The Milla: “Dilettantes, spare me!”

This is what happens when I miss important interviews conducted by Olga Kálmán. Two days ago, on August 7, there was an interview with Péter Juhász, one of the organizers of Milla. Milla is a kind of nickname for the fairly long and cumbersome Egymillióan a magyar sajtószabadságért (One Million for Hungarian Freedom of the Press), a Facebook gathering place of those who expressed their fear for the future of Hungarian media freedom. The one million figure turned out to be far too optimistic. The last time I looked Milla had 100,000 followers, and probably even that number is somewhat exaggerated. We all know how easy it is to click on that “like” button.

Milla was formed in early June 2011 by 28 men and women active on the Internet. They were apparently inspired by the very large demonstration for the freedom of the press on March 15 by civic groups. The size of the demonstration surpassed the size of the crowd who went to hear Viktor Orbán’s speech.

Soon enough Milla organized another demonstration for October 23, 2011, and that was also enormous. By March 2012 the organizers announced Milla’s demands in a twelve-point list, harking back to the number of demands of the young revolutionaries of 1848. These demands were not exactly specific: media freedom, freedom of religion, representative government, democratic legislature, transparency, decent working conditions (korrekt munkavilág), equal opportunity in education, and adherence to the basic values of the European Union. Who couldn’t agree with these demands? LMP and DK immediately agreed with Milla’s demands. As we will see later, Milla is ready to cooperate with LMP but not with DK.

Let me first summarize the gist of the interview with Péter Juhász. He and his fellow civic leaders hope to get the support of the “politically disappointed ones.” These disappointed people come from left and right. They can be liberals, greens, or democrats from the right. They call this group the “New Pole” or the “Third Pole,” whose members “reject both sides.” Pollsters describe this group as “unsure voters,” but they are actually very sure of one thing: they don’t want to support either the socialists or the present government parties. They want democracy, a republic, and a “normal country.” They want a new kind of democratic thinking.

When Olga Kálmán pressed Juhász on the specifics and reminded him that only parties can run at elections, he expressed his hope that something will happen between now and the next elections. Lately they have been talking with LMP and 4K. The latter is another group that originated on Facebook and in April became a party. 4K stands for Negyedik Köztársaság Mozgalom (Movement for the Fourth Republic). 4K was also having “negotiations” with Milla and LMP.

After saying a few nasty things about MSZP, Juhász added that they don’t want to do anything with people like Gyula Horn, Péter Medgyessy or Ferenc Gyurcsány. He saw no difference between László Puch, formerly MSZP’s treasurer, and Lajos Simicska, owner of Közgép.

As for the organization of a future collaboration of parties, it is not their job. They are only citizens. Milla will assist forces outside of parties. They may even be called the trade union of those who cannot choose between parties.

Toward the end of the conversation Juhász admitted that he was very pleased when Fidesz won the elections with a two-thirds majority because he was hoping that Fidesz would put an end to corruption and would have the political strength to change things for the better.

Well, all that sounds pretty grim to me. But let’s see what others had to say on the subject. Both reactions to the interview appeared on Galamus. First, Ferenc Krémer came out with “The sigh of Milla” (A Milla sóhaja). Krémer is a true democrat who recently lost his job as associate professor of sociology at the Police Academy. According to Krémer, “Juhász’s wisdom consists of rejecting both the right and the left and finally in an overflow of honesty he confessed his happiness when Fidesz received a two-thirds majority.”

Krémer hopes that the undecided voters will not want to follow those people who were so short sighted in 2010 that they put their faith in Viktor Orbán. How can anyone be sure that these “myopic prophets” will show the right way this time around?

The next dayVera Lánczos wrote a longer piece entitled “Dilettantes, spare me!” (Dilettánsok kíméljenek!) Lánczos recalled that two years ago Milla’s beginnings were promising. In the last two years, however, they managed to lose all credibility.  Their claim to fame is that they reject both right and left. “They act as if nothing has happened in the last two years. As if there had not been a constitutional coup d’état that took place in front of our eyes.”

Lánczos pointed out that Juhász refuses to see any difference between the two sides. In his eyes the difference is that one governs while the other is in opposition. “And it doesn’t really matter which one is governing and for how long. It is more important that all disappear.”

Lánczos considers Milla’s stance more than dilettantism. Their activities are harmful. The leadership of Milla doesn’t seem to realize that the foundations of dictatorship have already been laid and that perhaps the time is not too far off when the basic constitutional rights of citizens will be in jeopardy.

Lánczos’s last words reflect her total frustration at what’s going on in so-called opposition circles: “I’m sick and tired of this amateurism, of this irresponsible behavior because these people are playing with our lives.”

I’m afraid these civic groups are doing more harm than good with the active support of LMP. Some people claim that “there is still plenty of time.”  The time in fact is very short.

36 comments

  1. M. Riedl :
    @ Dubious: I think enforcing a pact on such diverse groups will cause more bad blood than allowing them to campaign independently. MSZP and LMP (and whoever else) should write convincing plans for pension reform, tax reform that appeal to their potential voters. Imagine a common program: this will be a compromise not much liked by anyone. If I understand the electoral system correctly. the primary goal of the first round must be that Fidesz candidates remain below 50%. In the second round the number of candidates will be reduced anyway (3 candidates with the best results and potentially others above 15%). I’m afraid in many cases this will mean that there is only one candidate left that is neither Fidesz nor Jobbik. I agree with you that in cases where two opposition candidates (Jobbik excluded) make it to the second round, a pact and the withdrawal of one candidate will be necessary. However, there is still a lot of volatily in the Hungarian party system, We still don’t who will run and with what chances. Therefore, the necessary pacts may differ decisevely in the respective constituencies. So I still don’t see the need for a unified nation-wide opposition before the first round. I don’t think that such a movement will be able to win over 1-2 million former Fidesz voters. Before the first round pacts are necessary only between groups that are close to each other, so that are able to take the 5% threshold.

    @M. Riedl, I agree with everything you’ve written, and the situation may be completely different in 18 months. I don’t know either way whether the parties should have separate programs. I do know that, without some major realignment, without some kind of pact/agreement to withdraw candidates in districts then Fidesz will win. And it will be too late to organise withdrawals on a district-by-district level after the first round of voting. There will be lots of candidates who don’t want to withdraw for a variety of reasons – especially after campaigning against the other parties in the heightened pressure of an election campaign. I know it seems like a minor technical thing/detail, but I think this is the detail with the devil in it, because however this is resolved will determine the number of MPs of each party in the next parliament, and hence their respective power in the new government and new parliament. Therefore, negotiations may be delicate.

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  2. Hi there,
    1stly the logo inserted in this post is not the logo of Milla https://www.facebook.com/sajtoszabadsagert but the logo of an association using a similar name, here they are: https://www.facebook.com/ademokraciaert
    2ndly I saw a comment-flow on the Facebook page of Galamus, mitght be useful to review when forming opinion, here it comes containing also a link to the interview discussed: https://www.facebook.com/galamuscsoport/posts/411258068921893?comment_id=4464223&offset=0&total_comments=21

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