Collecting more enemies? That cannot be the goal, but then why?

Yesterday I talked about the fact that the Orbán government seems to be bent on alienating practically every segment of Hungarian society. I read more and more critical analyses of the Fidesz government that come to the conclusion that this questionable strategy is due to a lack of experience. Bad politics, they say. But surely, this explanation doesn't stand up. One cannot call Viktor Orbán a bad politician who because of his stubbornness to achieve his pet projects will turn the whole country against himself. As if he purposely wanted to cause his own downfall. No, there must be some other explanation.

In order to come up with a more logical explanation we have to turn to what Viktor Orbán himself told his followers in one of his speeches. The tide will turn soon and the government's popularity will shrink. It is also possible that the parliamentary two-thirds majority will not hold. All the momentous steps must be taken while there is the magic two-thirds. Maybe they will have six months, but no more. There is little time left and the goal is so important that even the lack of popularity doesn't really matter in the long run. Speed is of the essence.

The changes that are being made on all levels of government will drastically alter the whole fabric of Hungarian society. The goal is the establishment of a political force so powerful as to prevent the rotation of governing parties. Orbán made no secret of his plans, although at the time few people grasped the true significance of his speech at Kötcse in September 2008. The aim is perhaps as much as twenty years of Fidesz government. Once the structure that ensures permanency of Fidesz governance is in place, personal popularity will not really matter. There will be no way of removing Fidesz and Orbán from power. And he has to be in a hurry because the troops are already getting restless. Even KDNP got so offended that their representatives on the parliamentary committee on constitutional matters walked out together with the opposition when the Fidesz chairman wouldn't allow them to speak.

Today another interesting piece of news hit the stands.The government is contemplating the "partial" restoration of compulsory military service for those between the ages of 18 and 40. Well, that will really boost the popularity of Fidesz. Hungarians hated compulsory military service, and interestingly enough one who really hated it was Viktor Orbán himself. He later claimed that his year in the army between high school and university turned him against the regime of János Kádár. Prior to that he was apolitical. However, a few years later his view on the army changed dramatically. He came to the conclusion that a man is not really a man unless he has spent some time in the army.

Orbán made Csaba Hende minister of defense, which was a great surprise to almost everybody, but it looks as if Orbán knew what he was doing. Csaba Hende is a zealous defender of Hungary against those imaginary enemies who lying in wait, preparing to run down the country. I wrote about Hende earlier. He is about as behind the times in military matters as Rózsa Hoffmann is in questions of education. Hende at one point wanted to buy discarded Austrian tanks to use in the defense of the fatherland.

The first idea was to have a reserve army made up of volunteers. Recruitment began, and by January the first volunteers, after a short period of military training, were employed: they stand in front of military barracks and defend them from intruders. The MTI report didn't specify how many volunteers they managed to recruit.

Most likely the enthusiasm for reserve duty was not too great, so now they came up with the brilliant idea of compulsory military service, abolished by the socialist-liberal government after 2002. According to the ministry, since the abolition of compulsory military service it has become evident that there is need for an army even in peacetime.

As usual, the wording of the document that got into the hands of the journalists of Napi Gazdaság is not very clear. The document talks about a volunteer reserve army but adds that compulsory military service can be introduced in "extraordinary circumstances or . . . in a situation preceding such an eventuality." ("A katonai szolgálati kötelezettség, amely formái szerint fegyveres, vagy lelkiismereti ok miatt fegyvertelen katonai szolgálat teljesítését jelenti, csak rendkívüli állapotban, vagy az Országgyűlés döntése szerint már megelőző védelmi helyzetben lehetséges teljesíteni a jövőben is.") Every healthy citizen between the ages of 18 and 40 can be called up for duty normally lasting twelve months, but in case of war there will be no time limit. Of course, in order to be able to call up these peacetime warriors the government needs detailed personal data. People will be especially happy to hear that members of the European Parliament, members of the Hungarian Parliament, mayors, and members of city councils will not have to serve. Three children can also save mothers and fathers from serving the fatherland in case of dire need.

There are many questions that come to mind. First and foremost, surely here they are talking about more than gathering personal data on all citizens between the ages 18 and 40. These people will have to have some military training because otherwise calling up people who never had a gun in their hands is a pretty useless exercise. Most likely a strict registration of people's places of residence will be necessary. Then what about people who temporarily live abroad? Since the plan is talking about "citizens" and not "men" it seems they want to call up all adult men and women under the age of 40. 

For a good laugh you should read some of the comments accompanying the news. For example, in Népszabadság a reader was worried that Viktor Orbán is off his meds. One can joke about these things, but these madcap ideas crop up daily in Hungary. Who is going to stop them?



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“Of course, in order to be able to call up these peacetime warriors the government needs detailed personal data.”
The next census is due in october 2011, and they’ll collect all the data they can possibly want. Supposedly it’s anonymous, but the adress data will be part of it. In the countryside people live in family homes and thus can be easily identified. The government will know exactly where Roma and (religious) Jewish people live, or those living in a registered partnership. — and whom to recruit, for that matter. I think they plan to recruit and train Roma especially – those from the poor areas without jobs, living on welfare, as an “alternative” to labour-for-welfare which they want to introduce- and sell that as “Roma integration”.


I think everyoe who voted for Fidesz should be called in first. This is of course so they can testify at first hand what a great job Fidesz is doing to save Hungary from the hidden communists, the Jews who wants to buy up all the Hungarian land, and of course those pesky ex-Hungarian liberals , who are conspiring to take over the country in the moment that Fidesz looks sideways. I think Johnny Boy will volunteer right away, so he can show us wimps the true Hungarian spirit.

I thought that OV really believes in his national programme and that it is good for Hungary, that is why he does not take too much notice of the criticism. He found out that the most pressing issue is the injustice inflicted by the Allies in Trianon and it is therefore needed to get back to times where this was understood also. Luckily, also the traditional values represented by Horthy served the country best as they created a traditional stability. Currently, the historical territories may not be gained back soon but at least the nation can mourn after them every day. For me national survival and the claim to be respected as a large nation seem to be the main points of OV’s policies, the economic and social policies are to be understood as part of the national and conservative programme. Unfortunately some people seem to be swallowing that in order not to be accused of a lack of respect for “the Hungarian state’s 1000 year plus historical existence” (from yesterday’s long post). And so I am back to the point that I made some months ago, there is a need to redefine what is meant by “Hungarian”. A democracy… Read more »

This is all good as long as the “extraordinary circumstances” are well defined. Isn’t this because they don’t want to pay for a professional army and they think the draft is cheaper? Here in the US there is something called the “Selective Service Registration”, which isn’t much, you just have to tell the government that you are an “able man”. So basically, age, gender, name and address is the data collected. I hope that’s all they want. Again I’d like to know what the “extraordinary circumstances” are?

Lutra lutra

OV’s vision of indefinite power is unlikely to happen due to his government’s incompetence, lack of pragmatism and his own authoritarianism. Here’s what Kadar had to say back in the 60’s: “The West attacks us because of our one-party system. They are right. We Communists must work as though there was a twenty-party system, with a secret general election every day. That’s the only way to win popular support.”

peter litvanyi

“that even the lack of popularity doesn’t really matter” – I absolutely agree. A Rubicon was crossed. Done.
“contemplating the “partial” restoration of compulsory military service” – I was a reserve officer of the Hungarian People’s Army /Magyar Nephadsereg/ and I am still somewhat proud of that. It was not so easy for me to see…let’s not go there. Yet in my opinion Hungary is not facing/ about to face any realistic military threat and neither does it have the money to maintain a real standing army /pro or conscripted/. So let us say “farewell to the arms”…no? Anyone who says it otherwise is either oblivious of the hard facts or has a sinister agenda…Orban falling into the latter category I guess.
Peter Litvanyi

Eva S. Balogh

Mutt Damon: “Again I’d like to know what the “extraordinary circumstances” are?”
So would I. But they like vagueness.


Well Eva, who needs to keep old friends on make new ones, when you have China as best friend?
People’s Daily: “The Communist Party of China is willing to make efforts with Fidesz party to promote bilateral cooperation, and to facilitate the development of bilateral ties through inter-party exchange, added the Chinese official, who arrived here Sunday at the invitation of Fidesz Party.” I say, lets send Johnny Boy right after he finished with his army training or he can be trained in China. He will show those Communist Chinese what a true member of the Fidesz can do. He will show them the True Hungarian spirit.

*crawls out from under her rock* Hey, this is my first time posting here, but I’ve been reading this blog and the comments for quite a while. Here are my two cents, if they are worth anything. I’ve been trying to make sense of the government’s (and of course OV’s) seemingly incomprehensible moves ever since they won the elections. It would be so easy to just say, they are an incompetent bunch of idiots or lack a realistic understanding of the world around them, but I simply can’t imagine that there is no one among their ranks who can’t see that what they are doing is madness. Moreover, polititians of such stature and experience as OV and Co. have to be aware of the consequences of their actions, consequently, they must know exactly what they are doing and must be a 100% convinced that it is the right way. Of course they are also out for holding on to power no matter what and half of the things they do is to ensure just that, but the other half comes from a world view and ideology that can be easily and precisely defined. And here are my actual two cents.… Read more »

chayenne: Interesting comment and view. Officially Hungary and the rest of NATO is at war (no peace treaty signed yet) on terrorisme, and as result Hungary sent part of their troops to Afghanistan. You do not hear much about it, only when some soldiers are wounded or worse die.
This operation must cost Hungary a fortune. The Netherlands paid billions of Euro’s for their role in that region. The costs besides human life is so high, that the government in Holland cut costs in the billions of Defence. All tank division have to go (VO cheap Leopard tanks for sale hardly used in war), 6,500 soldiers will be fired, and today they announced further cuts.
I believe VO try to save costs, by have the old guard coming out of pension, and have draft employees to meet the NATO requirements, then there will be no need of a professional, and very expensive, army.
I do not think there is some high strategic plan behind all this. It is just cost cutting and reclassification of expenses in an opportunistic way. But VO will never admit this.

Odin's lost eye
Chayenne Do not crawl back under your rock, stay out and join the fun . What you have written may well be true. But before that happens I have a feeling that that China will follow its past and begin to fragment. We have seen the beginnings of this process with the suppression of non-Chinese minorities, and a strange imbalances occurring in the aging population. There is also a huge population pressure and water problems. Just have a look at the three main water courses in China. Remember it is the sheer size of China, neatly 1/3 of the world’s population, which is the problem. As to the re-introduction of conscription, I have looked around the remains of the old Russian and Hungarian barrack blocks in the district. Those which are not totally derelict are occupied by people. The pure logistics of conscription would be horrendous as would the loss in terms of available man power. As to power stemming from the muzzle of a gun one, of the problems with a conscript army is that it comes from the people and is unlikely to open fire on their own (unless their own fire first) No! What ‘His Mightiness’ (OV)… Read more »
2 and a half years

Dear All,
Here is another take on it: rush through all the changes you have been preparing for over the last few years, take the beating in the first 2 years, and then start turning things around, so that when 2014 rolls around, your popularity is back on top and all is forgotten.
I love my hungarian friends and watching this spectacle is tough…


so simple.
like the american government.
no interest in governing.
only interested in self-enrichment.
one exception was the adenauer, and of course the deak ferenc eral


Apart from judging the government measures themselves I’ve been startled with the tactical politics, eg the timing of measures. I always thaught a typical political thinking would be: start with unpopular measures that will help in the long run and then capitalize on the results and do some popualar things when the next elections get closer. So why did they start with the double citizenship? Wouldn’t be bad to do this now to boost popularity.
[And now not so serious:] Maybe OV got inspired by Obamas latest coup. That’s why they train the army now and can have a spectacular helicopter mission (or maybe they use the Austrian tanks) to arrest Gyurcsány; with life pictures and so on. [/end of unseriuos part]


T.Sanyi: No I do not think so, but perhaps he needs bodyguards for parties thrown to the best 100 insurance sales persons in the Gellert Hotel with prostitutes, like in July 2007. See below link of the Handelsblatt (btw the article is in german).


I already read about that digusting party, but I don’t really get the link to my post.


It was meant ironic. You talked about spectacular helicopter mission, and talked about the need of having bodyguards. Whatever we talk about, we do not really know what VO is thinking or what his real plans are. We can only guess or collect info from his actions or his non-actions.
Btw that article in Handelsblatt hit media worldwide. So another bad rep. for Hungary.