his political credo is quote from Albert Wass (an antisemitic writer).

  31. The President of the top Hungarian university ELTE just mentioned on television that the governmental support for ALL universities combined was 187 billion HUF ($865 million) in 2010 and the Orban government cut back 1/3 of the support to 126 billion ($580 million) so far.

  32. Some1 :
    My favourite:
    Josef Michl, Christin Democratic member of of the National Education Committee, told to MTI:
    Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, now as always, stood to his word, he has fulfilled his promise to reflect the students’ suggestions and, accordingly they are willing to revamp the original ideas.

    Oh, my!
    If Orban stand to his word ‘as always’, the kids in deep trouble!
    – As we are, as well, actually…

    Is there anybody, who able to quote at least one of his promise, having been fulfilled?

    Ya know, just to have a point of reference…

  33. Look at the funds appropriated to unnecessary expenses in the 2013 Hungarian budget:

    http://www.mkogy.hu/irom39/07655/adatok/2013_tvjav_0615.pdf

    1.
    4 secret services (Nemzeti Védelmi Szolgálat+Alkotmányvédelmi Hivata+Nemzetbiztonsági Szakszolgálat+Terrorelhárítási Központ)
    3+ 7+15+13 billion = 38 billion HUF

    2. Soccer stadiums: 10 billion (?, no time to find the number)

    3. Lost taxes from companies who give money to soccer clubs = 25 billion (?)

    4. Remaking the square in front of the Parliament as it “looked like in 1944” = 25 billion (?)

    That is an easy 100 billion HUF Orban wastes in a year just from these 4 items.

  34. Latest: Police started to ID the protesters and took two of them away. Allegedly two of the speakers. Protesters are trying to block the police car.

  35. Other expenses unnecessary for the country:

    Media Authority 40 billion, see

    http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/09182/09182.pdf

    Domestic and foreign propaganda (my estimate)
    15 billion HUF

    So I already found 150 billion HUF to give to education and
    health care.

    Another 150 billion would have come from the lower interest expense
    if Orban had made an agreement with IMF.

    One-time expense Orban spent on 22% of MOL = 500 billion HUF.

  36. An :
    Latest: Police started to ID the protesters and took two of them away. Allegedly two of the speakers. Protesters are trying to block the police car.

    ATV has live coverage of this. On the internet only with one hour delay.

    http://atv.hu/online

  37. tappanch :

    Compare the $580 million support for the entire Hungarian university system with the $925 million just one US university, e.g. the Ohio State University gets from the state and federal governments for 2013.

    http://www.osu.edu/osutoday/stuinfo.php

    Incredible. The chairman of the conference of university presidents was a guest on Egyenes beszéd today. According to him, University of Bonn gets about the same amount of money as the whole Hungarian higher education. Under the circumstances it is ctually a miracle that Hungarian universities manage to produce well qualified students at all..

  38. spectator :

    Some1 :
    My favourite:
    Josef Michl, Christin Democratic member of of the National Education Committee, told to MTI:
    Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, now as always, stood to his word, he has fulfilled his promise to reflect the students’ suggestions and, accordingly they are willing to revamp the original ideas.

    Oh, my!
    If Orban stand to his word ‘as always’, the kids in deep trouble!
    – As we are, as well, actually…
    Is there anybody, who able to quote at least one of his promise, having been fulfilled?
    Ya know, just to have a point of reference…

    To build a soccer stadium on Felcsut.

  39. What Orbán is doing is really criminal. Billions and billions for “communication,” meaning propaganda at home and abroad, buying stocks in MOL, Raba, and other companies for also billions, stadiums for billions while Hungarian education is getting peanuts. The man is either mad or a real crook. A would opt for the latter.

  40. Eva: “The man is either mad or a real crook. A would opt for the latter.”

    Or both, they don’t exclude each other.

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