New details on the Russian-Hungarian agreement on Paks; Kim Scheppele’s “Hungary, An Election in Question, Part 2″

I’m returning briefly to the secretive Putin-Orbán agreement on the addition to the atomic power plant in Paks. Shortly after the news of the agreement became public, I heard rumors to the effect that what the Orbán government actually wanted was not so much a new power plant built by Rosatom but an outright loan of 5 billion dollars. The Hungarian media spent a few lines on this rumor, but the topic was dropped soon enough. Most likely the rumor couldn’t be substantiated. But now Népszabadság has returned to the topic. In a fairly lengthy article the reporter who has lately become a kind of Paks expert unearthed a number of new strands in the story.

The information comes from “an expert who is an adviser to the government with knowledge of the details” who asserted that the original rumor about the loan the Orbán government wanted so badly was in fact true. The government wanted a loan that it could use as it best saw fit. The Russian partner, however, wanted to link the loan to the extension of the Paks power plant. Although negotiations went on for about a year, the two sides couldn’t come to a satisfactory agreement. At this point István Kocsis, former head of Paks and later of MVM (Magyar Villamos Művek/Hungarian Electricity Ltd), was asked by the government to use his good offices with the head of Rosatom. It didn’t seem to bother Orbán that Kocsis had been charged with embezzling billions, a case that is still pending.

Apparently Kocsis achieved miracles and in no time Rosatom had a contract ready to be signed. Népszabadság‘s informant claims that the Hungarians couldn’t change a word in the terms of the contract. There is, in fact, the suspicion that the reason the Hungarian text is so awkward is that most likely it was a translation from Russian. Earlier difficulties arose as the result of Hungarian insistence that the loan be extended to Hungary even if for one reason or another the power plant couldn’t be built or the project were protracted. At the beginning Rosatom insisted that the money would be lent to Hungary only as the work progressed. We still don’t know exactly what is in the agreement but, as Népszabadság‘s informer said, we may find out that “in the final analysis the Orbán government didn’t bring two reactors but ‘a new IMF loan’ from Moscow.”

The way the Orbán government spends money every penny will be needed. As it is, the national debt is higher than ever. It is over 80% even with the large infusion of money the government laid its hands on from the private pension funds. If we discount this “stolen money,” the national debt would be over 90% of the GDP. The government so far has spent more than 600 billion forints buying up private utility companies and is embarking on very ambitious plans to create a so-called “museum quarters” in Pest, which will accommodate the museums and Hungary’s National Library that are currently housed in the Royal Castle. This project is necessary because Orbán wants to move the entire government to the Castle District. The president’s office would move from the Sándor Palace to the Royal Castle and Viktor Orbán would presumably move into the Sándor Palace.

Yesterday another interesting tidbit about the Putin-Orbán agreement saw the light of day. An LMP member of parliament, Bernadett Szél, initially demanded access to the document but her request was refused. LMP will sue the government on that issue. She was, however, granted a half-hour interview with Mrs. László Németh, who admitted to her that the Orbán-Putin agreement was signed before the Hungarian government had a chance to authorize the deal. Lately, it seems, Fidesz politicians often slip and tell the truth by mistake. Like Lajos Kósa about the tape of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech at Őszöd. The next day he had to “correct himself.” That was the case with Mrs. Németh as well. Her ministry immediately corrected her. The ministry’s spokesman claimed that it is clear from the January 31 issue of the Official Gazette (Magyar Közlöny) that the authorization was dated January 13 and it was on January 14 that the agreement was signed. My only question is: why did they publish the text of the authorization only on January 31?

Finally, let’s not forget about the Holocaust Memorial Year. András Heisler, president of Mazsihisz, decided to step down from the advisory board of the House of Fortunes. Since Mazsihisz (Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities) opposes the establishment of this new museum, Heisler saw no reason to remain a member of the board. Moreover, as he said, the board is totally inactive. Mária Schmidt, who is the government-appointed director of the project, called the board together only once.

* * *

Hungary: An Election in Question

Part II: Writing the Rules to Win – The Basic Structure

Professor Kim Scheppele, Princeton University

How did the governing party Fidesz stack the deck so much in its favor that the upcoming Hungarian election’s results are not in doubt?

Fidesz started immediately after its election victory in 2010 to reshape the electoral system to ensure its hold on power. The Fidesz parliamentary bloc, which enacted constitutional changes without including or consulting any opposition party, slashed the size of the parliament in half, redrew all of the individual constituencies unilaterally, changed the two-round system to a single first-past-the-post election for individual constituencies, and altered the way votes were aggregated.

Moreover, Fidesz has granted dual citizenship and therefore voting rights to ethnic Hungarians outside the borders who are overwhelmingly Fidesz supporters, while at the same time maintaining a system that makes it comparatively harder for Hungarian citizens living or working abroad to vote.

The media landscape and campaign finance rules overwhelmingly benefit Fidesz and a series of last-minute changes to the law just before the campaign started put the newly united center-left opposition at an even greater disadvantage. In addition, the governing party has captured the election machinery which is now staffed with its own loyalists.

The sum total of all of these changes makes it virtually inevitable that Fidesz will win.

The devil is in the details, so let’s walk step by step through these various ways that the governing party has changed the rules in its favor.

As one of its first acts in office, on 25 May 2010, the Fidesz parliament amended the constitution it inherited to cut the parliament’s size in half. This was a move lauded by all sides of the political spectrum, as the old 386-member parliament was widely perceived as too large to be effective and too expensive for a small country in debt. The new 199-member parliament that will be seated after the 2014 elections will represent new electoral districts that had to be newly drawn to accommodate this new, smaller parliament. Redrawing the districts was not only widely welcomed, but also required by the Constitutional Court, which had ruled (first in 2005 and again in 2010) that the old districts had become too unequal in population size to give all citizens an equal vote.

The old districting system already favored Fidesz because the larger districts were in the urban strongholds of the left and the smaller districts were in the rural districts of the right. As a result, rural conservative votes were given more weight because it took fewer of their votes to elect an MP. But the way that Fidesz redrew the districts for 2014 gave their party an even greater advantage than they had before.

Without any consultation with opposition parties, Fidesz enacted a new “cardinal law” in 2011 that simply set the boundaries of the districts (Law CCIII/2011). While most election laws provide principles for drawing districts and assign some neutral or at least multi-party body to actually draw the boundaries, the borders of the districts in Hungary are now written directly into the law. Moving a district boundary by even one block requires a two-thirds vote of the parliament. The districts are therefore heavily entrenched and were not the result of either a public or an inclusive process. No justification for these districts was offered by the governing party.

Of course, not all districts in any electoral system have identical numbers of voters. But how much can districts vary before they deny equality of the vote?  The Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission), recommends no more than 10% variation as the international standard. The Venice Commission is not terribly clear about what this means, but given that the Venice Commission is working with a principle that demands that votes be weighted as equally as possible, one can guess that this means that districts should not vary by more than 10% in population overall.

The Hungarian law is fiendishly clever in appearing to come close to that standard while being miles away from it. The Hungarian Election Law (Act CCIII of 2011 – section 4(4)) mandates that the districts should not vary by more than 15%. The Venice Commission was not thrilled with the difference, but let it pass. They shouldn’t have.

A closer reading reveals the trick. The Hungarian law requires that districts vary by no more than 15% calculated from the mean number of voters in the district. This is not an overall 15% deviation, as the Venice Commission presumed, but is instead a standard that permits districts to vary by 15% below the mean and 15% above it.

An example demonstrates what a huge difference this makes. To aim at an average district containing 100 voters, a 10% overall deviation would permit districts to vary between 95 and 105 voters. (Divide 95 by the 10 voters that separate the largest and smallest districts and you get about 10%). The Hungarian law would permit districts to vary between 85 and 115 voters – 15% above the mean and 15% below the mean of 100. The gap between 85 and 115 voters in a district would be 35% overall! (Calculated the same way as above: 30/85 = 35%.) This is a huge difference that the Venice Commission did not seem to see.

In the actual districts were constructed as a result of the new election law, the variation became even larger than that. As you can see in the chart below, the smallest districts in Hungary now have about 60,000 voters while the largest districts have nearly 90,000 voters, roughly a 50% gap. (The horizontal axis shows the number of eligible voters in the new constituencies based on voter data from 2010, and the vertical axis shows the number of districts in the new scheme with that number of voters.) Not only are the actual districts highly unequal, but this variation has no apparent justification.

sizeThe Size of Parliamentary Districts in Hungary after Redistricting
Source: Calculations by Gábor Tóka, Central European University

Hajdú-Bihar County, in the eastern part of Hungary, provides a case in point. A last-minute amendment to the 2011 election law divided the city of Debrecen into two districts of highly unequal size. Now, one district has 87,278 voters and the other, right next to it, has 60,125 voters. These are very nearly the largest and smallest districts in the country, side by side, without official explanation.

The government may have given no reasons for its districts, but this huge variation in district size is not random. As Political Capital shows, the left-leaning districts are systematically 5,000-6,000 voters larger than the right-leaning districts, which means that it takes many more votes to elect someone from a left-leaning district than to elect someone from Fidesz.

The borders of these new districts also appear to be drawn to Fidesz’s advantage, since they just happen to break up the areas where the opposition alliance voters have traditionally been strongest and they scatter these opposition voters over a new Fidesz-majority landscape. Historically left-leaning districts were partitioned and blended into historically right-leaning districts, creating fewer districts where left-leaning candidates are relatively certain to win.

One of the most obvious gerrymanders occurred (again) in Hajdú-Bihar County. In the 2006 election, which went nationally by a wide margin to the Socialists, the county voted three of its nine districts for the Socialists and six for Fidesz, as you can see in the chart below, on the left. If the results from the 2006 election were tallied in the newly drawn six districts for that country, as shown on the right, Fidesz would now win every district. The map reveals that this all-Fidesz result was accomplished by drawing the districts to divide up the compact concentrations of Socialist voters so that they would become minority voters in Fidesz-dominant districts.   Examples like this one can be found all over the country, as left-leaning districts were partitioned to break up clusters of opposition voters to mix them with even more conservative voters from neighboring areas.

hajduThe US may have invented the gerrymander, and so it may seem presumptuous for an American to complain about the new districts. But the Hungarian gerrymander is different from the (also outrageous) American type. In US national elections, gerrymanders occur at the state level, which means one party cannot redistrict the whole country at once. In the US, districting plans are also subject to judicial review to check the worst self-dealing. In Hungary, however, the whole country was redistricted by one party all at once so the Hungarian gerrymander is far more decisive. And there is no judicial review to correct excesses. In addition, unlike in America where the governing parties in the states get a new shot at gerrymandering every 10 years, after each census, it will take a two-thirds vote of the parliament to change any district in Hungary’s future.

Hungarians don’t just cast votes for individual representatives in districts of the sort we have just seen, however. Hungarians cast two votes in national elections. In addition to casting ballots for representatives in the voters’ individual constituency, voters cast second ballots for party lists. Those votes are aggregated across the country and additional parliamentary seats are awarded to parties based on these results, above and beyond the seats won in the individual districts.

In the new parliament as in the old one, MPs elected both ways sit together with equal status. While this dual system of MP elections appears to mitigate the effect of the gerrymander, the new parliament, unlike the old, allocates more seats to the individual constituencies than to the party-list mandates. The new parliament features 106 district mandates and 93 party-list mandates. Since individual constituencies are awarded on a winner-take-all basis, this tilts the system toward an even more disproportionate distribution of mandates than in the prior also-disproportionate parliament.

Individual constituencies in Hungary were allocated from 1990 to 2010 in a two-round run-off system. Unless a candidate won 50% or more in the first round, a second round would be held between the highest vote-getters to determine who won the mandate. This system meant that many political parties would field candidates in round one, and then form coalitions before round two after the relative viabilities of the individual candidates could be assessed. Hungarian political culture grew up around this system so that parties were not accustomed to bargaining before any votes were cast.

The new electoral system in Hungary eliminates this second round, benefiting Fidesz, as the largest single party. It can now win districts outright without needing majority support because it only has to get more votes than any other party on the (single) election day to capture the constituency. Given that the districts have been drawn to give Fidesz an advantage overall, one can imagine other parties will have a hard time winning constituencies which have been constructed precisely so that Fidesz is the largest party.

The design of the new system means that the democratic opposition would only have a chance to win individual constituencies if the various opposition parties of the left could create a grand coalition before the election so that they didn’t run candidates against each other. But this was a result that everyone familiar with politics in Hungary knew would be hard to accomplish. The parties in the “democratic opposition” (excluding Jobbik) are sharply divided both by ideology and personality. But unless these parties could set aside their differences to unite, they would surely lose.

The announcement on 14 January that five parties in the opposition had managed to agree on a single list of candidates for the single-member districts as well as a common party list was therefore something of a political miracle.

But can the party leaders of the Unity Alliance bring all of their voters along with them? Many voters for the smaller parties on the left often don’t trust the larger Socialist Party which now dominates the coalition.  And some personalities in the mix are popular only within their own parties and unattractive to the others in the coalition. As a result, it cannot be assumed that votes for the five parties can simply be added together to produce a united whole that is the same size or even larger than the sum of the parts.

Because voters cast two ballots on election day, the individual constituencies are only part of the story, though they are the largest part. Parties will also run national lists to compete for voters’ second votes. The new conditions that came into effect since the last election actually make it easier than it was in 2010 to nominate candidates for the individual constituencies and to register parties with national lists, something that is consistent with a dominant-party strategy to divide up the opposition as much as possible.

But the party-list system also builds in incentives for small parties to join together to form a larger alliance. To be approved to run a national list, parties must field candidates in at least 27 individual constituencies in at least nine of the 19 counties plus Budapest. While this guarantees that parties are truly national, it also aggravates the problems created by the loss of the second-round runoff in the individual constituencies. Any new national list adds to the “clutter” of individual candidates in the individual constituencies and further fragments the vote.

So it makes sense, under these rules, for small parties to form a common national list. To avoid competing head-on and perhaps pushing each other below the 5% threshold for entering the parliament, small parties on the same side of the political spectrum are pushed by the logic of the system to join forces. But as soon as they do so, they run into another problem. In all elections since 1994, parties have had to meet a 5% threshold of the popular vote to gain a fraction in the parliament. For two parties that run together, the threshold rises to 10% and for three or more parties, the threshold is 15%.

If the smaller parties were going to unite for 2014, then, they ran the risk of together missing the higher threshold required of joint party lists. The rules of the game have therefore pushed the small parties of the “democratic opposition” to do what they did – which was to join with the Socialists to form Unity. Only an alliance with the larger Socialist party guaranteed that these smaller parties would be able to enter the parliament given the higher thresholds for joined lists. Because many of the smaller parties were created precisely to distance particular groups of voters from the Socialists, however, this is an uneasy alliance at best.

So that is where we were as the campaign was launched, witnessing a democratic opposition alliance whose members do not like each other much but who have to work together if they are to have any hope of ousting Fidesz given the way that the rules are structured. The public squabbling that occurred as the grand coalition went together belied the name of Unity Alliance and weakened their electoral position. They have the campaign period to convey a new unified message, but – as we will see – that is going to be very hard.

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38 comments

  1. The authorization for the Russian loan was backdated. Not a problem. On paper everything is fine.

    The government debt is higher than ever and there is no chance it can decrease, as the debt will increase way more than the GDP ever will.

    But until QE is going on Orban will find willing buyers for Hungarian debt. Luckily for him QE cannot ever stop. Even with thousands of billions of USD and EUR and JPY there is no or only minimal growth, so they have to continue just to prevent a collapse. This helps regimes like Orban’s to stay afloat forever.

    Orban has a penchant for building giant and ugly concrete buildings: the National Theatre and the MÜPA, both in a desolate industrial area with still terrible infrastructure, overlooking a highway/railway pair of bridges. Now Orban will build yet another bunch of probably ugly concrete buildings in one of the last green areas of Budapest, just to make his mark and ensure billions to favored construction companies. But he wants to make his mark on Budapest and desperately wants to rule from above, from the top of the hill, overlooking his domain. It’s psychological, in other words he is a sick megalomaniac.

  2. Eva Balogh’s latest comments on the changes of Hungarian electoral rules are most interesting, but of limited interest to those who emigrated. Does the voter in Hungary knows what happens to his vote, due to these new rules? Should this particular and excellent explanation not be translated and shown in the Hungarian media? Certainly very few voters in Hungary read the Hungarian Spectrum and not many read English.

  3. steve397 :

    Eva Balogh’s latest comments on the changes of Hungarian electoral rules are most interesting, but of limited interest to those who emigrated. Does the voter in Hungary knows what happens to his vote, due to these new rules? Should this particular and excellent explanation not be translated and shown in the Hungarian media? Certainly very few voters in Hungary read the Hungarian Spectrum and not many read English.

    To make things clear. The comments on the electoral law are from Professor Scheppele who is an American expert on the Hungarian constitution. The article appeared originally in the well known blog of Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winner economist in The New York Times.

    Professor Scheppele’s numerous articles have been translated into Hungarian, including this particular one. Unfortunately, very few Hungarians are interested in politics and even fewer know what’s going on around them.

    Here is an example. I was listening to an interview with a former minister of finance who told the reporter that most people he meets during the election campaign don’t realize that the government selling bonds adds to the national debts. Somehow they think that issuing bonds is different from outright borrowing either from the IMF or from Moscow. Unfortunately, this is the kind of ignorance we have to face in Hungary.

  4. steve397:

    do average Americans care about gerrymandering? Not really, most of them have no idea what is going on in their own state and even if so, they cannot prevent it. Same in Hungary. They could not care less. Although truth be told if the Left did this the right wing would have gone berserk long ago, but they are mush better organized and are constantly ready to shoot if dictated by Fidesz. The Hungarian Left, we should not forget, slept through the last four years and did not do anything when these laws were approved, it acquiesced to these changes.

    These issues are not for the average voters, because, I am afraid, the complexity of these issues exceed most people’ capability to comprehend. This is as fine a forum as any in Hungarian, although the Left indeed could have done a much-much better job to spread the message of the injustice, at least.

    The point though is that to have a majority in the Parliament, the Left would have to prevail over Fidesz by some 7-8% points (!) in the party list votes. For example if the Left prevailed by “only” 5% points (an unusually large margin in the US or anywhere), Fidesz will still have majority in the Parliament. That is the right-wing’s built in advantage, or rather that of the party dominating the right-wing, which is presently Fidesz (but they have no intention to leave that spot).

    Compare that 7-8% margin to the actual margins of victory in 2002 and 2006 (when the Left won) which was not more than 1-3%. Since 2006, the Left collapsed ideologically and organizationally, and rendered itself largely irrelevant and there was a demographic change too which preferred the right-wing.

    As a result, it is impossible for the Left to win. Query as to whether the Left can even reach 33% of the places in the Parliament, for which, I suspect, it would have to be within an average of 2-3% distance from Fidesz (which I suspect would probably already allow for the Left some local district victories outside Budapest).

  5. Median poll, February 2014:

    Fidesz 36, Left 23, Jobbik 14, LMP 3 and undecided, would not tell etc. 23.

    Of those who would surely vote: 49-30-18.

    Undecideds seemingly prefer Jobbik, which seems to have further reserves, but not the Left — if we are to believe Median and to the polling under the current political environment. But it sounds logical to me. It’s about protest and one cannot protest by voting for the conformist Left.

  6. Hungarian government is, first and foremost, stealing from the public purse. This is such a central theme of both parties that, if one party is far superior to the other, that party will be helped surreptitiously by its so-called ‘opponent’–hence, Oszod, a lesson to ‘do-gooders’ and liberal reformers.

    Corruption is endemic to the Hungarian political culture. People know this; and this fact may
    explain the rise of Jobbik which has yet to be tainted by actual service in government.

  7. OT:

    TIME TO ‘OUT’ “MR PAUL”

    Stevan Harnad :

    Mr. Paul :
    In response to Stevan Harnad:
    I happen to know I don’t have handlers(his earlier claim), and I happen to know I am not a Team but a person… I am forced to write to respond to the rediculous and insane lies that for example Stevan Harnad is spreading about me.

    Spreading lies about you, “Mr Paul”? Who are you, “Mr Paul”? Maybe you feel your fake-name is being defamed? But nobody [except you yourselves] know who or what that fake-name is the fake-name of! Get a hold of your selves…

    Don’t rant, “Mr. Paul.” Just post your true name(s) and coordinate(s). Unlike the courageous critics of Orban’s autocracy who live in Hungary and are at real risk if they reveal their true identities on this blog, you, with your tell-tale tergiversations are so obviously toeing the Fidesz party-line that the only thing you risk by divulging your identity (or identities) is whatever Fidesz favours you are earning from your trolling.

    If you post honestly with your name, instead of hiding behind a mask, it will not elicit agreement, but at least it will earn some courtesy.

    Stevan Harnad
    Canada Research Chair, Université du Québec à Montréal
    External Member, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

  8. Mr. Paul :
    If I do post my identity will you apologize for your repeated lies about me? Yes or no?

    Alert! Trick KGB-type question: if you agree, you ‘confess’ to lying…

  9. Why, Mr. Paul, you delicate little flower! There is never any need to apologize to a troll.

  10. Eva S. Balogh :
    Moreover, as he said, the board is totally inactive. Mária Schmidt, who is the government-appointed director of the project, called the board together only once.

    Since I’ve been regularly wrong in my predictions, I feel no shame in pointing out I was possibly right this time, when I wrote in December this project wouldn’t be carried out in time, and wouldn’t even open any time in 2014 under its current script and management.

    Moreover, I reiterate what I wrote a couple of days ago: the LigetBudapest culture project, aka ‘Cultural Disneyland’, will meet the same fate. It won’t go according to the plan – or should we say ‘doodle’.

  11. This was seen on a package left on the bench in the city park in Budapest:

    WARNING: DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES WITHIN

    CAN BURN IF HANDLED BY KIDS UNDER 10 OR HUNGARIANS!

  12. petofi :
    Indeed, this little tape should be shown to all Hungarians: it’s about an American reporter working for Putin’s RT television station.

    Actually, her resignation has nothing to do with Putin. She had to pay the price for breaking a superior law of journalism: “You will not interview Steven Seagal on foreign policy matters. Instead, you will interview Chuck Norris”.

  13. @hinta palinta, I would take issue with you about MuPa (Palace of Arts) as a horrible concrete building. I think it is rather elegant, I particularly like the “cuttle fish” glass effects on the facade, and don’t forget that although Orbán’s government commissioned it, it was built under the next administration, opening on March 15 2005. I wouldn’t even call the National Theatre a horrible concrete building although I’d be more inclined to class it as a piece of kitch confectionery. The National Theatre was a scandal, not least because its acoustics were abysmal and 35% of the seats could only see 70% of the stage or less (which apparently has been rectified.). MuPa though is one of those rare Hungarian public projects that wasn’t messed up, its concert hall is one of the finest in Europe and the whole complex is a joy to visit. Of course, it is messed up in that it is a pain to get home from by public transport. But please, no slagging off of MuPa!

  14. Jacek: ” The Hungarian Left, we should not forget, slept through the last four years and did not do anything when these laws were approved, it acquiesced to these changes.”

    Not that they could do anything else. Don’t forget about the super majority.

  15. @LwiiH

    There are certainly many reasons why the current events in Ukraine matter, and many historical comparisons (albeit limited in nature) to be made.

    However, if I had to pick one, it would be the struggle of two different socio-economic models. In my view, the economic failure of Ukraine for the last twenty years is largely due to its adoption of a “top down” model, in which a small oligarchy gains controls of large rents, and redistributes money to its affiliates with the only purpose of ensuring their support.

    This model may have proved to be stable in agriculture-based societies of the past centuries, yet it didn’t resist the industrial revolutions. Today, this model may still be viable in natural resources-based economies (Russia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia etc.), but only for a while and at greater risks than before (Libya) as it hardly meets the expectations of the most ‘globalized’ class, which are often the same people who can create new business, new riches, instead of competing for the favors of the mighty.

    The current Hungarian government seems overtly committed to promote such a top-down model in a country with no natural resources. In my view, this can only result in growing corruption, clientelism and failure – and much like with communism, the longer this vision is implemented and provides a false sense of security, the longer it will take for the society to recover. Hungarians should look at Ukraine as their own future.

  16. “Russia denies forces in Ukraine”

    Why is it easier for Russian politicians to lie than to tell the truth?
    They have more practice at it.

  17. OT: Fidesz owns the judiciary.

    The local court at Székesfehérvár [the county seat, a couple of kilometers from the town where Orban’s familiy still lives and one of Orban’ front is the mayor (Felcsút) and where the famous village stadium is being built] rejected without holding even a hearing the demand by the media (444.hu) for the asset report of the mayor of Felcsút (a susptected Orban ‘Strohmann’) who became filthy rich during the last four years.

    Fidesz, by amending the transparency laws, purposefully made it more difficult to obtain the report. Having said that, such a swift rejection without a hearing, without any detailed reasoning is more than unusual by any Hungarian court. Well, not so surprising if we see the bigger picture. Who would dare to go against the Orban Clan in Fejér county? And the lawyers are anyway mostly fideszniks in rural places, the party of choice for the conservative elite.

    http://444.hu/2014/03/06/a-ne-zavarj-epp-lopok-torveny-segit-meszaros-lorincnek-eltitkolni-vagyonat/

  18. Istvan :
    The tragedy taking place in the Ukraine and the EU/NATO near total paralysis in the face of it serves as a real warning to the Hungarian people. As we all have learned today the Russians have moved forward the vote in Crimea to incorporate it into Russia, it will now take place in just 10 days. The Russians are now claiming the “gunmen who took over power in Kiev were trained in Poland and Lithuania”. (Statement made by the vice-president of the Russian Federation Council)
    It is clear Putin’s minions are now trying to portray to the Russian public that some former client states of the USSR are the enemy, not Hungary however. Given the now total rout of the EU and it’s pointless attempts to negotiate a withdrawal of Russian forces from the Crimea the logic of Orban’s Russian orientation seems perversely brilliant. The failure of Germany and other EU economic powers to aggressively respond to the Russian incursion increases the credibility of Orban’s Russian orientation.
    The left in Hungary is still running as the pro-EU coalition, what does that mean in the current context? It has become rather obvious that the economic interests of the predominate nations of the EU over rule everything else. Orban fully grasps this and plays the EU/NATO alliance for what he and his supporters can get out of it.

    Istvan, what do you think about the Right to self-determination, if there will be a referendum in Crimea. Will the USA respect the results of a possible referendum or it will be simply swept aside as unimportant?

  19. ON APOLOGIZING TO ANONYMOUS

    Mr. Paul :
    If I do post my identity will you apologize for your repeated lies about me? Yes or no?

    Yes, definitely!

    But not if you just post some Hungarian name and village, as you did the last time I challenged you to reveal your real identity:

    Your real identity is your publicly verifiable identity. And once you have posted that, further responses to “Mr Paul” will not be addressed to “Mr Paul” but to your real identity.

    One does not apologize to a false name. One cannot “wrong” an unknown, unidentified entity. “Anonymous” cannot be defamed. “Anonymous” cannot plead or sue for calumny, libel.

    But if your name and coordinates are verifiably posted, this will thenceforward make you as responsible and answerable with your name and reputation for whatever you say in your postings as any other identified poster to Hungarian Spectrum, such as Professor Balogh, Professor Scheppele, Professor Braham, Charles Gati etc.

    And, as I have already said, that will not earn you agreement or approbation (nor will it guarantee that you will not be barred eventually) — but it will earn you the courtesy we owe to real people, in public and in private.

    And my first message to whoever “Mr Paul” turned out to really be would be to apologize for having mistaken him (or her) for having been more than one person.

    I would not, however, withdraw the hypothesis that that unidentified person had been either an apologist for Fidesz (whether paid or not) or was sounding exactly like one.

    I would simply ask why that real, identified person had publicly accused a real identified person (myself) of “lies” and “deceit”: What was the lie? that, based on the evidence available, I and many others had made some plausible inferences about “anonymous,” part of which had turned out to be erroneous upon further evidence? Is that what you imagine to count as “lies and deceit”?

    Or is that not just another blog-level emulation of the signature Fidesz smear tactic of camouflaging Fidesz secrecy, mendacity and malfeasance under a shrill barrage of self-righteous accusations of lying and deceit, from the trivial to the terrible, like the one that incited anti-government violence in 2006 by systematically distorting an honest internal plea for reform by the leader of the prior government into a catalyst for fomenting collective paranoia, xenophobia and Orban messianism in an uninformed and disadvantaged populace?

    Yes, there is a spot of paranoia in this blog, too, in its worries about disruption by anonymous Fidesz and Jobbik trolls. That’s perfectly understandable, given the current state of affairs in Hungary and its immediate prospects under the current kleptocracy. What is certain about the postings of “Mr Paul” to date is that they are part of Hungary’s problem, not its solution, whether they originate from Fidesz-paid plants or from benighted self-annointed members of the Fidesz-brainwashed electorate.

  20. Stevan Harnad :
    ON APOLOGIZING TO ANONYMOUS

    Mr. Paul :
    If I do post my identity will you apologize for your repeated lies about me? Yes or no?

    Yes, definitely!

    Éva, please take note of the above comment by Stevan Harnad. He is saying, he is willing to apologize for his repeated lies if certain (somewhat unclear) conditions are met.

    I for once welcome this change in his mentality, it is good first step towards normalcy.

  21. Mr. Paul :

    Stevan Harnad :
    ON APOLOGIZING TO ANONYMOUS

    Mr. Paul :
    If I do post my identity will you apologize for your repeated lies about me? Yes or no?

    Yes, definitely!

    Éva, please take note of the above comment by Stevan Harnad. He is saying, he is willing to apologize for his repeated lies if certain (somewhat unclear) conditions are met.
    I for once welcome this change in his mentality, it is good first step towards normalcy.

    Why are you whining again to Professor Balogh, “Mr Paul.”? What is unclear about the conditions? Reveal your name and coordinates, publicly and verifiably? Are you waiting for Fidesz to print you a fake address and passport?

    Stevan Harnad
    Canada Research Chair, Université du Québec à Montréal
    External Member, Hungarian Academy of Science

  22. After killing millions of civilians in Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan and other countries, the USA organized a coup in Ukraine to start civil war for US interest.

    Russia will stop this civil war and protect Russians within Ukraine. There will be no civil war only war against all of Russia armies.

    Crimea is now part of Russia because the Parliament of Crimea voted this with unanimous consent. People attacking Crimea now attack Russia.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/06/ukraine-crisis-crimea-part-of-russia-local-parliament-declares

    It was prof from phone call that it was Maidan protester leaders who hired snipers to cause bloodbath in Kiev.

    Funds from USA were possible used to hire the killer snipers.

  23. “Why are you whining again to Professor Balogh, “Mr Paul.”?”

    I am not whining I was simply pointing out your comment. Éva seemed to have been under the impression that you were simply “making a mistake” in some of your claims.

    In any case you didn’t seriously expect me to make this decision in a rash and sudden way did you? There are certain risks that mentally unbalanced individuals would use this information to threaten or stalk me with the help of said information. Also that they may use it to further employ “argumentum ad hominem” which is a logical fallacy.

    Also I find it super funny that you threaten me with “barring” even right as you try to ask something of me. I will consider everything in due time, there is no reason for me to rush this decision.

  24. @ Mr Paul. Your comments are blocking up this forum. I really hope your contract is coming to an end in a few weeks.

  25. A referendum with a 10 day notice will be ignored Mr Paul by Eva’s and my government. If there were a fair vote it would likely pass with a 60% majority with the existing situation in Kiev and fears about Ukrainian nationalism. But Putin and his supporters in Crimea can’t even wait until May for that, facts on the ground need to be completed.

    If no further annexations of the Ukraine are carried out over the next year or so the EU majority will happily forgive Russia only to be shocked when Putin carries out a similar action possibly in one of the Baltic nations. I would say it is the opinion of the US military establishment in its majority that the economic burden on NATO May not be worth the effort if these nations can’t agree to contain Russian expansion into Central Europe. Poland and Sweden are the only nations clearly discussing the issue of Russian expansion right now.

    This could become a major political issue in the US and even the Republicans have what could be called an isolationist wing. But I do know retired military officers of high rank in the US are simply disgusted by what has happened and have great distain for how Obama kept looking for the EU to come to a consensus when countries like Germany and the UK have very deep economic relationships with the Russian Federation. Looking back to President Reagan is a very bad comparison because of the current economic relationships with Russia. We are on new and very dangerous ground.

  26. @ Istvan

    “A referendum with a 10 day notice…”

    Wasn’t Viktor the Magnificent just in Moscow?
    Did he give crash course to Vlad on how to ridiculize (sic) a political process?

  27. Istvan :
    If no further annexations of the Ukraine are carried out over the next year or so the EU majority will happily forgive Russia only to be shocked when Putin carries out a similar action possibly in one of the Baltic nations.

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Russia’s public image was already getting worse in Europe before the Ukrainian crisis, and in spite of Putin being now supported by various left-wing or right-wing populists, it will most certainly sink to new lows.

    http://www.pewglobal.org/2013/09/03/global-opinion-of-russia-mixed/

    Naturally, public opinion is one thing, governing another – and deciding on military options on Europe’s soil yet another. But “happily forgive”? I don’t think so.

  28. Crimea will have a referendum on whether to join Russia or not: this is like Debrecen holding a referendum on whether it supports Orban or not!

    Like two boys in short pants….they play their cards alike, don’t they?

  29. petofi I read the Kissinger piece. Since former Sec Kissinger’s Washington Post column was published today I have to assume it was written at least 48 hours ago. Some of what has happened in the last 48 hours makes some of Kissinger’s proposals no longer relevant. Let me list them: (1) Kissinger writes: “It is incompatible with the rules of the existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea. But it should be possible to put Crimea’s relationship to Ukraine on a less fraught basis. To that end, Russia would recognize Ukraine’s sovereignty over Crimea. Ukraine should reinforce Crimea’s autonomy in elections held in the presence of international observers. The process would include removing any ambiguities about the status of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol.”

    As we know today the annexation process is underway. According to RT “Russia’s State Duma (parliament) is ready to consider the possibility of Crimea joining Russia, according to the head of the Duma committee on the affairs of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Leonid Slutsky.”The State Duma will consider any bills concerning this issue when the referendum has taken place and when the Russian leadership has made a decision on it,” Slutsky said.

    Now this leaves open the possibility that Putin will have his Duma vote down the annexation, but it makes no sense to order this quick vote and then to reject it. But Putin is in many ways a wild card. So what does Kissinger propose be done if the Russian Duma votes to incorporate Crimea?

    (2) Kissinger writes: “Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe.” Clearly Russia rejects EU penetration in at least the Crimea, so then what?

    (3) Kissinger believes the Ukraine should not be part of NATO because it is too threatening to Russia. If I were an Ukrainian I am not sure I would think NATO membership is worth much. But here is the problem Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are already in NATO. So if Ukrainian NATO membership is dangerous, do the Russians get to tell the Baltic nations they are out of NATO? Moreover, in the last 12 hours six U.S. fighter jets and two tanker planes have arrived in Lithuania at the northwestern base of Zokniai following a U.S. decision to increase NATO’s air policing mission of the Baltic nations. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin E. Dempsey yesterday made the following statement “Understandably, they (Baltic military leaders and Polish military leaders) are concerned. They seek our assurance for their security. During our conversations we committed to developing options to provide those assurances and to deter further Russian aggression.”

    As we can see the US may now be forcing NATO to act and its telling that the German Air force which still has about 300 advanced fighter planes is providing no fighter support to Lithuania at this time.

    Kissinger in the Washington Post now seems to be arguing that if Russia is not threatened it won’t expand at least in the near term. But if Russia’s actions are seen as fundamentally expansionist then ones perspective changes and radically so. I did think this comment by Kissinger in his article was very interesting “If some solution based on these or comparable elements (as outlined by Kissinger) is not achieved, the drift toward confrontation will accelerate. The time for that will come soon enough.” Hopefully, the US military will not “drift” into a confrontation, but rather will strategically plan for such a confrontation. But in order to defend Europe, the US military needs EU and European NATO leaders to forget about the hundreds of billions in debt to Russia they are holding or the oil/gas they need and concentrate on containing Russian expansion.

  30. @Istvan

    You make some good points.
    I suppose one of the things I liked about Kissinger’s piece was his approach–like playing notes
    on a piano, he had various options on the ready and they all kind of carried the ‘melody’ forward. Subtlety, that’s what seems to be missing now. But who really knows what’s going on? Just as I believe that the Iraq war I was not about oil but about quelling the aspirations of Japan. The Ukrainian brouha could be about, a) a warning shot for Europe to beware of too much dependency on Russia; b) a domestic signal for the need of an aggressive president and to increase military spending; and c) the need for Europe to increase military spending and not rely wholly on US cover.

    I’m suspicious on how this is all playing out so far. Putin has had a success with Sochi, and this immediately rained on his parade. Disappointment and frustration has made him act much too quickly in Ukraine. But of course, that’s one of the drawbacks of a dictatorship–no chance for several perspectives..

  31. Russians wiretapped a call between the two people, neither of whom had any direct knowledge about what happened at Maidan and their talk is supposed to be ‘evidence’?

    More likely is that (a) Russian agents are among the Ukrainian opposition and thus one of them disseminated this piece of information which somehow reached the Estonian foreign ministry (itself infiltrated by Russians) or (b) the Estonian foreign minister is a Russian agent himself who wanted to tell this over the phone knowing that it will be wiretapped.

    But this comment from this apparent Russian aggression sympathizer underscores the perceived importance of this blog. Russia is extremely skilled with this kind of sabotage work, let us remember that the famous ‘kompromat’

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kompromat

    comes from Russia. Also Russia, just like China, has a literal army which is deployed to enter internet discussions and influence discourse. (Of course wow we know that even Hungary has a smaller unit, thanks to Mr. Paul and his colleagues.)

    It’s quite amazing.

    th

    Crimea now part of Russia :
    After killing millions of civilians in Iraq, Vietnam, Afghanistan and other countries, the USA organized a coup in Ukraine to start civil war for US interest.
    Russia will stop this civil war and protect Russians within Ukraine. There will be no civil war only war against all of Russia armies.
    Crimea is now part of Russia because the Parliament of Crimea voted this with unanimous consent. People attacking Crimea now attack Russia.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/06/ukraine-crisis-crimea-part-of-russia-local-parliament-declares
    It was prof from phone call that it was Maidan protester leaders who hired snipers to cause bloodbath in Kiev.

    Funds from USA were possible used to hire the killer snipers.

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