I hear more and more people express their belief that the government of Viktor Orbán is making so many enemies that its downfall is inevitable in 2014, if not before. This morning Attila Ágh, a political scientist who is considered to be a name in the socialist-liberal camp, said that a government digs its own grave when, believing in its invincibility due to practically unlimited power, it conducts a war against every possible segment of society. This is definitely true of the Orbán government.
It achieved its great electoral success on promises that couldn’t be kept. Anyone who until now thought that only Ferenc Gyurcsány and the socialists lie by now realize that the biggest liar of all is Viktor Orbán, who “never lied” as he unabashedly said about himself. Government employees who received very low salaries were certain that great pay raises would be in the offing. Doctors, nurses, teachers, policemen, soldiers were patiently waiting for relief. These high expectations couldn’t have been met. It is quite clear by now that these people will not receive higher salaries. Many schools will likely be closed, teachers’ duties will be greater than before, and therefore most likely thousands of teachers instead of higher pay will actually receive pink slips. Doctors who massively supported Orbán are fed up and the younger ones especially are leaving Hungary in hordes.
College students, the vast majority of whom were Fidesz supporters, have also been targeted. There will be fewer state universities and fewer slots for college-bound students. More and more students will have to pay tuition, and the student associations that were used by Fidesz while in opposition are now ignored. Decisions are made without any consultation. As a matter of fact, government decisions dutifully voted on by a well disciplined parliamentary delegation are simply presented to the country without any consultation with the various interest groups. That’s why it is so funny to see the latest questionnaire headlined “Let’s listen to each other!”
The latest victims are the pensioners. People who for one reason or other could retire early will have to relinquish their pensions and if they are able-bodied will have to return to work. The government had to amend the old constitution to enable parliament to pass this piece of legislation but no problem; in the Hungarian parliament “anything goes.” Many pensioners who in the past voted en masse for the socialists switched over to Fidesz in 2010 and now they are sorry. Very sorry.
I already wrote an article about this latest consultation on social issues on May 5, 2011, when the questionnaires had not yet been mailed out to everybody over the age of sixteen. Well, since then some questionnaires have been received and the outcry is great. The name and address of the recipient with a mysterious unique bar code above it is printed on the questionnaire. One cannot really remove these particulars that identify the person: the questions continue on the reverse side of the page.
The first time I heard about the name and bar code was Friday when a caller to György Bolgár’s show reported that she had received her son’s questionnaire and wanted to know what on earth this mysterious long code above his name means. This was new to the moderator, who promised that he would look into it. By Monday, it was ascertained that the code is unique to each individual. Thousands of complaints reached the ombudsman in charge of privacy issues. He is investigating and perhaps in two weeks we will know more about the details.
However, I don’t think that one has to wait breathlessly for the findings of the ombudsman. We have known for a long time that Fidesz is furiously working on a database that would identify potential Fidesz voters. However, very strict privacy laws prevent parties from building such a database, but such constraints never bothered Viktor Orbán. If it is illegal, so be it. Perhaps you recall the case of Gábor Kubatov, Fidesz’s election wizard, who was caught giving a pep talk to young volunteers in which he boasted that they know absolutely everything about every voter. Not just about their own supporters but also about those who vote for the socialists. At the time I thought that there would be serious consequences of this illegal data gathering, but no. Kubatov was moved for a while into the background but otherwise there was no fallout from these embarrassing revelations.
By now after their dizzying successes Fidesz leaders don’t even try to hide their illegal actions. In the Kubatov case a year ago it was a private mini-lecture that was smuggled out by someone. Now they are doing illegal data gathering quite openly. If nothing happened with Kubatov, today there is even less danger of any action against the government. If this ombudsman doesn’t play ball, they will appoint another one. As we know, the present ombudsmen’s position is rather shaky as it is.
Surely, only the hard core Fidesz voters will be willing to send back the questionnaires. Only they will be willing to reveal their names to the authorities. But the problem is that Fidesz will also know who didn’t send their questionnaires back, which might be disadvantageous to those who are state employees. Reporters didn’t get any answers to their questions about why the format of this questionnaire is different from the former one. In small print there is some cockeyed explanation about the necessity of these details for assessing the results of the survey. Péter Szijjártó’s answer to the question was even funnier: “the greatest difference between the Gyurcsány period and the government of national affairs is that while the socialists made decisions over and above people’s heads, we base our governing principles on consultation in the interest of the renewal and reorganization of the country.” As for the name and the bar code “the government needs this information because in the future the consultations will be done electronically.” I’m not sure what this means. The bar code certainly isn’t the person’s e-mail address.
Many people noted “the socialist realist picture” that accompanies the questions. There is a worker, a cow which I suppose represents Hungarian agriculture, a pensioner, and a very happy young white-collar worker with his equally happy wife and three children.
Hírszerző immediately made a joke of it. It asked its readers to vote on the identify of the man with a shovel. The possibilities are (1) A phony pensioner leaning on his cane who is heading back to work; (2) A former firefighter bright and bushy tailed who found his real place as a cleaner of sewers; (3) A former assistant professor at Corvinus University who is now working on a collective farm; and (4) A student who is paying tuition by working on a public works project. When I last checked (1) had received 35%; (2) 20%; (3) 20% and (4) 19%. As you can see, all four categories of people feel jilted. Not a good sign.