In praise of Fidesz’s Machiavellian talents

Here is a good example of what I’m talking about. The electoral law that was originally submitted in September 2012 was immediately amended and in the following weeks the bill was changed several times. The process is not over. The Orbán government at the moment is planning to add another amendment to the already accepted text, and this may still not be the end of the fiddling with its provisions. It depends on what steps are deemed necessary to secure Fidesz’s advantage in the race.

Without going into all of the details of the law that naturally favors Fidesz-KDNP, here I will call attention to one new aspect of it. It is the generous campaign financing of any hitherto unknown or newly created party. This subsidy is different from the one million forints that will be given to every candidate of the established parties on debit cards issued by the treasury where recipients will have to give an account of their spending. The money that the government will give to these new parties, which Hungarians have already nicknamed “kamupártok,” meaning phony parties, will be in cold hard cash. The parties can just pocket the money. It seems that the government doesn’t care where these millions will go as long as a lot of people take advantage of a very enticing proposition.

Machiavelli2What does one have to do to become a party leader? One must have at least twenty-six good friends or, better put, business partners who are willing to declare themselves candidates in a given electoral district. Each candidate need collect only 500 signatures. That certainly shouldn’t be difficult. Once it has 27 candidates, the new “Swindlers’ Party” can have a party list, and from there on it will receive money that it can spend on anything it wishes, no receipts required.

Clearly this rather odd arrangement was devised by the Fidesz think-tank to benefit their own party. With this ploy they can splinter the opposition: there will be so many lines on the ballot in April 2014 that the already confused voters will be utterly lost. And some voters may feel that they should vote for their underdog friends. Thus, Political Capital and Transparency International suggested an amendment: money would be transferred to these new, possibly phony parties on debit cards and, just like more established parties, they would have to give an account of their expenditures.

The Orbán government, which usually ignores suggestions, especially those coming from NGOs, suddenly became interested. The Machiavellian campaign strategists saw an opportunity and decided to purposefully misunderstand the suggestion of Transparency International and Political Capital. Gergely Gulyás, the man who usually handles legal matters in the party, came to the conclusion that “it is worth considering an amendment that would regulate campaign financing in such a way that state subsidies will be issued not to those who present themselves as candidates but to those who actually finish the campaign.” Any candidate who doesn’t finish the campaign would have to return the money he received from the budget.

So, one could ask, what is so Machiavellian in this? Anyone who is following the party struggles on the liberal-socialist side should immediately realize why Fidesz is so eager to tighten up the rules. Although Ferenc Gyurcsány has been talking about designating candidates in all 107 districts, he hopes that by the end the democratic parties will be able withdraw candidates to maximize their chances. This amendment would mean that DK, MSZP, and E14 candidates would have to pay back millions of forints they received to finance their campaigns. The  money naturally would already have been spent and these parties, especially DK and E14, have meager funds with which to repay the government.

The innocent babes of Political Capital and Transparency International were flabbergasted but only remarked politely that “the politicians of Fidesz misunderstood” their suggestion. The planned amendment as described by Gulyás doesn’t solve the real problem. They also objected that their suggestions are being used “for measures that didn’t originate with them.” Surely, they don’t want to be responsible for an amendment that makes the opposition’s electoral chances even worse than they are now. The problems they originally called attention to are still there: these quasi-parties will receive their campaign financing in cash which, depending on the number of candidates, might be as high as 600 million forints. These “parties” will still not have to account for their expenditures. And naturally, these proposed measures don’t remedy the problem that while individual candidates will have to repay monies received from the government if they withdraw in favor of another candidate, these quasi-parties will be able to keep their money even if they don’t receive one single vote. In the rest of their communiqué they repeat their original suggestions.

Of course, crafty Gulyás and his ilk know exactly what they are doing. They weighed matters anew in light of Ferenc Gyurcsány ideas for a single list and acted accordingly. Their original scheme to  weaken the opposition by encouraging phony parties to enter the race will reap only modest benefits. But discouraging MSZP-E14-DK from cooperating by threatening them with the loss of millions and millions of campaign funds may be a real game changer.

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20 comments

  1. It is sickening to watch the clear mockery of the democratic process as exercised by the ultimo-deviousness of the Hungarian mind. So disgusting. ‘Christian’ Hungary my ass.

  2. And it works. Fidesz is getting more and more popular, if we are to believe Median. It’s an issue, but the methodology has been the same so at least the trends have to be more or less there.

    Intellectual debates, corruption and the like don’t interest the people, especially as these issue will not even get to the majority of which the well-kept pensioners are the single biggest constituency.

    Fidesz has been on a steady roll in the last 12 months (which is consistent with what happens with the incumbent, except for the 2010 MSZP), and the dynamics are getting stronger.

    Essentially, only one party could gain from among the undecideds in the past one year: Fidesz. A year ago 46% of all voters (MSZP at 14% pre-Baja video) was undecided and Fidesz was at 23%. Now undecideds went down to 30% and Fidesz is up by 13% at 36% of all potential voters and Fidesz (the biggest party) is also the most active, its voters can’t wait to vote, so much so that Együtt’s and LMP’s voters (not too many) have only 1/3 of the activity ratio (commitment to their chosen party) of those millions of Fidesz voters.

    Insane. I believe any foreign politician would literally kill for these results after such a disastrous couple of years.

    http://median.hu/object.aa1da5a0-e054-4ffb-8e6f-784e318108e1.ivy

  3. OK, let us see what is needed to register online to vote in 2014.
    https://kerelem.valasztas.hu/vareg/NevjegyzekbeVeteliKerelem.xhtml

    Name, mother’s maiden name, naturalization number.

    Then we can give
    a physical address INSIDE or outside Hungary
    or we can ask to receive the voting slip in person
    at a location in Hungary or at a consulate abroad.

    That is all. Piece of cake.

    The only problem arises if the real person would like
    to vote indeed.

    Then the authorities have to decide which application
    came from the real person, which address gets the
    voting material. First comes first gets?

    The counter starts from 48,034.
    This is how many people asked to be registered in mail
    in the first three months (August through October)

    20,870 (43.4%) from Romania
    13,166 (27.4%) from Serbia
    11,646 (24.2%) from E-mail Land
    2,352 ( 5.3%) from all other countries combined

  4. @Frederick

    Median measured 36% popularity for Fidesz between October 11 and 16, claiming the possible error to be within 3%

    Tarki measured 27% popularity for Fidesz between October 17 and 23.

    The 9% difference is a bit too large, isn’t it?

    I would like to see the detailed methodology (sample selection, exact questions, etc.)
    to see which company is closer to reality.

  5. tappanch :
    @Frederick
    Median measured 36% popularity for Fidesz between October 11 and 16, claiming the possible error to be within 3%
    Tarki measured 27% popularity for Fidesz between October 17 and 23.
    The 9% difference is a bit too large, isn’t it?
    I would like to see the detailed methodology (sample selection, exact questions, etc.)
    to see which company is closer to reality.

    Stats, gotta love’em… First poll states that between 33 and 39% of the population would vote Fidesz. The second states that between 24 and 30% would vote for Fidesz. What they are saying is that if these polls was repeated 20 times, 19 times they’d get the same result.

    Are the two polls significantly different? In my experience it’s often difficult to eye-ball polls and come to a conclusion that they are different. To do that I’d have to know the sample sizes for both polls and then work out a probability that they are different.

  6. @LwiiH

    Sample size is OK, 1,200 by Median and I guess a similar number by Tarki.
    I think sample selection is more important.
    Random phone calls? Percentage of land-based and cell phones?
    Face-to-face interviews? Internet polls? Exact questions?

    Media measured only 30% of undecided voters. Tarki’s number was 45%.

  7. The problem is that it takes about 15,000 random people contacts (!) until you can get 1,200 people to answer (at least saying that they don’t want to tell who they are voting for). 90% of the cases people simply do not talk to the pollster at all (do not open the door, send them away, say that the person does not live there etc.). This is a fact that neither Median nor others advertize. (They will say that in the US re Obama the situation was similar and the polls were accurate regardless.)

    Fidesz is probably over-represented among those willing to talk. That is clear from historical data. However, Median’s data also show a clear trend, whatever the case (the basis), it is probably true that formerly undecideds do not flock to the opposition and are questioning whether there is any point in voting for Együtt or LMP. After all, Együtt does not even have a home page (!).

  8. petofi :
    It is sickening to watch the clear mockery of the democratic process as exercised by the ultimo-deviousness of the Hungarian mind. So disgusting. ‘Christian’ Hungary my ass.

    The Hunagarian mind may have acquired its ultimo-deviousness from Christian theology. The dictum “the ends justify the means” is jesuitic as well as machiavellian. If you work for “God’s greater glory” anything goes.

    Calvin’s teaching of predestination is the theological precursor of “if you own nothing you are nothing”.

  9. tappanch :

    @Frederick

    Median measured 36% popularity for Fidesz between October 11 and 16, claiming the possible error to be within 3%

    Tarki measured 27% popularity for Fidesz between October 17 and 23.

    The 9% difference is a bit too large, isn’t it?

    I would like to see the detailed methodology (sample selection, exact questions, etc.)
    to see which company is closer to reality.

    I usually trust Median but I think something went wrong here. It is too different from the rest of the polls that came out lately. It can happen that something goes wrong.

  10. The thing with Median is that looking at their data series there is a clear trend in the last 12 months. They have to have a fundamental flaw which they have not detected (or which got compounded lately) in order to be wrong on the trend. It’s one thing to have a bad sample which is massaged to confirm to the general population (and the sample error gets underestimated), but to have it every months, that would be rare. That said, the actual by-elections like Baja show that pollsters are not perfect.

  11. Fideszniks want to modify their “Basic Law” again. While they forcibly retired judges at 62 to promote their people in the judicial system, they now want to abolish the 70-year age limit for their appointees in the Constitutional Court like the Dienes-Oehm (69), Balsai (67), Pokol (63) and Salamon (66).

    See 32. § in http://www.parlament.hu/irom39/12912/12912.pdf

    This bill also contains the 8th (?) [I lost count] modification of the electoral law since the last election.

  12. A Balkan Backwater of Petty Jingoes With Delusions of Grandeur

    If the Hungarian populace is foolish enough to let Fidesz get away with it, what can one say other than that they deserve to reap what they sow? One feels enormous pity and compassion for the decent minority in Hungary that is outraged by the foulness of Fidesz. But they are only a minority, as the polls show. The Hungarian majority’s willing fall into the thrall of Fidesz is going to leave (yet another) indelible blight on the historic reputation of this Balkan backwater so full of petty jingoes with delusions of grandeur.

  13. The brutal wall to wall liar campaign orchestrated by the orbanists who are coached by the best advisers money can buy, is converting most into a zombie Fidesz-voter.

    It can happen everywhere.

    We can only argue on private level with relatives and friends to stay above this slime.

    Petofi may have a better advice than me.

  14. The main difference among pollsters stems from the way the interviewers ask their questions. The pollsters that report the highest number of “don’t know” responses generally ask the question once and take the first answer as given. The ones with the smaller number of “don’t know” responses generally instruct their interviewers to ask various follow-up questions like “is there a party toward which you are LEANING.” And then the answer that results from the follow-up question is reported as if it were volunteered on the first try.

    So, usually, the polls with the high “don’t knows” tell you the responses of the people who are quite certain and the ones with the lower “don’t knows” add in the less certain respondents. The latter polls are probably more unstable as a result.

    Occasionally, however, a polling company gets an odd sample, which results in an outlier estimate. Only later polls will reveal that those results are outliers and not the start of new trends.

    (In a prior life, i was a survey researcher.)

  15. Watching all those confusing signals the opposition trying to communicate with, its a miracle, that the common people still able to decide whom to support, if it isn’t the Fidesz, let alone, talk about.
    Honestly, with this kind of amateurish approach they have a chance like Little Red riding Hood with the Big Bad Wolf..!

    And there is no Hunter in sight.
    Sleep well, kids, there is no reason to wake up just yet, everything’s nice and dandy, isn’t it?

  16. FrHUUUU :
    The brutal wall to wall liar campaign orchestrated by the orbanists who are coached by the best advisers money can buy, is converting most into a zombie Fidesz-voter.
    It can happen everywhere.
    We can only argue on private level with relatives and friends to stay above this slime.
    Petofi may have a better advice than me.

    @FrHUUUU

    “….is converting most into zombie…”–Forget this line. The zombi-ism is self-induced escapism from a world they can’t handle. The Right Wing, abetted by Mother Church (Catholic, mainly) hammer home the insufficiency of the individual in the face of foreign conspiracy and activity. Thus, the ‘Bekemenet’ hordes feel empowered, especially by the carte blanche grant of hate allowance–jews, Roma, foreigners. It’s such a perfect mental trap, that Hate takes the place of any sort of rational thought.

    Solution is a long term project and probably begins with the prying of the grasping fingers of the Catholic Church off the early learning establishments in the country. For that to happen, the Pope probably has to step in and reform the Hungarian Catholic Church.

    Of course, moving on from early education, the high schools and universities have to be revamped too. The students must be taught HOW think; and along with that goes the idea of rewarding ‘thinking’.

    The real problem is massive: it’s not just that a well-advised, conscienceless, political party
    has jumped into power. Hungarians seem to have no idea of the ‘eternal truths’ and this leads one to think that they have no moral or ethical standards. The Church and Orban dictate what’s ‘Right’.

  17. Halleluilah, folks, our Party and our Fearless Leader once again lowered the utility expenses!
    To His Highness himself as well as His Most Devoted vassals, likewise to the faithless liberals and the cheerful Nazis – to everyone, indiscriminately! He’s done it – again!

    Because there isn’t any discrimination in Hungary, you see…

    Well, a slight blemish, that in the hurry he also managed to lower the value of the Hungarian Forint, but hey, I am just splitting hairs here, and anyway, shouldn’t forget to include “Hungary performs better” before the esteemed Mr.Kumin must warn me too..

    “..performs better” than what or who, for crying out?

    Aren’t they supposed to speak Hungarian, or this is already the effect of the educational reform?
    Any guesses?

  18. @petofi
    “The Church and Orban dictate what’s ‘Right’.”
    I have the distinct feeling, that Orban goes even further than this.
    Orban using the church only as long as it serves him, and I am pretty sure, that as soon as he feels like there is no political adversaries remained standing and his “work” on “forming the Nation” goes unhindered, he will marginalise the church more and more per se, and merging it with Fidesz – he is the “good shepherd”, you know.

    Sounds crazy?

    Just take a look at, how Orban, the Fidesz and its supporters interact, then take a good look at a sect. Any sect for that matter. See? All the attributes are there. The breaking down the moral standards and substituting them, a telltale sign too.

    Not to mention, just about the same thing has taken place some 70-80 years ago, well studied and documented.
    Apparently they using the same manuscript – and they rehearsing already.

  19. As I wrote on the later thread we’re just back from a family visit in Eastern Hungary, where things look really bad.

    My wife’s brother-in-law just had a school reunion (gymanazium 50 years ago …)where they also discussed their young ones and they found that everybody in that circle of retired doctors, lawyers and TSz managers had at least one child who had gone astray – pardon, had moved to some other country, probably to stay.

    That seems to be the only solution for those who don’t agree with Fidesz – or they can stay and go into “internal emigration” as we say in Germany – just try to decouple yourself totally from politics. Only a few decide to fight – not enough for an overthrow of the Fidesz mafia rule …

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