Is Viktor Orbán afraid? Yes, although he doesn’t have much to fear now

Yesterday a very pessimistic article appeared in Élet és Irodalom by András Bruck, who back in November had written an equally pessimistic piece entitled “No, Viktor Will Not Leave.” You may recall that Gáspár Miklós Tamás gently asked Viktor Orbán at the October 23rd demonstration to leave before it is too late.

This time Bruck is mourning the death of the protest movements. In “Hungary Is Quiet Again” he lists the aborted attempts of the students as well as the opposition politicians to come together and form a common platform. The students were effectively divided by the government while the opposition politicians simply cannot come to an understanding. All is lost, claims Bruck.

Demonstration in front of Fidesz headquarters / HVG Photo by István Fazekas

Demonstration in front of Fidesz headquarters / HVG Photo by István Fazekas

Indeed, the prospects are grim, but all is not lost. It is true that the “official” student representatives caved and sided with the government instead of fighting for the free movement of Hungarian students. They missed a real opportunity: the ruling powers feared the student masses when HÖOK and HaHa managed to demonstrate jointly on the streets. For the leaders of HÖOK, however, their positions in the hierarchy and the very substantial money these student associations receive from the government were more important than serving as the representatives of their fellow students. And yet there still remains a glimmer of hope. The last time around there were only about 70 students at Fidesz headquarters, today there were as many as 1,000, although serious pressure was brought against the student leaders. Heavy fines for high school students and harassment of the university students. Yet they didn’t give up. That is a good sign.

I must say that the behavior of the opposition politicians is less understandable than that of the opportunistic student leaders of HÖOK. After all, the student leaders are part of the power structure; they receive substantial benefits from the government. But the opposition leaders? Even those who have seats in parliament have nothing to lose. If they remain fragmented it can easily happen that not a single one of them will be able to continue in politics. Hungary will become a one-party system after a democratic election due to the electoral system introduced by the Orbán government.

The opposition, both the students and the politicians, should be heartened by the fact that the government party remains paranoid. Otherwise, it is difficult to imagine that such an important event as Fidesz’s twenty-fifth birthday would have been celebrated yesterday under the cloak of secrecy. Not even the reporter of the servile MTI was allowed inside party headquarters. Moreover, the party’s real birthday is March 30, 1988; it should have been celebrated today. The deterrent was most likely the announcement of the demonstration for today.

In the past the birthday party was a much publicized event that included spouses (mostly wives) and children. There were many photo opportunities. It seemed that not a year went by without a picture of Viktor Orbán chatting amiably with the anti-Semitic Zsolt Bayer. Now silence. Only a short press release. Péter Földes (fsp) suggested on his blog that the founders of Fidesz were either afraid or ashamed of their present selves. Several comments stressed that these guys don’t even know the meaning of the word “shame.”

Journalists were having a heyday collecting earlier quotations from Fidesz politicians, starting with András Bozóki who joined Fidesz two months after its establishment. In October 1988 he stressed that Fidesz is “not a political party but a youth organization that it is not interested in political power but wants to widen the forces of democracy among students.” The series of quotations ends with Tamás Deutsch’s claim (February 18, 2013) that “Fidesz came into being as a political organization in the western mold and it is still the same today.”

Meanwhile the present government keeps putting pressure on its youthful political opponents. In the dead of night the police raided and changed locks on a favorite cultural center for young people maintained by a Jewish youth organization because it was alleged that the occupation of Fidesz headquarters was organized there. The Hungarian police, not known for their smarts, forgot that there were other entrances. The next day students barricaded themselves inside. Then came the heavy-handed response from the City of Budapest, announcing that the organization had lost its right to the place. The servile MAZSIHISZ, which represents the Hungarian Jewry, didn’t defend the youth organization. It simply begged the city not to close the center until after Passover. The city generously obliged.

Meanwhile three students of HaHa were arrested without a warrant. Együtt 2014 called the methods employed by the police “reminiscent of the darkest days of the Kádár regime.” The name of János Kádár came up in another article. According to its author, even János Kádár was braver after the crushed revolution than Viktor Orbán is now. After all, Kádár had the guts to get half a million people on the streets on May 1, 1957 while Orbán and the co-founders of Fidesz hid from a small group of peaceful demonstrators. Kádár’s name was mentioned even in front of Fidesz headquarters. One of the speakers recalled Kádár’s political demise as an example for Orbán, indicating that his mismanagement of the country’s affairs might end in his being dropped by his own party.

Yes, all is not lost but it will be a difficult fight to get rid of the present rulers of Hungary. As long as the opposition parties don’t unite, opponents of the regime don’t believe that it is worth even going to the polls. There was hope after October 23, 2012, after Gordon Bajnai’s call for action. But since then not much has happened and the electorate has become discouraged. Without a united front of all forces there is no way to get rid of this government.

86 comments

  1. Éva – the reality of our situation is rather ironically well summed up in your final paragraph, which begins:”Yes, all is not lost…”, but ends “…there is no way to get rid of this government.”

    Surely it is time to accept that Orbán has won this phase, and to move on to discussing how we might get rid of him in that new reality?

    As long as we continue to ignore the reality that he has effectively made it impossible to remove him using conventional democratic means, he has, indeed, nothing to fear.

  2. Just out of curiosity, may I ask why you consider Mazsihisz servile? Their people are often quoted by the press, which doesn’t mean you’re wrong but it made me think they are a legitimate voice. While they do compliment Fidesz at times they’ve also criticised the party.

  3. Paul :
    Surely it is time to accept that Orbán has won this phase, and to move on to discussing how we might get rid of him in that new reality?
    As long as we continue to ignore the reality that he has effectively made it impossible to remove him using conventional democratic means, he has, indeed, nothing to fear.

    Dictators are almost full of fear. You just pointed out the main reason for it: “it is impossible to remove them using conventional democratic means”. What’s left is what most dictators suffer of (eventually): removal by hanging, by being shot or something similar…

  4. All clowns.
    Clowns are running the country, and steal all blind.
    MAZSIHISZ is corrupt and servile.
    Like the rest.
    Most people are dying a slow death.

  5. THE ORBAN EFFECT

    The country is now subject to a new phenomenon: the Orban Effect. This means that any competition will be tilted against
    Hungary simply because the country deserves no ‘victories’.
    Exhibit A: the boxing decision against Erdei Saturday night.
    It was brutal because the fighter had been undefeated and he clearly won the fight. Now artists, actors, writers, sportsmen…can expect decisions, when crucial, will go against them.

  6. Mr. Bajnai might be on the wrong track to attract followers: he tries to convince the supposed center and right of center voters about the necessity of sacking Orban and the viability of his program. Due to FIDESZ extremely devious and highly successful ad hominem campaign against him he does not appear to be credible to these voters, but at the same he is rapidly alienating people left of center and losing ground at a menacing speed. I trust that his talented advisers notice it and find the necessary means to remedy the situation.

  7. KIKA has broadcasted an “orban the clown” show.
    Let us enjoy it.
    Hungary needed orban to enjoy a 15 minute fame.

  8. I showed that “Orbán the Clown” Video yesterday to my wife and the young ones – so we had at least something to laugh …

    Otherwise the situation in Hungary is dreadful, not only political but also weather-wise:

    Zero degrees and a continuous mixture of snow, ice and rain … We’re lucky that I prepared enough wood for our “kandaló”.

    Nevertheless: Happy Easter, Passover or whatever to everybody – or just a good day for us atheists/non-believers!

  9. Prediction:

    It’s only a matter of days before Fidesz/Jobbik and the rednecks of Hungary claim that Bob Arum and the Jews of New York stole Erdei’s boxing victory from him.

  10. To Mr Foldesi, do you have some idea why a campaign against Gordon Bajnai is believed while Fidesz-reality is considered some kind of success?

  11. To Kirsten:

    1. The campaign financed by tax payers’ money is widely distributed via state controlled media. 2. Other opinions do not find their way to the public. 3. MTV, HirTV and MTI screen the news which can be broadcast or printed. Prime example of it is how they covered the March 18 Senate hearing. 4. Bajnai is simply deprived of access to a wider audience, whenever he is mentioned they try to demonize him.

  12. Kirsten :
    To Mr Foldesi, do you have some idea why a campaign against Gordon Bajnai is believed while Fidesz-reality is considered some kind of success?

    I’m going to weigh in on this…

    Fidesz understands the Hungarian mindset: tell them what they want to hear. Hence,
    “All is fine; we as a people are superior but all are against us; still, we will triumph; only Bajnai and the communists naysayers against us can hold us back.”

    Cookies for children…but it works–

  13. addendum @ Kirsten:

    Please note that Hitler and the Nazis worked this gig already. People who read history
    would have an inkling of where this ends up…

  14. chris :

    Just out of curiosity, may I ask why you consider Mazsihisz servile? Their people are often quoted by the press, which doesn’t mean you’re wrong but it made me think they are a legitimate voice. While they do compliment Fidesz at times they’ve also criticised the party.

    Because they begged the authorities instead of defending the young people who were running the cultural center. Moreovr, in the past they never really seriously raised their voices against anti-Semitism. They sat down with Orbán and were only nodding and smiling.

  15. As far as this Erdei’s loss is concerned. I just read in Heti Válasz that he actually won but the the referee gave the win undeserved to the Russian.

  16. The Siraly situation is sad, but predictable. It was, essentially, a squat on the site of the former Communist era Hungarian book club building. It was a great use of an abandoned property, became an important theater center for the avante-garde scene, but it was a squat nonetheless.

    The Siraly came out of the Neolog Jewish youth group MAROM, which used to have a headquarters at Garay ter in the outer 7th district. About ten years ago MAROM wanted to have its own Hanukah celebration and asked Mazsihisz for funding. Mazsihisz said it would grant funds but only if it could dictate who would speak and who would be the entertainment (Mazsihisz is run by Zoltai Gusztáv, a former Communist Party cadre who was Party overseer for Budapest Theater life. A true “piece of work.” ) MAROM refused this, organized its own program, and the resulting celebration attracted over a thousand attendees. In response, Mazsihisz closed the MAROM headquarters and expelled the rabbinical student who performed the candle blessings from the Neolog Yeshiva. Nice guys. Mazsihisz is essentially run as a business more than a religious organization, and has rather contentious relationships with all of the other organized Jewish communities, including the Orthodox, Chabad and the newly established Reform congregations, mainly based on Mazsihisz’ control of funding and property holdings.

  17. Eva S. Balogh :
    As far as this Erdei’s loss is concerned. I just read in Heti Válasz that he actually won but the the referee gave the win undeserved to the Russian.

    Just a taste of things to come for Hungarian competitors competing in Europe…

  18. petofi :

    Kirsten :
    To Mr Foldesi, do you have some idea why a campaign against Gordon Bajnai is believed while Fidesz-reality is considered some kind of success?

    I’m going to weigh in on this…
    Fidesz understands the Hungarian mindset: tell them what they want to hear. Hence,
    “All is fine; we as a people are superior but all are against us; still, we will triumph; only Bajnai and the communists naysayers against us can hold us back.”
    Cookies for children…but it works–

    If I may intervene, I’m not sure whether these should necessarily be accepted simultaneously. Actually I became a bit suspicious of the success story of the cut of public utility prices reflected in Fidesz’s popularity gains as it was so clean, neat explanation that hardly exist in the world. At least psephologist tend to advise people not to believe in such monocausal realtionships. But how the whole narrative emerged is quite instructive and worth to look at in detail, especially as it allows for a hypothesis regarding why Fidesz gained supporters recently.

    As for the popularity gains it is important to note that Medián already registered a huge swing towards Fidesz in December, well before lower public utility prices were felt. Furthermore, they polled twice (January and February) the reception of these cuts and the result was rather ambiguous. People tended to believe by a wide margin (57 to 33 or something like that) in the opposition’s narrative that at the end they will pay for these cuts in one way or another. Even a third of Fidesz supporters agreed with this view. Responses to other questions also suggested that this is not necessarily the issue that would bring mass support. Anyway, in February Tárki, in March Szonda Ipsos also showed huge gains for Fidesz. What made me a bit suspicious was firstly how prolonged these gains appeared in the reslt sof different companies and secondly the Szonda poll itself. While it showed a six point raise in Fidesz’s popularity (and told that it came from exactly those social groups that were most affected by the cut in public utility prices) parallely it meant that the activity of Fidezs voters fell to an all time low or close to it. While for years it was obvious that Fiesz’s supoorters are the most active ones, a much higher proportion of them indicates a willingness to participate at any upcoming election than the voters of the opposition parties now this activity fell to the level of the socialist’s. So, drawing a intentionally pointed conclusion: the new supporters are shadow supporters, who are in fact not willing to vote for Fidesz, they are only ready to express support. Hardly the behavior of people who suddenly feel positively attached to a party.

    Here comes the speculative part, where I can only rely some personal observation of friends and acquaintances, who are rather rightist, but were in late Autumn 2012 still critical of Fidesz. As soon as the smear campaign again Bajnai started they began to react to every criticism with “Libajnai”, “Bajnai is a killer” “Bajnai is a neoliberal” and so on, simply relying on the well known mythology of the rightist media. And since that moment they are practically not ready to engage in meaningful discussion. They are instead ready to believe in the most stupid conspiracy theories – even that the cartoon spot in the KiKa program was somehow arranged from Hungary, that the HaHa and likes are simply means of Bajnai etc. (And the obvious referebnces to the Autumn of 2006 are not lacking too.) But given these experiences and the contradictory nature of polls I tend to think rather the smear campaign was successful in bringing back soft support to Fidesz – even if it still remains soft in a sense -, while the cut in public utility prices brought not much. (Or practically nothing, the overall trend is now a slow decline in Fidesz’s popularity from its heights reached in January-February) But it also means that people do not necessarily accept the positive portrayal of Hungary’s situation, they are mobilized through antagonisms instilled in them in years.

    The other peculiarity of the situation is the reaction of the opposition intelligentsia and politicians. It was shocking to see how people suddenly went extremely pessimistic, but only after reading the Szonda results. They did not let themselves disturbed by Medián in December, nor by Tárki in Ferruary, only Szonda counted as the reliable pollster. Here I do not want to analyze this phenomenon, only use it as a potential illustration why the smear campaign could have been successful to a certain extent: there are to many cemented prejudices and stereotypes even among these social groups that could easily be used for manipulating them. Furthremore, they alos could not imagine any other reason than the public utility prices issue, that is a good sign of their implicit contempt for the average voters and their insecurity. They reacted so histerically….

    Unfortunately I’m not sure what conclusion can be drawn from this situation? Maybe it is true, that Bajnai should not court the center-right voters, it is better to leave them to Schiffer, and pray for his success. Maybe there will be a “Lagerwahlkampf” and it shall bring only a moderate success as it is possible to win with the mobilization of those voters who do not like Fidesz (it happened twice earlier) but it will almost certainly fall short of the two-thirds majority needed to overturn the constitution. Or there is the possibility of a serious economic meltdown or at least a continuing stagnation that would gradually demobilize Fidesz voters… But these are all speculations, while Bajnai and his circle slowly must make this strategic decision.

  19. I agree with István Földesi. Együtt 2014’s strategy is wrong. Not worth trying to woo the so-called disappointed Fidesz voters. At least not the ones who have been voting for Fidesz election after election. Hopeless.

  20. @Gabor: “But it also means that people do not necessarily accept the positive portrayal of Hungary’s situation, they are mobilized through antagonisms instilled in them in years.”

    Unfortunately, this may very well be true. And if the smear campaign was so successful, we can only expect it to get stronger as the election draws nearer. Bajnai and the opposition groups have a tough problem to solve: how to reach the people and how to diffuse the effects of Fidesz’s black propaganda?

  21. Istvan Foldesi :
    To Kirsten:
    1. The campaign financed by tax payers’ money is widely distributed via state controlled media. 2. Other opinions do not find their way to the public. 3. MTV, HirTV and MTI screen the news which can be broadcast or printed. Prime example of it is how they covered the March 18 Senate hearing. 4. Bajnai is simply deprived of access to a wider audience, whenever he is mentioned they try to demonize him.

    Fidesz was popular even before they had their hands on state controlled media. I have to go back what I suggested a few days ago, they are simply a “generation pill”. THey are like a rock band who for their fan club can do no bad. Their current relationship with their fan club is based on nostalgia. THey are forgiven as the old rock musicians are forgiven forgiven for their sins. I love the Rolling Stones and I have attended two concerts of theirs, and I will attend a third one, does not matter how old they are, how drugged they were. I would pay twice the money for their concerts than for any newer band, even for WIlco (which I travelled for across the border to see).
    As for politicians, Pierre Trudeau was the “rock musician of Canada”, he was fresh, full of new ideas, etc. Even though he brought on in the highly controversial War Measures Act his popularity never suffered to much. His followers were convinced that he can do no bad. He was reelected, and his party kept winning. His son even though is relatively young, and inexperienced compared to other liberal politicians is currently looked upon as the one who will bring back the Liberal party. No smear campaign works against Justin, and even when he makes a gaffe, no one writes him off. He has the Trudeau Brand, just like Orban has his own brand.

  22. Baseness in the Carpathian Basin

    The insightful March 8 essay on Hungary’s Self-Destructive Demons by poet/journalist Thomas Orszag-Land described the complex and sinister relationship between the stunning success of Viktor Orban’s opportunistic megalomania and his unscrupulous exploitation of the unreconstructed cultural affinity of the Hungarian populace for the ugliest and most vicious forms of denial, scapegoating and xenophobia.

    Apart from a couple of points on which it (forgiveably) goes a bit over the top (about the potential for kingship and the triple “junk” quote), Orszag-Land’s March 8 essay is temperate, timely and telling, and has since been not so much overtaken as confirmed by events, with the self-ratification, by Orban’s supermajority, of the constitutional amendment self-indemnifyng Orban’s new constitution from oversight by the constitutional court.

    Orszag-Land raises the interesting hypothesis that although Orban has successfully used his supermajority (as well as the pork-barreling of the electorate, party faithful and oligarchs) to entrench his power far beyond the possibility of reversal even under any ordinary electoral majority defeat by the (shamefully and self-destructively divided) democratic opposition, he may yet be undone by having profoundly alienated the only forces that can sustain the dictator of a small, poor country in modern times: either powerful international economic interests or the support of powerful surrounding nations.

    And there is another potential contingency: Orban is not stable. He has already demonstrated himself to be a psychopath, has already been showing signs of mounting paranoia, is rumored to be under treatment for bipolar disorder, and seems to be less and less aware (or perhaps less and less in control) of the fact that Hungarian is translatable into any other language — and diffuses at lightning speed in today’s online era — so that his so far successful double-talk (in contemptuous jingo for his compatriots and sugary demagoguery for the rest of the world) may yet prove his undoing, impelling his hitherto intact cult following to jump ship out of self-interest, rather than to continue to sink with their leader, as his antics become more and more dissociated and pathological.

    Hungary is not, after all, North Korea (and not just because it lacks China to prop it up, come what may).

  23. closing v strong -v I meant. (The blog software would benefit from an edit/view buffer!)

  24. PS I think @Some1’s Trudeau analysis and analogy is way off, but it would be too Off-Topic to go over all that in this Forum: Bref, no similarity whatsoever between Trudeau and Orban; if anything, in Quebec, Orban would have been playing the irredentist card, and coddling the kidnappers (and later murderers) of the minister, rather than invoking the War Powers Act to prevent more of the same. (And Trudeau Jr. has little merit, little following, and little hope.)

  25. I’d always bank on Orban’s propensity to overreach himself, overkill, and generally make himself obnoxious when he doesn’t have to just because he’s constitutionally unable to bear checks to his power. I reckon the opposition can’t screw up as badly as he will. Expect to see nutty little demonstrations of personal whimsy, comparable to Mao’s public swimming demonstrations or instructions to starving peasants to plant their seeds closer together. Eventually he’ll make himself unelectable – the question is how soon.

  26. “The opposition, both the students and the politicians, should be heartened by the fact that the government party remains paranoid”

    I think they and in particular, Orban are suffering from a high state of paranoia although lord alone knows why as I think he is at the very height of his powers at the moment.

    It is also a rather pathetic and true comment on the present state of affairs that the opposition see that paranoia as their main hopeful sign.

    The next election is Fidesz’s to lose and the way things are going at the moment I can’t see that happening; even if it were in danger of happening, we can be sure that the dirty tricks department would prevent a free and fair election from taking place. If by some freak chance he is defeated at the balletbox, he is in control of all state apparatus for at least the next 5 years.

    True, his and thugs like Bayer and Kover’s natural instinct would be now to finish the job and remove all remaining democratic restraints preventing them for setting up the kind of totalitarian state we see in only one other place in Europe, Belarus. But he (or to be more exact his moneymen) see the benefit in continuing to rake in the EU funds and they will push things just so far enough as to ensure that money keeps coming in. The US State dept, western media and other well-meaning international organisations are about as useful as a chocolate teapot in any attempt to effect democratic norms on this regime. That’s the reality.

    As long as he doesn’t finally flip and start opening fire on protesting students or locking up opposition leaders, then he really has nothing to worry about, internally or externally.

  27. Stevan Harnad :
    PS I think @Some1′s Trudeau analysis and analogy is way off, but it would be too Off-Topic to go over all that in this Forum: Bref, no similarity whatsoever between Trudeau and Orban; if anything, in Quebec, Orban would have been playing the irredentist card, and coddling the kidnappers (and later murderers) of the minister, rather than invoking the War Powers Act to prevent more of the same. (And Trudeau Jr. has little merit, little following, and little hope.)

    I think you are way off. Also, I am very sorry that you miss the similarity between the popularity card, and that is what I was talking about. You do not always have to scratch the surface of every post. If you expect people read into deeper into your analysis, you have to have the courtesy to do the same for others. I am not comparing Trudeau’s policies and actions to Orban’s. I simply compare the popularity factor. (Do you think I am comparing “I can’t get no satisfaction” to Orban’s speeches, because I mentioned the popularity factor of the Rolling Stones, or Keith Richard’s drug use to Orban’s pills?) It does not matter who is on the bad side or who is on the good side. I was simply talking about popularity. Do not tell me what Orban would of done in Quebec it is not what I talked about either. Who cares what Orban would of done, that is all speculation. THe point is that Trudeau’s move was not accepted in all circles, and it was questionable, still because of his status, he did not loose popularity. I am a Trudeau fan myself, so you are barking up the wrong tree, trying to defend what Trudeau did. I am not opening a debate here about IF he did the right thing OR not. I am not opening the debate about Canadian politics either, so please read the lines before you move on something that is totally irrelevant to what I am saying. It would be highly appreciated.

  28. I’ve found this article and it seems like that the Hungarian opposition absolutely HAS TO familiarize themselves with Gene Sharp’s work on nonviolent resistance to dictatorships.. (oh well, we can argue if Hungary is a dictatorship or not, but there is little doubt this it is heading that way) It may give some very useful ideas for peaceful resistance:

    “His practical manual on how to overthrow dictatorships, “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” has spread like a virus since he wrote it 20 years ago and has been translated by activists into more than 30 languages.

    He has also listed “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action” — powerful, sometimes surprising, ways to tear power from the hands of regimes. Examples of their use by demonstrators and revolutionaries pop up over and over again.

    …..

    His ideas of revolution are based on an elegantly simple premise: No regime, not even the most brutally authoritarian, can survive without the support of its people. So, Sharp proposes, take it away.

    Nonviolent action, he says, can eat away at a regime’s pillars of power like termites in a tree. Eventually, the whole thing collapses.”

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/23/world/gene-sharp-revolutionary

  29. I have not read András Bruck’s article. Still a couple of points re the post.

    First, the students were never divided as such by the government. That is because HOOK has always functioned as a pro-government, right-wing youth organisation and therefore it cannot be equated with Western-style student organisations. Their role was to support the conservative agenda (whatever it was) and in consideration they received money, influence and local power. Since HaHa never was an organsaition to begin with, more like a lose alliance of dissatisfied youngsters without clearly articulated goals and zero experience in politics or organiasation, they were bound to fail against the government which uses all means necessary to cruch them. The government has almost unlimited (and legal) options at its dispossal. It can use the legally dubious claim that the students at one point “wanted to take over a bridge” – such a suspicion, in the absence of any corroborating evidence, is already enough to launch a wide-ranging police and internal intelligence procedure, as a result the emails, contents of the facebook accounts, computers of anybobdy losely associated with HaHa have been already read and copied, their movements are continuosly tracked (mobile phone), the parents threatened in various ways, also this is final season, some of the activists are government agents directly sent ro work undercover etc. Plus the HaHa people can leave Hungary in a second, it is simply not worth fighting for them. Jobbik and the HÖOK people are more provincial in that sense and want to stay in Hungary and are determined to take over power positions and change Hungary from within. So Haha were bound to fail. Rest in peace.

    Bajnai is more of an interesting question. My take is that he is happy to fail because the system is so much against the opposition, he will still be the honorable person who at least tried. But deep down he does not want to be a politician, because that is dirty and he was always to careful. He would need to resort to actions which he desperately wants to avoid because those would be contrary to his self-image. The Fidesz people would literally die for Fidesz and the political victory and they certainly exude that determination. Unfortunately, only if you are as tough may you win (nota bene Gyurcsány was that determined). Bajnai is not determined and he would not sacrifice himself, that is his reputation among the Western-oriented Hungarian elite — Orbán and his disciplies could not care less about their reputation among the elites, they know exactly that no elite (in Hungary or abroad) can ever decide their fate, it is the masses which decide (plus they also know that the Hungarian right wing elite will support them no matter what, they would support an arrow-cross government again, there is no limit loyalty whan it comes to the war against communists/Jews/liberals).

    In additon it is in the interest of both Bajnai and MSZP to not join forces until quite late, becaue they both hope to be in a better negation position than they are right now (obviously one of the two will be in a worse-off position, but neither knows which). Also, the first past the post system and Fidesz’ strategy are built on a two-pole political system (which Fidesz wants to have with MSZP because the MSZP’s people are naive, disorganised, without a vision or discipline and even their voters are extremely easy to manipulate, so Fidesz can continue to have a field day). Although eventually Bajnai and MSZP need to join, the longer they are apart the longer Bajnai can at least try to disrupt (postpone) the entrenchemnt of the two-pole system (which in the long run will be much more favourable to Fidesz for various reasons). So while Bajnai cannot prevent the new system to exert its force, he can cause complications and that is what he hopes for.

    Politics is inherently populist and anti-elite, anti-intellectual. Until it will be TGM and Ferenc Köszeg (however much one respects them) the faces of a “new” politics, they are doomed to fail. Politics is about the masses and masses care about gas prices and pensions and haven’t the slightest clue about the constitution, or why a National Bank’s independence is important (or what the role of a central bank is in the first place). Too complicated.And I have not even mentioned the right’s more cynical narrative, ie that urban, Jewish, SZDSZ -liberals are trying to return and influence politics; anway, they have zero traction in the country. (Forget Gene Sharp, he is useful for overt dictatorships, not for Orbán or Putin).

    The opposition is dismal from every perspective you see them. They may win and they have to believe that as you cannot tell the future (MSZP was surprised that it won in 2002, but Zapatero also won only because he Madrid bombing which was wrongly blamed on the Basques), but the odds are low.

  30. Eva S. Balogh :
    I agree with István Földesi. Együtt 2014′s strategy is wrong. Not worth trying to woo the so-called disappointed Fidesz voters. At least not the ones who have been voting for Fidesz election after election. Hopeless.

    Then what would be the right strategy?

    They have to woo everybody who’s disappointed. Not just in the Fidesz. Also the ones who are disappointed in the MSZP. The strategy is good. The way they do it may not be. It’s too timid.

    The reason why the smear campaign by the Fidesz on Bajnai is successful is the ignorance of the Hungarians and the fact that nothing pisses them of more than being told that. Try stopping a random fideszoid and ask if they know what a holding company is. Even better, ask if they heard about the Wallis Holding? What was Bajnai’s job when he worked for the Wallis? Do they know that Wallis lost 50 million dollars on the Hungarian poultry industry? They will have absolutely no clue. Trust me. They only know Bajnai killed goose farmers.

    So I’d say the same brutal, primitive, cheesy campaign is necessary. Start the print machines with fliers about Orban’s enrichment. Make it juicy. Ask questions on the flier like “.. and when was the last time, you could afford a vacation?”. “Look at the Audi’s. What are you driving?” or print a list Orban quotes and next to each of them print “Lie” in red bold. Go low or you go nowhere. This is 2013, Planet Hungary.

    Show them “how does it feel, when it’s your mother” as the joke says.

  31. The MSZP should go away. The MSZP betrayed Gyurcsany, the MSZP is holding the left hostage. No. They should not join the Together ’14. They should endorse it. Now. Otherwise it will take another Orban round from 2014 until the MSZP melts down. At least Mesterhazy get’s his paycheck for 4 more years.

    Go Gordon! We believe in you!

  32. @Blumi: “(Forget Gene Sharp, he is useful for overt dictatorships, not for Orbán or Putin).”

    Now, that was a quick dismissal… of course, he writes about different regimes. But you need the same kind of determination and tenacity with Orban (and I guess with Putyin) as you do with brutal dictators. Some ideas for peaceful resistance may be transferable… why dismiss it so quickly?? You (the opposition) need a strategy, and ideas may come from unexpected places.

  33. In ‘Notes on Nationalism’, George Orwell comments that much pacifism and defeatism, especially “among a section of the intelligensia,is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty.” I can’t help but feel the same at times about Hungary now, not that I see anything more than low ratlike political cunning in Orban’s tactics, rather than strength. We’ve seen far more brutal regimes than Orban’s fall like dominoes across the Middle East and beyond, despite far less favourable geopolitical circumstances than Hungary’s – right in the middle of the EU, beholden to European democratic institutions for its daily bread, and accountable to them in the court of public opinion and a slew of actual courts.
    Some or all of Gene Sharp’s prescriptions may or may not fit Hungary’s situation, but there is no way to pretend that there is nothing we can do. I believe the chances of success are far greater than anybody realises – and the motives for not trying far stronger than anybody wants to admit. The national propensity to despair and pessimism just serves as handy cover for appeasement and accommodation. When you’re hopeless, it’s easier to be faithless, or gutless. Bad faith, bad conscience, exhaustion, call it what you like – if you don’t try, Orban wins by default. And not just try in order to appease your conscience – try in order to win. That holds for Bajnai and all of us.

  34. An: “His ideas of revolution are based on an elegantly simple premise: No regime, not even the most brutally authoritarian, can survive without the support of its people. So, Sharp proposes, take it away.

    This suggestion cannot be repeated often enough. It is the obliging manner (even if some people might not believe that it is their very small actions that are “obliging”) with which Fidesz’s grapping for power is accepted, which stabilises the system. And for safety, it would be also good to have some alternative Hungary prepared on the paper already. Just in case people might like to live in some political “system” or orderly society (if perhaps I am not sufficiently clear: this alternative MUST exist also, otherwise people are unlikely to be willing to withdraw support).

    But to An: I was worrying that people are not yet sufficiently angry about Fidesz for properly appreciating methods of non-violent resistance…

  35. To Gabor and Istvan Földesi: Thank you very much for the thoughts. It is very much appreciated. I have not yet got used to the idea that “liberal” could be so much of an insult for an entire (or nearly entire) society. That makes it indeed quite difficult to embrace “European” or “Western” values. I believe that “human rights” cannot be easily thought without some “liberalism” and respect for differences between individual people.

  36. Mutt :
    The MSZP should go away. The MSZP betrayed Gyurcsany, the MSZP is holding the left hostage. No. They should not join the Together ’14. They should endorse it. Now. Otherwise it will take another Orban round from 2014 until the MSZP melts down. At least Mesterhazy get’s his paycheck for 4 more years.
    Go Gordon! We believe in you!

    Very good! As are your suggestions for the campaign for 2014. I hope it is read by those who will devise the campaign !

  37. @ Kirsten: “I was worrying that people are not yet sufficiently angry about Fidesz for properly appreciating methods of non-violent resistance…”

    True, but some already are (e.g. those youngsters who organized the recent student demonstrations). If those who already are start using tools of peaceful resistance more strategically, that is a good start already. And it may set an example that others (who get angry later :-)) may follow. You can start things small.

  38. Kirsten :
    To Gabor and Istvan Földesi: Thank you very much for the thoughts. It is very much appreciated. I have not yet got used to the idea that “liberal” could be so much of an insult for an entire (or nearly entire) society.

    Kirsten, I suggest you peruse a large swathe of American conservative opinion, where liberal is used practically as a term of hate speech. And if this can happen in the world’s most committed, most sophisticated democracy, it can happen anywhere. That just means we have to fight against such illiberalism, everywhere, always.

  39. Blum: “masses care about gas prices and pensions and haven’t the slightest clue about the constitution, or why a National Bank’s independence is important”

    I this were correct, Hungary would have now a suitable political system. Exactly what OV and Laszlo Köver are telling us: people want that we care for them. No democracy will survive in which people are NOT interested in their political rights. And there is another observation that “democrats” made some time ago already and that might be of interest for people who only care for gas prices: your “king” need not be caring, it is even unlikely that he will care for you, your king cares mainly for himself and his inner circle and you are paying for that… (even with the gas prices, if properly calculated).

  40. @Kirsten: You are right, opposition parties need to offer an alternative. A vision for the future and an alternative narrative that is able to replace Orban’s powerful “us against the greedy foreigners who only want to exploit the county” narrative. I think this is one of the biggest challenges for the opposition parties (the other biggie is Fidesz’s control of the media). For one, the alternative is clear: a functioning democratic system with proper checks and balances.. but this is not powerful enough to gain popular support (not yet, another 10-20 years of Orban rule may wake people up a bit, especially if he turns even more erratic and authoritarian). But we are not there yet.

    So the opposition has to come up with a political message that offers some kind of positive future and some kind of hope of actually getting there. It is especially difficult as the positive example Hungary traditionally tries to emulate, Western Europe (the EU), is going though a crisis itself (so far mostly economic, but it has its social reverberations as well) so it lost its appeal and ability to inspire the kind of enthusiast following that it was able to generate in the early 90s.

  41. Deak Ferenc: I know that “liberal” is something really dreadful for American conservatives. But I thought that “liberal” in the US means something different from what is understood by it in Europe (on the Continent).

  42. The Polish coach party of right-wing sympathizers I saw outside Parliament on March 15th, holding up placards in support of Orban against the “atheist” and “socialist” EU, obviously understood all too well what liberalism is. That’s the problem. CEE states have deep wells of conservative intolerance that have festered in the darkness during Communism and grown even uglier for never having had to face the light until now. An unscrupulous and reckless demagogue like Orban has plenty of raw material to work with.

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