Odds and ends from Hungary: A court case, a new poll, and a successful country

Again, there are too many interesting topics and I don’t know which one to pick. So I decided to cover as many as I have space for without making the post too long.

First, I received a short note from András Arató, CEO of Klubrádió, announcing the Kúria’s landmark decision with regard to one of the controversial writings of Zsolt Bayer. The decision was rendered in a case that involved Klubrádió.

I wrote about the article,”The Same Stench,” which was the subject of the case, at the time of its publication. In it Bayer called Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a member of the European Parliament, and András Schiff, the internationally acclaimed Hungarian pianist, “stinking excrement” and lamented the incompleteness of the massacre in the forest of Orgovány where many Hungarian Jews were murdered in 1920.

In “Let’s Talk It Over,” the most popular program on Klubrádió, its host György Bolgár talked to Péter Feldmájer,  the chairman of MAZSIHISZ. In the course of their conversation they labeled the Bayer article anti-Semitic. Bayer sued for infringement of his personality rights and also for damages, claiming that because of the interview he ceased to receive commissions for articles from the French daily, Le Monde. The case eventually ended up in the Kúria, which is the highest court of the land. No further appeal is possible.

In its  June 26 ruling, the Kúria found that a reading of Bayer’s article could logically and lawfully lead to the finding that the contents of the article were anti-Semitic. Bayer’s attempts to frame the reference to Orgovány as a mere metaphor failed. According to the ruling, he must endure the criticism that his article deserves and must allow others to form an honest opinion of the article without using the legal institution of personality rights to shield himself from public criticism.

This ruling of the Kúria is of landmark importance, as it finally shows that neo-Nazi, racist, and hate speech cannot be published with impunity in Hungary. Freedom of expression and its manifestation in the form of criticism stand as potential means for anyone seeking to take action against extremist statements.

All in all, Klubrádió is proud that it had a role to play in this very important decision.

I might add that it would be nice if the Media Authority actually allowed Klubrádió to broadcast on a frequency which can be used free of charge and which the station is entitled to use. Although at least a month has gone by since the court decision in Klubrádió’s favor, nothing has happened yet although the Media Authority has no right to appeal.

* * *

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I spent a whole post on an interview with the CEO of Medián about the intricacies of poll taking in Hungary.  Medián just came out with a poll that probed public reaction to the tobacconist shop affair. Their first attempt at gauging public reaction was three weeks ago when 56% were against making tobacco products a monopoly and disapproved of the way it was done. By now that number is 73%. Moreover, the percentage of those who heard about the affair is exceptionally high: 94%.

What is especially interesting is the breakdown by voting groups.  There were basically three main questions asked. The first was whether it is appropriate for a government to decide who can and who cannot sell tobacco products. The second concerned the appropriateness of a government party favoring its own adherents in allotting the concessions. And finally the respondents were asked what would they do now if they were in the position to do something about the situation that was created by the government.

To the question about the appropriateness of the government deciding who can and who cannot sell tobacco products, the overwhelming majority (73%) were against it and only 19% were for it. Not even Fidesz voters are crazy about the idea. As for the idea of a tobacco monopoly, 43% disapprove while 10% have no opinion; 47% support the government on this issue. Supporters of MSZP, E14 and other smaller parties on the left overwhelmingly, and predictably, oppose the nationalization of tobacconist shops (85-90%). What is much more interesting is the reaction of those people who are undecided. Among them 76% are against the government scheme. Medián differentiated another category whom they call “active undecided” voters. Those are the ones who say that they definitely will vote but that they still don’t know for whom. Among them 74% opposed the monopolization of tobacco products.

To the question of whether it is appropriate for a party in power to favor its own, half of the Fidesz voters answered in the negative. All others, including the undecided and the actively undecided, were overwhelmingly (80-93%) opposed. Let’s not forget that Viktor Orbán announced that he saw nothing wrong with favoring Fidesz supporters over others.

Finally there was the question of what to do with the state of affairs that was created as a result of the tobacco monopoly and the way the concessions were granted. 51% of those asked would undo everything and would allow anyone who wants to sell cigarettes to be able to do so. 26% would start anew by scrapping the results and announcing a new competition for the available stores. Only 14% wouldn’t change anything.

What do these figures tell us, especially in light of other polls on party preferences? All three of the most recent polls show Fidesz leading by a large margin over MSZP and by 6-8% over a united democratic opposition. But the percentage of undecided voters is still very large. According to Tárki, it is 49%. If the population’s dislike of the monopolization of tobacco products and their disgust with the concessions is any indication, the undecided and especially the actively undecided voters may offer up some surprises.

* * *

And, finally, here is a priceless Orbán quotation. He was in Brussels today at a meeting of the prime ministers of the member states. He told reporters afterwards that he looked around the table and there was not one prime minister whose country was successful. It was a strange feeling to represent the only economically successful country in this company. And here are these unsuccessful losers who give advice to him, the only successful one. But he took no offense!

Success by Kevin Houle / flkckr

Success by Kevin Houle / flkckr

In line with his allegedly conciliatory attitude to the West European losers, Orbán decided to give in on the issue of political advertisement. As things stand now, no party can advertise on any  commercial television or radio station during the campaign season. He announced that this restrictive law will be changed to allow parties to advertise on commercial stations. But the stations must provide the service free of charge. I’ll bet they will be thrilled. On the other hand, given the financial state of the opposition parties, getting some free advertising might help restore the balance between Fidesz with its practically unlimited resources and opportunities and the poverty-stricken opposition parties. Of course, in the “devil in the details” department, we don’t know how much time the commercial stations will set aside for “upaid” political advertisements and whether these ads will be permitted during prime time or only when the vast majority of people are either at work or asleep.

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38 comments

  1. “You’re all stupid! You’re Imbeciles!! I’m the only smart one! Kick me out! Kick me out!! Pleeeaaase!!!!!”

    I wonder: “Is Victor under some sort of deadline?”

  2. Private TV stations will give political parties no free time to advertize. Why would they? This adjustment to the law really changes nothing. Parties will be given equal time to advertize in public media as originally envisioned in the law. As usual the Hungarian government has come out of the EU confession box smoking a cigarette.

  3. As for Bayer. What an odious individual. It does trouble me that he can publish in a national daily in Hungary. I’m glad he lost his contract with Le Monde.

  4. When even the regime you slavishly serve effectively also brands you a racist scumbag then it cannot be great for any future media job prospects beyond writing for Nazi Hirlap and Echo TV. It is just a wonder that the obnoxious bigot ever got a chance writing for Le Monde in the first place.

    With regards the tobacco concession, it will be interesting to see how the practicalities work themselves out on Tuesday. If there is one thing you can rely on Fidesz for (apart from being bumptious and corrupt fascists) is the their complete inability to organize any system to work even half efficiently.

    The impression in our district is that absolutely nothing is happening with the shops at the moment, will they be ready to supply the 1000s stressed out nicotine addicts when the time come? Being a non-smoker myself, I can afford to take a detached view on this and it could well be a giggle watching the local Fidesz Mafia getting throttled (metaphorically).

  5. OT As usual while Orban is boasting about the Hungarian success story that no other countries have, back at home the Hungarian Postal Services is secretly letting go its employees in several group of thirty. I am not really familiar with the reporting procedures, but according to a few media (not government media of course that does not even mention anything) if the firing of people goes in these small groups, it is easy to keep it quite. Apparently the goal is to fire around 500 of them.

  6. oneill :

    With regards the tobacco concession, it will be interesting to see how the practicalities work themselves out on Tuesday. If there is one thing you can rely on Fidesz for (apart from being bumptious and corrupt fascists) is the their complete inability to organize any system to work even half efficiently.

    The impression in our district is that absolutely nothing is happening with the shops at the moment, will they be ready to supply the 1000s stressed out nicotine addicts when the time come? Being a non-smoker myself, I can afford to take a detached view on this and it could well be a giggle watching the local Fidesz Mafia getting throttled (metaphorically).

    Well, this will be the real test. Because I think that there will be chaos starting on Monday. As is the locations of these shops are very uneven. Often they are very close to each other while in other districts there are no stores in miles. And the smokers, and there are far too many of them in Hungary, will be popping mad.

    If I were a smoker it would be now that I would stop. To give money to these crooks is more than I could stomach. I suggest to all those smokers to stop. It would be good for their health, good for their pocketbooks, and good for their conscience.

  7. Some1 :
    OT As usual while Orban is boasting about the Hungarian success story that no other countries have, back at home the Hungarian Postal Services is secretly letting go its employees in several group of thirty. I am not really familiar with the reporting procedures, but according to a few media (not government media of course that does not even mention anything) if the firing of people goes in these small groups, it is easy to keep it quite. Apparently the goal is to fire around 500 of them.

    It is not only to keep quiet, but also to save money. If you fire group of people over a certain size, you need to have a social plan ready. That is some people receive extra money due to years worked. The older you are the more money you receive. By firing small group you do not need to have a social plan (ergo no trade unions involved), you do not need to report to the various social institutions (no approval labor office required), etc.

    Btw it is a general trend in Europe regarding postal services. However, I was surprised that recently a number of advertisements were shown on television how good and old the Hungarian Postal Services is. I thought originally that it had to do with shifting money, but now it seems to be about jobs.

  8. Orbán in the last minute cancelled his trip to China. Allegedly because of the extraordinary session of parliament. That explanation sounds most unlikely. So, what do you think is behind the decision? Here is my guess: It looks that the EP most likely will vote for the Tavares report. After that kind of defeat going to China would put Orbán at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the Chinese.

  9. Eva S. Balogh :

    oneill :
    With regards the tobacco concession, it will be interesting to see how the practicalities work themselves out on Tuesday. If there is one thing you can rely on Fidesz for (apart from being bumptious and corrupt fascists) is the their complete inability to organize any system to work even half efficiently.
    The impression in our district is that absolutely nothing is happening with the shops at the moment, will they be ready to supply the 1000s stressed out nicotine addicts when the time come? Being a non-smoker myself, I can afford to take a detached view on this and it could well be a giggle watching the local Fidesz Mafia getting throttled (metaphorically).

    Well, this will be the real test. Because I think that there will be chaos starting on Monday. As is the locations of these shops are very uneven. Often they are very close to each other while in other districts there are no stores in miles. And the smokers, and there are far too many of them in Hungary, will be popping mad.
    If I were a smoker it would be now that I would stop. To give money to these crooks is more than I could stomach. I suggest to all those smokers to stop. It would be good for their health, good for their pocketbooks, and good for their conscience.

    Sorry Eva, but that is wishful thinking. Being an ex-smoker myself, increase of the sales price did not scare me away. What I think will happen is that the smuggling operation will increase tremendously. It was around 10%, but it will increase to 20% or even higher percentage.

    http://www.realdeal.hu/20091208/black-market-in-cigarettes-booms-as-tax-gap-with-ukraine-fuels-smuggling/

    You may remember that during the Horn Gyula regime the entire VPOP was fired due to the smuggling of, among other things, cigarettes. I can recall in Budapest you bought Ukrainian cigarettes 1/2 to 3/4 of the price of Hungarian cigarettes. (At that time a Marlboro was about 1 euro per 20 piece package)

    Now the prices will go up, limited offering. Yep massive organized smuggling operations. Perhaps this was the purpose of Fidesz in the first place.

  10. Eva S. Balogh :
    Orbán in the last minute cancelled his trip to China. Allegedly because of the extraordinary session of parliament. That explanation sounds most unlikely. So, what do you think is behind the decision? Here is my guess: It looks that the EP most likely will vote for the Tavares report. After that kind of defeat going to China would put Orbán at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the Chinese.

    I do not think it has anything to do with Hungary, but with the current Trade War between China and the EU regarding solar panels, but VO cannot say this. I believe the Chinese cancelled the trip and not VO.

  11. Eva S. Balogh :

    Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :

    Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) :
    I strongly doubt Le Monde ever considered commissioning Mr. Bayer, since he had been described in the French daily as an “unabashedly antisemitic journalist” in 2009.

    But then I may be wrong, since Mr. Orbán had been re-elected in the meantime…

    Yes. Most likely he liked. Are surprised?

    Not sure I understood you. What can easily be verified is that le Monde called Bayer an antisemite in 2009, then again on January 8th, 2011 (in a piece about BZ’s MH article). Then on January 11th, 2011 Bayer in the MH called Le Monde ‘garbage’ (a szemét Le Monde).

    So indeed in January last year Le Monde and BZ didn’t seem to be on the best terms, but I’m not sure it had anything to do with the Klubrádió broadcast, as Vienna’s Le Monde correspondent surely has her own sources (and opinions).

    And I’m not sure about the alleged ‘commissions’ either. No piece by BZ has ever been published in Le Monde; why would they ask him, after calling him an antisemite in 2009 ? Because of his proximity with OV ? It doesn’t make much sense.

  12. “It was a strange feeling to represent the only economically successful country in this company. And here are these unsuccessful losers who give advice to him, the only successful one. But he took no offense!”

    What a jerk..!
    He wasn’t wearing his jacket straight, as I’ve seen it…
    He should have.

  13. Eva S. Balogh :
    Orbán in the last minute cancelled his trip to China. Allegedly because of the extraordinary session of parliament. That explanation sounds most unlikely. So, what do you think is behind the decision? Here is my guess: It looks that the EP most likely will vote for the Tavares report. After that kind of defeat going to China would put Orbán at a great disadvantage vis-à-vis the Chinese.

    Maybe China did not want him after all. Last time Orban visited Egypt…..

  14. Eva S. Balogh :
    Well, this will be the real test. Because I think that there will be chaos starting on Monday. As is the locations of these shops are very uneven. Often they are very close to each other while in other districts there are no stores in miles. And the smokers, and there are far too many of them in Hungary, will be popping mad.

    It will be like under Kadar when at Christmas time we all lined up hours for bananas!

  15. Ron :

    I do not think it has anything to do with Hungary, but with the current Trade War between China and the EU regarding solar panels, but VO cannot say this. I believe the Chinese cancelled the trip and not VO.

    It is unlikely. The Chinese just announced the visit and maybe an hour later came the news that the visit is postponed.

  16. OT There are an even growing group of Hungarians who would like to receive their pay in cash versus through the banks as they feel that all the costs are outweighs all the benefits. A few Blog entries before someone posted a break-down on how much you ending up paying for your own money. Now what I find interesting is that all these people are mad at the banks. They are not mad at the Orban government that literally make the banks pay the user fees to the government, they are mad at the banks. Orban again managed to turn various groups against each other while the government is the one who put the extra burden on individuals, not the banks! Can some political group for goodness sake put up posters that shows how much money the government takes from the transactions!!!!

  17. Mesterhazy of MSzP just held a rally in Nyiregyhaza. He uttered too many of promises and slogan after slogan. This is not the way to beat Fidesz.

    When will MSzP replace this nice but ineffective leader?

  18. tappanch :

    Mesterhazy of MSzP just held a rally in Nyiregyhaza. He uttered too many of promises and slogan after slogan. This is not the way to beat Fidesz.

    When will MSzP replace this nice but ineffective leader?

    They don’t seem to realize that the electorate no longer believes in promises. What they should tell them: we will try to do our best to make the economy grow and with it better life for everybody.

  19. Eva S. Balogh :
    And it is also absolutely useless to court Fidesz supports in Transylvania. Bajnai is there today where he received a T-shirt with the following: “I am a tourist, not a Hungarian.” It clearly shows that E14 and to some extent MSZP have the wrong strategy of courting right-wingers in and out of the country.
    http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/29/turista_vagyok_nem_magyar/

    Totally agree, Eva.
    I’m sure, that Bajnai is on the wrong track, furthermore, he seems to execute the Fidesz’s manuscript to the letter, he does what they expect him to do.
    This kind of “in-between” stance is far too characterless to effectively attract the undecided majority – they certainly won’t settle for this kind of half-as*ed solution, they want changes, not only improvements and corrections.

    The only way to involve the over of the border Hungarians – in my opinion – would be to provide them the possibility to their own representation in the Hungarian parliament.
    If it would be implemented, the people in Transylvania or/and Slovakia, Vojvodina, etc. would be able to be involved and effect on decisions regarding their contact with the ‘Motherland’, or anything involving them, at the same time they wouldn’t – because they shouldn’t – fiddle with the party-politics in mainland Hungary. In such case wouldn’t be necessary to address the voting rights, since they would be able to vote for their own representatives – as in any normal case in any district in Hungary (talking of equal rights, shell we?) without the unpleasantries of the unavoidable conflicts, what inevitable will arise, when uncle Áron from Csíkszereda will decide, who will be the MP of Bácsalmás or whatever.

    If anything, these Transylvanian trips should make the local population aware, that instead of being used as toys in Orbán’s puppet show, they should have their own MP-s instead, as anybody else in Hungary does.

  20. Ahh, the Hungarian brain trust in Koloszvar…under orders..have produced the Bajnai welcome. Well, we knew right wingers had no manners.
    We also knew that if one feeds these Fidesz-types bullshit…they’ll think it’s momma’s chocolate pie!

  21. Eva S. Balogh :
    And it is also absolutely useless to court Fidesz supports in Transylvania. Bajnai is there today where he received a T-shirt with the following: “I am a tourist, not a Hungarian.” It clearly shows that E14 and to some extent MSZP have the wrong strategy of courting right-wingers in and out of the country.
    http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/29/turista_vagyok_nem_magyar/

    Next time he should wear a T-shirt saying “I am a real Hungarian and not a puppet. I am running for the best interest of all Hungarians, nor for my Hungarian interests.”

  22. Eva S. Balogh :

    oneill :
    If I were a smoker it would be now that I would stop. To give money to these crooks is more than I could stomach. I suggest to all those smokers to stop. It would be good for their health, good for their pocketbooks, and good for their conscience.

    And the architect of the only successful economy in Europe can then rack that up as a success for his non-smoking policy.

    It seems that once an electorate is foolish (or cynical or sinister) enough to let a gangster like Orban past the post, and with a supermajority, anything and everything can be spun into a Catch-22 in his favour.

  23. @Steven Harnard: “And the architect of the only successful economy in Europe can then rack that up as a success for his non-smoking policy.” I wouldn’t even mind that.. it would still mean a healthier population and less money going to these mobsters.

  24. I didn’t want to go into the smoking v. non-smoking controversy because I realize the enormity of passions that the topic can arouse. Perfectly intelligent people whom I actually admire can say the stupidest things about their rights to smoke and the outlandish forces that limit their freedom which they consider outright tyranny.

    But I can assure them that it is not as difficult to give up smoking if one has a real reason to do so. It can be a serious scare for someone’s health. Or someone can be ashamed when one realizes that the least educated people still smoke. Or, in this case, one doesn’t want to add to the riches of Fidesz supporters.

    A few years ago I had some people in for lunch. There were six of us around the table. One of us happened to be a Serbian dentist. Once upon the time we all smoked. Today none of us do. So, it can be done. It is a bit uncomfortable for a week or two but after that the battle is won.

  25. Eva S. Balogh :
    And it is also absolutely useless to court Fidesz supports in Transylvania. Bajnai is there today where he received a T-shirt with the following: “I am a tourist, not a Hungarian.” It clearly shows that E14 and to some extent MSZP have the wrong strategy of courting right-wingers in and out of the country.
    http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/29/turista_vagyok_nem_magyar/

    Not so sure about that. Their vote is going to matter in the next election no matter what. It would be a giant luxury to automatically give them to Fidesz. Yeah a bunch of idiots waited for him with that T-Shirt, but you don’t know what people who don’t make any T-shirt thought of the visit. Plus it’s not that he had anywhere else to be, I think this visit was well worth it. The opposition has to court away some people who are on the more conservative side otherwise they are not going to get 50%+1 seats in a thousand year (as Sackhoes pointed out a few posts ago, just beating Fidesz is hard enough and in itself totally insufficient). The left have been having absolutely no idea about what to do with “nation policy” (that’s such an awkward term in both languages). At least Gordon is trying to get an idea.

  26. Eva S. Balogh :
    And it is also absolutely useless to court Fidesz supports in Transylvania. Bajnai is there today where he received a T-shirt with the following: “I am a tourist, not a Hungarian.” It clearly shows that E14 and to some extent MSZP have the wrong strategy of courting right-wingers in and out of the country.
    http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/29/turista_vagyok_nem_magyar/

    That’s all true, but this isn’t about courting Fidesz supports. It’s about courting the Hungarians abroad.

    Now that we gave them citizenship and voting rights we have to pay attention to them. These people will never give a hoot about the Hungarian economy or the problems in education or health care inside of the borders. What they care about is their ethnic roots. Inside the border most Hungarians didn’t care about Trianon during the Kadar regime (I didn’t) but these people grew up in the Trianon memories through several generations. They lived as a minority and many times they suffered because of it. Hungarian governments didn’t care, even after Kadar, until these people became citizens. That should have been the “oh, shit” moment a long time ago. Votes, Baby! V O T E S!

    I seriously doubt that the Romanian Hungarians (Hungarian Romanians?) are inherently Fidesz supporters. They want to support a government that really helps them, not just waxes poetic about unity and puts out the Szekler flag on the Parliament. That is easy. They want a government in Budapest that beats the drums all over the world if the minority rights of the Hungarians are trampled on. A government that gives them material support to preserve their culture, no matter how the political winds are blowing. For this they don’t necessarily need a minority group in the Hungarian parliament, but it definitely can help if they have their own lobby in the house.

    This is what Gordo should tell them. There is no need to support the extra-right in Budapest for protection and help. This Turul Trash, that gave him that t-shirt, is not the Transylvanian Hungarians. Those are normal people.

  27. Bayaer Zsolt’s gross language, hought and expression are really sickening. I am amazed that ‘freedom of speech’ laws permit outright incitement of group hatred and wanton killing.

    But, if you use equal language about Fidesz and the TEK or similar will be sent after you.

    Welcome to country of The Friends of Orbán’s Maffia Company.

    Another sad day for Schiff and others attacked, a Gross day for Mankind…

  28. Eva: ” … one doesn’t want to add to the riches of Fidesz supporters … So, it can be done. It is a bit uncomfortable for a week or two but after that the battle is won.”

    You’re right. Unfortunately, for many people life in Hungary right now is so stressful that it’s a particularly difficult time to quit smoking, perhaps particularly for the many families who have just lost their stores and livelihoods.

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