Why isn’t Fidesz holding a rally on October 23?

It is difficult to know what kinds of considerations are behind Viktor Orbán’s decision to cancel the Fidesz demonstration that was supposed to be held at the Astoria Hotel this Sunday. The occasion, besides being October 23, the fifty-fifth anniversary of the outbreak of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, was that it was five years ago on that very spot that Fidesz held another demonstration that turned out to be an important milestone in its road to power.

The demonstration five years ago was purposely held at a place that was perilously close to the area where not so peaceful extremist groups were staging a month-long vigil. That vigil was prolonged as a result of daily urgings by fiery Fidesz orators. It was clear that these extremist groups had an important role to play in Viktor Orbán’s plans. Anti-Orbán observers are certain that the Fidesz play book included what eventually happened. People leaving the Fidesz rally got mixed up with the extremists whom the police tried to hold back without much success. The rest is history.

Since the change of regime government parties have never held separate rallies on national holidays. So why did Fidesz decide to buck tradition? Because sometime back in July a Facebook group called One Million for Freedom of the Press announced their desire to assemble on Free Press Road (Szabadsajtó út). From the map below one can see that the distance between the very end of Szabadsajtó út at the Elizabeth Bridge and the Astoria Hotel at the corner of Kossuth Lajos utca and Múzeum körút is only 700 meters.

 

If Fidesz held a large meeting, the crowd would spill into Kossuth Street and inevitably the two largely antagonistic groups would meet. A dangerous situation. In addition, the anti-Orbán forces would have to walk through the Fidesz crowd in order to reach their demonstration which they have dubbed “I don’t like this regime” (Nem tetszik a rendszer).

But Viktor Orbán was adamant. Fidesz even refused to change the hour so as not to collide with the “I don’t like this regime” group. It looked as if Fidesz was actually worried that this gathering might grow into a very large demonstration against the current government. By holding their meeting that close and at the same time, most likely they were hoping to discourage people from attending the gathering on Szabadsajtó út. After all, who wants to be in the middle of a street fight, especially since the escape route is pretty much blocked by Fidesz supporters.

Then suddenly about two weeks after the initial announcement of the Fidesz rally came the news: there will not be a gathering because Viktor Orbán must attend the summit of the European Council on October 23. And of course, if there is no Orbán there cannot be a rally either.

And this is where things get confused. It was on October 10 that János Martonyi at the meeting of the foreign ministers of the European Union agreed to hold the summit on Sunday, October 23, Hungary’s national holiday. Most likely Hungary wasn’t in a position to insist on another date, but why did Fidesz decide to hold out for a whole week before Péter Szijjártó announced on October 17 that the mass rally is being cancelled? After all, they knew already on October 10 that Viktor Orbán would not be in Budapest on October 23.

The belated announcement probably followed a week of assessing whether without Orbán Fidesz could get a large enough crowd to compete or even surpass the anti-government forces. And the decision was that it couldn’t.

The last-minute decision to hold the Brussels summit on October 23 instead of a week earlier came as very bad news for Viktor Orbán, at least on the face of it. First, he loves to exploit national holidays where he can deliver fiery speeches. After all, there are still many people in Hungary who believe in him and his vision for the country. Second, in the last year or so he made it clear to his Hungarian audience that Hungary is not taking orders from Brussels. And here is an important Hungarian holiday and the prime minister of the country must spend it away from home and his people. On the order of Brussels. Jobbik has already been outspoken about what it thinks of Orbán’s Brussels trip and the cancellation of the Fidesz rally.

An opinion piece that appeared in Index pretty well claims that Fidesz was afraid of the anti-government demonstration and its own power to attract enough people. Thus, in fact, Orbán’s required attendance at the summit on the national holiday came as a blessing. They were most likely relieved that the rally could be cancelled.

There are signs of a growing fear that Fidesz can no longer draw such large crowds. In Magyar Nemzet an opinion piece was published on October 18, a day after the cancellation, that attacked the organizers of the anti-government demonstration in a way that could only be called savage. The author, Dávid Megyeri, claims that it is not the Fidesz regime that the organizers and their followers don’t like but democracy itself. He calls those who will attend “társutálkozók” (fellow haters) instead of “társutazók” (fellow travellers). Megyeri claims that the organizers and their followers actually liked the previous regime in which “defenseless women were attacked, police used rubber bullets and beat people until half dead.” They are “lamenting the lack of democracy” now, but on October 23, 2006 most likely they approved of the behavior of the beastly police. These people are “not demonstrating for democracy but against it.”

Why this vehemence against an amorphous Facebook crowd with a not terribly well defined ideology? Orbán knows only too well the potential power of crowds. He certainly doesn’t want the opposition to use the streets against him as he did against the previous government.

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Member

Eva, don’t you think that maybe Orban pulling out also had to do with the meeting between him and the Ambassador of the USA? I am just thinking about the timing.

Mepinski
Guest

Arbeit does not make you frei.

Paul
Guest

Maybe OV just doesn’t want any ‘official’ Fidesz people around when Jobbik thugs wade into the Facebook demo and all hell breaks out?

Ron
Guest

Another maybe. Maybe this demo would be a success for the organizers, and therefore, it would be seen as Hungary does not need the Great Leader. VO could not take a chance and stopped it.

Member

The Dear Leader couldn’t win- if only a few hundred Orbanistas had turned up to hear the Dear Leader’s Clones speak,then humiliation for Fidesz.
If (small chance granted) thousands had gathered to cheer on the potential internal threats to The Dear Leader, eg Rogan and Pokorni etc, then….. the Fidesz functionaries may have realised that they safely could dump Orban and survive.

a3t
Guest

Brussels is a red herring. Deputies frequently European Council meetings if the head of government can’t attend – there’s no reason at all why Navracsics couldn’t have attended, especially given the summit is primarily about the eurozone, a matter on which there would only be very limited interest in Hungary’s position. It’s only one of 27 countries, after all.
Brussels was seized on as the excuse for not holding the rally once that decision was taken. Why? Probably because they were getting indications that it would be hard to get an acceptable turnout.
Oneill: nice argument, but can you seriously imagine thousands turning out for Rogan? 😀

Member

a3t,
No, you’re right. However, we should never underestimate Orban’s paranoia and at the minute probably he believes the “enemy within” is potentially in a stronger position than the “enemy without”.

Paul
Guest

JB’s disappeared again too. I don’t like it, it’s too damn quiet…

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

a3t: “Brussels was seized on as the excuse for not holding the rally once that decision was taken. Why? Probably because they were getting indications that it would be hard to get an acceptable turnout.”
I’m inclined to agree with you.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul I didn’t disappear.
I just find it laughable that some people who never managed to organize a decent mass assembly now present their dippy vision that Fidesz can’t get people to the streets any more as if it were reality just because they would like to think so.

Kave
Guest

JB: In a functioning democracy, in which the rule of law is respected, protest is natural but what is the need for organizing a “mass assembly” on the streets? The people who are planning on attending the “Don’t like the Regime” rally are people who felt that they were at least previously protected by the rule of law. That security is now gone.
The previous government, whether you liked it or not, was fairly elected (twice) by the majority of Hungarians. Orban took his cause to the streets and boycotted the Parliament. The rule of law is not only for those periods when your party leads the government.

Ron
Guest

The real question is “Why VO needs to be in Brussels on October 23?
This meeting has nothing to do with Hungary and the Forint. According to the Slovaks who are required to be there it is about Greece third tranche and the European Financial Stability Facility
http://spectator.sme.sk/articles/view/44265/10/agenda_for_eu_summit_on_october_23_outlined.html

Johnny Boy
Guest

Kave I have no idea what kind of connection your sentences have to what I wrote. I guess none.

Paul
Guest

JB, even you aren’t that thick.
Kave makes a very simple (and highly relevant) point, quite elegantly.
The fact that you pretend not to understand it says a lot about the dire state Fidesz and it’s supporters are in at the moment.
All you seem to have left is denial and abuse.
Or, in OV’s case, running away.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul: no, Kave’s point has nothing to do with mine.
I was reacting to ESBalogh’s post. She and her kin, never having been able to organize a crowd worth of anything, now think their dippy vision of Fidesz running away is reality.
It is called Megalomania.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalomania

Johnny Boy
Guest

By the way, I like the fact that those few thousand people (you know, the ‘one million for freedom of speech’) can go and protest on the streets without being shot at by the government’s police.
Quite a change, I must say!

Paul
Guest

Your posts are getting more bizarre and desperate, JB.
But perhaps you aren’t a troll after all. I’m sure Fidesz would have told you to shut by now if you were.
And a supporter of OV calling someone else a megalomaniac and then citing Wikipedia in case we don’t know what megalomania means was just too hilarious to be true. I was eating a late supper at the time, so now I’ve had to clean my monitor again!
I do miss you when you’re away.

Member

JB: “ESBalogh’s post. She and her kin, never having been able to organize a crowd worth of anything, now think their dippy vision of Fidesz running away is reality.”
Well, Eva was part of the 1956 revolution. THis means that she and her skin did very well, thank you. Victor Orban on the other hand is not the type of guy who would run away from some free promotion, except if the promotion would backfire or if someone told him to stop. I still think that his crawling back is also a consequence of the meeting with the representative of the USA.

Member

One more thing.. Orban is just like Johnny Boy (or Johnny Boy is just like Orban), at the end he pulls his tails between his legs and runs away when someone is better equipped then he is.

Johnny Boy
Guest

And I do await your genuine response instead of just plain nonsense labelling, but man, life is full of disappointments.

Ron
Guest

Just seen this article on The Contrarian Hungarian. All main guys of Fidesz are abroad, and their comrades makes life of the organizers of tomorrow’s rally difficult. Disgusting.
http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2011/10/22/hungarian-government-just-wont-stop-pr-offensive-against-opposition-protest/

Ploe
Guest
Let’s get one thing straight. It doesn’t make ‘quite a change’ that ‘those few thousand people (you know, the ‘one million for freedom of speech’) can go and protest on the streets without being shot at by the government’s police.’ That’s just self pity whining of people who once in their life got trapped in a riot. In 2006, there have been weeks of demonstrations in front of the parliament against the government. There have been riots during those weeks, yes, but that were not those demonstrators, but extremists and hooligans who happily went out every evening to fight the police. When Fidesz announced that they wanted to have a demonstration at the Kossuth Lajos utca, they were asked to reconsider, because the fear was that extreme right wing rioters would try to get to them. Which happened. Fidesz willingly took that risk, and I don’t think they regretted it for a second. It brought them a tremendous political gain. As for the violence: remember somebody steeling a Russian tank? Imagine being the police man who all of a sudden sees that thing rolling. After that, the police probably overreacted, but they are no machines either. I feel sorry for… Read more »
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