The day of outrage: Yesterday’s demonstrations in Hungary

Nowadays anti-government demonstration follows anti-government demonstration in Hungary. And not just in Budapest but in all larger cities and towns. Tens of thousands of people gather each time to express their outrage.

A couple of months ago no one would have predicted such a swift change in the political climate. In fact, critics of the government simply couldn’t understand the population’s passivity. In the last few years Viktor Orbán’s government has done so much harm to the great majority of Hungarians that it was difficult to understand the complacency of the people, the apathy that seemed to have paralyzed the country’s inhabitants. Explanations for this phenomenon varied. Some felt that fear played a large role. The current political players are known to be merciless when it comes to their opponents. Even in private companies people were afraid to voice their opposition to the government for fear that their pro-government boss would fire “the enemies of the nation” right on the spot. Others argued that, given the weakness of the opposition parties, the population was destined to remain passive. After all, they see no alternative to the present regime. People fear chaos if Fidesz’s rule collapses. Another explanation was the nationalistic fervor that was artificially fueled by the government. If it is true, as the government claims, that Hungary is surrounded by enemies, the people have to stand by a government that seems to be defending their national honor.

But all that changed about a month ago. The pent-up resentment and dissatisfaction surfaced with elemental force. The planned introduction of an internet tax was the catalyst. Those young people who had created a virtual community on Facebook and Twitter and who were not paying much attention to the way the government was stripping them of their personal freedom suddenly woke up. Now it was their own space that Viktor Orbán was trampling on. And once they woke up they also realized that this government is planning to organize every facet of their lives, from cradle to grave. They looked around and decided that what’s going on today in Hungary is anything but democracy.

demonstracio, nov. 17

Then there is the matter of corruption, which has been systemic and organized from above. Ildikó Vida, president of the Hungarian Tax Authority, is just one link in the chain that goes all the way to the top. In Hungary everybody is aware of widespread corruption, but once it became known that even the top officials of the tax office are complicit in tax fraud the floodgates opened wide.

Now, let’s talk a little about last night’s event. The organizers of yesterday’s demonstration are different from the ones we came to know in the last few weeks as leaders of the movement. Yet they managed to gather a crowd of about 20,000. There was, however, a strange dissonance between speakers and audience. The youthful orators hate all politicians. They don’t seem to distinguish between politics after 2010 and before. For them the last two and a half decades are all the same. It is time for a “regime change.”

It was enlightening to watch the demonstrators’ response. They were not inclined to bury the last twenty-five years. They did not yell “Down with Bajnai!” or “Down with Gyurcsány!” when the youthful speakers mentioned their names. The crowd got fired up only when Fidesz, Orbán, or Vida were mentioned. None of the signs held up by the demonstrators demanded the removal of all parties, but there were plenty that wanted Viktor Orbán to disappear from Hungarian political life. The speakers and their audience were not in sync. One had the feeling that the audience was not really interested in the speeches. They only wanted to express their “outrage” at what this government has done to them in the last few years.

One of the organizer-speakers had a talk with Olga Kálmán of ATV yesterday right after the demonstration. During the conversation he announced that they want a “new regime,” a “new political system.” When asked about the nature of that system, it became evident that these young people not only don’t have a program, they don’t have an inkling about what a new regime might look like. They only know what they don’t want: corruption, graft, a lack of dialogue between government and the governed, and arrogant politicians. This is good as a beginning but certainly not enough to change Hungarian politics in the long run.

Some of the organizers also displayed a certain naïveté. One of them expressed their desire to “work with all political parties,” including Viktor Orbán and Fidesz. Surely, this young man doesn’t understand the nature of the mafia state and the role of the godfather in that system. The majority of his audience, on the other hand, seemed to understand that one cannot work with this regime. It must go and democracy must be restored. This is what they demanded during their long demonstration in front of the parliament building.

The parties have wisely kept away from these demonstrations, but surely sooner or later the “outraged” public and the politicians of the democratic opposition must find each other because only by cooperating can this regime be toppled.

As for the government’s reaction, Viktor Orbán and his minions act as if nothing happened yesterday. In parliament the two-thirds majority voted on next year’s budget that is full of new taxes and punishing levies on foreign companies the government wants to destroy. Viktor Orbán opened two new establishments, one in Alcsút and the other in Felcsút, the villages of his youth. He visited János Flier’s cattle breeding farm and Lőrincz Máeszáros’s farm where he will raise mangalica pigs. Both “farmers” are considered to be front men (Strohmänner/strómanok) of Orbán. For the time being it looks as if the prime minister hasn’t sensed political danger. If I were in his shoes I would be less cocky. Some people are very angry.

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65 comments

  1. @Eva – Optimism is a powerful weapon.

    Many dictatorships have fallen with some relatively small protests. Hungary is not one of those situations because Fidesz does represent a genuine constituency and indigenous ideology. Hopefully critical thinkers, like those on this blog, can help clarify the thinking of the street protestors. The alternative is that they will end up being manipulated by the government.

    So, you can be pessimistic as much as you want. I still encourage increased dialogue between our crowd and the street protestors.

  2. @gardonista, you seem to be on the wrong track here. Who says there shouldn’t be dialogue. On the contrary, seasoned politicians should give advice to these young people without any experience in politics.

  3. To remove OV by democratic means is not realistic. The seed of violance itself is planted within the system. The great Leader is quite stubborn by the way, he will resist untill the bitter end. I heve a bad feeling about all this. I hope for G*ds sake I am wrong.

  4. @Larry
    Re: Kosa and the bank accounts.

    From September 2018, Dubai (UAE) will also provide automatic data about bank accounts.
    Of course, if Fidesz is still in power then, the fidesznik head of the Tax Authority will not investigate Orban & friends.

    Countries that have not yet committed to an automatic exchange of data by September 2018 are few:

    Vanuatu, Nauru, Cook Islands
    Liberia (well, if you dare to go to bank in Ebolaland)
    Guatemala, Panama,
    Bahrain (will it be occupied by Iran by then?),

    Other countries you might not like to visit to open an account are also safe 🙂
    Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan,
    Mongolia, North Korea

    So Kosa’s bank account could also be in Bahrain.

  5. @Gabor and others regarding LMP

    No, there is no generational conflict here, none!

    However, here we usually tend to dislike so called “politicians” without clear moral- and/or ideological principles, so called “politicians” who applies their view according to their existential preference, so called “politicians who claim to pursue “the truth” against one side, but gladly accept the same from the other, and the list only goes on.

    Just to illustrate, what I mean:

    Schiffer, the self sung hero of justice heroically reported on Gyurcsány’s alleged misdoings about Sukoró (couldn’t be proved by the whole Fidesz propelled DA’s team, btw) while never mentioned a quite open and obvious ‘conflict of interest’ case, namely the present PM as a soccer fan legislator, – the name Orbán – and the law of taxfree donations to soccer clubs, and the decision maker and honorary chairman of the same clubs, which is about enough to be expelled from office anywhere from the “west of Lajta” region.
    Apparently it’s quite alright with the moral sense of Schiffer.
    Do you remember the very low level of remark of the very same party leader regarding that shameful monument of ‘German occupation’? (Not ‘Nazi’, but German, mind you…)
    I do.
    Did you liked it?
    I did not.

    You see, being lukewarm ‘in-between everything’ opportunistic approach isn’t really a winner.
    Even if some of their people really good, some of their ideas worth to think further, but still…

    People who dare not/will not define their true selves and try to position themselves right between the main forces, usually en up right there, between the chairs, – where they belong to – as the saying goes.

  6. gybognarjr and LwiiH, you are completely right!

    I have expressed the same many times in the past – they shouldn’t participate in this shameful charade ever.
    Of course, I know that too, that the ‘Jobbik’ and ‘LMP’ would have been there and may- or may not have been able the create the illusion of fair and balanced election and democratic party-balance, maybe.
    However, it would have sent a stark signal to the world that no civilised and ‘steadfast to democracy’ parties will take part of creating the illusion of normality where is none really – and slowly but surely it would have yield some results. (After all, their only role as background crew couldn’t be missed, since never ever they managed to get anything through in the parliament. so, why don’t just skip the whole phoney game altogether?)

    If not sooner, maybe on the day before yesterday.

    Well, their presence badly needed among these cute and ‘half past’ innocent kids, who have no really any idea, what to do with the crowd. Even worse, they couldn’t figure out how to handle a situation what they managed to create.
    Think about it: there is a huge dissatisfaction – with politics in general, with the ruling party and their government in particular – and the couple of tens of thousands people come to meet with cute kids with idealistic ideas, but nothing more substantial!

    This is not going to work, there is nothing serious ever could come out of this, if it isn’t turning into more “professional” protest, we like it or not. Amateurism has it’s charm, but only so far.

    Not to mention my biggest problem with the whole: there already/still arguments over to whom to cooperate – no, not to which party, but which individual(!) – and if one group may- or may not will coordinate with the other..!

    Hungary, in it’s whole glory!

    Once again: the house is ablaze, and we arguing over, if we like the fireman or we don’t..!

  7. Acquisition of citizenship in the EU28, 2012

    Citizenship acquired per 100 resident foreigners:

    1. Hungary: 12.8 [of course it is not the resident foreigners that gained citizenship in Hungary]
    2. Sweden: 7.8
    3. Poland: 6.6

    Citizenship acquired by EU citizens, in thousands:

    1. Germany: 20.7
    2. Switzerland 15.1
    3. Hungary 14.9 [only??]
    4. UK 10.5
    5. Belgium 8.6
    6. France: 8.2

    Citizenship acquired by non-EU citizens, in thousands:

    1. UK 183.3
    2. Germany 93.4
    3. Spain 92.7
    4. France: 74.3
    5. Italy: 59.6
    6. Sweden: 41.3

    Hungary: 3.5

    http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/3-18112014-AP/EN/3-18112014-AP-EN.PDF

  8. I didn’t attend this one. Party because I’m not a Hungarian citizen, and this time the theme was clearly political. Also, because the chosen location was not my cup of tea (old Parisian habits: no protests in front of the Parliament). And finally, because the whole thing seemed, well, vague.

    Bulgarians have protested for weeks, every day, ‘against corruption’ to no avail – though it probably had an impact on the ulterior electoral defeat of the Socialist Party. The resignation of Mrs. Vida? That’s all very well, but who do they think would replace her? Do people think it’s only about one person at the NAV? And so on.

    Finally, ‘corruption’ is a very risky theme for the Left. Of course, one can, and probably should, distinguish between ‘common thievery’ and the ‘magyar polip’ – yet in the heat of the moment, and more importantly in the absence of a trustworthy justice system, the distinction doesn’t matter anymore.

    Koriander mentioned some inglorious affairs in contemporary France. However, these cases are effectively, albeit slowly, investigated by the French justice system (except for the oil and uranium dealings). It’s a huge difference; and it’s an essential safeguard for democracy, one that helps citizens resist the temptation to throw the baby out with the bath water…

  9. Corruption happens everywhere – but the way that it’s handled makes a huge difference!
    One of our recent presidents in Germany had to resign because of it, ministers lost their jobs, top managers were sent to jail because of tax evasion, I could go on …

    The Fidesz government however reacts as if corruption were impossible in their ranks – on the other hand they started proceedings against the former government in several cases where nothing at all came out of it …

    They really are a mafia!

  10. Marcel, I’ve bought your arguments, I really did.

    After all people en masse needs a common driving idea which would stand scrutiny, otherwise the whole thing will die out, just as the memorable fall of the very first “Együtt” demonstration proves it. Alas, it was much better organised and with clear goal, the follow up has been delayed for about a year till it lost the initial momentum and the whole collapse became inevitable already there and then.

    In my opinion there is nobody out there at the moment with enough credibility (to the common people, that is) to successfully stand up and lead the movement, and without him/her it’s like shooting with blanks – may pops loud, but has no real effect, and pretty soon nobody will take it seriously.

    Yes, I know that everyone and everything must start somewhere, but sincerely, there is no sign of anything substantial, not even a clear idea behind the self appointed leaders/organisers – and that’s the real problem, not their age, not their choice of words or clothing.

    I’m afraid that they afraid too, and have no idea what the next step should be.
    I wonder, who- and when will take responsibility and take the lead, clear and simple, before it vill became just another flop in the row.

  11. [OT] The 7th “Budapest Human Rights Forum” starts tomorrow. In the absence of any panellist from the EU or major NGOs, this year’s focus seems to be on surrealism…

    Third Panel: Freedom of opinion and freedom of speech – online and offline challenges
    Panellists:
    2. Mr András Koltay, Member of the Media Council, National Media and Infocommunications Authority of Hungary
    (…)
    5. Mr Péter Buzás, Hungarian National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information

    (Source)

  12. The fact that in other countries there is also corruption, dubious party funding, politicians who work in their own interest only etc. should not be taken as proof that “nothing can be done about anything in Hungary”. In democracies that deserve the name, “democracy” (participation, transparency, accountability of politicians…) is an objective to be aimed at, to be demanded by people and that can materialise only with the active contribution of the citizens, nothing that is once “introduced” and then no matter how much (or how little) people do will work in the interest of all citizens.

    So, do not waste time with affairs in France, Germany, the United States etc., when the point is that Hungarians first should find out whether they consider the current regime acceptable or not, and if not, what should replace this current regime and then at a further point: how. I believe that for a start it is no problem if people say that they would like to see unpolitical change, no party politics. But they should not stop there. How should change look like in an “unpolitical” manner, who should act, and what should be done by these “unpolitical” actors. How do you know they are deciding “correctly” and “legitimately” etc. How can they be held responsible. With so little practical political experience and no support from the elder generation (which – being a complete failure with respect to cooperative spirit – cannot teach the young generation much, I would even say anything), the experience will have to come through learning by doing. Try “unpolitical” movements but do not abandon the movements once it turns out that there are “conflicts” or diverging views about matters of public interest, that you have to provide some arguments in political issues, or when you have to achieve compromises with people of other views. The necessary precondition for any improvement in Hungary is to learn to communicate with people of different views, to identify broad common interests, and to lay some basis for trust even in situations where it might according to the “traditional” thinking be grossly unwise. I believe that the feeling of people who demand that change has to be “unpolitical” is to some extent correct as “party politics” in Hungary appears to be a specific source of hatred and uncooperative behaviour. But those people who wish for more “civilised” politics have to provide more than this demand, a “movement” the most important aim of which is to gather people who can do more than spread conflict, hatred and resentment.

  13. Today I’ve met with someone who has been a few times in Hungary – devoted Marathon runner, can you believe it? – and he asked me, what on Earth is happening in Hungary nowadays?
    I tried to explain – well, I thought so, anyway – then he came up with the following:

    – I’m sad to hear all this, particularly, since there once has been democracy..!
    – Well, I said, the present government working furiously to uproot it.
    – I mean, before the WW, Hungary was with Austria then, and they are democracy, right?

    Oh well..!

    The point is, (beside the obvious ignorance) that in the Hungarian history ‘democracy’ – in the true meaning of the word never existed. Yes, I am aware of the early democratic experiments, but in the same sense as it obvious in England, it is nonexistent in Hungary.
    Conclusively, in my opinion Hungarians have no the same kind of relation with the concept of democracy, a way far off to comprehend it truly, let alone demanding it.

    If one came so far, then isn’t so hard to put things in context – subjectively speaking.
    From here on the acceptance of the present patronising approach of the government can be perceived as normal, the role as servant feels only as “keeping traditions”, having the responsibilities lifted up from the shoulder of the common people – along with their right to decide over their own fate – is rather accepted, since they don’t really feel the loss of something they never really have: true democracy.

    Again, it is how I see it.
    Otherwise someone else may come up with a better explanation.

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