A new demonstration and so what?

The so-called democratic opposition is not doing well. While Fidesz lost more than half of its voters (from 38% in May 2010 to 18% in February 2012) the size of MSZP’s and LMP’s followers remained practically unchanged. MSZP inched up 1% and LMP moved from 3% to 4%. The new DK managed to recruit 2% of the eligible voters. Jobbik’s share is also steady at 8%.

Where are the disillusioned Fidesz voters? In May 2010 22% of those asked refused to divulge their party preferences as opposed to the situation today when 33% refuse to answer. These figures say a lot about the fear that is spreading in Hungary because of the Orbán government’s ruthless way of doing things. Those who claim that they wouldn’t bother to vote also climbed from 14% to 21%. If one adds up the differences between these two sets of figures one is close to finding the missing Fidesz voters.

This loss of popularity of the Fidesz-KDNP rule might be heartwarming to those who oppose the Orbán government, but the inability of the opposition to gain any traction must be terribly disappointing to those politicians who under very difficult circumstances are trying to unseat Viktor Orbán and his friends in 2014. Demonstrations against the government are organized by civic groups with a definite anti-party (any party) message. There were times when politicians were in fact forbidden to attend their street demonstrations. The numbers who attend these gatherings are decreasing. I don’t even blame them. What can they achieve? They can listen to some speeches and sing a song or two about freedom and democracy that will return some day, but otherwise these rallies achieve absolutely nothing.

Demonstration

Although the Orbán government is no longer popular, it still managed to put together a huge demonstration in support of the government just as Vladimir Putin could organize massive rallies on his own behalf. Indeed, 100,000 men and women marching together is an impressive sight even though these huge gatherings don’t translate into votes. Viktor Orbán considered the “Peace Walk” such a resounding success that his troops immediately began organizing another one for March 15, one of the two Hungarian national holidays.

In his infamous interview with journalists of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung a few days ago he bragged about support for his government and the weakness of the opposition. This is how he described his political opponents’ situation: “My full respect for those people who gather on the streets [against his government]. Sometimes they can be in the tens of thousands. But compared to the meetings of the right they are only club events. March 15th, a national holiday, will soon be upon us. The fact that we can mobilize our supporters successfully is beyond question.” And he added that such a demonstration is “a liberating experience for the supporters of the Hungarian right.”

For the March 15 extravaganza Orbán is expecting such a large crowd that his speech will be delivered not in front of the National Museum where relatively few people can gather but in front of the parliament building. About 2,000 people are coming from Poland, followers of Jarosław Kaczyński, and most likely many Hungarians will arrive from the neighboring countries. The odds are that it will be just as impressive as the first pro-government demonstration was, and the leaders of the democratic opposition can again be as depressed as they were after the “Peace Walk.”

As the matter of fact, people in the anti-Orbán camp are already depressed. Ferenc Gyurcsány wrote a bitter piece on Facebook after only about 10,000 people showed up at yesterday’s rally organized by the Magyar Szolidaritás Mozgalom (The Hungarian Solidarity Movement). It was supported by the parties, but there were no party politicians among the speakers. They could only attend.

Gyurcsány blames “the killers of the past” for the present political apathy. This camp is large: Jobbik, Fidesz, LMP, the socialists, and naturally the civic groups. These “killers of the past” are responsible for the country’s present situation because “they are contemptuous of their own world, the only one that has a future.” These super-critics of the past eight or twenty years are actually the allies of the radicals. Those who believe in politics without political parties weaken the already weak opposition and assist Fidesz.

Indeed, the situation looks pretty hopeless. One of the important Solidarity leaders was ousted from the organization because he wanted to organize a party. The “Milla” group, originally organized on the Internet, refused to join Solidarity. LMP wants nothing to do with either MSZP or DK. Viktor Orbán can laugh and thank God for his good fortune in having an opposition like this. Indeed, it is pitiful.

By the way, it is worth spending an hour and half watching the debate between Viktor Orbán and Ferenc Gyurcsány four days before the 2006 elections. It is even more telling in retrospect than it seemed at the time. After watching that debate one can put “the last eight years” in a better perspective.

Meanwhile, let’s stop the useless demonstrations with fewer and fewer participants. They only hurt the cause.

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Bowen
Guest
We saw people around Budapest yesterday wearing ‘Kokarda’ and wanted to check why that was. It turned out it was because of the Magyar Szolidaritás Mozgalom in Kossuth Ter. We might have gone if we’d been aware of it. Yet, of course, anti-gov’t demonstrations can’t compete with the blanket advertising of the ‘Peace March’ in the government controlled media, and billboards all over the city. We went to the Opera House demonstration in January. I have to point out that it was not easy to do so. All of Andrassy and the side streets leading to it were entirely blocked off by hundreds of police in full riot gear, and vans. It looked extremely intimidating. Floodlights were set up around the Opera House itself, pointing outwards, to dazzle anyone looking in its direction. The only ‘acceptable’ place for demonstrators to gather was Oktogon, where we were advised it would be ‘very dangerous and crowded’ and we should go home. I’m glad we persevered and joined the other protestors though, as this story made huge international media coverage (if not in Hungary itself). The Fidesz-sponsored ‘Peach Marches’, cynical though they are, are well-advertised, well-funded, and organised so as to encourage maximum… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

Oh, by the way, take a close look at the video that Professor Balogh posted above. Look at exactly 52 seconds into it.
You’ll notice that Orban’s ‘plinth’ is much higher than Gyurcsany’s – so as to make Orban look the same height.
Petty comment, I know … but couldn’t help but notice.

Paul
Guest

Watch the handshake at the beginning – Orbán looks like a badly dressed dwarf next to Gyurcsány.

Paul
Guest

Éva – this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen you write. Your pieces are usually pretty positive, but even the downbeat ones always have a positive lift at the end.
This is the first time I’ve seen something from you that just fizzles out. “Indeed, the situation looks pretty hopeless… Indeed, it is pitiful.”
Is it just the Sunday blues, or is that really it? OV’s won, after nearly two years, the opposition has achieved nothing, the people don’t care, or don’t think it’s worth caring, there’s nothing anyone can do…
Personally, that’s how I’ve always seen it – violent revolution is going to be the only end to this mess.
But to hear you almost as negative about the future is quite sobering.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Bowen: “take a close look at the video that Professor Balogh posted above. Look at exactly 52 seconds into it. You’ll notice that Orban’s ‘plinth’ is much higher than Gyurcsany’s – so as to make Orban look the same height.”
I kept looking and looking. I might add that in 2006 I had no opportunity to see the debate. Only to listen to it. At the end of the video when Orbán steps down from the platform one can even see how high that platform was. Very high!

Kirsten
Guest
Eva: “Meanwhile, let’s stop the useless demonstrations with fewer and fewer participants. They only hurt the cause.” I wonder which cause it may hurt. We read here on the blog that people in important positions who consider OV to be a problem are contemplating academically whether there will be an agreement with the IMF or not, businessmen find the situation “cloudy”, people are disgusted by party politics. So there is no organised opposition that could take over quickly – Ferenc Gyurcsany alone cannot do anything, even if his reputation were better (after all, no matter what his ideas are, he does represent the “old” party system), he would not change the fact that most people have a “cloudy” idea why Hungary got where it is and where to go from here. People are dissatisfied, OV is sending the country into ruin – but there is no “cause”, which is why people prefer to retreat. I learned here that organised party politicians in Hungary like to use their parties for “revenge”. Perhaps it is then not surprising that the civic organisations do not wish to get closer to party politics. The “cause” is too quickly just “revenge” and further cementing of… Read more »
Petofi
Guest

@Paul..”depressing Eva”
Sometimes it’s best to see things as they are. The splintering of the opposition is daunting. It reminds me of the Serbian opposition movement in the fall of 1996. Everything was going fine until, all of a sudden, Milosevic made an offer to Draskovitch (the organizer of the opposition movement) to be the mayor of Belgrade–end of the marches, end of the opposition.
The Hungarians differ from the Serbs by being able to splinter their groups without ‘encouragement’. Hence, the MZSP has a new leader-wanna-be; the LMP refuses to work with the MZSP; the popular movements don’t want the DK….Did someone throw
a stink-bomb among them or is this just another national characteristic?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “Éva – this is the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen you write. Your pieces are usually pretty positive, but even the downbeat ones always have a positive lift at the end.”
Yes, I’m the usually the Pollyanna type and even now I have some hope left still. After all, elections will be only in 2014. But with these civic movements we can forget about getting rid of Orbán.
After I had written the piece I watched a program on ATV where these ridiculous civic group leaders were discussing the future. Gábor Fodor (SZDSZ) was also present. I have never thought that I would think that Fodor made any sense. And, can you imagine? He did. He sounded like a genius in comparison to the leaders of the civic groups (Milla and Solidarity).

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Do the people who are coming to the peace march have a choice? I highly doubt that people in Poland care about our holiday. Some do! Some don’t! It is particularly important to give a “hand-up”, not a “hand-out”. Non profit charity organizations seem to be non prevalent in Hungary. The bible says “the poor will be with you always”.

An
Guest
“These super-critics of the past eight or twenty years are actually the allies of the radicals. ” Gyurcsany is onto something here. Fidesz black propaganda is working… and not only among Fidesz supporters. The opposition took the bait, too. So, here how it works: Fidesz strategy: 1. Gurcsany, MSZP, past 8 years – paint it ALL black (corrupt, lying, incompetent) and discredit everybody related to any of it (Gyurcsany, MSZP, past 8 years) 2. Do this aggressively and indiscriminately, anybody who had anything to do with the past 8 years is just BAD (regardless of his actual involvement). If they had nothing to do with the past 8 years, imply that they may have ( for example, “LMP is SZDSZ 2.0”) First LMP buys it, and wants nothing to do with MSZP, or DK. (They want to show they have nothing to do with the past 8 years). Unfortunately for LMP, this doesn’t work… as they are a now an established political party in the Parliament, they get lumped in the “politicians – all bad” category by the more and more apathetic public. Next, new civil movements – they do not want to have anything to do with any of… Read more »
tigerente
Guest

I agree with Bowen. However small, demonstrations are an indicator that there’s still people who disagree with the way the country is led and are vocal enough for others (inside and outside the country) to take this in consideration. The situation would be even sadder if absolutely no one considered it was worth their time and effort to protest.
Also, Kim Lane Scheppele about the legal system. Apologies if you already saw this elsewhere. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/first-lets-pick-all-the-judges/

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

An: “Gyurcsany is onto something here.” And your description of the steps how to achieve the blackening of the past follows.
It is a perfect description of what has happened and the sad thing is that a lot of people fell for it. Time to change.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Bowen: “Apologies if you already saw this elsewhere. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/first-lets-pick-all-the-judges/
Sorry, I wrote the notice but forgot to upload it. I might add that the Venice Commission’s report apparently also has a few things to say, according to Der Spiegel, about the position of the head of the National Judicial Office and the competence of Tünder Handó.

Member

So, there is some new suspicion is blowing through Hungary as I’ve heard from a few sources. I am sure you all recall, how we all trying to guess, why Fidesz is so busy trying to classify/destroy the historical documents in the National Archives? People are guessing that there are very few religious figure served the Kadar regime as informers. To be honest it makes all sense to me. The never wavering support of catholic priests for Orban, and their great support… THe priests who were allowed to travel and study outside Hungary in the Kadar era are the biggest supporters of Orban now. It was not to bad for them under Kadar either, and now is not to bad for them under Orban.

whoever
Guest

Whether or not these groups should bother organising may be a moot point. However, it’s worth pointing out that there has to be a more dynamic and strongy-defined aim, and that opposition has to be actually galvanised. There’s no sign of the traction needed to have big demos, and therefore little chance of the demos helping to develop momentum. At the core of it, the ideas are lacking.

Member
Well, this is Planet Hungary – the situation isn’t more hopeless than many times in the past 1000 or so years. We are good at this. These civic organizations are anti-party (so is the LMP in theory) but their members are not necessarily. In Hungary both the left and right are hijacked. The FIDESZ is the same on the right as the MSzP is on the left. And this will be more apparent after 2014. You’ll take out the political buzzwords and you’ll be left with same. The coin also has has two faces. Along this logic I would rather blame the big parties, especially the MSzP, for not reaching out for these movements, scooping them up if you will. They could be your voter base on the next election even if they don’t admit it. But of course the reaching out part is a way that doesn’t scare the crap out of these movements. For now you can just finance them. Pay for their billboards. Bus a few people to the demo from around country. What’s the big deal? You have the money, right? The country’s only chance in the 2014 elections is a changed MSzP. They should turn… Read more »
Lutra lutra
Guest

I think Éva’s pessimism is spot-on as well.
In 1979 nobody in the UK imagined that the Conservative Party would stay in power for nearly 18 years, and this in a country with a highly evolved democratic system and a far greater degree of consensus (“shared values”) than appears to exist in Hungary.
I sincerely hope I’m wrong but two decades of Orbán at the helm seems a serious prospect, and our wishful thinking isn’t going to change that.

enuff
Guest

JJJJaded (more what my husband’s feeling right now)
However, there’s still March 15 to look forward to :-
Bus wars : Protest tourism ..
http://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/bus-wars-protest-tourism-at-hungarys-national-holiday/

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
@Lutra lutra you write ** “I sincerely hope I’m wrong but two decades of Orbán at the helm seems a serious prospect, and our wishful thinking isn’t going to change that” ** I fear you are right. The Viktator and the other princes of Fidesz now have nearly total power. There are two other steps they can take. The first of these is to use the influence of the Church of Rome to stir up those predominately countries with R.C. populations (Poland, Romania, Eire, Spain etc) to protect the ‘New Hungary’ against the activities of the E.U. This is something that Ratzinger wants. Just after his appointment to the top job he railed on about how little real influence the Church of Rome had in the councils of Europe. This could be his chance to re-establish the Power of the Vatican over Europe. The second will be to reinforce the idea which already exists in the Hungarian psyche that ‘all foreigners are stupid’. This will be easy to do. Out here in the boondocks the people are not angry but sullen. They just do not want to know. They ‘hate’ the government; they hate the opposition (such as it is).… Read more »
Ivan
Guest

Eva’s depression about this situation is spot-on.
Personally, I’m not bothered by the relative sizes of the demonstrations. During the 2002 election Fidesz called out some monstrous rallies, while the Socialists didn’t seem to manage much more than a sparsely attended jazz concert on Vorosmarty Ter – they didn’t seem to have a hope (especially considering the OrbanTVmk1 that was MTV back then), but won the election relatively easily.
No, what really depresses me is that almost everyone I meet at the moment is intending to vote Fidesz. When I ask them ‘why’ – because they’re obviously suffering financially and seem fairly glum about things (even more than usual) – they answer something along the lines of, “We won’t be a colony.” Seriously.
So the propaganda has worked.

Bowen
Guest

@ Enuff: “However, there’s still March 15 to look forward to”
Last year on March 15, Orban gave a speech at the Muzeum, attended by a few hundred paid audience members.
Half a kilometer away, tens of thousands were protesting against lack of media freedom in one of the largest demonstrations seen in Hungary in modern times. It must have hurt Orban’s sensitive pride.
Given the huge amount of time, energy and expense being pumped into this year’s March 15 ‘Peace March’, it only goes to show what lengths Orban will go to, to make sure that he ‘wins’, dragging his country’s people along with him.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

whoever: “At the core of it, the ideas are lacking.”
Exactly. As Gy. said in that piece on Facebook: Not enough to complain. There must a program. If there is no program accepted by all parties and groups there is no chance of getting followers.

Kirsten
Guest

But the programme will not emerge “just so”. Frankly spoken, many ideas or vague notions collectively shared by Hungarians do not make it an easy task to come up with a modern political programme. To name a few: the greatness of Hungary in the middle ages, which should be – if not restored – permanently revered, the importance of “outside forces” for Hungarian misery, the reluctance to learn from the political experience of other countries, the admiration for the most conservative nobility while the more modern noble are “traitors”. A political programme that represents people’s ideas will have to deal with these widely shared beliefs.
To expect miracles from the civic organisations when most people’s minds appear clouded either by the maxims above or by the current nonsense spread by Fidesz is perhaps asking for too much. And as much as I admit that Ferenc Gyurcsany may have the most modern ideas, apparently his ideas also do not make it into the minds of a wide audience. Perhaps the reasons are not too different from why the civic organisations do not get wide support – the widely shared beliefs are simply not modern and make modernisation difficult.

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest
Mutt you wrote ** “Silent conservatives will bite their lips and stick with the FIDESZ.” **. To which someone else wrote (but I cannot find it now) “They will vote Fidesz because they do not want to be slaves of the E.U. This poison is put down by Fidesz and believed that working for a foreign company is slavery. But then Hungarians will believe anything the Viktator tells them. Because I made a machine which seemed to run up hill and shower it in the Kocsma one night locals believe that the world is flat! I would rather work in a nice clean factory (warm in winter and cool in summer) for a foreign employer who pays me well each month for doing a fair days work (and gives me paid holidays as well) than I would being out in all weathers, 365 days a year, looking after a stinking pig, a bunch of scraggy hens and breaking my back digging the soil for my potatoes etc. I will ask which is slavery? Working like a Trojan for nowt on the land or working to have my pockets jingle and a fairly full wallet. How does the Viktator do it?
Petofi
Guest

Trapped in 19th century Romanticism, that’s Hungary. Anti-imperialist arguments, the great nationalist past…is so out-dated.
“Sovereignity”–utter nonsense. When Hungary signed on to the EU political sovereignty was, to an extent, compromised and so what? It didn’t mean that cultural sovereignty was at all challenged but Fidesz and Orban have managed to couple the two together. Crying “Hungarian Sovereignty” every chance they get is to challenge the very agreement that Hungary signed on to. Of course, it was the ‘communist’ MSZP who did so, and we all know they betrayed the country more than once. Such nonsense, but the Hungarian people prefer to be ‘led’ in their thinking rather than to figure out from various sources as to what’s going on. Hence the various accusations of being ‘sheep’. Blind sheep.
Dumb sheep. Being led to the slaughter…

Bowen
Guest

Just found out that Cohn-Bendit will be joining the Milla gathering on March 15. Budapest will be quite the international playground this Thursday. Pity that so many ‘csaladi program’ are held around the city at the same time. Kids should be spared all this nonsense.
I’m coming round to the point of view that I actually hope that millions and millions of Hungarians and Poles make the pilgrammage to see Saint Viktor performing his oratory miracles. All of them holding up nonsensical ‘we are not a colony’ signs, Trianon symbols, and all the rest of it. It will just show the world what a basket case Hungary has become, and make investors pull out that bit quicker. Quickening the inevitable.

Member

The only real danger to The Viktator’s 1000 Year Reich is the economy and even there, if/when it all goes belly-up he has the ability to brainwash the Sheep into believing that Barrosso and Co personally are robbing the country of its dough and potential.
The vast majority of the population (The Sheep) couldn’t give a diddly squat about judicial independence, media freedom and the more constitutional abstracts that the civic movements and foreign journalists are continually highlighting to a continually declining audience. If the Sheep lose their jobs, their homes, sure they’ll whinge but won’t see the necessary connection between the weaknesses of the corrupt fascist system Orban is building and their own personal situation.
What is for sure though that Orban’s regime cannot be brought down either by the “silent” (more like docile)majority or through the normal political system.

tigerente
Guest

@Odin Lost’s Eye
“The first of these is to use the influence of the Church of Rome to stir up those predominately countries with R.C. populations (…) The second will be to reinforce the idea which already exists in the Hungarian psyche that ‘all foreigners are stupid’. This will be easy to do.”
The second sounds much more likely. The countries you mention (Spain, Portugal, Ireland, etc.) are dealing with their own share of economic problems and thus would find it hard to care enough about Orbán and his cruzade. Also, I’m not sure about the others, but although there’s a strong Roman Catholic tradition in Spain, it doesn’t mean the people as a whole are highly religious nowadays. From what I know, it’s on the decline, actually.

Paul
Guest

Well, I used to get pretty frustrated that no one else seemed to be able to see that the opposition was useless and OV was here to stay.
But suddenly I am no longer a lone voice (although most still fail to see – or accept? – the natural end to all this).
It has to be said. though, I preferred it as it was. I relied on all the positive spin I read on here to give me hope that I was wrong.
Welcome to reality – but be warned, it’s pretty dark in here.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

All I am hearing about are from a bunch of “negative Neds” complaining. Gimme a break, get off your tush and do something to bring change. Anyone can complain, its like “do you want wine with your cheese”?

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