Introducing two young civic leaders: Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss

At this moment another demonstration is taking place in Budapest. Again thousands are out on the streets. This time they’re demonstrating against the Orbán government’s effort to steal the private pension savings of those 60,000 people who four years ago when the government decided to “nationalize” the accumulated savings of 3 million people opted to leave their savings in private funds despite all sorts of threats.  As it turned out, their decision was wise. These funds did well over the years and by now the average investor has 3.5 million forints in his account. According to estimates, if the government manages to get hold of the savings in these pension funds, it will reap another 200 billion forints. Admittedly, this is a great deal less than the 3 trillion that was brazenly expropriated in 2010, but it looks as if the Hungarian budget is in desperate need of new sources of revenue.

Although it is too early to write anything meaningful about this latest demonstration, it offers an opportunity to say something about the recent demonstrations in general and to acquaint readers with two of their organizers. First, rumor has it that, appearances notwithstanding, the Fidesz leadership is worried about the long-term effects of the demonstrations on Fidesz’s support and image. Apparently, next week the party’s top brass will get together to discuss the situation.

Early on, Fidesz politicians thought that if they retreated on the question of an internet tax the demonstrations would disappear. They were also happy to hear that the organizers of some of the demonstrations don’t want anything to do with politics. Yet there are signs of grave trouble because dissatisfaction with the government is widespread. “Today we don’t really know whom we should appease.”

Here I would like to introduce the organizers of the Facebook group “We will not be silent!” To focus on this group is especially timely because I just learned that one of the speakers of the November 17 gathering in front of the parliament building, Balázs Nemes, who was asked to speak at today’s demonstration, refused to participate because not only a civic group but a political party, Együtt, is involved. And this group doesn’t want to cooperate with any existing parties. In their eyes, the parties are all the same. This group was the one that immediately rejected “the advances of Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK.”

Some of the more seasoned politicians of the democratic parties, for example, Gábor Kuncze, reacted to Balázs Nemes’s November 17 speech rather heatedly on television. He objected to the speaker’s condemnation of the entire period between 1989 and 2014. ATV decided to have Kuncze meet Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss, another organizer of the group. On Sunday the three appeared on Antónia Mészáros’s “Szabad szemmel” program. It was a very informative twenty minutes. My conclusion was that it is unlikely that these particular young people will be the catalysts of regime change in Hungary.

My problem with them was not that they are inexperienced and somewhat ignorant of the political events of the last twenty-five years, but that they didn’t grasp Kuncze’s simple, logical explanation of why their ideas were fallacious. Although the conversation was about 20 minutes long, here I will concentrate on two points that Kuncze made. The first was his description of the difference between the first twenty and the last five years. The second was his emphasis on the necessity of parties and politicians.

The position of Nemes and Kiss was that the earlier governments did something so terribly wrong that it inevitably led to Fidesz’s illiberal governance. Kuncze’s position, on the other hand, was–which he tried to explain at least two different ways to no avail–that yes, past governments didn’t do a good job and the electorate punished them for their bad governance. They lost the election. The problem is not the two-thirds majority but what Fidesz did with it in parliament. In 1994 the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition had more than a two-thirds majority, but the Horn-Kuncze government did not change the constitution or the electoral law, did not appoint party hacks to the constitutional court, and did not build an illiberal state. When the people of Hungary voted for Fidesz, they did not anticipate what was coming. After all, Fidesz did not have a party program. In fact, Viktor Orbán said not a word about his plans. So, the present government’s governing style is not the necessary and inevitable result of the bad governance of earlier governments.

I kept watching the faces of these two young people, and it seemed that they didn’t understand what Kuncze was getting at. Nemes muttered something about a “qualitative” difference between the earlier governments and the one today, but he didn’t grasp the essential difference between them. As for Petra Kiss, she, in my opinion, is even more hostile to everything that happened before 2010. She is also more naive about what one can achieve without parties and politicians. As Kuncze pointed out, if they want to remain involved then sooner or later either they will have to make peace with the present democratic opposition or they themselves will have to create parties. Kiss dreamily announced that for the time being they don’t want to do anything concrete. They just want young people to remain engaged. This is a fine idea, but surely it is not enough if these people are serious about sending the Orbán government packing. She also stressed that “there should be many, many parties,” as if she were totally ignorant of the current electoral law that precludes the existence of many small parties against the Fidesz monolith. All in all, I doubt that these two new stars of the November 17th demonstration will be ready by either 2016 or 2018 for serious roles in a new political constellation.

As for cooperation among the various groups, the prospects are not auspicious. The organizers of the demonstration against the internet tax refused to cooperate with the “We will not be silent!” group. Balázs Nemes was invited by the organizers of today’s demonstration but refused to participate. Meanwhile, their Facebook page is full of criticism of their position. Most of the comments talk about the necessity of cooperation between civic movements and parties. Some accuse the organizers of “not hearing the voice of the masses.” Or, “in my opinion this party neutrality is going in the wrong direction.” Critical comments don’t seem to make a dent on this group’s leaders.

I still think that these demonstrations are important and I’m also sure that some of these Young Turks will have political roles in the future, but I don’t think that Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss will be among them.

71 comments

  1. In my view, the problem is that the leaders of parties which lost the elections in 2010 and 2014 still refuse to understand that they repulse the electorate. Indeed, some of them are now promising simply to restore the system from before 2010. Yes, according to polls most ordinary people now agree that the current government is worse than governments before 2010. But no, that does not mean that the electorate wants to return to office politicians they threw out in 2010. What is it about Gyurcsany’s and others’ egos? They had their time in office. They blew it. They were rejected, twice, by the electorate (and in that sense, they share a little responsibility for the current mess). They lost twice, yet they refuse to move aside and let talented new people come forward to lead their parties. Indeed, they prevent new people from getting anywhere near the top. In a milder way, the old leftist leadership in Hungary reminds me of the Whites during the Russian Revolution, when most people agreed that the new Bolshevik system was worse than Tsarism, but very few people indeed were willing to risk anything for people whose sole promise was to restore the Tsarist system.

  2. @Webber. Judging from the reaction of the crowd on November 17, your assessment is not quite correct. There no one wanted to send Gyurcsány and others to hell, only Orbán and Fidesz.

  3. @Webber: There have been plenty of new faces and formations popping up in Hungarian politics in the last 5-10 years (LMP, PM, Egyutt, 4K!) but none of them seem to have enough traction or mass appeal.

    I think it is ludicrous to suggest that old timers somehow can prevent new people appear in politics…how? Maybe within their own parties the have some kind of influence, but even MSZP has plenty of new faces. The problem is that these new faces are not much better than the old ones.

    I think the main issue in Hungarian politics is not a lack of new people in politics, as more and more groups start demonstrating, we have plenty of those. The problem is lost credibility… politicians, am bloc, lost credibility in Hungary. And the credibility issue does not only affect old politicians… as newcomers become “professionals” in politics, they very quickly get lumped in the mistrusted category. (I have to add the Fidesz propaganda machine had been working hard on discrediting opposition politicians as well, and it also has an effect).

    Hungarians don’t trust politicians, ANY politician. They don’t trust that any politician would represent the country’s and the electorate’s interests. And while many politicians do deserve the mistrust, this indiscriminate rejection of politicians is very very harmful. The whole point in a democracy is to trust certain political players. If they lose this trust, they should be voted out. Apathy is a killer of democracy.

    The most important task for any party in Hungary is to rebuild credibility. I think that would mean taking a very strong anti-corruption stance (beside commitment to rebuild democratic institutions in the country).

  4. The insightful presentation of these two young leaders together with the total loss of credibility of politicians stressed both by Eva and An sum up the tragic and hopeless situation, as I see it, of today’s Hungary. Orbán’s politics leads to the destruction of the country’s economy, democratic life (if there ever was such….) and future (see what’s happening in the field of education), and there are just no political forces, especially not on the dying left, that could do anything about it, that could offer any credible alternative. What can then change this path of destruction? It could be a programless and instinctive explosion of the people, something similar to, but much more massive than the spontaneous manifestations we have seen the last two weeks. Such explosions rarely, if ever, brought about positive changes in history. It could be Jobbik, the only political force that seems to resist to the generalized distrust towards politicians. Lastly, it could be some internal revolution within the Fidesz by people who realize the tragedy that Orbán’s politics means. However, it seems that Orbán has succeeded in eliminating all potential contestation and potential critics within his party. That would leave us with the first two alternatives, neither of them a rosy perspective…

  5. @An -“Hungarians don’t trust politicians, ANY politician”

    People who don’t trust anybody can not change anything.As long as this situation/mentality continues Orban’s regime is safe.

  6. This might sound really stupid to some, but I don’t believe that “there are no alternatives, no credible politicians or parties, none at all.”

    People who claim that, are the victims of Fidesz’s propaganda machine, their dirty character assassination games, and victims of Fidesz’s methodical depriving the other parties of money, media exposure etc. If all parties had had equal opportunities to advertise their faces and their programmes, to receive equal funding, if there had been a live debate of party leaders (imagine one where Orban would have had to face Gyurcsany, Mesterhazy, Bajnai, Bokros etc.!), millions of people watching them, they would have been more able to decide who they want to support.

    Arguably, some opposition parties have more rational attitudes, better ideas, better faces than others, but to put them all under the umbrella of “not credible, filthy criminals” is and was wrong. I call this the attitude of “aristocratic passivity and inability”, that so many Hungarians have. They want everything, they want it perfect and they want it now, but without having to do anything for it.

    It’s very easy to turn your nose up at everybody, pick the reasons why you hate each of them – to say “I’ll vote if there is a perfect candidate, but not before then”. Now they can see the result: Orban is staying with another 2/3, and it almost doesn’t matter how many times people march on the streets, if the same angry people will not vote for politicians and will not become politicians.

    I agree there are very few talented new politicians in Hungary now, but why would anybody become one? Why would it be an attractive career in a country where people will not accept anybody?, not even in theory, like these two, who fidget the moment you say the word “politician”.

  7. Ovidiu

    “People who don’t trust anybody can not change anything.As long as this situation/mentality continues Orban’s regime is safe.”

    I hadn’t seen this before I posted.
    Thank you!, you have summed up my opinion perfectly.

  8. The cynicism being expressed on this blog and among the younger members of my own extended family is not iligitimate. But when I heard a 23 year old cousin tell me last March that the only solution to the inherent corruption in Hungary was some form a ruling movement with a vision that kept Hungary in a state of permanent political revolution, whether in was the Jobbik or another movement I had a chill. It sounds a lot to me like the preclude to full scale Fascism yet again in Hungary.

  9. (Some good news for Mr. Orban.)

    The American Lieutenant General Ben Hodges has said:

    “”I’m going to look at options that would include distributing this equipment in smaller sets, company-size or battalion-size, perhaps in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, places like that…”

    Orban can now balance his East/West charade by inviting the nato troops and arms to locate in Hungary.

  10. @Eva and An – We’ll have to disagree, and I’m afraid I find your logic a little perverse. Of course the protesters were sending only one person and one party to hell! (see what I said about the govt.) That doesn’t mean the protesters like anybody else. If anyone thinks the protesters like the left’s old leadership just because they hate Fidesz, I suggest another glance at the past two national election results. This year quite a lot of people showed, by staying away from the elections, that there was nobody on the ballot for whom they wanted to vote.
    As to your remark, An – everyone understands that the opposition will have to unite to beat Fidesz. The establishment of new parties helps nobody but Fidesz. The old parties have the experience and (once had) the voter base to win elections, but they can’t even get their traditional base to vote for them with the old faces. The old leadership should clear out, so that new people can come forward. Yet just look at the disgusting jockeying for position on the left before this year’s elections. I would bet anyone virtually any sum of money that Gyurcsany drove more voters away from the left than he attracted. He had his time in power. He was already PM. Time for someone else. It’s a great shame that Hungary has no term limits (a fault from the pre-2010 order as well as the current one).

  11. If a party leader lost elections not once but TWICE in the United States or Britain, what would happen to that party leader? You all know the answer. Time for new party leadership in Hungary.

  12. These young people may lead the “change”, but will probably not participate in the aftermath,ie. in the elected parliament.

    It’s very important that they are angry and active. But they are just not political, wise, clever, experienced enough, they’re are like those doctrinaire marxists of the the first half of the 20th century, for whom perceived ideological purity was always more important than actually getting things done.

    But it doesn’t matter, because the elections are far away and the important thing right now is that Fidesz is getting tired and tired and will continue to commit more and more mistakes. Of course huge damage is being done to the country, but Fidesz is depreciating itself by the day. It’s gonna be a long process, but the good news is that it’s at least started.

  13. @Guido – Protesters are not expected nor do they generally want to lead a new government. The ones in Hungary today don’t even claim to be “wise, clever” or “experienced enough” to do so, so many of them would have no problem with that part of your statement. Politicians should take a cue from them, not the other way around. A good part of democracy is listening to what people want. But saying (as you have) that the protesters are like doctrinaire marxists is insulting and deeply unfair. They aren’t united in anything except disliking this government. And in Hungary today, protesting against government can cost you your job. Nobody has to like their views as individuals, but I think a little more respect is due. Hats off to them, from me.

  14. @Webber

    Hats off to these people, sure. I also fully agree with your statement that politicians should take a cue from them.

    Having said that, I do see an unfortunate pattern, characteristic of LMP (not really a symbol of success) and many (not a few) of these protesters.

    They all “reject the entire 25 years”, the entire political elite, as it were.

    They do have a doctrine, which is simply not to cooperate with anyone with whom they feel they have a disagreement on this one principle, hence the petty infightings among the various facebook group leaders, like I won’t give a speech at your demonstration, and the like. Hungarians tend to get offended very easily and these kids have zero experience in organizing something as a result they splinter and infight (it’s an interesting point that even regular attendees of these demonstrations can’t really follow who the ever changing organizers are). I’m not writing them off at all, and I sure hope they continue with their efforts, but I think they needlessly cling to easily contenstable notions. But perhaps exactly the resoluteness on this questionable principle provides them with bravery to go out and act, I dunno.

  15. Orban is about to start a propaganda “counter-offensive”.

    1.
    With the leadership of Giró-Szász & brainstormer Habony, more and more people are employed to improve the government propaganda.

    http://hvg.hu/itthon/20141126_Ujabb_offenzivara_keszul_az_ujjaszervezet

    2.
    The Hungarian IRS (NAV) just published the strongly blackened out version of its year-old, over-the-weekend “investigation” dismissing whistle-blower Horvath’s charges that were in the confiscated (and not published) “green folder”.

    http://nav.gov.hu/nav/sajtoszoba/hirek/_Jelentes_vizsgalatro20141125.html

    I am sure once they have finished destroying and/or altering the evidence, Orban Uninc, will permit an outside investigation of NAV, say three months after the American warning.

    3.
    The various state televisions, radios and the news agency MTI are merged into one state media company.

    http://hvg.hu/vallalat_vezeto/20141125_Osszeolvasztana_a_negy_kozmedias_ceget_a

    4.
    Chief of Staff Lazar declared that people in the ministries have to work twelve hours or more, answering the reports that people with family quit, since they cannot take the newly introduced 10-hour a day, sometimes no-weekend workload.

    No journalist has raised the issue that

    a) this is against the current laws (of course they can be changed overnight, retroactively in Orbanistan).

    b) last time this happened was 60 years ago under Rakosi and Stalin. Comrade Stalin liked to work at night, so everybody had to follow his schedule in the Soviet block.

    c) What do ministries do? They design and plan bills. The more they work, the more ridiculous and detrimental laws will be created in the rubber stamp factory called “parliament”.

    Like the ban on teachers of foreign languages who lack the pedagogical certificate.

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/11/26/szarul_allunk_nyelvtudasban_a_kormany_szigorit/

  16. Source of Lazar’s statement:

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/11/25/lazar_a_miniszterelnokseg_nem_csaladbarat_munkahely/

    1.
    Lazar’s Rolex:

    He did not have to declare it in the yearly asset list, because the declaration limit was raised on January 1, 2014.

    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/11/25/lazar_janos_oraja/

    2.

    Fidesz vice chairman Kosa contradicts himself about his trip to New Zealand.

    The first version was that he went to see a concert. The second was that he helped shooting a movie about Hungarians living in New Zealand.

    My version is that he tended to his bank account in one of the offshore Pacific islands.
    (Samoa, Marshall Islands, Nauru did sign up for the data exchange from 2018, so I suspect Vanuatu or Cook Islands by default)

  17. Webber, reading your earlier comments:

    Orban lost two general elections after he was a prime minister (he also lost the 1994 when a month before the elections he was leading the polls), and won two further ones.

    Daniel Ortega probably lost 3 general elections in a row and won in 2006, reelected in 2011 and has been president ever since. He, as older Hungarian readers may remember has been the leader of Nicaragua from 1979-1990, he also visited Hungary back in the 1980’s. He has been any and everything ideologically during these almost 40 years.

    Hungary, in my view is very much like (a middle-income) post-colonial country. I think a lot of insights can be gained from looking at such countries. Difficult as it is to face this, those are our peers and not Poland or Austria, especially not the UK or the US.

    Neither Gyucsany, nor Orban will leave the political scene at their own volition, that is absent debilitating illness or the like. They are not like Western–European politicians of mature democracies but strongmen, I know there are a bunch of political science terms for these boss figures with which I’m not familiar.

    There is only one way to get rid of them and it is to establish a new, winning party. As Prof Balogh said it to create the political equivalent of the IPhone which nobody could imagine (except for Jobs) but when it appeared people immediately realized that that was what they had been waiting for all along. It’s rather unlikely.

  18. Kuncze is a fossil, a dinosaur from another, bygone era. Trouble is, he just hasn’t woken up to that fact yet. Gyurcsány will be in the same position soon. Young voters will reject them both.

  19. whoops, guess who’s just come out supporting wholeheartedly the slogan “down with the last 25 years”?

    None other than the (now) Marxist TGM. When I saw these kids, I somehow had this gut feeling which reminded me of those old school leftist intellectuals. It’s not the ideology which was important but the modus operandi, the approach to things.

    http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20141126_TGM_25_ev_takarodj

  20. Nadas, well, yes, but don’t forget that young people don’t vote as actively as older folks do. What’s more, the proportion of young people in the Hungarian society has been in steady decline. Hungary’s aging and as a result it’s naturally getting more conservative. Even in the US which is not aging (as much) the proportion of older people among voters increased significantly at the mid-term elections.

  21. Let’s hope that these people in the UK will get mor pay:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2827625/Factory-bosses-forced-recruit-Hungary-locals-not-apply.html
    “Greencore (pictured) say they have failed to attract many applications from potential employees in Northampton – so bosses are now travelling to Hungary to recruit some of the 300-strong workforce needed”

    Actually the paper says these Hungarians will be on minimum pay – which still is much more than they get in Hungary.

  22. @Webber. I saw Miszetics. And what? That’s his opinion. It doesn’t mean that it is everybody’s opinion. There is, for example, I young fellow, Richárd Barabás who is very impressive and he has a much more constructive attitude. In my opinion, the group these two people come is pretty hopeless. Unless they change their attitude they have no place in politics.

  23. Actual revenues of the Hungarian government, Jan-Oct 2014:

    Indirect consumption taxes: 39.8%
    Direct taxes on the population: 16.5%
    EU support: 12.0%
    Corporate and individual entrepreneur taxes: 10.5%
    Other (from other parts of government, local governments, state-owned companies, interest, etc) 21.2%

    Click to access %C3%81HT%20m%C3%A9rleg.pdf

  24. @Eva. “Unless they change their attitude, they have no place in politics.”??? What does that mean? They are protesters. They have the same place in politics as you do – because as far as I know, neither Miszetics nor Nemes, nor Kiss are running for office. None of them want a “place in politics.” They want change. I am quite sure, from personal experience, that all three of them are now at the center of a Fidesz-hate campaign, just because they’ve been made the face of the protests (by the media, in part). If you want to join that, misunderstand and spit on them, it’s your business. I think you’d do better to focus your bile on people who are running for office – but to each her own.
    You saw Miszetics ,and say “So what?” You do remember that the left lost to Fidesz in 2010, don’t you? You do recall that people were disgusted with what their government had done. Opinion polls continue show general disgust with old politicians of the left. That was my only point, and it is one that others have made. You don’t have to like that. I don’t like the cold – but it’s winter.
    I hope you don’t want to keep seeing the left running people who have lost elections. I want the opposition to win, and to win big time. If that means dumping the old politicians, I have no problem with that. Do you?.
    Barabas is fine – we can agree on that.

  25. @buddy – TGM has been calling himself a Marxist for a few years now, so in his case the term isn’t an insult.

  26. tappanch
    November 26, 2014 at 4:36 am
    …….
    4.
    Chief of Staff Lazar declared that people in the ministries have to work twelve hours or more, answering the reports that people with family quit, since they cannot take the newly introduced 10-hour a day, sometimes no-weekend workload.

    No journalist has raised the issue that

    a) this is against the current laws (of course they can be changed overnight, retroactively in Orbanistan).

    – ten hours, not twelve
    in fact journalists did raise the question. Nepszava did inquire and the ministry cancelled their subscription in exchange.
    “Lázár János államtitkár irányítása alatt tért át a 10 órás munkarendre 2013 októberében: kötelezővé tették a 7:30-tól 17:30-ig tartó munkaidőt.
    Nepszava: http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1040665-tiz-orat-dolgoztat-lazar
    “Lapunk a Miniszterelnökségen bevezetett munkarendről már tavaly októberben beszámolt; informátorunk fizetés nélküli ügyeletekről beszélt, amelyet este, hétvégén és ünnepnapokon is vállalni kellett. Cikkünkre akkor „Reagálás a Népszava valótlanságaira” címmel küldött levelet a Kormányzati Információs Központ (KIK), amelyben nem tagadta, hanem megerősítette a megjelenteket és kiegészítette azzal, hogy a Miniszterelnökség azonnali hatállyal lemondja a Népszava előfizetését.”
    “Érdeklődtünk arról is, hogy mivel a napi tízórás munka ellentétes a Munka törvénykönyvével, mivel, hogyan díjazzák a többletmunkát. Válaszuk szerint “a napi tíz órás munka nem ütközik jogszabályba, tekintettel arra, hogy a Miniszterelnökégen dolgozó kormánytisztviselőkre nem az Mt., hanem a közszolgálati tisztviselőkről szóló törvény vonatkozik”

  27. @Some 1:

    1.
    12 hours:

    “méghozzá akár 12 órát is naponta, hogy “Magyarország Közép-Európa legdinamikusabban fejlődő országa legyen”.”
    see my reference above.

    2.
    Law about public servants, Fidesz-modified current version:

    “2011. évi CXCIX. törvény a közszolgálati tisztviselőkről1”
    http://net.jogtar.hu/jr/gen/hjegy_doc.cgi?docid=A1100199.TV

    “89. § (1) A teljes napi munkaidő napi nyolc óra (általános teljes napi munkaidő). A heti munkaidő heti negyven óra, hétfőtől csütörtökig 8.00-16.30 óráig, pénteken 8.00-14.00 óráig tart (általános munkarend).”

    The usual work week must be 40 hours, Monday through Friday.

  28. @Webber and Buddy

    I wouldn’t really call TGM an outright marxist, even though he use -influence of his political socialization?- many terms and analysis coming from marxism. He has been marxist, liberal, anarchist, and as I see it, today he is a kind of mix of all these, close to the movements Occupy, Podemos and the like, and his article in HVG (http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20141126_TGM_25_ev_takarodj#49q6zw) is clearly echoing what these movements say.

    As to his analysis of the failure of the regime change („a rendszerváltás megbukott!”), he is not quite alone in this opinion, in fact one find quite a number of analysis going in that direction in the mainstream international political litterature that analyse the error of the introduction of the liberal economic policies that led to desindustrialization and pauperization in all countries of CEE, including Hungary, the rule of massive corruption, state capture etc. In that sense, Hungary is not the only problematic country in the area (have a look at the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria etc), but certainly the most extreme and, I would say, the most coherent in the actions of the regime dictated by its internal logic.

  29. @Some1

    Government servants, which is a subset of public servants, can have a different work schedule.

    “92. § (2) A kormánytisztviselő beosztás szerinti
    a) napi munkaideje legfeljebb tizenkét óra,
    b) heti munkaideje legfeljebb negyvennyolc óra
    lehet.”

    So they can have a a 48-hour working week, 12-hours a day.
    But in my interpretation, only as a extraordinary measure.

    I just talked to a government servant, who did not know about this 2011 change in the law.

  30. The Problem is Not the Lack of Honest and Competent Opposition Leaders

    Please let me try to state the obvious, which, after year upon year of Orbanism, and frustrated chafing under that Orbanism, tends to be forgotten by those who are yearning daily for regime change and a return to democracy:

    The reason the democratic opposition in Hungary is weak is definitely not that they do not have enough competent, honest leaders and members (even older ones).

    Nor is the reason that their previous governments, too, had some corruption and incompetence. (All the previous governments had corruption and incompetence.)

    The overwhelming reason is Fidesz’s strangle-hold on the media, the police and the judiciary, and the resultant overwhelming success of its foul FUD campaign smears, press harrassment, and bogus prosecution against all opposition.

    The rest of the reasons include the electoral gerrymandering, foreign voter enfranchisement, daily de-democratization fast-laws and constitutions, graft, croneyism, intimidation, the pillaging of citizens’ property, livelihood, possessions, finances, taxes, and pensions and the perversion of the legal system and judiciary on a scale inconceivable in a democracy— all to ensure (and finance) Fidesz’s staying in power.

    The democratic opposition’s only share in the blame for its helplessness is its petty, ceaseless and mindless infighting, thereby playing into the hands of the crooked divide-and-conquer system that Fidesz has entrenched.

    Even the current protest movement is showing signs of this fatal self-defeating infighting, unable to integrate against the common enemy of Fidesz autocracy and systemic criminality.

    But of course all of this would nevertheless leave the opposition with enough strength to win in each election if it were not for the cynicism, passivity, amoralism — and worse — of the Hungarian electorate.

    It is very hard not to conclude that the they are getting exactly the kind of government they want, and deserve.

    Hence Hungary’s sole hope — if there is one — of regime change and a return to democracy does seem to be economic, social and political constraints from outside its borders, in a word, sanctions, starting with the launch of Article 7 proceedings in the EU.

    The belief that there is a need to wait for new “worthy” parties and leaders to emerge, somehow, before there can be any way to unseat Orban is just another symptom of having succumbed to Fidesz disinformation and voter inertia.

  31. Petofi I believe your reference to comments made by Lieutenant-General Frederick Ben Hodges, Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe come from a press conference held for reporters in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Saturday. The quote from him I read was as follows: “There are going to be U.S. Army forces here in Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland for as long as is required to deter Russian aggression and to assure our allies.”

    Permanent stationing of U.S. and other units in the Baltics and Poland remains off the table, in part due to concerns this would breach a 1997 Russia-NATO agreement known as NATO-Russia Founding Act. This agreement explicitly states: “NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.”

    The predisposition of equipment and weapons is an entirely different issue than creating a NATO base in Hungary. The United States has not proposed abrogating the 1997 agreement, but I do think that issue should be considered given the fact that Russia has invaded Ukraine. But such a move has not been proposed by the U.S. Department of State or NATO.

    I could find no reference to any comment from Lt General Hodges indicating NATO planned to deploy ground troops to Hungary. US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno in early November did make a comment to the German media that the number of U.S. soldiers in the region could grow as the Army sends more regionally aligned forces to train and exercise with its European partners and allies on a rotational basis (see the Army Times Nov 5, 2014).

  32. @Webber

    Quite true. All I say is that, even if he calls himself (after having been all kind of things) a marxist, I personally don’t quite consider him as such. Anyway, that’s quite a minor point 🙂

  33. I hope that everybody realizes that the painting in the satirical montage shown by tappanch is the master piece of one of the great Russian painters Repin. This fact greatly enhances the effect of the montage.

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