“This is just the beginning”: An even larger demonstration against the regime today

Today an enormous crowd gathered on József nádor tér. It eventually swelled to the point that the beginning of the demonstration was already at the Clark Ádám tér on the Buda side at the Lánchíd while the last demonstrators were still at the Astoria Hotel, a good mile away from the Pest side of the Erzsébet híd. And while on Sunday only a handful of people gathered in Pécs, Miskolc, and Veszprém, this time there were much larger demonstrations, including one in Szeged. In Pécs the speaker was Tamás Mellár, a conservative economist at the University of Pécs who has been a harsh critic of the Orbán government’s economic policies. It is not a coincidence that larger crowds gathered in university towns. After all, young people and students would be most affected by the proposed internet tax.

Apparently the original proposal was so poorly prepared that, had it become law, an average computer user would have had to pay 65,000 forints a month just in taxes. Surely, this was total nonsense, but if the government does not consult with the leaders of the industry such a result is predictable. Then came the inevitable amendments when the Fidesz lawmakers try to fix the botched up proposals. At the end most people who went through the amended proposal still didn’t know how big a burden this new tax will be if it’s introduced. According to calculations, an average user will have to pay 10,000 forints in taxes–and that’s over and above  the 27% VAT they already pay, the highest in the world. Ten thousand forints or $42.00 is a lot of money even for an American internet subscriber, but it is a serious financial burden for most middle-class Hungarians. Also, it is not clear whether this tax would be levied per household, per subscription to a service provider (internet and smart phone), or per electronic device.

But it is not really the size of the tax, although of course that is part of it. For the demonstrators it is a question of principle: the net is free. This is their lifeline to the larger world. It is part of a social network that, for example, made these last two demonstrations possible. It is there where within a few days the organizers received 210,000 likes, more than Fidesz has collected in who knows how many years. It’s not known whose brainchild this tax was, but it was a colossal political mistake. Rumor has it that it was the Great Leader himself who came up with the idea. But, people argue, how could Viktor Orbán make such a mistake? After all, his political instincts are impeccable, at least as far as knowing what moves the Hungarian Everyman.

Source:Reuters/László Balogh

Source:Reuters/László Balogh

What could have accounted for this political misstep, whoever made it? I talked about one possible explanation already yesterday: the Fidesz boys got old too fast. I think they aged prematurely because they are basically an intolerant, opinionated bunch. They lack an openness to anything new or different. They are bound by tradition. All that stuff about folk costumes, folk dances, folk motifs, the virtues of the Hungarian peasantry. They are a backward looking lot. I saw an interview with a man who most likely never sat in front of a computer who announced that he is in favor of the tax because “these people use it too much. The internet should be restricted. Above a prescribed  level, it should not be accessible because it is not good for them.”

The tax is controversial even in Fidesz circles, but I doubt that anyone will dare tell Orbán that he is making a huge mistake. According to rumors, he is currently in Switzerland, insulated from the tense atmosphere in Hungary. These demonstrations will not stop. As the crowds chanted: “This is just the beginning!” This is not just against the tax but against the whole rotten system. They called the prime minister a traitor who sold his country to Putin and said that they don’t want anything to do with the Russians. They chanted: “Filthy Fidesz, filthy Fidesz!” They demanded democracy, a free country, and a free internet. And they want to belong to the European Union, from which László Kövér wouldn’t mind backing out slowly.

But this is only the political side of the controversy. What about the economic impact of the move? According to a recent article that appeared in The New York Times, only so-called developing countries impose damagingly high taxes on top of VAT or sales tax. As a report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation pointed out, “increasing taxes on information and communication technologies provides a significant drag on economic growth, and the losses accrue quickly over time.” Perhaps sanity will return and Viktor Orbán will see the light. Mind you, not too many people believe that. Klub Radio asked whether Orbán will retreat on the issue or not: only 20% of the callers answered in the affirmative. By now Hungarians know their prime minister.

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141 comments

  1. @Ron

    “finances are in shambles”:
    We will get new data about the NET debt only on November 17.

    Let the base be the debt on 12-31-2013.

    The net debt of the central government was 9.64% over the base on 06-30-2014
    The gross debt had increased by 12.67% at the same time.

    The gross debt of the central government peaked on July 18, 13.63% above the base level.

    The latest number (as of 10-22-2014) is 12.17% above the same starting point.

  2. We just arrived in Germany and the first thing I did was checking the news and comments here …

    Seems that the trolls have been working overtime – Sky W. is really something!

    Whenever I read “New World Order” I shudder, but my favourite troll comment is still (on some thread in politics.hu re Ukraine):
    Jewish gay fascists – of course sponsored by the EU and Soros …
    Unbelievable!

    Back to reality:

    I still wonder how Orbán will manage to “seinen Kopf aus der Schlinge ziehen” i e find a kind of solution to this i-tax.

  3. tappanch you were correct there is no provision in the internet tax legislation that requires that the tax revenues be used in any particular manner. But we are all sure Rogan will make sure even the smallest most isolated villages will soon have high speed internet access, right?

  4. @Istvan

    I trust comrade Rogan completely. He already proved himself at his real estate disclosure. 🙂

  5. Besides lost taxes on tobbacco, also the excise tax on gasoline must have decreased given that the sales price decreased by some 20%. Volume probably went up, but overall there must be significant decrease.

  6. @Eva2
    So this is fact that someone with the same name checked out.
    As we all know, there is no demand of proof for identification, you only have to write your – assumed – name…

    Just as well.

    Just to make it clear: for my sake Habony may have- or may have not been in DC – it doesn’t really matter, honestly. For the record, nevertheless, images won’t work as proof – to me, that is – since I know how to make a “make believe” of just about everything.

    By the other hand: why should anyone prove for any price, that he/she was at someplace at a given time..?

    If I accused of something what I’m sure I haven’t have anything to do, I simply ignore it.
    So what?
    I don’t have to prove a single thing, why should I?

    But than again: I’m not a Fidesz affiliate…

    Thank’s God!

  7. It is a little logical exercise to figure out that the unnamed company in the portfolio.hu article that gave the “snow”, the hint to the Orban government to tax the internet is Telenor!

  8. zoRRo:
    “Dear Eva, Re opposite trolling…
    I am a devoted reader of your site for quite some time (well before subscribing to it). I do not mind to contribute to the discussion if I have time and I feel that doing so may be beneficial for this community. My third prerequisite is safety. What I am saying is that our identities should be safeguarded. Some assurances from you would help probably many of us to carry on. Otherwise, I have to stick to just reading. Many thanks for considering.”

    This is a sticky question, and I doubt that Eva will answer it. She is not in a position to assure you that hacking of the wordpress accounts is impossible. Nobody is. When I began commenting I had the same worry. Now I rather think that Orbán’s hackers are not worth their present salary if they have not yet found out who we are.

  9. @wolfi & more
    Orbán don’t have to find any solution for this particular tax – he only needs to find money.
    Wherever the nearest.
    As we all know instead the IMF he chose “State’s bonds” – for much higher cost, mind you – and since the latest auction didn’t worked according to expectations he needed to find other means. Never mind, this is the wrong idea from stage one.

    Take my word: he is in desperate need of funds, nothing seems to work along the usual lines, he most invent something new!
    Taxing the internet is rather new, you must admit, since civilised countries banned the idea long ago, look up the Americans for example.

    Innovative, I must say.

    And backward as hell!

    One must be a kind of “digitally impaired” – my version – to find the idea plausible in year 2014l, don’t you think?

    I do!

    After all, we’re talking about Orbanistan, aren’t we?

  10. @Jean P

    – And just what would happen, if they identify us?

    I am pretty sure that they already listed even my daycare nurse’s maiden name too, to begin with, and we’re talking about 60+ years back in time..!

    As the old Hungarian (ethnic, no doubt!) saying goes: so, you may even blow me, dear..!

    Tat’s about it!
    ————————
    My apologies Eva!
    Apparently my National(ist) side took over, and I just couldn’t help myself!

    Being Hungarian has it’s drawbacks too…

    Sorry again!
    (“Oh Well”, said Peter Green in ‘969 or thereabout..)

  11. Re: the death of Andras Varady,

    [the Alcsut enemy of Orban’s friend & Orban’s son-in-law,
    who was killed by a Mercedes on the eve of the October election.]

    Police said after his death that the person who ran over Varady was a 84-year-old Austrian-Hungarian dual citizen. There is no news that he has ever been detained or even interrogated. The rumor is that the alleged killer used the identification papers of a dead person!

    http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1037821-ki-okozta-varadi-andras-halalat

  12. @Spectator, yes the outfit is something awful and his hairdo is worse than that of Szijjártó. But don’t forget in his earlier life he was an auto mechanic. Maybe he thinks that this is nice.

  13. The demonstration in action. Who were those Hungarians kidding when they told me that the didn’t protest, they didn’t fight, they didn’t care about politics. This is the spirit that felled the Berlin Wall : http://vimeo.com/110394933.

  14. But spectator the Hungarian government told the Washington Post’s reporter the internet tax funds would be used to extend internet coverage to the rural areas of Hungary, not just general revenue to fill budget holes. Is it possible the Hungarian government would deceive a reporter for the newspaper that broke the Watergate story, could they be so bold as that! I am aghast.

  15. @Istvan

    “deceive a reporter for the newspaper that broke the Watergate story”

    This might be Fidesz’s hidden agenda.

    ‘If you do not learn Hungarian [the language of our excellent laws and bills], we will deceive you. So come and learn Hungarian in our excellent language schools.’ 🙂

  16. Istvan, “But spectator the Hungarian government told the Washington Post’s reporter the internet tax funds would be used to extend internet coverage to the rural areas of Hungary, not just general revenue to fill budget holes. Is it possible the Hungarian government would deceive a reporter for the newspaper that broke the Watergate story, could they be so bold as that! I am aghast.”

    YES! All in caps for emphasis.

  17. Thanks for the reflections!

    Even if – the whole charade is just hideous!
    – And we aren’t really at Halloween yet..!

    He must have been a car mechanic with exceptionally bad sense of style, nevertheless!
    But somehow he represents the whole government to me – as is a self made/appointed wannabes with no taste and/or culture to talk about, or at least fall back to…

    However, there is some light at that proverbial tunnel: all those kids (well, compared to me, that is) who has spoken at the demonstrations managed to show just how obsolete the Orbán government became!

    Come on, people!

    These kids are the present, while Orbán is a has been, not only well over his prime, but even well over on his ‘best before’ date!
    The whole Orbanist regime stinks to high Heavens, it’s rotten to the core, while the speakers of these demonstrations not only proved that the future of Hungary is above party-politics, but even that the generation X (Y?) much more enlightened than Orbán ever will be.

    I will say that even if the demonstrations will subdue by the lack of enthusiasm/interest or the general apathy of the Hungarians – Orbán’s time is overas the ‘leader’ of Hungary.
    He can hang on for awhile, but the crack appeared on the shield and from now on it’s only question of time.

    As our bad luck tend to prevail it could be some decades from now, but still, there is hope, people!

  18. Totally OT and probably uninteresting to anyone but myself, but as a kendo player myself I have to say that NOL is wrong about Habony’s kendo history. He was not a three-time national kendo champion as they wrote, but only once (1995), which to be honest is still pretty damn impressive considering the high level of kendo in this country.

    And it’s technically true what they wrote that Hungary was world kendo champion in 1997, but that was only in the “B” category, like the second-string for smaller countries. (Incidentally, 1997 was the first and only year that there ever was a “B” category in the kendo world championship, and Hungary won it.)

    Sorry for derailing the thread with my kendo obsession…:)

  19. Internet is something we already pay for (if we are to take into account that housing is something we pay for).

    Having the Hungarian government make people pay extra for internet use is not a good idea because it’s like having Microsoft make people pay money for Xbox Live (which is basically making you pay extra for internet use).

  20. Protests are going on in other cities now,but not a peep about any of this on state media.Like in 1956 when some people without radios did not know about the revolution.If one does not have Internet or Euronews they would not even know anything about these things.Ironic and sad that this is happening during the 1956 holiday.The parallels are frightening.My father used to say that not all Hungarians will betray you,but it is always a Hungarian who wil betray you.

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