Viktor Orbán misled his followers: What now?

A lot of people showed up yesterday at the pro-government demonstration in Budapest. Busloads came from all over the country as well as from abroad: from Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia. The organizers expected at least 100,000 people and by all accounts it seems that they achieved their goal.

First of all, about the organizers: they belong to the Hungarian far right. Admittedly, they didn’t officially commit themselves to Jobbik, they still support Fidesz, but the ideology they espouse is as far right as it can be in Hungary. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum should be familiar by now with the name of Zsolt Bayer whose antisemitic outbursts I have mentioned often enough. He is one of the founding members of Fidesz who works for the also far-right Gábor Széles, a billionaire who spends his money keeping up an unprofitable newspaper, Magyar Hírlap, and an equally unprofitable television station, Echo TV. Several people associated with the Széles media empire were among the organizers in addition to another far-right newspaperman, András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of Magyar Demokrata, who was actively involved in the organization of Magyar Gárda, the paramilitary organization of Jobbik.

The organizers and demonstrators used the language of the far right, although this language is not very different from the voice of Viktor Orbán himself. I could come up with hundreds of examples when the prime minister of Hungary, who is now practically begging for money from the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, attacked both of these institutions and whipped up nationalistic sentiment in defense of Hungary’s sovereignty. Jobbik burned the flag of the European Union; Viktor Orbán just removed it from his office. The message was clear.

There is a thought provoking short article in Népszabadság about the “Peace Walk,” as the organizers decided to call this pro-government demonstration. Miklós Hargitai, the reporter, noted that this large demonstration was not exactly organized on Facebook. By yesterday afternoon, the pro-government Facebook group had managed to get only about 900 signatures; even a mediocre Schmitt joke will get more than that number of “likes.” Hargitai was also struck by the average age of the demonstrators: they were practically all over 60. A Japanese tourist thought that the demonstration was organized to call for higher pensions for the elderly.

 

Not exactly a young crowd

The people who took part in this Silly Walk, as Andor Jakab called it, most likely haven’t noticed that the “economic war of independence” is over. They think that two-thirds of the electorate are still following Viktor Orbán. The demonstrators were most likely people who are not negatively impacted by the new tax laws, whose savings were not nationalized, who don’t fret over the details of the new labor laws, and who don’t have to worry about exorbitant college tuition fees. These people most likely receive their news from MTV, Kossuth Rádió, Echo TV, Magyar Nemzet, and Magyar Hírlap, and therefore they are blissfully ignorant of what is going on abroad and at home. For example, they never saw the huge demonstration in front of the Opera House or the demonstration of the high school and college students at the “Educatio” Exhibition because these events were not reported in the state-owned media.

It’s no wonder that Viktor Orbán refused to give a speech to the crowd. The ship of state he is steering and about which he so often speaks is in the middle of making a U-turn. But these innocents don’t realize that yet. Orbán couldn’t go there and tell them what they wanted to hear about “the war of independence” only two days before he will have to go to Brussels and lay down his arms. The crowd wanted to hear something else, something that Orbán promised but was unable to fulfill. It seems that he didn’t learn anything from what his nemesis, Ferenc Gyurcsány, said in Balatonőszöd in 2006: let’s stop promising pie in the sky because we cannot deliver it.

The demonstration showed that Viktor Orbán today, just as in the past, is able to gather 100,000 people on the streets in the name of nationalism and in defense of “sovereignty.” But what will happen in a year from now? And yes, even the opposition was able to organize a demonstration that was almost as large as the Fidesz-Jobbik crowd was yesterday. But what does all this prove? Not much. Orbán was capable of organizing similarly large demonstrations between 2002 and 2010 while in opposition, but he lost two elections in the interim.

Attila Mong, the reporter who was sacked by Magyar Rádió because of his protest against the new media law, wrote an interesting article entitled “For Orbán, against Orbán” in which he states that if a clear answer had been given to the question of Hungary’s true situation vis-à-vis the European Union this gathering could have turned into an anti-government demonstration.

Meanwhile the country’s financial situation is so desperate that it doesn’t really matter what Viktor Orbán says at home, he is ready to accept practically any condition in order to receive the much needed loan from the IMF and the EU. The Fidesz leadership knows that the demands of Barroso will be tough. As one Fidesz politician told HVG, “What else does the Commission want? To restart KlubRádió?” Perhaps he is not very far off the mark. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, wrote a letter to Tibor Navracsics in which she specifically mentioned the case of KlubRádió.

Yesterday’s demonstration was followed by another of a different stripe today. This time the crowd gathered in an attempt to save their favorite radio station, Klubrádió. Admittedly their number was only a few thousand but the sight was still impressive.

 

Let It Ring Out! The slogan of Klubrádió

There are only a few days for the Hungarian government to find a solution. Let’s hope they will have the good sense to give in and allow the only opposition radio to “ring out.”

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Member

WHat did exactly the demonstrators were demonstrating for? I have very mixed messages here from the organizers and from the huge transparencies.
THe demonstrators say, they support Orban but they do not want to have anything to do with the EU. Orban wants a lot to do with the EU, so are they support Orban or no. Actually I think the question to Orban should be: Mr Orban do you support the wishes of the Peace Walk Demonstrators? Can you be specific, what you do not agree wit them on?

Öcsi
Guest

I found the student demonstration very interesting. They had something to say, à la the Occupy Movement! The pro-government demonstrators offered nothing but religious and nationalist bromides. Perhaps they should come up with a list of bridges and streets that need renaming!

Member

We have seen a couple of “clever” sign but interestingly we have not seen these banners:
“Long live the Forint in freefall! Ria, Ria, Hungaria!”
“No pasaran! We want less pensions!”
“We love the cheating, centralized government controlled media! Go Annamaria Szalai!”
“Even less money to people living on minimal wage! Janos Lazar works for us!”
“We believe in Matolcsy and the economic miracle!”
“Thank you for the centralized judiciary! We love Tunde Hando!”
“We don’t want independent central bank! Viktor! Take our FX reserves!”
“Ombudsman, Schmombudsman!”
“New license plates, new Hungary!”
“No, Bayer loves the Jews!”
“We want less churches!”
“Lower the prices of PhDs. We too deserve one!”

Öcsi
Guest

@Mutt
How about:
“Bring back the pengő!”

whoever
Guest

http://www.noltv.hu/video/4123.html
Painful to watch perhaps, but gives an idea of the scale.
Whether these people were paid or coerced to be there or not, is almost an academic question when faced with the scale. But it is not quite academic. Without money to ease the cogs, without the careful planning, this is just a leaderless trope of overweight middle-aged people.
Without question is the potential power of the machine that the leadership of Fidesz has built, combined with many people’s willingness to forgo engagement with more difficult questions around democracy and power.
As other authors have commented, this machine can probably be recalibrated to function without Orbán.

Kirsten
Guest
Éva: “It seems that he didn’t learn … let’s stop promising pie in the sky because we cannot deliver it.” The crowd yesterday was not promised much, I think. It asked for Hungary to be treated “fairly” (because withdrawal from EU was not demanded, in my interpretation this means that one does not indend to leave the club, instead the club should finally start to treat Hungary in the manner that it deserves: repeat constantly how valuable all allegedly ancient traditions are, and never argue whether what one sees and experiences is truly such a unique gem). With OV giving in in some (minor) points, as he promised in Strasbourg, the EU will also become more cooperative, which in the end can be interpreted as OV made the EU “bow”. As long as the main interest of the nationalist believers can be summarised in “dignity” and “shame” (if others criticise us), no additional programme or promises are decisive, important perhaps but they will not decide about their support for OV “when it comes to it”. And OV is not promising more than sovereignty, under current circumstances meaning the sovereignty of OV to decide what Hungarian sovereignty is. The opposition should… Read more »
Member
@Ocsi or “I want the Habsburgs back!” After exchanging a few emails with my peeps in Hungary I really have the impression that the march wasn’t for the government. They wanted to prove some kind of foggy idea that they are not with the people who are *against* the government. Intelligent FIDESZ voters showed up because they still not ready to step over their cognitive dissonance. So Orban the 5th should notice that the arguments and banners not near suggest that they approve the government. They disapprove what is perceived as an attack on the nation. These guys took the pill but what happens when they wake up? Analyzing my conversations I think the direction we should go is this: we should agree with the “conservative national values”. If you can write this without barfing we should even suggest that the FIDESZ is OK, but Orban and Matolcsy should go. These thoughts seem to stick with people who are not entirely brainwashed or brainless. Something is brewing amongst intelligent people who voted for the FIDESZ. They say things like “even though I disagree with the implementation of this and that”. This is a very good sign. The folks they were… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Mutt: “we should agree with the “conservative national values”.
It sounds as if there was no connection between these conservative national values and the programme of Fidesz. But this is not the case. I thought that the constitution, the national creed, the reduction of the parliament to a voting machine, renaming of streets, changes in the educational system, the stronger role of the Catholic Church etc. are all considered to be motivated by exactly those “conservative national values”. So what should those “conservative national values” mean if not the recent reforms of Fidesz?
If those “conservative national values” are merely a code word for “national dignity”, “national pride” and the fear of ‘losing Hungarianness’ when adopting consciously ideas from other nations, it will be very difficult to devise a democratic programme or, for that matter, any ‘political’ programme. Equally, if the “conservative national values” just mean that the “Commies should go”, not only does this violate the alleged value of national unity and harmony, but also it could be presented as such, without invoking some “conservative national values”. To hate communists does not yet make for a positive programme.

Paul
Guest

After almost two years of dismantling Hungary’s democracy and nearly dismantling her economy, and with OV and Fidesz not even supporting the march, still this number of people are prepared to demonstrate in Orbán’s support.
We can try all we like to think up reasons for not being impressed or for explaining this demo away, but we’d be better spending our time accepting the reality and dealing with it.
Orbán’s core support is still there, he is still 100% in charge, the opposition is pathetic, and most of the non-Fidesz supporting population have given up.
Burying our collective heads in the sand because we don’t like what we saw on Saturday is not the answer.

Paul
Guest

“The moment the alternative is prepared (and the opposition united around a centrist programme that will not exclude some earlier Fidesz believers), this system will collapse instantly.”
I’m sorry, Kirsten, I usually agree with your posts and I respect your knowledge and analysis, but this is just wishful thinking. It isn’t going to happen – certainly not on the scale and in the depth that’s needed.
And certainly not by 2014.
After which it will be too late.

Öcsi
Guest

Well, yes and no, Paul.
That many people is very impressive. However, if in fact they were bused in from far and wide, it’s not as big as it should have been. With over two thirds of the votes going to the Fidesz less than a year ago, they should have been able to bring half a million, if not more, to the streets.
I hope that view doesn’t mean I’m burying my head.

An
Guest

And here is how the BBC reports on this:
“Saturday’s peaceful rally began in Heroes Square – the heart of the Hungarian capital.
The demonstrators then marched down the main boulevard toward the parliament building.
“I would call it a march for peace, to show the government it is not alone, he said, and to show the European Union that we don’t like how they are treating it,” Zsolt Bayer, a well-known newspaper columnist, told the BBC.
This was a massive show of support for Mr Orban and his Fidesz government, the BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest reports.”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16669498
Only they forget to mention that
1, Zsolt Bayer was one of the organizers of the demonstration (an important detail that a respectful paper shouldn’t miss)
2. That he is a well-known for his antisemitic rants published in Magyar Hirlap, whose owner, Szeles Gabor, was the other organizer.
Shamefully low quality journalism on the part of BBC.

Paul
Guest

“That many people is very impressive. However, if in fact they were bussed in from far and wide, it’s not as big as it should have been. With over two thirds of the votes going to the Fidesz less than a year ago, they should have been able to bring half a million, if not more, to the streets.”
So they were bussed in? Were they forced to get on the buses? It’s not exactly unknown for demo organisers to arrange for coaches to bring people in, practically every demo I’ve been on has done this.
And please let’s not do their job for them, they did NOT get two thirds of the vote, they got just under 53%. Impressive, I grant you, but a long way short of two thirds.
I’m afraid this is exactly what I meant by burying our heads in the sand.

Kirsten
Guest
Paul, I know that you consider this part of my contributions as wishful thinking :-). Of course, I cannot say when and how the alternative will be prepared. I have some ideas what could be considered an alternative programme but I am not a Hungarian and therefore I am not able to say what exactly the most important aspects of this alternative have to be. But what I see (and in that yesterday’s demonstration has not changed my mind) is that the ideological foundations of the current Fidesz policies are not too elaborated. Also, that OV cannot do magic has been found out already also by those who support “conservative national values”. Currently, the more centrist part of the society has perhaps disappeared a bit but only from sight. It still exists. People do not change their basic beliefs so often, but in some circumstances one part of the society is heard more than another. So these marchers are still only 100,000, yes, they made themselves seen but this is all that I make of it. 2014 or earlier, what matters the most is that this opportunity is not missed and the democrats manage to define a Hungarian democratic programme… Read more »
Paul
Guest

At the risk of seriously outstaying my welcome on HS, one more from me…
We got the expected call from my wife’s brother today (who was on the march) – claiming ONE MILLION were there!!
OK, we can laugh – one tenth of the population on a demo! (never mind the catastrophic impact on Budapest if anything like that number had turned up) – but this is what he believes.
And even if he doesn’t really believe it, it’s certainly how he feels. His side fought back in spectacular fashion, all the recent doubts have gone, Project Viktator charges ahead on full steam.
Anyone who knows anything about team sports will tell you that confidence and self-belief is at least half the battle. The Orbánistas are on a huge high after yesterday, a high that could carry them a long way.
While we sit here trying to invent reasons why yesterday wasn’t really that much of a success and doesn’t really mean anything.
Imagine if that had been an opposition demo of that (unexpected) size – even including people bussed in – would we be sitting here muttering and nit-picking?
I think not.

An
Guest

@Paul: “So they were bussed in? Were they forced to get on the buses? It’s not exactly unknown for demo organisers to arrange for coaches to bring people in, practically every demo I’ve been on has done this.”
None of the opposition rallies in Budapest did this, as none of them was as well organized and/or have the financial means to bus people in.
There are many reports from people who saw buses with logos of various city-councils of small towns (logo’s of the city council, not just signs, logos indicating that the bus is owned by the municipality)… one can only hope that the trip was not financed by taxpayer’s money.
http://index.hu/belfold/2012/01/21/kormanyert_is_tuntetnek_meg_ellene_is/
“A tér egyharamada már megtelt
jan. 21. 15:51 Király András
Hősök tere: Körülbelül harminc százalékos a lefedettség a Hősök terén, bő húszezer ember lehet már. Az átlagéletkor inkább 50 pluszos. Az Ötvenhatosok terén lévő parkolóban 43 busz áll, és legalább húsz kisbusz. Itt van a paloznaki önkormányzat busza, és az erdőhorváti polgármesteri hivatal busza is, amin ott virít az Új Magyarország Vidékfejlesztési Program logója. Vajon Bajnai Gordon előre tudta, hogy erre a célra is jó lesz a vidékfejlesztés?”

An
Guest

@Paul: “The Orbánistas are on a huge high after yesterday, a high that could carry them a long way.”
Carry them along way? To where???? To the wall? Then just go ahead.

Member

@Kirsten I’m suggesting the “national conservative values” (add the best fitting buzzword on the go) to address somehow these people – the ones who are willing to talk to you. The name of the game in the next two years is befriending the FIDESZ refugees. Numbers, numbers, numbers.
My point is to suggest to these people that there is no connection between the FIDESZ practice and conservatism. Conservative values vs. a power hungry corrupt bunch cementing itself for the future in the name of conservative values. You have to play along also on the national pride line. Start loving Transylvania.
But once you manage to talk along these values the first target should be the competency of the government. I think that’s going to be the soft spot.
I know, I started to sound like the young Goebbels in 2nd grade but If we cannot engage the average Joe the opposition will be a liberal social club in Hungary.

CKtravel
Guest

@OP: Fidesz-fans didn’t learn about the demonstrations in front of the Opera house? Uhm…..you rarely (if ever) watch the evening news on MTV, do you? Shall I post you the evening news of MTV from the day of the demonstrations where they mention this as the VERY first piece?
As for the allegations of right-wing extremism, if it REALLY was an extremist demonstration then how come it was peaceful? How come nobody was burning flags, nobody was smashing any storefronts etc. And most importantly: if this was REALLY an extremist demonstration, then why did the Lungo Drom participate in it too (which was a Gypsy organization the last time I’ve checked)?

Member

@An I don’t think it really matters how they got there. If they used the bus of the local municipality that’s normal. That is what it is for. They are taxpayers too. It was probably a lot cheaper then the train.
What matters is the people. I couldn’t shake off the zombie movie feeling …
I agree with Paul that this is a serious mental munition for some. Indeed it may carry these lemmings all the way beyond the ravine. Hand in hand, taking the country with them. When Orban gets the first check from the EU they will feast on it for a long time. It’s a dangerous game but the IMF should not give any money for now. It’s a game of chicken, but Hungarians need to feel the pinch. The attention span of this nation is very short. They may turn against the dear leader.

Member

@CKtravel We do watch the royal hungarian TV. They way the reported the events was so bad that since then become an internet fad. Check your Facebook page.
I don’t see why an extremist march cannot be peaceful. I watched a couple NSDAP marches on YouTube. All very peaceful. One thing is worth to mention. The doyens of the Hungarian anti-Semitism marshaled the ceremonies.
The Lungo Drom is puzzling to me. Maybe somebody has more insight. In 2010 many Romas voted for the FIDESZ out of fear from the JOBBIK. But what are these guys expecting from this government? Wasn’t that clear so far that they just want to push down the socially disadvantaged off the cliff?

An
Guest

Matt Damon, , really, how is using a local municipalities bus for party purposes is normal????? Unless they rented the bus from the local municipality and paid for gas, driver, etc…. I would really like to believe that is what happened, but knowing the level of corruption in small towns in Hungary, and that a lot of the mayors are Fidesz- affiliated, I doubt it… No tax payer money should be spent on any party or pro-governmental rally, do I really have to explain that?

Member

@An No ma’am! Yes ma’am!

An
Guest

Mutt Damon, not clear, what is no and what is yes..
As for, Lungo Drom, their chairman is Flórián Farkas, a Fidesz MP. Lungo Drom is a Fidesz affiliated Roma organization, there are others, too.

Member

@An I get it. But what drives there Roma when they join the FIDESZ? Short term local payoff with something? I don’t think they really believe that this is party to follow.

An
Guest

@Mutt Damon: Probably what drives the others… could be blind faith combined with ignorance, or could be opportunism (some personal incentive).
OT: Another great piece by Kim Lane Scheppele in NYT:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/21/hungary-misunderstood/

GDF
Guest

For a very good description of the European financial crisis, specifically of the situation of Greece, I suggest the following link
http://www.thisamericanlife.org/
and click on January 20th broadcast (Continental Breakup).

Member

An: “the BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Budapest reports.” “Shamefully low quality journalism on the part of BBC.”
Nick Thorpe is to BBC’s audience as Orban to Hungary ‘s population.
Mutt Damon: “But what drives there Roma when they join the FIDESZ? ” A few month back I read an article either on the Index or on Origo regarding this question. Apparently many Roma voted for Fidesz as prior to the elections they were promised equality, help and protection. Soon they found out the truth, and they would not vote for Fidesz again. Florian Farkas in the Fidesz is to the Roma population as Deutsch in the Fidesz for the Jews.

CKtravel
Guest

@Mutt Damon You surely don’t mean this report, do you? http://videotar.mtv.hu/Videok/2012/01/03/20/MTV_Hirado_2012_januar_3_19_30.aspx
And yeah, the names of some of the organizers sound familiar to me too. I even read some of Zsolt Bayer’s writings too (and I can’t say I liked them either). But once again: IF it was an extremist demonstration, how come the most vocal extremists (read: troublemakers) didn’t participate? I don’t think that the only reason for this was that they “didn’t get the memo”. And besides, extremists wouldn’t have been able to amass such huge crowd either.

Member

@CKtravel I meant this monkey:
http://www.nyugat.hu/tartalom/cikk/legyen_on_is_hiteles_hirados
Your video looks good but it’s from the next day. Well that’s why I love Facebook.
I think the Hungarian KKK didn’t participate (actively) because they DID get the memo. Apparently there were 100k+ people who doesn’t find it a problem marching behind anti-Semites.