Fidesz governing style: no muss, no fuss!

It was last October that I wrote a fairly long post about the Orbán government’s plans “to stop time” and restore Kossuth tér, the area around the Hungarian parliament, to its pre-1944 state. Everybody suspected that although the square did need some refurbishing, something the Gyurcsány-Bajnai governments also contemplated, one reason for the reconstruction was the removal of a statue of Mihály Károlyi, the president of the First Hungarian Republic (1918-1919). Károlyi has been the bête noire of the Hungarian right ever since he was made the scapegoat for the drastic loss of territories after the end of World War I.

The earlier governments’ attempts at improving the square were stymied by–guess who? The Fidesz opposition. The square’s “owner” was District V. And who was and still is the mayor of District V? None other than the super legislator of the current parliament, Antal Rogán. The party used Rogán as their instrument to stop any attempt to remove, for example, a fairly large parking lot reserved for members of parliament from the square. The idea was to construct an underground garage and replace the asphalt that currently covers the area with a park. Antal Rogán had grave objections to building the garage and effectively put a stop to it.

Change of scene. Fidesz wins the elections with a two-thirds majority. One of the first things the new government did with respect to the square was to “nationalize” it. Mr. Rogán, the jealous mayor of his district, didn’t object. He gladly allowed himself to be deprived of a prime piece of real estate. Once the state owned the square, the Orbán government could do practically anything it wanted with it.

Not much information leaked out about the actual plans for the square until a few days ago when suddenly a wall was built around the area lying north of the Parliament building. Enterprising photo journalists managed to take a few photos of the site around the controversial statue of Mihály Károlyi. Within twenty-four hours all the trees one can see on the photo taken on February 28 were cut out.

 

Kossuth tér, February 28, Photo by Miklós Teknős, Népszabadság

According to Népszabadság the planners got rid of the trees even though there are still no definite plans and no contractor has been hired. Yet even if the final plans are not available, it seems that the decision has been made to build an underground garage on this particular spot that will serve members of parliament and also visitors to the building.

As for the trees, I was terribly surprised to hear how fast and without any fanfare they got rid of at least a dozen trees when a few years ago the building of an underground garage was foiled by Zoltán Illés, Fidesz member of parliament and an ardent environmentalist. There were at least two occasions when Illés managed to stop the building of much needed underground garages: in 2004 on Jókai tér and in 2009 at Nagymező utca. Mr. Illés, who today serves as undersecretary in charge of the environment, interestingly enough didn’t come to the rescue of the trees on Kossuth tér.

As it turned out, the project manager for rebuilding the square is another old Fidesz hand: Tamás Wachsler. Wachsler, according to his biography found on the parliament’s website, joined Fidesz in the middle of April 1988. He was one of the core members of this independent youth organization and became a member of parliament (1990-1994). Wachsler was something of a curiosity because in 1994 he dared to challenge Viktor Orbán for the position of chairmanship of Fidesz. Naturally, he lost.

Wachsler was forgiven for his impertinence and was named undersecretary in the Ministry of Defense during the first Orbán administration (1998-2002). That particular ministry was given to the Smallholders. Since Wachsler’s relations with the smallholder minister János Szabó were quite strained, two years later Wachsler resigned his post. After that he disappeared from political life.

Today, however, Wachsler made two appearances. First, he phoned in to György Bolgár’s talk show to inform Bolgár and the listeners that he is the project manager of the “Imre Steindl Plan” (SIP). This is the first time I’ve heard of the Steindl Plan, the name given to the refurbishing project of Kossuth tér. Why not? We have an Ignác Darányi Plan; we have a Kálmán Széll Plan; we have a Zoltán Magyary Plan; we have a Károly Ereky Plan. So why not an Imre Steindl Plan? After all, he was the architect of the parliament building.

Wachsler informed us that they had permission to cut out the trees. Where does one get permission to fell trees in front of parliament? In the city hall of District V, that is from Antal Rogán, Fidesz member of parliament. Naturally, he gladly granted permission. (Though it’s not clear that he even has the jurisdiction to be so generous; after all, it’s no longer his property.) Our undersecretary for the environment, the militant Zoltán Illés, didn’t chain himself to the trees as he did in 2004 and 2009. After all, as the Latin saying goes: mutantur omnia nos et mutamur in illis (all things change, and we change with them). Trees are not so important now as they were then.

All this was accomplished without anyone on the outside knowing about it. The environmentalists were also quiet. The Working Group for Air (Levegő Munkacsoport) is “struggling for survival,” according to its president András Lukács, who complains bitterly about the severe cuts in subsidies. They had to let some people go and there are so many problems that the small staff can’t handle them all. Maybe true, maybe not. We do know that the environmentalists, who used to resist practically all projects, have been conspicuously silent in the last two years.

Meanwhile, although Népszabadság thought that there were no plans yet, Project Manager Wachsler seems to know quite a few details, judging from the information he gave to MTI today. Attila József’s statue will remain but, if I understand it right, they will move it because at the moment it is not in the right place. After all, he isn’t facing the Danube. As for Károlyi’s statue, although Wachsler claimed not to know its fate, he seemed to know that the City of Siófok, birthplace of the artist Imre Varga, would like to have it for a park that would showcase Varga’s statues. A final decision will be made soon. In any event, because of the underground garage Károlyi’s statue cannot stay where it is now.

It is really remarkable how speedily and without any of the protracted negotiations that characterized the earlier government’s activities the Fidesz government operates. Suddenly everything is ready to go. But at what price?

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Member
Some other “top secret” details of the reconstruction plan according to the “Örülünk, Vincent?” (“Vincent, Happy? – from the Pulp Fiction) blog. http://orulunkvincent.blog.hu/2012/03/02/a_kossuth_ter_rendezesi_terve “On the north side of the square a new underground garage for 500 cars will be built, which also will serve as the main vehicle storage for the underground bunkers of the Parliament. A three-stage defense system will take care of the physical protection of the building and the uninterrupted working conditions for the members of the government. The outermost protection system, the yellow area on the map, is the area in which the units, protecting the parliament, can install an anti-personnel mine field in 15-20 minutes. The second line of defense of the building, on the south, east and north sides, are a chain of concrete machine-gun nests. These are not accessible from the outside only through the underground bunkers. The third line of defense around the building is a grid of Tesla towers. The Tesla coils in the Tesla towers produce 500 kV when they are active and will practically fry alive everybody approaching the building without a Faraday cage. The hostile crowd approaching the building can also be effectively “filtered” by the camouflaged sniper… Read more »
kormos
Guest

Oh, Mutt! You let the cat out of the bag again, but you did not spent time on the juicy details what is going to happen to the Karolyi statue. How is it going to be altered? Whom is it going to depict once the change was done? Where is it going to be placed?
And again…..at what price?

Member
@kormos When you actually read Eva’s post you will notice that she mentioned that the Karolyi Statue will move to Siofok … Well, the good new that the nations favorite poet, Attila Jozsef will not be removed, probably thanks to the many volunteers who were citing his poems 24/7 to protest the idiotic decision of his removal because he was a left sympathizer. One of his famous poems is the “At the Danube” (A Dunanal) so they want him to face the Danube. I can only hope they mean the the river bank not the bottom … I’m rather concerned about the schedule of the project. The work is planned to be finished in 2014 Spring I guess intentionally at the elections. This reminds me on the houses the Orban government promised to build for the families whos homes were foreclosed because of the runaway CHF exchange rates. According to the plan the amateur FX traders were supposed to move into the houses close to Ocsa in March 2012. Never mind that for the projected budget they could buy 3 times more foreclosed homes and rent those out to the families. That’s just math and we all know that is… Read more »
kormos
Guest

@ Mutt.
I thank you this time for not applying sarcasm despite my sarcastic questions.
If you read again the quoted source they state “Orbán Viktor alapvető biztonsági, nemzetbiztonsági érdekei régóta szívügyünk, ezért mi magunk is elkészítettük a Kossuth tér rendezési tervét, melyet ezúton az ország rendelkezésére bocsátunk. A tervezés során a legmesszebbmenőkig figyelembe vettük Kövér László elvárását, hogy a teret az 1944 előtti állapot szerint kell berendezni, természetesen figyelembe véve a modern kor nemzetbiztonsági követelményeit is.”
So it appears to me, that their design is a farce.

Paul
Guest

It may ‘only’ be a square and a statue or two, but this should serve as a real warning for the rest of us. This governmnt can, and will, do anything it puts its mind to – without consultation, without fuss, and too quickly for anyone to stop it.
Today a square and some statues, tomorrow – who knows what?

Member

@kormos “So it appears to me, that their design is a farce”
Are you sure? The Tesla towers and the machine gun nests seem pretty realistic to me …

riviera1
Guest

I was wrong in a previous post: I had said that Orban and Fidesz are sending us back to the 18th/19th century.
No.
It’s more like tribal life.
The little Victor–let this be a lesson to voters…as with Putin, never elect a short person–wishes to be a tribal leader. No questions asked: no quarter given. The potent little bastard will take some wives, too (the fawning Szijarto’s and the knee-jerk Giro’s) and populate the countryside with hair-braided lassies and mustachioed country boys who will, after some years in the new schools, be able to humbly mumble,
“Meltosagos Uram…”

Paul
Guest

Don’t forget the pigs and the horses.

Miklós Haraszti
Guest

The name of the square now reverted to its 1944 look should be “Preambulum Square”, since its real function will be to set in stone the way Orban’s new constitution falsifies history. The Fundamental Law claims that the last year of Hungary’s independence was 1944. That is, the last year before 2010, the second coming of Orban, when Hungary regained its 1944 independence.
Accordingly, the reconstruction plan’s name should be “The Fundamental Lie Plan”.
But it also could be named as the “Gabor Vona Plan”. Not just because removing the Karolyi statue was originally promoted by the Jobbik party. The ultimate meaning of Orbán’s 1944 romantics is the recruitment of Jobbik’s voters for FIDESZ.
And what about the financial side, that the construction should be ordered from companies of Orban’s choice without public procurement? Yes, that’s independence.

Wondercat
Guest

@riviera1 — I rather like that form of address; meltosagot mindenkinek, sez I…

tigerente
Guest

It’s remarkable how they always proceed with nothing but cold logic as their motivation. Feel threatened by statues? Clearly, they must go.

riviera1
Guest

@Wondercat…”Meltosagos uram!”
I have a story for you: Some months back, we took our dear friend, Madeleine (some 80 years young) up to castle hill by cab. She and I are old-movie buffs and when I had once told her that I like that old form of address, she thereafter used it for me. The cab driver listened to her address me several times as “meltosagos uram” and when we arrived at our destination, he couldn’t help ask about it: “Why do you address him like that?” he asked Madeleine. She, never leaving home without her sense of humor, answered: “He orders us to!”
The taxi driver thought about this for a moment and finally said, “Wow. I’m going home and demanding that my wife address me like that too!”
We could hardly leave the taxi without breaking out in laughter.

Kirsten
Guest

riviera1: “I like that old form of address”
I hope that it does not sound as spoiling the party but the joy in using this old-fashioned style can be misused by those who dislike ‘ultra-liberal democracy’ as currently practiced in other countries in Europe. Although what you describe can be clearly identified as a joke, it keeps the aristocratic legacy alive, and with it the idea that inequality has to be reflected also in the political system (in whatever form). The high regard for aristocratic style (and the inequality suggested by that) also makes opposition to the Fidesz-style inequality based on nationalist conviction difficult – as it shares the basic belief of a (positively valued) inequality in rights. Just the beneficiery of this inequality differs.
I hope this will not be misunderstood but given the high appreciation for aristocratic style by many in Hungary, I think it might be worth a thought.

Guest

OT: In today’s Washington Post, Szapary Gyorgy, the Hungarian ambassador to the US, answered the op-ed written earlier by Palmer, Haraszti and Gatti.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/in-hungary-media-freedom-is-a-reality-not-a-myth/2012/02/29/gIQAgLwNnR_story.html (via shareaholic)

Guest
Paul
Guest

Thanks for the links, Gretchen. I missed the original op-ed piece.
Anyone who hasn’t read this, check it out – it’s a very good, no punches pulled, description of OV’s Hungary.
The reply is worth a read too. I can’t believe that the Fidesz PR dept allowed something as crass as this to go out! Surely the spin machine that got OV his ‘two-thirds majority’ could do better than this?

Tom Vargoczky
Guest

Congratulations! yous sources-reference points are Nepszabadsag, Gyorgy Bolgar etc..totally balanced, objective views presented by them. On Karolyi – he actively directed Hungary to have a Communist, mass-murderer dictatorship in 1919 – why doe she have a statue at all? because you guys support this ideology? hmm..
On the Meltosagos Ur – type for of address..so in a democracy you cannot address anyone the way you chose to? or you want to introduce ‘thought police’? – obviously you have no understanding of culture, history etc..in Asia try to laugh at their form of addresses – see how far you go..broaden your horizons ladies and gentlemen – I hope you do not object to this form of address, or you feel it does not address you..shame on you.

Member

@Tom Yes, we just can’t get enough of “mass-murderer dictatorships”. This must obvious reading the posts on this blog. By the way the Karolyi statue was erected in 1975. It was good for the first right wing government from 1990 and it was good for the FIDESZ between 1998-2002. I guess they still liked mass murders by then …
I don’t know how much time you have, but if you read a few of professor Balogh’s posts (never hurts) you will notice that there are ample quotes from papers that you like. By the way when “Meltosagos Uram” makes me chuckle what’s this got to do with democracy? Try it on the streets of BP – I wish I could see the faces staring at you.
Thanks to you my horizon is broad now and I have understanding of culture, history and “etc”. What’s the “etc” by the way? Eating with fork and knife? Chopsticks perhaps … ?

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Mr. Karolyi was all that, he did all that he was accused of. If the statue needs to be relocated, so be it. Hungarian history precedes itself as always being invaded. Some other countries,leaders always try to take our land, suppress the people and plan to conquer us, as a nation. If King Stephen was alive, I perceive that he would not be happy with our current situations.

Member

“King Stephen was alive, I perceive that he would not be happy with our current situations”
Yes!! I finally was able to I squirt milk out of my nose … thanks Penny Sue!

Hoping
Guest

Anyone ready to take my money with a bet that there will be a statue or a bust of “Our Great Leader” in the new Kossuth tér? The great revolutionary leader!
I mean an ego like that is gonna be screaming for it!

hongorma
Guest

All of this is just part of the overall plan to ‘reshape’ urban space in Budapest–the renaming of Moszkva ter, the destruction of the historical market at Teleki ter being two other examples)—with the destruction/abrupt changes of these urban streetscapes, the fabric of memory itself of those who live there is altered. It’s not accidental or even just attributable to corruption. Everything the Viktator does is motivated by extreme ideology.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Penny Sue Oswalt: “If King Stephen was alive, I perceive that he would not be happy with our current situations.”
Do you realize how stupid this sounds? A man born in the late tenth-century approving or not approving the current Hungarian situation?
As for that “Mr. Karolyi was all that, he did all that he was accused of” I would like you to give me a list of all the books you read about the revolutions of 1918-1919 and Károlyi. Once you provide such list, we can talk about it.
Oh, and one more thing. Károlyi was not Mr. but “Count Károlyi.” Just for sake of accuracy. A count who gave away his thousands and thousands of acres to the poor landless peasant.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Der Miss Eva, What does it prosper to poor landless peasant if they keep getting sacked down or even killed for occupying land. I am all for survival and for better living arrangements. However,that is not the todays peasants blessing in present day society. Count Karolyi may have done that but so did King Stephen fight for the peasant. Am I right or wrong stating that the peasant, outcasts are being picked off one by one? One book is “Hungary”by Claudia Sugliano. I am not currently studying 1918-1919, in depth. I am going back to the very beginning of Hungary. If you want to study all the revolutions in Hungary over the annuals of history, till your blue in the face go ahead.But Hungary history is full of revolutions because Hungary has been invaded, suppressed one two many times.

Kirsten
Guest
“Hungary has been invaded, suppressed one two many times.” And what follows of that? That you get back with the time machine and return to the middle ages and St. Stephen? Just to find out that Hungarians invaded the Carpathian basin in the 10th century? (Perhaps, in the eyes of some other Europeans: “one two many times”?) What makes it so difficult to just concentrate on the present? Why do you need St. Stephen to make some judgement about today? Perhaps it may surprise you but very few countries in Europe are currently governed according to the “constitutions” of the 10th century. And also: St. Stephen worked to incorporate Hungary into European civilisation. He probably understood that there is no such thing as a list of rights of countries that have to be provided by the other countries (such as territorial integrity, not being invaded) other than agreed with the other countries in international treaties and adhered to (and even such treaties can be fragile). Hungary would very much benefit from understanding these basic insights into international relations and accordingly try to establish good relations with other countries, and not present to other countries a list of grievances that Hungary… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
Tom Vargoczky: “so in a democracy you cannot address anyone the way you chose to?” Good question. The answer is indeed no. Or put it otherwise: of course you are free to say and think whatever you want, and free speech is a basic right in a free society. But then comes the catch. Surprisingly, not all attitudes that can be freely expressed imply that democracy is workable. Democracy has preconditions, one of them is that opinions expressed freely will not lead to actions that undermine the political system (based on equality and acceptance of a diversity of ideas). You may of course freely express your preference for another political system – which is what Jobbik already declared and Fidesz is doing implicitly. Democracy as a political system that uses elections to choose and replace leaders, insititutions to control the elected leaders, and a basic set of individual rights, will not obtain with ideologies that are opposed to the basic principles – even if expressed “freely” and hence even if they make use of ONE element of a democratic political order. To use just ONE element as a defining moment is not enough, in particular if this element is used… Read more »
Member

Kirsten, I really like the way you apply so much intellectual power to answer comments from JB and Co. My wife says it is something like when I come home and tell my day to my dog while he’s enthusiastically wags his tail.
I think the way they see democracy is this: “Everybody has the right to terrorize others because it’s democracy”.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Dear Kirsten:In response to your 3/4/2012 post @9:24am, I want you to know that if we do not learn from the history of Hungary, we will make the same mistakes again and again.I know that very few countries rule off the 10th century.Yes St Stephen worked to incorporate Hungary into European civilization.Those who are oppressed freedom is not given, freedom must be demanded by the oppressed.And as far as “Hungary being treated badly, again & again”it will!!!When we stand up and declare that enough is enough, and we draw a line in the sand, and say no more!!! History will not repeat itself no more. I do not like getting walked over either, but that is what is happening in present day society. Kirsten?Do you think that the “new constituition”in Hungary is an invasion of our dignity, an insult that draws us back to promote fear?-Penny

Wondercat
Guest

Something’s very odd about the language used by “Penny Sue Oswalt”. Someone by that name has a very small Internet footprint (by Google-able standards); that someone is linked to Ohio (USA); but… what “Penny Sue” is typing into her comments is anything but idiomatic English. Oh, I grant you that the mis-spellings, the use of “your” for “you’re”, are standard USA high-school-graduate written American. But “…again and again’ it will” instead of “…it will BE”? Or “History will not repeat itself no more” instead of “…itself ANY more”? And “…an insult that draws us back to promote fear” — not even people in Ohio, bless their hearts (and, as a Pennsylvanian born, I have a long and entitled history of looking down smugly on Ohio and all its works, especially its sports teams and the horror that is Cleveland), would come out with such gibberish. Prof Balogh, you might want to let the REAL “Penny Sue Oswalt” that someone has stolen her identity… and is making her look ridiculous on-line.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Dear Wondercat: I am a victim of identity theft, this is Penny Oswalt. Your latest posting concerning me raises questions about what I wrote as opposed to what was printed. I do post but what I see on my screen is not idiomatic English. The real Penny Sue Oswalt is born again & pentecostal, and is concerned for the Hungarian people. You are correct in stating that I am a victim of Identity Theft on all fronts.

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