Public patience is coming to an end: What can Viktor Orbán do? Not much

Some of you want me to outline a scenario that could follow the unheard-of loss of popularity of the government, Fidesz, and Viktor Orbán personally. I am no fortune teller but, contrary to those readers who believe that the events of the last two months will have no adverse effect on the Orbán government in the long run, I see some signs that may lead to the eventual collapse of the system.

I base this admittedly hedged forecast (note the “some” and “may” in it) on data suggesting that Viktor Orbán has lost the trust of millions of his followers. I understand from news reports that Orbán and the Fidesz leadership by now have come to recognize the seriousness of the situation. Apparently they are preparing the ground to rebuild the prime minister’s tarnished reputation. The word is that he is planning to be more “active,” which in this context means that he will show his compassionate side. Today he visited an orphanage and held one of the little girls in his lap. The picture was shown all over, of course.

But I think the situation in which the prime minister finds himself won’t be fixed by a few smiles and friendly gestures toward his constituency. He has lost the people’s trust. And for that development he alone is to blame.

ATV showed a short video today on which a journalist confronts people on the street and tells some of Orbán’s latest fairy tales about the decrease in poverty, the increase in job opportunities, the excellent GDP figures, and the reduced utility prices. First of all, a few months ago when journalists tried to engage people on the street in conversation about political issues most people either refused to answer or the few who did usually praised the government and Orbán. Today’s video shows that people are no longer afraid to speak, and when they speak they don’t hide their opinions. The most frequently recurring answer was: Orbán is lying! What he says is not true. If that belief takes hold among the electorate, Orbán’s political future is in doubt.

There is another problem that, in my opinion, will prevent Orbán’s political comeback–and we know that without him there is no Fidesz either. The coffers are empty. No longer can the government appease the populace by throwing a few thousand forints their way, as they did when they lowered utility prices, an admittedly brilliant political stroke. Today they cannot give anything. On the contrary, they have to extract more and more money from the people in the form of taxes because otherwise they cannot keep the deficit under 3%. And if they overstep this magic figure, the excessive deficit procedure may be imposed, and this may mean the loss of subsidies from Brussels. It is obvious that they are desperate. They know that they should not irritate the already antagonistic voters with more and more taxes, but they seem to have no choice because they already spent the money on all sorts of superfluous projects, like stadiums, MOL shares, bank purchases, and so on. And then there is the corruption that has resulted in the loss to the public purse of billions in taxpayer money. Their past irresponsible (and worse) financial maneuvers may well be their undoing.

Another consideration is what I see as an erosion within Fidesz-KDNP. I already mentioned the revolt of KDNP’s chief Zsolt Semjén on the issue of a new law on the status of churches. He was joined a few hours later by Rózsa Hoffmann, who in the past was a faithful executor of Viktor Orbán’s ideas on education. Suddenly Hoffmann discovered that diverting children from gymnasiums is a very bad idea and that making employees of the Prime Minister’s Office work ten hours a day is not even legal. Or, there is the case of János Bencsik, a Fidesz member of parliament since 1998, who expressed his strong opposition to compulsory drug testing of children. As he put it, not even László Trócsányi, minister of justice, or Gergely Gulyás, the legal wizard of Fidesz, could make such a law constitutional. Even Gulyás thought that Máté Kocsis’s suggestion was “unorthodox” while “the world of the law is generally orthodox.”

The latest attempt at acquiring another 20 billion forints by making M0, a six-lane highway that more or less encircles Budapest, a toll road enraged not only commuters from nearby towns but also the Fidesz mayors whose districts would be affected by the decision. Again it was a last-minute ad hoc decision without any consultation. The mayors are not the only ones up in arms. Attila Chickán, minister of the economy in the first Orbán government, said that the decision will have a negative impact on the lifestyle of the people of Budapest.

The M0 will be a toll road Are these people tired of governing?

Highway M0 will also be a toll road.
Are these people tired of governing?

And finally, young until now pro-Fidesz journalists have become disillusioned. Perhaps the best example I can cite is Ákos Balogh, editor-in-chief of Mandiner. I highly recommend his opinion piece that appeared today. The title is telling: “When ‘The Anything is Possible’ Ends.” Everything that worked in the past no longer works or, even worse, is counterproductive. In fact, Balogh goes so far as to state that the Orbán government, instead of remedying the “mistakes” of the last twenty years, itself became part of it. It did not finish the regime change as it promised but “it completed its failure.” Fidesz is good at campaigning but “sparkles less when it comes to governing.” Fidesz does not want to recognize that “something has changed,” and not only in foreign affairs as a result of the Ukrainian developments but also at home. Although “in theory” there will be no elections until 2018, “a government can be demobilized by broken public trust.” The lesson: “There is never such a thing as ‘Anything is Possible’ because there is always a fault line after which everything falls apart.” “The borders of  ‘Anything is Possible’ are not sharp, one can only conjecture about them. One can know only after the fact when someone has overstepped them. Perhaps he already has overstepped them.” Harsh words from a former true believer.

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63 comments

  1. Orban’s amorality is not evidence of IQ but of sociopathy.

    Anyone lacking inhibitions about striking in the eye, or the groin, or from behind, has an edge over anyone who does.

    The democratic opposition’s ineffectuality is not (all) evidence of stupidity or incompetence. Orban’s strangle-hold on the media and much else, and his fomenting of the worst tendencies in Hungarian public opinion, whilst lying without the slightest inhibition about anything and everything he cannot fix by simply changing yet another law — no democratic opposition has a chance against such overwhelming handicaps.

  2. @spectator:
    Come on! Even I realised that this was a parody – as good as The Onion or The national Report in the USA (which I sometimes read for laughs …):

    Kovácsné Margitka
    December 12, 2014 at 3:47 am

    The era of serene, calm and predictable governance is beginning — so said Mr. Prime Minister.

    Amen.

    Read this again slowly – now you got it?

    Perfect imho!

    In case you don’t know these sites:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/index
    http://nationalreport.net/ Their latest news on Sarah Palin is remarkable …

  3. OT Xmas Carping II

    @Reality Check has given precisely the correct reply to @googly & @petofi

    Information transmission is not feeling. Plants transmit information. So does heart muscle. And single cells. And telephone wires. Plants are also living organisms. But they do not feel.

    But even if plants did feel, we would have to eat them, because otherwise we could not survive.

    But animals do feel. And <a href="http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2009_ADA_position_paper.pdf""humans do not need to eat nonhuman animals to survive and be healthy.

    This is not true of obligate carnivores, such as cats. They cannot survive if they do not eat animals. They have no choice.

    We have a choice. Just as we do with rape, torture, slavery, and murder (all of which animals do too, but without having any choice). We have realized they are wrong, and cruel, and unnecessary, and so we have made them illegal, and most of us don’t do them, or support them: only sadists and socipaths do.

  4. And yet he and his minions keep introducing highly unpopular legislation. He’s either unafraid of what’s going on or he’s politically suicidal. He still has a 2/3 majority in parliament and is able to change the form of government into one in which he would be “king”. The protesters better more rapidly.

  5. To Kirsten and Some1 – I did NOT say that you were “suggesting” suicide. What I said was that Orban is NOT a type who can be driven to suicide.

  6. *Rumours* growing that Merkel is planning a visit.

    Fidesz are sh*tt*ng themselves because *rumours* are she ain’t gonna follow the Orbanist agenda; visits to persecuted NGOs, multis, Roma villages.etc etc.

    Serious (EU) stuff happening behind the wings and the oligarchs are getting nervous

  7. @wolfi – …gotchhya..!

    But I hope that you’ve read my comment too?

    (As a matter of fact right today I managed to listen to someone in a live broadcast with frighteningly similar views! In this light “Maaargit” aren’t alone, not yet anyway.)

    Thanks for the links!

  8. Thanks for the link, Some 1.

    Anyone advocating revolution in Hungary – or any attempt to bring down the current government before a workable alternative is in place – should take a long, hard look at these pictures.

    As for this weird comparison between Orbán and Szechenyi – what madness! In what possible way are they similar? Szechenyi was cultured, educated, intelligent, sensitive, caring, self-aware – Orbán is none of those. For Orbán to commit suicide, he would first have to understand that he’d been wrong – and that is something that psychopaths never even contemplate.

  9. Paul, no “comparison” with Szechenyi was intended, I think that Eva understood my point as I meant it. I could have more explicitly written: and Orban in a place designated for people with his current mental disposition = psychiatric department of some hospital, no matter where.

  10. But it is frequently suggested that he – Orban – is being treated in Austria, which then is a link to a stay in “Doebling”.

  11. Stevan Harnad,

    Of course, this conversation is meaningless and misplaced, but you started it by preaching your mistaken beliefs here on this site without taking into consideration that it is not your place to do so, and that you may be offending people unnecessarily.

    You wrote: “Information transmission is not feeling. Plants transmit information. So does heart muscle. And single cells. And telephone wires. Plants are also living organisms. But they do not feel.”

    Sorry, my friend, you cannot logically state what you have written unless you can communicate with plants in some way to confirm it. Until that glorious day, what you have written is conjecture, a best guess, and there is definitely a reasonable argument to say that pain in animals is just the nerves giving information to the brain, which causes the brain to react in a way that will best ensure that no damage is done to the animal (evolutionarily speaking, though not in every specific instance). Pain, therefore, is literally all in your mind, and in the mind of all animals.

    Here’s a quote from the following article: “But researchers, says Pollan, have played a recording of a caterpillar munching on a leaf to plants — and the plants react. They begin to secrete defensive chemicals — even though the plant isn’t really threatened, Pollan says. ‘It is somehow hearing what is, to it, a terrifying sound of a caterpillar munching on its leaves.'”

    http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-09/new-research-plant-intelligence-may-forever-change-how-you-think-about-plants

    You also wrote: “But even if plants did feel, we would have to eat them, because otherwise we could not survive.”

    Ah, I expected so much more from you, sir (or madam)! Have you never heard of fruits and nuts? All of these things are voluntarily given up by the plant, indeed for its very propagation! Meanwhile, have you never heard of dairy products and eggs, things which animals can easily provide without suffering pain (in fact, dairy cows would suffer pain if they did not give up their milk).

    You also wrote: “We have a choice. Just as we do with rape, torture, slavery, and murder (all of which animals do too, but without having any choice). We have realized they are wrong, and cruel, and unnecessary, and so we have made them illegal, and most of us don’t do them, or support them: only sadists and socipaths do.”

    Ah, so you claim to have special abilities to communicate with animals now! Seriously, though, it didn’t take me long to find an article in English about a researcher who has doubts about your assertion:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/god-moral/story?id=18898993

    True, primates are not typical for animals, but to say that animals don’t have a choice and can’t understand what they are doing when they torture or cause pain to other animals (especially their own species) is just not supported by fact, and is wholly part of your belief system. If science ever proves you right, then I will agree with you. Until then, maybe you should not be proselytising on this site about your beliefs that are not pertinent to the topic at hand, no matter how strongly you feel them.

    We have evolved the way we have for a reason, and if some of us want to eat animals like our ancestors have for many thousands of years, there is no scientific reason for you to believe that you are somehow morally superior to us, unless, perhaps, you only eat fruits, nuts, and cheese. Meanwhile, I’m sure you blithely torture all manner of insects and nematodes by walking on the earth, even though you don’t actually have to.

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