Yesterday 1240 delegates gathered in Millenáris Park for Fidesz’s XXV Congress. It was supposed to be held earlier, but the flood that threatened Hungary in the spring intervened. After all, the chairman of the party was busily organizing a defense against the elements.
For a number of years now there has been only one candidate for the post of chairmanship, and that person is naturally Viktor Orbán. Yesterday only a single delegate dared to express his or her dissatisfaction with Viktor Orbán’s leadership by voting against him. Otherwise, there was unanimous, enthusiastic support for the achievements of the party and the government.
By now we are accustomed to increasingly outlandish speeches by the prime minister, and once again he didn’t disappoint us. It seems that the worse the Hungarian political and economic situation is, the shriller Orbán ‘s speeches are.
The war of independence has been the center of his politics over the last three years, but now Orbán extended this war beyond banks, multinationals, and European bureaucrats. Now he is also targeting “the former communists who sold the country to the banks and the multinationals.” Fidesz must win the election because naturally the politicians of the current opposition would do the same again if given the opportunity. The coming election will be a struggle about the future. Whether the Hungarian people want to be “the servants of Europe … the banks and the large corporations … or [ whether they] will be their own masters.” These few sentences give a fair introduction to the speech as a whole. And let me add that the audience was in ecstasy. They loved every word of the speech. The more outlandish the better.
The man who was a purported champion of truthfulness while in opposition now feels free to blatantly disregard the truth. As they say in Hungary, not even his interrogatives are true! He has rewritten his and his party’s history several times, and he treated the party congress to yet another twist of the truth. Orbán began his speech by explaining what the 1990 Fidesz campaign slogan meant. The slogan used the first line of the Hungarian translation of Roxette’s song “Listen to your heart”: “Hallgass a szívedre, szavazz a Fideszre” (Listen to your heart, vote for Fidesz!). It was catchy, in part because it rhymed. There was no more to it. But Orbán came up with a novel explanation to fit in with his current campaign platform. According to him, the slogan meant that “we don’t allow anyone to dictate to us.” I’m afraid one needs an extraordinary amount of imagination to come up with such an interpretation. But to his audience it didn’t matter.
So, if someone starts a speech with a historical fabrication what can one expect from the rest? Not much. According to him, Hungary’s economy is in great shape. When Fidesz took over, the situation was terrible. The socialist-liberal governments ruined the country. When trouble came, “one of the leftist captains” jumped ship while they madly searched for his “brave successor.” It took a long time to find him, but once he became prime minister he introduced one austerity program after another. After his ruinous premiership “he took French leave and actually left the country.” The only reason that so many people are suddenly interested in being prime minister is that now “Hungary performs better, it is stronger than before and won many important battles.” Of course, he was talking about Ferenc Gyurcsány and his “cowardly” successor, Gordon Bajnai, who left the country in shambles. As we know, the Hungarian economic situation then was a great deal better than it is today.
Orbán is expecting an onslaught from the “honey-tongued bankers, the large, international monopolies, their supporters among the bureaucrats of Brussels and their domestic varlets.” This attack on Hungary will be forthcoming as the result of the Orbán government’s second lowering of utility prices that will be enacted into law shortly. “They will do everything in their power to prevent this from happening because we are talking about trillions, huge investments, and guaranteed profits. We are talking here about the real heavies in the field who are ready for anything.”
The Hungarian opposition extends a helping hand to these bankers and multinationals against their own people who are being defended only by Fidesz and the current government. He asked his audience never to forget that “the former communists gave away the country to the speculators, bankers, and multinationals.” Some people claim that all the talk about communists is nonsense because there are no communists in Hungary. “After all, they are younger than we are. Perhaps. But where there are dinosaurs there are also baby dinosaurs.” An interesting concept: the alleged communists are being accused of working for the capitalists–for the bankers and the multinationals. But it seems that Orbán’s audience didn’t find this jarring. They loved it.
The last few minutes of the speech were spent on the coming elections. This election must be won. Every vote counts and all pro-Fidesz votes must be cast. He urged his audience to work very hard because “we will win but only if we rise up to the task.” As a farewell message he added that Fidesz supporters owe him that much because, after all, he devoted twenty-five years for the cause which must be continued. It almost sounded like a threat: if you don’t work hard enough and we lose the election, it will be your fault and the ruin of me.
This speech was delivered a couple of hours before the announcement of the Kecskemét court’s ruling that indeed there were irregularities at one of the polling stations in the Baja by-election and that voting there must be repeated. I have no idea whether Orbán expected such an outcome because some of the judges in Kecskemét have the reputation of having warm feelings toward the current government. But even without this ruling it must have been clear to Orbán that next year’s election might not be a cakewalk for Fidesz even with all the obstacles they managed to build into the electoral system. Lately, the opposition has been doing quite well in traditionally right-wing districts even if not in the polls. As I mentioned earlier, the abrupt cancellation of Orbán’s visit to Baja indicated that Fidesz campaign strategists had an inkling that the party might be handed a defeat.
So, Orbán’s strong emphasis on the election and urging the party faithful to put all their energies into the campaign indicate a certain fear that the actual situation is not that rosy. That’s why the volume is being turned up, appealing to the population by attacking the bankers, the monopolies, the plutocrats, and capitalism in general. This speech could have been delivered by Mátyás Rákosi, as the Demoktratikus Koalíció rightly pointed out.
Good illustration of the state of Hungary,
One Hungarian superman has accomplished it finally.
Has solved most of the problems, and will finish the rest of the little fixes soon.
Some utility price will be reduced, and all utilities will be in the red ink.
There is no need to search for any alternative.
Orban came, bluffed, and won.
A shiny knight will have to tell divine Orban, that he has got no decency.
That stopped a McCarthy.
Seriously, I recommend re-reading 1984. People only talk about Orwellian this or that but most have actually forgotten the book. It is a masterpiece, timely, more than ever before and not very long, easily readable.
There is no other way to understand the psychology of Fidesz than to understand the psychology of power and totalitarianism (Fidesz being a totalitarian party in a quasi-democratic state). It is another and more fundamental question why people want to be part of such a totalitarian organization (it is totalitarian because for its supporters the Fidesz-feeling and -world encompasses their whole life), but it is not the issue here.
(I don’t suggest that Orbán is Big Brother, it would be too simple a parallel and it is not the main point.)
A superficial observer would think, well, we see Orbán who is a tough and charismatic leader of this party. Wrong. Fidesz is unlike almost any other party in Europe I can think of in recent history.
There is no dissent within the party, there are no cliques, no factions and all, genuinely revere Orbán.
(Just think about Zoltán Pokorni who is essentially a powerless, sidelined district mayor, but still he is smitten by Orbán like a teenager. Pokorni with his more rational side knows also that his position is based solely on his “liberal” image, that is the reason why the – otherwise wholly formal – presidium of Fidesz needs him, as well as a woman from the provinces and so on.)
At most, there are some third-level-below-the-top competition for fat projects between Fidesz-loyal entrepreneurs, but that is it.
Surely, the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party before 1989 had more factions and dissent. Vladimir Putin has more siloviki factions vying for his attention. Orbán has none of these and nobody questions this state of affairs from within or even from the people who describe themselves as conservative or right-wing (except for Jobbik, to a certain extent, but they would love to work with Fidesz).
Well, the current FiDeSz is bolshevik in another way too.
1903: the Russian Social Democratic Party splits into a majority (bolshevik) and a minority (menshevik) faction.
1993: the FiDeSz splits into a majority (bolshevik) Orban faction and a minority (menshevik) Fodor faction.
On the other hand, let me state the obvious.
In methods and aggressiveness the current Fidesz and the early (1948) Communists are similar – they both have established a one-party state.
But Communist party leaders did not use their power to enrich themselves and their families, they could not use it, because it would have contradicted their whole ideology.
Orban and Fidesz do not have such ideological restriction.
Ethnic Hungarian new citizens as of September 04, 2013 vs April 04, 2013
Romanian 66.2% [330,970]; + 16.6%
Serbian 18.4%[ 92,192]; + 20.3%
Ukrainian 12.8%[ 64,030]; + 36.4%
All others 2.6%[ 12,905]; + 10.4%
Hungarian debt in billions of euros vs MNB reserves
Debt in foreign currency= -31.5; -28.6
MNB foreign reserves= +34.9; +30.6
Difference= + 3.4; + 2.0
Debt in HUF -36.6; -44.4
Overall difference -33.2; -42.2
Retirement Funds 11.1* 1.0**
(MaNyuP) *2011-05-31 **2013-08-31
Fidesz owns or controls approximately 90% of the Hungarian media, which is a much bigger power than an equivalent share was in 1989 or 1949.
It is not that 90% of the Hungary media is conservative or right-leaning, it is that 90% is partizan Fidesz propaganda with a smart strategy of segmentation. Some target the rural people, some the intellectuals, some are more hard line, some write about issues though with a heavy Fidesz-favoring bent, some simply don’t write about the important issues. It’s extremely sophisticated.
This 90% is not even a media in a traditional sense, but consists of parts of an extremely sophisticated propaganda machinery.
The world is much more mediated, there is much less direct experience (Erfahrung) and this seems to be a tendency which is set to continue.
Such grip is unprecedented in any relatively developed country and is here to stay and will ensure Fidesz’ continued determining influence over Hungary’s politics. There is no question about it.
But does MSZP or Együtt or LMP or anybody else on the left has any media strategy? Absolutely not.
In fact, one cannot name any truly partizan leftist media outlet at all. There are not even self described leftist or opposition journalists in the same way there are thousands of Fidesz supporting media workers. The left does not exist as far as the media is concerned.
Only Jobbik and the far right subculture (?) have a sophisticated and segmented media portfolio, which are all aligned with the party.
I just don’t get the Hungarian left. How can they be so un-visionary?
So the Orban government has accumulated 19 billion euros of extra debt to the bondholders & to the future retirees in 3 1/4 years in power.
The net result of this was a decrease in the GDP.
Unfortunately, the country I love the most has became just like the one I live in and hearing Orban or Berlusconi is the same, a neverending nightmare.
I agree with you. The democratic opposition does not have any non-printed media.
The television channel ATV (reaching the cable subscribers only) is independent, owned by an Evangelical Church.
Klubradio (permitted to broadcast in Budapest only, i.e. it can reach max 20% of the population) has a liberal-minded owner.
RTL Klub is commercial, dealing with almost no politics.
All the other channels and stations are controlled by Fidesz, directly or through its oligarchs.
1984 is surely relevant (re)reading, but it is maybe Animal Farm that actually provides the understanding grid to comprehend and follow the master and ideological plan.
You posed some very relevant questions in your comment.
In my opinion the Left or Opposition’s inability to maneuver with any real success comes down to a “Hungarian” propensity NOT to fully collaborate unless the ‘cooperation’ is COERCED.
Orban has unfortunatley a very advanced level of understanding of basic instinct within the Hungarian ethos, and is making maximum use of that including the use of “coercion” according to the finacial rules of his game. “Ez hat, avagy hatással van” meaning ‘now this has considerable effect.’
Liberal discourse in H. has a poetic sort of meandering, discussive air about it here. Additionally over the past 20+ years people have used up their savings and most leftists canot go out on a limb fighting for a cause because the authorities are constantly sending out messages using examples of what they will and actually do with non-supporters. Being forced out of jobs for non-allegiance to the Orbán methods has become the routine.
To add insult to injury they’ve gone even as far as singling out those on the lowest rang of the ladder – the downtrodden Gypsies (where they cut off the drinking and washing water supply in the middle of the summer) to the homeless where they are being shunted out from the relative warmth of the Subway areas. Consequently there’s another example of psychological manipulation, that EVEN after losing your job and then your apartment once you are on the street, we are futher going to go after you and make your remaining life all hell…
This the answer to the question of “How can they be so un-visionary?”
Simple by being manipulated, underpaid and undernourished. Threatened for over 70 years from every which direction. Falsely promised nirvana for all these years.
Tough to be visionary when you been hoodwinked all these years…
There’s really no reason to think that there was only one district in Baja where FIDESZ cheated. It’s unproved if they did it elswhere, but it has been long proved that this is a tactic they have favoured for years. They will do everything in their power to alter the elections next year. Unfortunately, the voter turnout can be safely estimated under 70% for next year, because a lot of people “don’t see an alternative to FIDESZ” (a stupid argument trough and trough). It will depend on these “undecided” voters if FIDESZ will win with a 3/4th majority or not.
Andy, the top leftist party members don’t have to be afraid too much of becoming homeless, although recruitment is indeed difficult especially in the countryside. Yet, those who are in politics already on the left are just amateurs. They are so hopeless, that the left as a brand gets discredited. Well, it seems it got discredited already beyond repair. I mean who wants to be with the forever losers? LMP itself is a good example, it is a self-defined new leftist party and of course is a bunch of hopeless amateurs. No surprise that that no voter focuses on parties which act hopeless and weak.
András, voters do not get into philosophical arguments. If they see that there is no alternative than it is because the opposition could not convince them that there is one.
That kind of chain voting cheating we saw in Baja of course will be legal now under the new laws as it will not be possible to detect it just by looking at the busing and Fidesz will use that method among many others to make it sure it will win.
But why is MSZP not leading Fidesz by 12 points?? At least in the polls?? It would be one thing for Fidesz to win from a clearly bad position (with a special election system and cheating), but it is not even in a bad position.
Do not forget that the left has practically been mute until a couple of months ago. And to me it is still sedated, isn’t it?
Now the campaign blurs the memories, but I do well remember that a top MSZP insider told me seriously even 5 months ago (that is 3 years after the 2010 elections) that Mesterházy is (according to this guy) paid by Simicska (through Puch or others) and that is why MSZP has been acting so impotent all through the years, when Fidesz in opposition staged a show every two days to grab attention. The other reason is of course everybody was shitting in their pants that Polt will go after them on same made up charge, but Fidesz’ takeover of the prosecution and the courts is hugely MSZP’s fault, it is not as though MSZP ever took them seriously, whereas owning both were a top priority by Fidesz (not surprisingly as it is indeed full of lawyers).
I totally agree with the repeated statement that people do not like to vote for stupid politicians but they will vote for corrupt ones — because they know politics is corrupt and that is part of the game, like it or not, people accepted that.
But stupidity means that you look down on the stupid ones and psychologically you can’t associate with a looked-down-upon loser, as you are afraid you also become one. When you vote, you want to be stronger, you want to feel the shining of the winner glory on yourself, it’s a quid pro quo. I vote for you but I want to feel myself stronger just by knowing or telling honestly others that I voted for the winner. Can you do that with the Hungarian left?
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