Politics and finances: Orbán’s Hungary today

Judging from the comments, most readers of Hungarian Spectrum consider Sándor Csányi’s spectacular exit from the ranks of shareholders of OTP an event that overshadows all other news, including whatever the current opposition is doing. Perhaps in the long run the panic that took hold of Budapest yesterday following the precipitous fall in the stock price of Hungary’s largest bank might prove to be more significant than any purely political event. However, what happened at OTP cannot be separated from politics.

By now we know that even before Csányi, the CEO of OTP, decided to sell his OTP stock worth about 26 million euros, some other high-level officials of the bank had already gotten rid of theirs. I assume they sold because of the probability that the government will “take care of the Forex loans one way or the other.” The exact way is still not entirely clear, but it is likely that the banks will again be the ones that will have to bear the financial burden of the “government assistance.” This rumor began to circulate about a week ago.

And then came Viktor Orbán’s interview with Margit Fehér of The Wall Street Journal. In this interview Orbán made it clear that the bank levies are here to stay. He has reneged on his initial promise that the very high extra taxes on banks would be needed for only a couple of years. Now the official position is that the bank levies will remain until the national debt is under 50% of GDP–perhaps in ten years “if the euro zone could do better.”

Another political decision that most likely had an impact on the misfortunes of OTP was the government’s abrupt announcement of the “nationalization” of 104 credit unions privately owned but functioning under the umbrella of TakarékBank Zrt. TakarékBank and its credit unions are really the banks of the countryside. They are present in 1,000 smaller towns and villages, which means that they cover about a third of all Hungarian communities. One can learn more about TakarékBank here. One thing is important to know. TakarékBank was run by and with the consent of the individual owners and board members. Clearly, the state wants to take over the whole organization and most likely run it as a state bank. What is happening here is no less than highway robbery. As some people said, the last time something like this happened in Hungary was during the Rákosi period. Sándor Demján, chairman of TakarékBank’s board, swears that they will keep fighting all the way to Strasbourg to prove that what the Hungarian government is doing amounts to nationalization without any monetary compensation.

If Orbán succeeds in the nationalization of TakarékBank, it might pose a serious threat to OTP. All in all, it’s no wonder that OTP officials didn’t think that their investment was safe. The alarm bell might sound in foreign banks as well (don’t forget that Orbán’s plans include a banking sector that is at least 50% Hungarian owned), and if that happens the whole banking sector might collapse. But I guess that would fit in with Orbán’s goal of tearing down all the carry-overs from the past and replacing them with his own original creations.

Let’s return now to the interview Orbán gave to The Wall Street Journal. Some of his statements are just a regurgitation of what he said in his rambling speech to the foreign ministry officials about a week ago but this time in even stronger language. For example: “The future of Europe is Central Europe” and by “now we are once again part of [this] powerhouse.” He also repeated some of his often used lines about the nonexistent strides Hungary has made since he took over: the national debt is falling, foreign trade is rocketing, Hungary no longer needs “other people’s money,” unemployment is falling, and finally that when he took office only 1.8 million people paid taxes but now that number is “close to 4 million.” No one has any idea where Orbán got his figures about the number of taxpayers, but they bear no resemblance to reality.

The interview is a rare self-portrait that could be the topic of another post, but here I would like to bring up two points.

This is the first time, at least to my knowledge, that Orbán openly declared that he really doesn’t want to join the eurozone. This despite the fact that Hungary is obligated to adopt the euro as the country’s currency since it was part of the conditions for membership in the European Union. But today Orbán thinks that Hungary “should exploit the advantages of not being in the eurozone.” I was already suspicious when he insisted that the Constitution should include a sentence stipulating that Hungary’s currency is the forint, but in the interview he was quite explicit on the subject: to change the constitution’s declaration that Hungary’s currency is the forint “will require a two-third vote of Parliament. So, to join the euro will require a strong, unified majority. This guarantees that it will not be a divisive issue. Whether Hungary joins will depend a lot on how well the new, integrated eurozone functions.”

And finally a point that might interest amateur psychologists. Orbán said: “When you have to save your country, to renew your country–that is when a job like this is appealing to someone like me. This is a real challenge, not just like reorganizing a bureaucracy. People like me, we like to do something significant, something extraordinary. History has provided me that chance. Actually, it provided it three times. I’ve always gotten historical challenges as a leader. When things are going well, I seem to lose the elections, because the people don’t need me anymore.” There is a Hungarian saying “A próféta szólna belőled!” meaning I hope your prophecy comes true. But all joking aside, it seems that Orbán is not confident about winning the next elections. He is afraid that all his extraordinary accomplishments will only make an opposition victory more likely. I guess the winning campaign slogan, contrary to everything we know about electorates, would be: “If you’re better off than you were four years ago, throw the bum out!”

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45 comments

  1. Eva: and finally that when he took office only 1.8 million people paid taxes but now that number is “close to 4 million.” No one has any idea where Orbán got his figures about the number of taxpayers, but they bear no resemblance to reality.

    Absolutely, the number of tax payers in 2009 was about 3.65 million. And the number is decreasing since as is the population.

    http://books.google.hu/books?id=MWpiGrpgE0IC&pg=PP9&lpg=PP9&dq=taxpayers+hungary+2009&source=bl&ots=RU0s5yCOxU&sig=uZ2KE6MirbvMqWP7-WfX-LLg3R4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=JQ7rUaDhNcXj4QSdu4HwAg&ved=0CGQQ6AEwCTgK

    http://secularhungary.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/government-90-of-taxpayers-are-church-members/

  2. Eva: But all joking aside, it seems that Orbán is not confident about winning the next elections. He is afraid that all his extraordinary accomplishments will only make an opposition victory more likely.

    I am not always in agreement with VO, but in this case I am. Unfortunately, the opposition will have a majority, but not enough to make the necessary changes. The country will go down the drain, and VO by losing the election will actually win, as he and his henchmen constantly will try to sabotage any change.

  3. Calling from Budapest.

    The taxi driver who brought us from Ferihegy to the Swob hegy all across town complained bitterly about the rising costs and dropping income. He said soon all taxis who want to keep their licence (many are private but operate through some dispatcher, for example at the airport) will have to be painted yellow. This costs about 1100 dollars. I saw petrol prices at 490 forint. In 1993 it was about 160 forint and until 2010 it hovered mostly aroung 250 forint. I’ll report more as I observe more.

    As one can easily see, OTP is mostly in foreign hands, although some of the foreigners live in Hungary. Csányi’s and other board members’ stakes were minimal.

    Although Orbán has a tortured relationship with reality and is rather uneducated he is not mentally ill. He probably just over-compensated his inferiority complex to the degree of megalomania. And he is, as the French would say “mythomane”, i.e. a compulsive liar.

    I fail to see, though, why Orbán should be afraid of not winning the next election (if there is any). The majority dislikes him, but they still see no alternative (so they’ll stay home), and the vast majority does not live in relatively sophisticated Budapest, so they are uninformed and have a basically apolitical tradition. And then there are the election laws which make it pretty neigh impossible to unseat him.

  4. Another interesting thing about OTP: Its shares took quite a dip towards the end of June. But miraculously it went up to one of the highest points in recent history – and that was when Csány sold.

  5. “When things are going well, I seem to lose the elections, because the people don’t need me anymore.”

    Great. Does Orban realize that it’s sentences like this that prove how little he knows / cares about democracy?

    I lose elections, I, not the party or something…, and in a real democracy, party leaders don’t lose electionS. They lose one, and then they stop being the party leader.

    Let’s not even think about the absurdity of what he means here – if I was a Hungarian, living and voting in Hungary, I would be offended. Like Hungarians are so stupid they go: “Oh, he is so wonderful, he has saved the country again, let’s vote for someone real bad who can mess us up again”. 😀

  6. “When things are going well, I seem to lose the elections, because the people don’t need me anymore.”

    Right. This is why people get rid of dictators …

    Herr Hitler! We loved what you did with Europe! Now “raus” …
    Comrade Stalin! Those awesome gulag camps! Loveee … Now please die!
    Ave Nero! We loved the fireworks and the fiddling … but please commit suicide!
    Mr Ceausescu! We loved the stadiums … now “say hello to my little friend” (Pacino).

    Mr Orban! …

  7. There is a very interesting article on NOL about the Orban family’s finances around Felcsut.
    It is around the soccer stadium Orban is building. Orban, his wife and his father have been purchasing and leasing large agricultural areas that will likely be turned into parking areas, as well as other real estates. THe shopping spree started long before the official project itself. THe head of the Dunaszovetkezet credit union (the only credit union in the country that will not be nationalized) have been provided large financing to the project since at least 2007.
    http://nol.hu/belfold/20130720-csaladi_focibiznisz

  8. Minusio :
    Although Orbán has a tortured relationship with reality and is rather uneducated he is not mentally ill. He probably just over-compensated his inferiority complex to the degree of megalomania. And he is, as the French would say “mythomane”, i.e. a compulsive liar.

    I am amazed that you think that a megalomaniac is not mentally ill. But apart from your or my definition of mental illness, if somebody who said in interview the same garbage as Orban did in The Wall Street Journal is sane then God save us! As an amateur psychologist I agree with Prof. Balogh’s suggestion that he is afraid of losing the next election. Moreover, I believe that his increasingly insane pronouncements are also connected to his increased stress over the next 6-8 months. That should give us hope!

  9. Hungary is a blueprint for destabilization, and is a means of kicking out a block from the wall of EU…

  10. How about a conspiracy theory. This run on OTP could have been planned so that the government can step in and save it.

  11. Ron: you completely misunderstand it. Orbán is managing expectations within his ranks. He mentioned it countless times already -of course always in a half-joking manner (at least many people thought he was joking and he was, in a way) – that they might not win again, that we have to prepare for a loss etc. So if he loses, he is on record, he can point to his repeated warnings to.

    But in reality top politicians at the moment are very confident that they will win and a loss would be a huge disappointment for them. It’s not like with MSZP which knew it positively that they will lose and lose very badly. There is no such feeling at all at Fidesz at present.

    Although, and he would be right, Orbán can sell it as a good thing: let the lefty coalition self destruct, and so Fidesz comes back in two years and they will control everything anyway given their entrenched pals at the media, courts, prosecution, media authority, national bank etc. At least they can have a couple of months of holiday.But Orbán will remain at Fidesz until he lives.

    For Orbán it’s a win-win.

  12. Orbán had a strong point in one of his recent interviews (perhaps in the WSJ) along the lines that under MSZP people did not feel that they were protected, cared about. It’s the left’s problem, they are too aloof and too intellectual, removed from ordinary people.

    Orbán works always for the people as against banks/EU etc,. That is his strong image.

    He knows instinctively that votes come only from people and not from banks or Viviane Reading.

    And his image has been that he takes aways from big bad corporations, goes against the EU to “protect the rights of hungarians”, etc.

    Try to understand that voters don’t get long term consequences, ie. that eventually they have to pay for this sectoral special taxes, that investment decreases and that is bad, and other sophisticated ideas.

    They understand only what is now: is it better now that natural gas is cheaper?

    They feel that the leader (Orbán) is working for them and does not care about intellectual issues like the constitutions (as the majority cannot even define the term).

    All politicians are corrupt, but do I want a politician who repeatedly proved that he only cares about the people (goes against strong lobbies like the banks, the EU, etc.) or an aloof one, who is cozy with his intellectual frineds at Brussels or Budapest??

    We will see.

  13. Éva, cheshire cat, Mutt: “When things are going well, I seem to lose the elections, because the people don’t need me anymore.”

    It is true, most people have forgotten how the first Orbán government ended. It was in shame, among scandals, corruption, empty state coffers, illegal contracts signed after the lost elections in 2002 – and higher debt.

    What best shows that Fidesz is really a party in Orbán’s possession is the fact that he was not sent packing after he had also lost the second election in 2006. (Actually he lost three elections. The first time was in 1994, when he was still a liberal…)

  14. Re Minusio’s experience with the cab driver. In the middle of a recession the mayor of Budapest suddenly discovers that yellow cabs are a must. I guess, Tarlós visited New York and liked the yellow cabs there. Everything they do are against logic and practicality. This way you can make yourself pretty much hated in no time. And since they don’t listen to anyone and just go on their merry way they might actually lose the elections.

  15. Tarlós is a goner. There is absolutely no way Fidesz/Tarlós are reelected at the municipality level in Budapest — of course provided there will be a mayor position at all for Budapest who is elected directly (because Fidesz is thinking about elimintaing the position and leave only some gerrymenderaed local municipalities within Budapest who may elect the mayor or a similar, but formal position indirectly).

    Tarlós’s achievements so far: (A) cutting the trees at Római Fürdő (his home constituency, where he promised to his construction business pals that he will arrange for the building of barriers against the Danube, even though the houses were built illegally or at least against the zoning rules), (B) introducig the yellow cabs (and raising the prices very substantially), (C) nationalizing Margit sziget from district XIII., the only remaining MSZP-lead district (where he intends to build a lot of stuff, which is always the old story: build, even if unnecessary, but you can steal only from big projects). Not a very long list.

    He is hated uniformly in Budapest. But again, whatever happens in Budapest has no relevance whatsoever nationally, as the national elections are geared/gerrymendeared towards the rural, outside of Budapest disctricts, many of which are 80+% right wing constituencies since 1990, so whole regions are simply are not for the opposition to grab.

  16. I do not think that many can drivers would vote for Fidesz again (that was their popular choice for the previous election.
    I am not sure if Fidesz will be able to win back most of the teachers (but then again if you recall the footage about the Rozsa Hoffman affair at the Education Conference where some of our “teachers” behaved like bullies….. http://index.hu/video/2013/01/18/educatio/ ) Many teachers outside of Budapest are favour the Jobbik by now
    Questionable who won over the farmers, and the small enterprise/venture holders (trafikmutyi)
    I think nurses and doctors would not vote for Fidesz either.

    What I try to say that although I do believe that Fidesz shed from its fan club, I am not sure if it is the gain for the Jobbik or for the united left.

    SLightly OT: Mate Kocsis the infamous major of the Eight District became unhinged. Mate found himself in media frenzy, when his communication team (or himself) picked up the gloves on Facebook for some comments, and replied kind of Fidesz style, known from the pages of Magyar Hirlap. Now, his Facebook page makes an interesting read, as what you will find that his (paid?) supporters are few, and the accusations against him and his party are plenty. https://www.facebook.com/kocsismate
    Also, I was slightly suspicious of his state of mind to begin with (homeless people should be put to jail, etc.), but it is worth to read his answer to lawsuit launched against him on the Fidesz’ homepage http://www.fidesz.hu/index.php?Cikk=194230
    Mate always “advertises” himself as a DR. Well for a Dr. the style, the language, and the structure of the letter makes you wonder.

  17. B. Weidung :
    Tarlós is a goner. There is absolutely no way Fidesz/Tarlós are reelected at the municipality level in Budapest — of course provided there will be a mayor position at all for Budapest who is elected directly (because Fidesz is thinking about elimintaing the position and leave only some gerrymenderaed local municipalities within Budapest who may elect the mayor or a similar, but formal position indirectly).

    Can you expend on that? I have not heard about this yet.

  18. Marcel: And the people, as we see from polls, are exteremly, terribly concerned about it, right?

    (I was at the demonstrations about the 4th amendments, with about 5-6k people, and these were the first real demonstrations about the constitutionat all).

    Orbán, a lawyer and power-obsessed person was obviously doing first things first: entrenching himself (as well as, like a good lawyer, having fun with toying with a legal instrument).

    But he chose wisely: people don’t give a damn about it. They care about electricty prices, fighting with banks (your monthly payments get smaller), fighting with “enemies hell-bent on destroying Hungary” etc. Like it was mentioned here, people cannot even tell what a constitution is, how is it different from a normal law (statute), what is its importance etc.

    The polls clearly show one thing: that in the last six months there was one single issue which had any measurable effect on party popularity. Only one.

    It was the rezsi-csökkentés (the idea of utility rate dcerease). Real or not, the masses loved it , got them excited and rewarded Fidesz for it.

    No other scandal, news, development (not even the trafik-mutyi, which by the way did not get to millions of voters) affected the poll numbers in any meaningful way.

    People are tuned out, and don’t give a damn about matters they consider as ‘normal’ (even if it is a new normal). But they sure love free lunches.

    And who cares about tomorrow? At least we pay less now.

  19. Kocsis is something else. Primitive fellow and with no compunctions about brazenly lying day in and day out. I would also like to know what he could possibly mean by “aktuális felháborodás.” Such nonsensical combination reminds me of the official DISZ secretary of my dorm before 1956. She was one of those people who finished high school in one year and was basically illiterate. I will never forget one of her infamous sayings. “We must effectively decorate the building” for some party occasion. She loved the word “effektive.” She stuck that word in front of everything. Well, “aktuális” is about as nonsensical before the noun “indignation” as her “effective decoration” was.

  20. Tappanch: I am not sure Csányi would break this news via MN.

    And he may be diplomatic enough not to comment, especially as this might be a political message for him to actually retire if he did not plan on it until today.

    In any case, if true, it’s a good justiifcation at least PR-wise.against the insider dealing/profiteering media charges.

    But I guess, the end of the story has not been written yet.

  21. Uj Péter (editor in chief of 444.hu, formerly of Index)’s view of the Magyar Nemzet news piece about Csányi’s health issues and retirement:

    “Mondjuk azon se lepődnék meg, ha holnap azt hoznák, hogy Fekete-tenger melletti dácsájában menekülés közben önként tarkón lőtte magát”.

    “I would not be surprized if Magyar Namzet wrote that Csányi shot the back of his own neck while fleeing from his dacha at the Black Sea”.

  22. Eva S. Balogh :
    Since they don’t listen to anyone and just go on their merry way they might actually lose the elections.

    I wish you were correct. However, I cannot agree. I think Fidesz will not only win the 2014 elections, but keep their 2/3 majority.

    First reason: 10 months is an eternity in politics. Orban and his gang of simlis will be able to enact plenty more populist moves, such as further utility-price cuts. They will relentlessly attack Bajnai, trotting out everything from the Goose Thief libel to lies about azelmultnyolcev. Bajnai and the MSZP have already proven themselves inept at handling such attacks.

    Second reason: No kampanycsend. Fidesz’s grassroots organization is full of cash and energy; the MSZP’s grassroots support is dwindling, and E14/DK has no nationwide organization. Fidesz will run a US-style get-out-the-vote campaign, while the Democratic Opposition sits around twiddling their thumbs and complaining about how unfair everything is.

    Third reason: The realities of the new voting system. In order to unseat Fidesz, the Democratic Opposition will have to win a large number of individual constituencies. At present, they are not strong enough to accomplish this feat. The Democratic Opposition can probably win three seats in Budapest, one in Kazincbarcika-Miskolc, one in Szeged, and possibly one in Pecs. I don’t see anywhere else where they are strong enough.

    Barring an incredible twist of fate between now and May 2014, the Democratic Opposition and Jobbik together can pick up a maximum of 16 out of 106 seats in the individual constituencies. That leaves 90 for Fidesz-MSZMP. And since it is inconceivable that Fidesz will get any less than 40% of the list vote, they will surpass 134 seats in Parliament and maintain their 2/3 majority.

    Fourth reason: Orban is dead set on keeping absolute power and will use all manner of dirty tricks to achieve that goal. This includes revising the election law up until the day of the election, as well as outright fraud.

    In light of the above arguments, if you have any reasons for optimism, please share them!

  23. Luigi15 :
    Marcel: And the people, as we see from polls, are exteremly, terribly concerned about it, right?

    Of course not. Yet at some point every incumbent running for reelection has to face his own record. If the reduced energy bills is the only thing to show for four years in power, good luck with that.

  24. Seal Driver:

    while many of your points are indeed relevant, the situation is somewhat better.

    For a start, most Budapest constituencies can be flipped compared to 2010, if the left gets united. (although it is really the very minimal start).

    Many constituencies are impossible to flip, such as Hódmezóvásárhely, Balatonfüred, many in Zala county etc. But the situation is not lost at all outside those areas.

    The number of voters can increase until 2014 and most of the undecided (or those not reavealing their preferences) are opposition leaning and can decide the majority. Its not that Fidesz popularity will decrease, but with increasing the opposition leaning voters, their percentage will decrease and can get below 50%, even perhaps as low as 40%.

    That said, without 2/3s a new government cannot govern and remain stable — but that is very unlikely, because of the garrymandeared die-hard, extremely consistently right wing rural constituencies.

  25. HOW LONG ORBAN WILL STAY

    Orban will stay until the country is bankrupt and then he will decamp immediately, probably to southern France or a suburb of London.

  26. Orbán’s interviews and performances abroad address only the home constituency. Magyar Nemzet and similar venues [government troll Ferenc Kumin: “It’s a fascinating interview” — better would be if Orbán had said “I gave a fascinating interview”] can find the right quotes and the public can be reassured that the PM puts any foreign meddlers into their place.

    The interview contains also some interesting views on democracy and God and Asians [at least not “Orientals”]:
    “Ideologically speaking, democracy as we know it is based on two cultural foundations: the first is that God created us in his own likeness and the second is that to destroy it is therefore a sin. Asians don’t have that but they have a different kind of foundation. ”

    (It is a good question what the “it” refers to in that shouldn’t be sinfully destroyed: God, democracy, or our likeness of God.) Same sort of crap ideas are shared by the Parliament, see the preamble of the constitution or this quote from the law that introduced the Day of National Togetherness, remembering Trianon: “We [the MPs] who believe that God is the Master of history and those who strive to understand the course of history from other sources…”

    Historians like Éva must be delighted by these erudite views.

  27. Eva S. Balogh :

    tappanch :
    Breaking news from Orban’s mouthpiece, M. Nemzet:
    Banker Csanyi is about to retire!
    http://mno.hu/belfold/csanyi-sandor-visszavonul-1173911

    Somehow I don’t think that Magyar Nemzet is right.

    HVG updated the story. According to the press officer this is not the case.
    http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20130721_Cafolja_az_OTP_Csanyi_betegsegenek_es_vis

    The same HVG runs a story on that the oligarchs are very unhappy, according to MSZP.
    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130721_Csanyi_Demjan_es_Szeles_most_banta_meg_ho

    It seems that the summer is used for some pay back time via the media. I wonder how that will work out.

  28. petofi :
    HOW LONG ORBAN WILL STAY
    Orban will stay until the country is bankrupt and then he will decamp immediately, probably to southern France or a suburb of London.

    I don’t completely agree. More likely to be an expensive inner-London area like Mayfair, Knightsbridge or Chelsea. Forget suitcases of cash or Wachovia bank: buying properties in these areas is the trendy money-launderer’s choice. What else are you to do with the millions you’ve stolen from your countrymen? (At the moment it’s mainly Greeks buying these properties – and people wonder why there’s no money left in Greece!).

  29. The lack of firm news & Fidesz/mno.hu rumor-mongering breeds near panic:

    Old lady – “should I take my money out of OTP tomorrow?”

  30. Talking of elections:

    in 1998 Mr Orban got less votes than Mr Horn but won.

    in 2006 Mr Orban got more votes than Mr Gyurcsany but lost

    in 2010 Mr Orban took 64% of the seats
    53% of the votes
    34% of the electorate

    interesting election set-up

  31. @Po’K

    Don’t be surprised: Hungarians love the stealthy cheating. The 1989 constitution is a ‘swiss-cheese’ setup if ever there was one.

    But have a gander what the districts did in Budapest with privatization: while people could purchase their apartments, the three or four store-fronts of most apartment building at ground level were retained by the district or sold off to cronies (usually a relative). They ought to have been given to the building to help with refurbishing but of course, that might have been ‘fair’ and ‘correct’, and therefore lacked the thrill of thieving.

  32. Kiiiiiur :
    Seal Driver:
    while many of your points are indeed relevant, the situation is somewhat better.
    For a start, most Budapest constituencies can be flipped compared to 2010, if the left gets united. (although it is really the very minimal start).
    Many constituencies are impossible to flip, such as Hódmezóvásárhely, Balatonfüred, many in Zala county etc. But the situation is not lost at all outside those areas.
    The number of voters can increase until 2014 and most of the undecided (or those not reavealing their preferences) are opposition leaning and can decide the majority. Its not that Fidesz popularity will decrease, but with increasing the opposition leaning voters, their percentage will decrease and can get below 50%, even perhaps as low as 40%.
    That said, without 2/3s a new government cannot govern and remain stable — but that is very unlikely, because of the garrymandeared die-hard, extremely consistently right wing rural constituencies.

    Thanks for your reply, Kiiiiiur.

    Again, I wish I shared your optimism. I see the MSZP keeping the 13th District in Budapest. The Democratic Opposition might pick up the constituencies that include Districts 23 and 21. Another possibility for a Democratic Opposition pickup is District 15, but as far as I know, the constituency that includes District 15 is united with parts of the 16th and 14th districts, which practically ensures a Fidesz victory there.

    Districts 8 and 9, once SZDSZ strongholds, have been almost entirely co-opted by the Fidesz party machine. It is also hard to see District III returning to the ranks of the MSZP, given that it’s Tarlos’ home district.

    Fidesz’s list vote may indeed decrease to 40%. But thanks to Orban’s ingenious “compensate the winner” scheme, the “extra” votes from the constituencies will be added to Fidesz’s list vote. That means a sure Fidesz triumph on the list side, too.

    The new system is entirely geared towards parties who have control over public finances and have strong local organizations. The MSZP has lost virtually all control over public monies and its local organizations are very weak. We have only 10 months until the election and I see very little chance that the situation will change.

  33. Seal Driver :

    Eva S. Balogh :
    Since they don’t listen to anyone and just go on their merry way they might actually lose the elections.

    I wish you were correct. However, I cannot agree. I think Fidesz will not only win the 2014 elections, but keep their 2/3 majority.
    First reason: 10 months is an eternity in politics. Orban and his gang of simlis will be able to enact plenty more populist moves, such as further utility-price cuts. They will relentlessly attack Bajnai, trotting out everything from the Goose Thief libel to lies about azelmultnyolcev. Bajnai and the MSZP have already proven themselves inept at handling such attacks.
    Second reason: No kampanycsend. Fidesz’s grassroots organization is full of cash and energy; the MSZP’s grassroots support is dwindling, and E14/DK has no nationwide organization. Fidesz will run a US-style get-out-the-vote campaign, while the Democratic Opposition sits around twiddling their thumbs and complaining about how unfair everything is.
    Third reason: The realities of the new voting system. In order to unseat Fidesz, the Democratic Opposition will have to win a large number of individual constituencies. At present, they are not strong enough to accomplish this feat. The Democratic Opposition can probably win three seats in Budapest, one in Kazincbarcika-Miskolc, one in Szeged, and possibly one in Pecs. I don’t see anywhere else where they are strong enough.
    Barring an incredible twist of fate between now and May 2014, the Democratic Opposition and Jobbik together can pick up a maximum of 16 out of 106 seats in the individual constituencies. That leaves 90 for Fidesz-MSZMP. And since it is inconceivable that Fidesz will get any less than 40% of the list vote, they will surpass 134 seats in Parliament and maintain their 2/3 majority.
    Fourth reason: Orban is dead set on keeping absolute power and will use all manner of dirty tricks to achieve that goal. This includes revising the election law up until the day of the election, as well as outright fraud.
    In light of the above arguments, if you have any reasons for optimism, please share them!

    Spot on.

    Anyone who thinks Orbán might lose in 2014 is daydreaming.

    And anyone who thinks, even if he did lose in 2014, things would magically get better in some unspecified way, should remove their piros, fehér, zöld glasses and have a good, long look at reality. Things would be so bad with Fidesz in opposition, that we’d be wishing they’d won within weeks.

    Orbán has won – hook, line and sinker. And to get rid of him and make a start at rebuilding what’s left of Hungary by then, will take a hell of a lot more than the pathetic fools currently ‘leading’ the ‘opposition’.

    It’s well past time to wake up. There will be no democratic solution in Hungary – Orbán has abolished democracy.

  34. Very interesting debate between Kiiiur and Seal Driver. While I share the scepticism of Seal, the approach of Kiiiur is more pragmatic in my view. Try how far the opposition can get if it unites even if we know about all the tricks of Fidesz. At some point, utility prices will not suffice to make people happy. In particular, if the opposition will be led by a number of respectable people, and Hungarians from neighbouring countries will be better off than our peace-marchers and freedoms fighters (except the inner circle). OV and his crew will try everything to damage people’s reputations, but this will not work forever.

  35. As always, Kirsten, I admire your optimism. But even Kiiiur ends his comment with the words:

    “That said, without 2/3s a new government cannot govern and remain stable — but that is very unlikely, because of the garrymandeared die-hard, extremely consistently right wing rural constituencies.”

  36. I certainly agree with Seal Driver about the importance of ‘boots on the ground’, ie of an organisation powerful enough to get out first the registrations, then the votes. As the long-term trend in Hungary’s electoral history is a decrease in turnout, the weight of those who show up is now twice as high as it should be.

    Fidesz seems to have such a machine – as illustrated by the pro-OV rallies – while the left-center opposition looks rather weak to me.

  37. Seal:

    as far as I know, although I am not sure about the exact figures, MSZP already prevails in Budapest against Fidesz, and Bajnai is also concentrated in Budapest, so even with gerrymendears most of Budapest could be won by a united opposition (even assuming that Jobbik voters will flock to Fidesz with their dictrict votes, but not with the party list votes).

    This only shows MSZP’s and the left’s problem, their compartmentalized concentartion to Budapest, when in fact rural disctricts will decide and there MSZP has no access to media, no organization, no nothing.

    Bajnai and DK have even less, and despite Schiffer’s media presence LMP is now simply non-existent in most of Hungary.

    What I wrote was simply that a united left (the opposition, even without LMP, who will not join) is not completely hopeless, as it was in 2010.

    Also, you never know what would actually be the good outcome, only historically, if at all. I mean if in 2006 SZDSZ did not get in (this pehaps was decided by a 1% margin) or MSZP got perhaps 1.5% less, then Fidesz would have won and now they did not have a 2/3s entrenched. Perhaps a win by Fidesz by a very narrow margin (so that the would be supported by Jobbik) in 2014 would be a better outcome for the “long term”, although, maybe not.

    Anyway, my view is that until the Fidesz core (Bibo college generation with Kövér, Szájer, Simicska etc.) retires their power cannot really be supplanted, so unbelievably strong is their loyalty to each other (they being their very best friends since 18 and their very identities were fomed through their college community, they simply have no individual identities without each other). It’s the loyalty of a mafia family, which essentially it is. But this bond is not present even with Lázár, Szíjjártó, Kocsis etc. they will have to wield power in a different, more traditional)way, which is about forming alliances and thus will be about compromises.

  38. Kiiiiiiur :
    Seal:
    as far as I know, although I am not sure about the exact figures, MSZP already prevails in Budapest against Fidesz, and Bajnai is also concentrated in Budapest, so even with gerrymendears most of Budapest could be won by a united opposition (even assuming that Jobbik voters will flock to Fidesz with their dictrict votes, but not with the party list votes).

    I think you and I agree on a lot. But I would be excited to see any polling data suggesting that the MSZP has an opinion-poll lead over Fidesz in Budapest.

    Here is the most recent data I found. It’s from Ipsos, which has a reputation for favoring the MSZP:

    Az Ipsos adatai szerint az összes megkérdezett körében Budapesten – április, május és június átlagában – a Fidesz 24 százalékon áll, az MSZP 17, a Jobbik 8, az LMP 2, a DK 1, az Együtt-PM pedig 7 százalékos támogatottsággal rendelkezik, miközben a lakosság 40 százalékának nincs támogatott pártja.

    http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20130708-kormany-ellenzek-budapesten-dontetlenre-allnak

    Fidesz has also won nearly every by-election by a massive margin. By-elections generally are not good indicators of party support, because the only people who bother voting are the die-hard party members, political junkies and people who are realllllly angry at the government.

    However, Fidesz is winning the by-elections by huge margins; that means their get-out-the-vote machinery is much more effective than the opposition’s. Consider the by-elections a dress rehearsal for the general election next May.

  39. London Calling!

    Seal Driver In a ‘normal’ democracy by-elections tend to be a protest vote against the ruling party.

    The slam dunk of Fidesz’ by-election results is very concerning.

    As a bellwether they may read a reduction in popularity in them – but not much.

    Regards

    Charlie

  40. Orban: “Ideologically speaking, democracy as we know it is based on two cultural foundations: the first is that God created us in his own likeness and the second is that to destroy it is therefore a sin. Asians don’t have that … ”

    And so speaks the Magyar.

    I wish dearly that I could share the optimism about anti-Orban feeling. But how is it, as someone who lives 24/7 in rural Hungary, that, since 2010, I have not encountered one person who intends to switch his/her vote from Fidesz to the democratic opposition?

    The question has been posed, on many occasions. But I haven’t encountered ONE.

    The fact is that Fidesz are playing all the right nationalistic, xenophobic and religious cards. They control the media. And talk of any resentment against THEM is misguided.

    The resentment is against life, Europe, Gyurcsany, ‘shadowy forces’, etc.

    Fidesz have won. I’m very sorry. But until there is a high-ranking defection from Fidesz, this is the case.

  41. Seal Driver :

    However, Fidesz is winning the by-elections by huge margins; that means their get-out-the-vote machinery is much more effective than the opposition’s. Consider the by-elections a dress rehearsal for the general election next May.

    Even if I have heard of the Fidesz’s fears regarding their chances in Budapest (only two certain constituencies they expect), but you could legitimately consider any kind of information referring to “reliable sources” as dubious. However, regarding the get-out-the.-vote machinery, you could have better indicators than the by-elections (take the Szentendre example from 2006, Fidesz herded out almost all of their supporters for a by-election in March they won with more then two-thirds of the votes and were convinced that they will win with a huge margin in April given the high number of votes, but they failed to attract any more new voters while the Socialist got a lot of extra ones compared to the by-election), the traditional methods of reconnecting voters, collecting signatures for a popular initiative. If you recall, Fidesz always used this method during the run-up to the elections, with a double aim: to make an impression with a large figure of signatures they claimed to collect and more importantly to get in touch with voters, to prepare the list of potential voters etc. It is clear that they attempts to replace it with the national consultation failed, the ridiculous return rate of sometimes less then 10% made it useless for this purpose. But they started the “petiton” for the utility price decrease. It is an interesting attempt, already the initial figure they set as their target was relatively low compared to the similar attempts in 2001 or 2005. (Maybe they also applied it in 2010 but that campaign was so much without a stake that I did not really follow.) 2 millions instead of 3 million. And in the previous occasions they even claimed to have collected more then the initial plan, 3,2 million and so on. (Well, we never will know the real figure, but if we assume that the “deflator” is constant it is still an indicator of the relative success of the actions.) But this year – despite the bold initial claims it seems to have been a failure. Although they reported initially the quick collection of 1 million and later (already at the end of the fourth week 1,5 million, they only reported the success with 2 million signatures at the end of the 10 week period they initially set for the campaign. Even if we discard the stories about the multiple registration and about people who supposedly signed but received with astonishment the thanking letter from Orbán as insignificant, it suggest that they themselves doubt the capacity of their machinery and it still failed to fulfill their reduced expectations. If Fidesz needed to collect more than 3 million signatures (anything it did mean in reality) to mobilize at the end around 2,3 million voters, how much could they expect after collecting less than 2 millions?

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