Renewed attack on the Hungarian media: freedom of the press is at stake

As I was settling down to write this post, a large demonstration in Budapest was just coming to an end. It was organized by journalists who protested the sudden firing of the editor-in-chief of Origo, one of the best and most widely read internet newspapers. Gergő Sáling, the editor in question, has been working for Origo for twelve years, but it was only in November 2013 that he was named editor-in-chief of the paper. Why did the owner of Origo, Magyar Telekom, decide to sack Sáling? Origo has the reputation of being an independent site that views Hungarian politics in a critical manner. But rumor has it that pressure was put on Origo to change its government-critical posture, and as a result editors-in-chief have come and gone lately. It seems that Sáling was not pro-government enough. In fact, he made the mistake of allowing András Pethő, one of the journalists at Origo, to investigate the latest Lázár affair.

The sign says "Is it still possible to bark?" Source: Klubrádió

The sign says “Is it still possible to bark?” Source: Klubrádió

The Origo affair is only the tip of the iceberg. Since winning two elections in a row, Fidesz and the Orbán government have decided to attack the remaining remnants of Hungarian democracy with full force. Besides the NGOs, their other target is the media. This time, however, they may have gone too far. Something unexpected happened. Even right-wing journalists joined liberals to oppose the latest plans to silence critical voices.

A new bill was submitted for consideration to levy heavy taxes on media outlets’ advertising revenues. The new bill proposes taxes on all such revenues but on a sliding scale. Those outlets with the largest advertising revenues would have to pay a tax of 40%. The bill seems to have been aimed at RTL Klub, the largest foreign-owned commercial television station in Hungary. The other important commercial station is TV2, but it seems it would be spared the 40% levy. You may remember that TV2 was recently purchased by mysterious buyers suspected of being closely connected to Fidesz. So, the first reaction was that the Orbán government wants to eliminate TV2’s only serious competitor by financially ruining RTL Klub. The management of the television station claims that if they are forced to pay such a hefty sum on their advertising revenues, they might as well close their doors. Soon enough they will be bankrupt. In fact, RTL estimated that its share of the ad tax would be about 4.5 billion forints, nine times its 2013 profits.

The story might not be so simple, however, because it looks as if TV2’s management is also up in arms and ready to join RTL Klub’s protest. I also heard rumors that even HírTV might join them. That may be only a rumor, but today’s Magyar Nemzet came out with a scathing editorial on the advertising tax. Péter Csermely, deputy editor-in-chief of the paper, viewed the bill as a bald political move: “the two-thirds indeed wants to step on the throat of freedom of the press.” Strong words from Csermely who normally on the P8 program makes Fidesz politicians look good with his softball questions. In his opinion, taxing advertising revenues makes no sense whatsoever because the central budget will receive only nine billion forints from this new tax while every ten forints spent on advertising adds fifty forints to the GDP. So, he came to the conclusion that the proposed tax is meant to put a lid on free speech and the press.

But that is not all. László L. Simon, the Fidesz member of parliament who proposed, or more precisely lent his name to, the bill, threatened that further taxes, this time on internet social media, will be introduced. And speaking of the internet, a few days ago the Constitutional Court came to the conclusion that comments attached to articles are the responsibility of the publishers. This ruling may mean that online newspapers will no longer allow readers’ comments.

But let’s return to the Lázár affair that ended with the firing of the editor-in-chief of Origo. Some time ago, one of the journalists at Origo went to court because the prime minister’s office refused to give out details about secret trips János Lázár took. The courts backed transparency and the law and ruled that the details of the trips, rumored to be very lavish, must be revealed. The prime minister’s office reluctantly obliged. It turned out that the cost of these trips exceeded the wildest imaginations of the journalists. In November 2912 Lázár spent three days in London. The bill was 920,000 forints. In March 2013 he spent two days in Switzerland that cost 469,000 forints just for lodgings. In July he traveled to Italy, again for only two days, which cost the taxpayers 582,000 forints. Upon further probing, Origo found out that the bill totaling 1.97 million forints for these three trips actually covered the expenses of two people.

Lázár was incensed. He wrote a snotty “reply to the article of origo.hu” and posted it on the webpage of the prime minister’s office. The letter included such sentences as: “I am glad that the independent Hungarian courts find it important to get acquainted with my traveling habits.” Or “Appreciating the unbiased, objective, and correct reporting and valuing the journalist’s work in the defense of the Hungarian budget, I decided to renounce the travel allowance that I am entitled to.” He specifically mentioned András Pethő’s name, adding that he would like to make his day with this gesture. One’s immediate reaction is: if Lázár was entitled to the travel allowance, why is he returning the money?

We still don’t know much about the nature of these trips, but it was reported in the media that the persons who accompanied Lázár were “interpreters.” That is curious because, according  his official biography, he speaks both German and English.

Today we found out a few more tidbits, at least about the trip to London. According to Zsolt Gréczy, the spokesman for the Demokratikus Koalíció who gave a press conference on the subject, Lázár stayed at the Crowne Hotel, the most expensive accommodations in London. Apparently, that is the favorite hotel of members of the Hungarian government. Lázár’s job, it seems, was to convince the British to allow a meeting of Viktor Orbán with David Cameron. In fact, Viktor Orbán hoped that Cameron would come to Budapest to demonstrate his support of the Hungarian prime minister. DK learned, however, that Lázár completely botched his negotiations in the Foreign Office and in the end Szijjártó had to be sent to London to straighten things out.

And a final note. The reporter for the official Hungarian telegraphic agency, MTI, was present at the press conference. In fact, he even addressed a question to Zsolt Gréczy. However, MTI chose not to report on the event. That means that the details DK unearthed will get to very few newspapers and online outlets because they all receive MTI news free of charge. I read about it in Népszavabecause one of its reporters was there. This would not be the first time that the MTI management decides not to publish reports that do not reflect well on the Orbán government. So much for transparency and truth.

The free Hungarian media is under renewed attack, but it seems that this time even pro-Fidesz journalists are ready to stand by their colleagues on the other side of the great divide in Hungarian politics. They seem to realize, as Benjamin Franklin famously said, that “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

53 comments

  1. I can see a very good comment in connection with the sacking of Origo’s editor in Facebook:

    “Re: The sacking of Sáling Gergő. When a journalist or his editor is sacked for discovering and printing a report which is true but shows the regime to be a fault or subject to criticism, democracy is dead and buried and the country is beyond redemption while it’s dictatorial government exists.”

    I must admit that I wrote this comment, but I feel quite safe, they cannot sack me!

  2. The national TV and MTVA also did not report on the demonstration. The Kazakh president in town so they had to prioritize the programming time.

  3. When will the ueber-cabinet of the real shakers and movers sack orban?

  4. The full frontal assault on the Hungarian media scene is now starting in earnest.

    There is a master plan, only the clueless leftist/liberal people cannot imagine that because they never had any vision or plan about anything. But on the right-wing there is meticulous planning and long-term vision. And insatiable hungriness for more power, more control, more money. Somehow the leftists seem to me content, not hungry enough. Anyway.

    Fidesz is not yet ready with the takeover of the Hungarian media. It is only getting started. They are not content with owning some 90% of the entire Hungarian media market. They will not be satisfied until they own or control everything except for a few token media outlets (such as blogs or declining print media) which have no way of reaching undecided voters. They are close to the limit after which there is literally nothing to be had, but they are not satisfied because they want to own the media agencies, Lapker, origo.hu what have you.

    The Norwegians story will continue according to plan too, until Fidesz cannot gain control over the decisions of the subsidies it will not stop. The real fight will only start now. You ain’t seen nothing yet, buddies.

    Remember, Orban is at the top of his power. Both in Hungary as well as in the EU. Why would he not take control of everything he can? He will. He is still hungry for more power and money, just as his friends like Simicska are.

  5. Genuine conservatives (as opposed to the Nazis, opportunists, Mafioso & all-round nutjobs which makes up a large proportion of Fidesz representatives and support) sincerely believe that Orban is one of them.

    They are wrong. He believes in only one thing and that is Viktor Orban.
    He is not one of them, he is merely a corrupt, quite possibly mentally unbalanced, thug out to build a country in his image.

    If it is in his interest to intimidate and destroy a conservative journalist, he will do so in the blink of an eye, perhaps the fact that so many on the right joined the demo proves that fact is slowly sinking in. Or perhaps they all just hate the intimidator-in-chief Lazar, which is also a strong possibility.

  6. D7 Democrat:

    Orbán is against “the communists and liberals”. This is what matters only to “genuine conservatives” (an empty set, there are no such people, they only exist in the dreams of leftist people). Because on this stance depends Hungary’s future. The survival of the nation.

    So he is good as any leader, otherwise the communists are coming back and recreate communism or, worse, the liberals are coming back and certain men with beards will create homosexuals from our children. Not good.

    Nobody cares about philosophical issues, what matters is that he is saving us. The liberals and the leftists cannot save us, in fact they want to sell us, expose us even more to the decadent West. Not good either.

  7. “But rumor has it that pressure was put on Origo to change its government-critical posture, and as a result editors-in-chief have come and gone lately. ”

    Origo is not an independent company, it is a part of Deutsche Telekom, a German company. Deutsche Telekom has assets of 100 billion dollars and in 15% owned by Germany itself. 100 billion dollars is bigger than the whole Hungarian GDP, so any suggestion that such a company can be influenced by anyone from within Hungary is very strange.

    If we believe that individuals have so much influence than… what can possibly the Bilderberg Group do then? What should people believe about Bilderberg? That they only meet to discuss the weather?

  8. “This time, however, they may have gone too far.” Sorry to say Eva but if you look at what Fidesz has been doing since they came back to power in 2010, the list of decisions they made would have resulted in heavy protests if not the demise of the government in any other country. Fidesz will get away with this once more — and the many times yet to come.

  9. @ska:

    Why would it be impossible to believe that they can be influenced?

    They can be, suffice it so say that everybody is shitting in their pants at Magyar Telekom that the telecom (utility) tax rate will be increased or some other tax will be introduced or their frequencies will be taken back by the government and so on. The Germans who are anyway extremely easy to influence have been getting the not so vague references about the wishes of the government for years. Talk to people who work there. They are afraid for their jobs, and they are especially afraid that the Germans will sell the company to Simicska (who would buy the company from loans provided by Matolcsy or from the Development Bank) who is ready to gobble any and everything. It’s a time-honored method: bleed the company out, buy it cheaply and then when Simicska buys it through some strohmen from loans provided by Matolcsy somehow the special tax will be eliminated so that company with the increased profits can pay back the loan in no time. This is how pros do it.

    It is extremely easy to influence corporations. If there is one thing Orban realized, it is exactly how easy to influence them. It is almost ridiculous. (The Russians are tough, they are an exception, but of course we knew that.)

    Look at the energy sector, they have not uttered so much as a peep during the last 4-5 years, but let their assets to devalue which were then bought up by the government and Fidesz-related entrepreneurs on the cheap. Apart from some Austrian banks nobody said a word about the banking taxes. Nobody at Budapest Bank or MKB or CIB ever criticized those taxes when they were making the capital infusions worth billions of EUR. The local management have to live with their tormentors, so it is logical that they accept anything from the government, they want to continue to have a job.

    Just as European governments are weaklings, very easy to divide and in any case never dare to have a tough stance on anything, so are their corporations very easy to take advantage of.

    So easy in fact, that Orban or Lazar would be idiots not to do that. So they will continue to do it as there is no downside for them. They get the EU monies with which they can keep their power for ever and from the stolen amount they buy up everything they can. They can’t believe their luck and the stupidity of the West. Very simple.

  10. “Deja vu all over again…”
    Much as in 1956, it will have to be the students who must lead a charge if there is to be one…simply because they have no jobs to lose!

    So, if there’s anyone to stand up for the country it better be the students and it better be now.

  11. It is counter intuitive that pressure can be exerted on such a large company and we are very much observers looking from a distance. But I do know that Attila Mong, who was kicked out of Hungarian Radio for protesting the media law, went to Origo and departed from there not too long after feeling precisely that he was coming under political pressure, which is why he is now at Átlátszó. So I do believe that pressure is exerted although in Origo’s defense, I think until now it has done a pretty good job. And although Éva Balogh seems convinced that Index is “right wing” and is owned by a dubious figure, it too has provided a reasonably good service over the last four years. Neither have been pressured to the point of being “pro-government” and what we see are occasional omissions.

  12. The situation is very interesting: what happens next will tell us who is really in charge.
    Orban’s tendency is to fight back and humble the opposition. But now the demonstration is led by students–in fact, most in the picture are young–and therefore Orban and the government doesn’t have the customary leverage of threatening their jobs. So, if the powers-that-be are other than Orban, the call will go out to appease the crowd and dump Lazar. Later the ring-leaders (and surely they’ve been filmed already and the private services know who they are) will
    be dealt with…in time. But not now.

    So, let’s see what happens to Lazar…

  13. Petofi, I think you are being melodramatic. 1000 people, true, but they aren’t lobbing bricks, smashing windows, being in anyway threatening. If it was a 100 000, and if they were angry and disruptive, then yes, there might just be some sort of reaction from Orbán. But until that happens, I think this is largely irrelevant. But it is interesting that people have actually reacted with a degree of spontaneity

  14. I agree with HiBoM except the number of peoples which made Orban and his gang to do something (and it is time to face the problem if Fidesz could win the election with 2/3 result then it won’t never happen). I think it’s a shame of the Hungarian people/society that only approx 1000/few thousand people joined to the demonstration and there are no more demonstrations on every day.

  15. @HiBoM:

    “has provided a reasonably good service over the last four years. Neither have been pressured to the point of being “pro-government” and what we see are occasional omissions.”

    Are you serious? Just read your own sentence again …

    “occasional omissions” …
    “reasonably good” …
    No pressure – of course not, the people know what to do and what displeases Orbán …

  16. Wolfi, if you live in Hungary, you live in an imperfect world (although that is true for most people anywhere.) And my argument is that overall, Origo and Index have done a good job throughout the last four years, given the prevailing conditions. Of course, things could be better but they could also be very much worse. And in my judgement, Origo and Index have relatively little to be ashamed about, which is more than can be said for most outlets.

  17. Looks like Deutsche Telekom will have to answer a few inconvenient questions.
    I understand the German press is free…

  18. “This is what matters only to “genuine conservatives” (an empty set, there are no such people, they only exist in the dreams of leftist people)”

    Tlop,

    So that only leaves the ” Nazis, opportunists, Mafioso & all-round nutjobs” supporting and working for Fidesz?

    I would take a more optimistic view; they may be a small minority but there are Fidesz representatives and supporters who are not completely rotten and they may be actually quite influential.

    Which takes me back to the demo… Orban and his cohorts work on the primitive notion that whilst democrats can only bring a 1,000 or so peaceful folk onto the street he can mobilse hundreds of thousands- fair enough, a large part of that number are simply there for an all-expenses-paid day out in the capital, some are pure bewildered OAPs corralled by the local village Boss, but still… he does have the street numbers when he needs them. Democrats don’t.

    Similarly democrats, by and large, don’t go on the rampage, breaking windows, kicking police dogs, burning cars to prove a point. That is near enough the sole preserve of the Orban/Jobbik Right in Hungary- it is part of their DNA, hateful destruction. And generally hateful wanton destruction is what brings the spotlight of the world media on a country not a few hundred democrats shouting “Down with that kind of thing”‘

    But….Lazar does seem to be in trouble and from Orban’s POV seems to be now trouble. Lazar apparently has powerful enemies with the Oligarchy (remember his case against the OTP boss?) and it is for their benefit Orban may sacrifice him. Certainly not because a few journalists are upset over the concept of media freedom which Our Dear Leader abolished late 2010.

  19. D7 Democrat: that is your list, not mine. There’s a lot of voters how don’t fall into categories, they just hate “communists” and “liberals”. That is how they were brought up, that is the local tradition. Or they are essentially oppressed people who have to conform to the perceived (and thus real in a self-fulfilling way) majority. And so on. You don’t need to be a mafioso to like utility price cuts, which most people see as a sign that finally politics is also about the little people (and like the dough). They may be conservative as most Hungarians are compared to Western Europe, but not necessarily. All I am saying is that the non-Orbanist conservative (the equivalent of a FAZ reader Merkel voter from Frankfurt a. M.) who will exert influence on Orbán to behave like any normal person does not exist in Hungary. Each and every one of the supposedly moderate (at least all foreign observers deluded themselves into thinking so) fideszniks from Navracsics to Trócsányi to Martonyi to Simon L. to you name it, are still 100% loyal to Orbán. They still do not have the slightest issues with Orbán or any of his policies. There is literally nothing these people wouldn’t do for Orbán. among others they are happy to be powerful and finally important because Orbán’s need for them validates their whole lives. For them Fidesz is an existential (not in a material sense) issue and not a rational one which your logic would imply.

    Whether or not Lázár goes doesn’t matter at all, he thought for a while that he could be the heir, but he has no vision and not disciplined enough, plus succession is absolutely not on the agenda anyway. Orbán needs him though, because Lázár can get things done, perhaps not with Cameron, but in Hungary and it is Hungary which is Orbán’s sole constituency, not the abroad.

  20. @Ska “Origo is not an independent company, it is a part of Deutsche Telekom, a German company. Deutsche Telekom has assets of 100 billion dollars and in 15% owned by Germany itself. 100 billion dollars is bigger than the whole Hungarian GDP, so any suggestion that such a company can be influenced by anyone from within Hungary is very strange. ”

    It’s not strange at all, and if you believe this then you have a very poor understanding of how the world really works.

    In short, Deutsche Telekom and its shareholders don’t care who the chief editor of origo.hu is. Why would they? They only care if the site makes money for them or not.

    So if someone powerful in the Hungarian government is in a huff based on something written on the site, that potentially threatens their ability to make money. No problem, get rid of the editor, everybody’s happy.

    It’s very simple – in the end it’s all about money and not nearly as conspiratorial as you make it out to be. Most things aren’t, in fact.

  21. Regarding
    buddy
    June 4, 2014 at 7:42 am

    I wholeheartedly agree. I was just about to say the same. Just like the stock market the Deutsche Telekom does not give a hoot of “small” political plays. Their responsibility is the return on investment. Does anyone thinks that the head of the company has any personal interest vested Origo?

  22. @ tappanch

    re: Congressional letter

    I’m sure the letter-writers expected this answer. They must be aware that Orban ‘feeds’ on these king of requests, but they felt they had to go on the record; and to shine a light on Orban’s shenanigans. And it’s high time, too.

  23. Let’s make something clear because it seems Westerners just don’t get it how things work in the East.

    The very facts that Lázár successfully commanded Deutsche Telekom into total submission (i.e. the latter’s representatives are openly denying facts which even their colleagues acknowledge and have been talking about in private) and made them do things they would never have dared to do in their home country (i.e. fire an editor in chief after governmental pressure, and especially after the publication of articles which were written from info gained after a legal victory against said government official) in themselves justify to Lázár his actions.

    Lázár and his minions emphatically hate Western companies (as well as countries) which hypocritically preach about best practices and suchlike and then eventually always enter into all kinds of shameful compromises which are obvious even to the most uneducated and dumb observers.

    Lázár and Orbán only respect toughness and ruthlessness, the kind of power play Putin is good at. Or sometimes the Americans too, when they just drop the bombs and don’t give a sh**t.

    The very fact that these European corporations always, without fail, betray their supposedly embraced modern and haughty enlightment values (I remember one of the most famous American law professors say at a public talk in connection with certain international legal issues: “France? Oh, the whore of the world.”) at the smallest of pressures encourages Orbán and Lázár to do it again and again and again.

    They both hate these Westerners for their hypocricy and weakness (which will lead to their decline according to Orbán and Lázár as sooner or later others will also take advantage of them, not just Putin or Orbán) and have enormous joy out of ripping them off and forcing them into very inconvenient situations. In a way they love these companies and at the same time they scorn them.

    Orbán and Lázár thus convinced themselves that Hungarians cannot be like the Westerner, because in that case others will take advantage of us, we must be tougher. Every such action which successfully subdues foreign investors or organizations shows that to survive, one must be aggressive and cunning like the Russians and as a result slowly, not even slowly, Hungary is becoming like Kazakhstan (sans oil and gas).

    And Westerners just don’t get it what the Eastern people are upset about, why they aren’t more like the West.

  24. @pintshee: This is nothing new; in Hungary there were always some who laughed at the “losers” who were not trying to take advantage, con or bully other people. And yes, if you are the bully who don’t give a damn about rules of civilized society, yes, you will win. But in the end, society as a whole, loses… that is why the rules of civil societies exist.

    What is different now that these people got full power and their self-entitled attitudes are reinforced by the intimidated and fooled masses.

    Until the majority of Hungarians learn the value of rules that serve the common good for all people, Hungary will always be a loser, run by greedy bullies who put their self-interest above everybody else’s and who run the country’s resources dry.

  25. Re: general attack on the vestiges of press freedom.

    Breaking news:

    1.
    The Media Authority just ordered the frequency owner “Lokomotív Rádió” to cease broadcasting Klubradio in Debrecen. This is the only town outside Budapest where Klubradio can still be received.

    http://www.klubradio.hu/cikk.php?id=16&cid=174783

    2.
    Orban’s Chief of Staff Lazar has offered an internet deal to Deutsche Telekom, probably in return for firing the editor of origo.hu

    http://vs.hu/ezekert-az-ugyekert-felel-lazar-janos-0604

    3.
    Andras Petho, the author of the articles about Lazar lavish taxpayer-paid junkets in Western Europe resigned today protesting the firing of his editor Schaling.

    http://444.hu/2014/06/04/petho-andras-a-lazar-utazasairol-szolo-cikk-szerzoje-felmond-az-origonal/

  26. Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement with more than 100 chapters around the world is calling on the government of Hungary to stop its strategy of intimidation aimed at stifling the voice of civil society and democratic oversight.
    All of Transparency International’s member organisations, including Transparency International Hungary, are non-partisan.

    http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/transparency_international_calls_for_an_immediate_end_to_intimidation_

  27. By the way pintschee’s comment on Deutsche Telekom and Lázár were very interesting. I suspect as long as Deutsche Telekom some how makes money in the Hungarian market its all good. We should also recall that Deutsche Telekom acquired GTS Central Europe last November. GTS owns and operates an extensive fiber optic and data center network throughout the Central Europe. In the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, the company combines its regional footprint with deep local networks to control a broad range of services.(see http://www.gts.hu/hu-en )

    As in all nations telecommunications is subject to various national laws and the EU framework. So it makes total economic sense to get on the good side of Fidesz. Welcome to the global world of capitalism.

  28. Tlop
    “There’s a lot of voters how don’t fall into categories, they just hate “communists” and “liberals”. That is how they were brought up, that is the local tradition.”

    Let me rephrase that for you-
    “There’s a lot of voters how don’t fall into categories, they just hate “gypos” and “yids”. That is how they were brought up, that is the local tradition.”

    That is a lot closer to the truth; you are seriously wrong if you believe the typical Fidesz voter, especially the rural of the species, understands, far less stresses about political theory, be it liberalism, communism or free/market capitalism. They hate the Roma, they hate the Jews and Orban is the one mainstream politician who panders to their hatreds.
    Bingo, Hungarian Pm for life.

    I wouldn’t actually argue with much else with what you’ve written.

  29. A bit OT re “Bilderberg”:

    M1 TV is reporting at great lengths on Bajnai’s participation in the current Bilderberg meeting.

    Politics.hu reports hat Janos Martonyi, Hungary’s outgoing foreign minister had attended a Bilderberg conference back in 2008. Does anyone know more about that “incident”?

  30. pinschee: “Every such action which successfully subdues foreign investors or organizations shows that to survive, one must be aggressive and cunning like the Russians and as a result slowly, not even slowly, Hungary is becoming like Kazakhstan (sans oil and gas).”

    Apart from the fact that I cannot quite imagine how Hungary will turn itself into Kazakstan precisely because there is no oil and gas that makes it interesting, all these amazing statements about “Westerners” being idiots while the “extremely smart Easterners” are ripping them off do never tell us anything about who exactly is being ripped off and who gains. Among the “smart Easterners” it appears to be just quite a small number of people – Orban and his buddies, Putin and his buddies, Nasarbaev and his friends, while the majority of the people are not really benefiting much from their “smartness” except that they are told that now they are “safe”. “Safe” to pay ever increasing taxes without being offered anything in return. Or did I miss something? Perhaps the West is too lenient towards Hungary, but I can assure you, in the end it is the Hungarians who will find out they were ripped off by their “aggressive and cunning” leader Viktor, who knows how to steal with force, and not the West, which will have indeed sent to Orban way too much money but without being impoverished itself. So I suggest to concentrate on the real losers of this pathetic Deception of Hungary, and to stop believing in some superior “Eastern shrewedness” as it is the Easterners themselves that are primarily paying the bill of their “cunning” compatriots.

  31. In general about the sacking of Origo’s editor-in-chief. Probably this one incident is not changing much, but the number of people who have been the target of Fidesz’ greed and power play will increase. We can read here a thousand times from some believers in the superiority of intimidation about the specific Hungarians’ preferences for being ripped off by its own leader, but the number of people who will be able to assign responsibility for the current state of the society and economy to Fidesz will grow – inevitably. Why exactly do they need to raise taxes by the way, is not everything wonderful in the world of growth through more football stadiums and credit for Orban’s friends? I thought the economy were performing splendidly. Then why raising taxes and not expenditure targeted at the overall public?

  32. @Kirsten: “Probably this one incident is not changing much, but the number of people who have been the target of Fidesz’ greed and power play will increase. ”

    That was to be expected after they won the elections. Just like 4 years ago after winning, they feel confident, so they turn more blatant and aggressive.

    We can expect the same dynamic, (especially after they pocket the municipal elections too).. The next one-two years brutal, merciless politics, going after political opponents, media, centralizing power, shamelessly favoring the cronies (and why shouldn’t they, Hungarians seemed to be OK with it, in the end). Then, before election time, devising strategies to buy the electorate with cheap populist measures, (so that they forget about how they were treated just after the previous election win), and intimidate, vilify, and restrict the opposition.

    Great formula, already worked once.

  33. Oh, I forgot to add.. expect anger, frustration and opposition demonstrations culminate at around the two-year mark.. after that Fidesz will be more appeasing towards the electorate and the opposition will start preparing for the next “elections” instead of taking politics to the street.

    Only two things can throw this scenario off balance:

    1. a major economic downturn or crisis, or crisis
    2. Orban and Fidesz get overly confident and feel so omnipotent that they make serious mistakes. For example, by not doing a good enough job of phase 2 (buying and appeasing the electorate as the elections near).

  34. O/T. Looks like all that ethical investment in soccer stadia is paying off, with Hungary’s 1-0 thrashing of Albania in Budapest tonight, to add to their recent 2-0 drubbing of the Andorran part-timers, also at home.

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