Ferenc Gyurcsány and the hunger strike: Media reactions

I just finished reading approximately 100 articles on the topic of the week-long hunger strike of four members of the Demokratikus Koalíció leadership. DK is the newest political party in Hungary and at present is the smallest, a couple of percentage points below LMP according to the latest public opinion polls. The hunger strike was announced by Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister of Hungary and chairman of DK, on a talk show on TV2 last night.

Seven Days for Free Elections / Index /photo István Huszti

Apparently the presidium of DK  made the decision to have four of its leading politicians stage a hunger strike in front of the parliament building: Ferenc Gyurcsány, Csaba Molnár, Péter Niedermüller, and István Kolber. The four men will survive on water and tea. They set up four tents for sleeping purposes and a fifth, a kind of a living room, where friends and supporters can visit them. This hunger strike will cost DK 130,000 forints, the fee Parliament’s office headed by László Kövér charges for the use of that particular part of Kossuth Square.

The four men’s decision to stage a hunger strike was prompted by the extreme danger they see in the Orbán government’s plan to introduce a registration procedure into the Hungarian election system. Up until now the election commission has been responsible for keeping an accurate list of all eligible voters, and apparently the commission’s record has been good. Therefore registration over and above a centrally prepared electoral list seems superfluous and can serve only one purpose: to limit the number of active voters.

Although the question of registration has been discussed back and forth in the media since late May, Ferenc Gyurcsány believes that the Hungarian public is not aware of the great danger registration would pose to Hungarian democracy. Extreme threats must answered by extreme measures. And a former prime minister on a week-long hunger strike is the perfect story to make a huge splash internationally.

You may recall that last December some LMP members chained themselves to the entrance of the parking area reserved for members of parliament. Some members of  DK and eventually of MSZP decided to join them. When the police arrived the whole group, including Ferenc Gyurcsány, was taken to the police station. Because of the presence of the former prime minister the news hit all the major international newspapers. If he hadn’t been there the news would have been a great deal less “interesting.”

This is exactly what happened this time. Just in the English language press I found sixty-four articles while searching for “Gyurcsány.” The Hungarian media is mostly making a joke out of it, and what I found interesting is that the so-called “liberal” media are a great deal more critical than the right-wing papers and blogs. The latter are often only jovial. A local paper from the County of Bács came out with the headline: “Feri is on hunger strike for a week” and kept calling him “the Feri of the country.” Feri is the nickname for Ferenc. Another paper from the County of Hajdu made snide remarks about “a very rich businessman on a hunger strike.” The far-right Echo TV introduced the news with a slang expression: “Gyurcsányék sátorba cuccoltak, és koplalnak” (Gyurcsány and his friends put their stuff into a tent and are starving). The spokeswoman for Fidesz made jokes about four guys sleeping in the same tent.

On the other hand, some of the so-called liberal bloggers were outright vicious. “Örülünk Vincent” announced that Gyurcsány is already politically dead and “it is not becoming of a dead man to be so frolicky.” The final words of “Vincent” are puzzling. “As I already said, Gyurcsány could make himself useful for the opposition of Orbán only if he were jailed as a political prisoner. We would fight for you, Feri, we would pick up the cobblestones for you and would lay siege to the headquarters of Közgép. Then they would let you rot in jail. You are a symbol, Feri, the symbol of freedom at the wrong time at the wrong place.”

Index is also burying Ferenc Gyurcsány and makes fun of everybody and everything. Nyugat talks about the fretting grandmas who visit Gyurcsány while HVG gleefully announces that there are very few people around and about. Hajdupress, a paper from Eastern Hungary, seems to be sympathetic but finds the whole thing useless. Hunger strikes should last as long as the demands of  the strikers are not met. But then Gyurcsány and his friends would die of hunger because the registration is coming regardless. So, let’s not do anything.

There is talk about everything except the reason for the hunger strike. If the bill on the election law includes registration and if the results are detrimental to the opposition, then perhaps the liberal press will not be so delighted as it seems now. Only one former MSZP MP, József Karsai, came to Gyurcsány’s rescue even though Karsai was known for his very populist opposition to Gyurcsány when he was prime minister. “Ferenc Gyurcsány is right on the question of registration,” Karsai announced.

I think it is time to wake up before it’s too late. And let’s not make a joke out of everything. The situation is not funny.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
oneill
Guest

If you’re going to use the tool of a hunger strike then do it properly- you stay on it until you achieve your object.
7 days *is* a joke, no more than a slightly harsher than usual diet.

Member

oneill :
If you’re going to use the tool of a hunger strike then do it properly- you stay on it until you achieve your object.
7 days *is* a joke, no more than a slightly harsher than usual diet.

He migh as well could say “I’ll eat only carrots for 7 days”.

Member

Ok, I regret my previous joke. It’s true – the situation is everything but funny. If the opposition can mobilize the people to register, that’s a big problem. So they should mobilize them. Door to door campaigns, phone calls, snail mails, emails, flyers. Register, register, register … tell your neighbor. Here we go again. The dreaded “M” word.

The way I see it Gyurcsany managed to ridicule the issue itself with his diet program. Now the nation is having fun watching him and in Planet Hungary this will give them the impression that the issue itself is not big deal. Hungarians are not the smartest bunch.

“The government is corrupt and evil! I’m Bozo The Clown and I endorse this message!”

This is not the best PR.

Member

“cannot mobilize” not “can mobilize” – Sorry.

Kirsten
Guest

I do not see what is wrong with the hunger strike. People at least can debate about it (and hopefully through that also about types of protest that they might find more suitable) and could also notice the cause of this strike. Perhaps the protesters could combine it with a petition (but I guess that already exists), just to ask people to position themselves. To make fun of it as the opposition media apparently does, is a proof of their helplessness. Of course they can criticise this hunger strike, but it would be more convincing if they had a positive alternative suggestion.

Kirsten
Guest

Mutt: “Now the nation is having fun watching him and in Planet Hungary this will give them the impression that the issue itself is not big deal.”

Are you suggesting that people only see that somebody refuses to eat, find that hilarious (a diet, too weird, haha) and believe that that person must have only wanted to lose weight? (That’s weird, haha.)

Kingfisher
Guest

I think this is seriously miscalculated and deserves to be mocked. The timing is also suicidal: the anniversary of the Öszöd speech which just undermines the message. As for the message, we still don’t know quite know what form registration is going to take and whether it is as sinister as we imagine. Lázár today announced how it would work and while I think it is quite unnecessary, it is nowhere near as outrageous or unreasonable as I had expected (an eight month period, during which reminders would be sent out.) So this histrionic attempted suicide is in response to nothing more than rumour. Frankly, it is an embarrassment.

Let us not forget that it was Gyúrcsány and the MSZP’s inept handling of the Öszöd affair that created the grounds for Orbán’s two third’s majority.

Tyrker
Guest

oneill :
If you’re going to use the tool of a hunger strike then do it properly- you stay on it until you achieve your object.
7 days *is* a joke, no more than a slightly harsher than usual diet.

Well said. Going on “hunger strike” for a predefined length of time is a rather unorthodox idea, and indeed a joke if that time is but a few days. (Doing so while wearing a $100+ Ralph Lauren shirt is downright ridiculous.)

In fact one cannot help but wonder if the prosecutors had made a deal with Gyurcsány: “We’ll let you go Feri but from now on, you’ll have to serve the interests of the Orbán government.” For from now on if anyone speaks up against the planned introduction of the – methinks quite worrisome and wholly unnecessary – registration system, [s]he can conveniently be labelled a Gyurcsányist, which means instant political death. Fidesz already owe a truckload to Gyurcsány – starting with their two-thirds majority as such – and it seems Gyurcsány is determined to help them keep that majority and stay in power. (If he wanted to help the opposition, he should simply shut the hell up and get lost at long last.)

Kirsten
Guest

“Let us not forget that it was Gyúrcsány and the MSZP’s inept handling of the Öszöd affair that created the grounds for Orbán’s two third’s majority.”

That statement seems to be as popular in Hungary as the statement that the country was robbed over and over by foreign forces. If your statement were true, the voters who put their faith in Orban as the head of a “standard Western European conservative party” and who had such clear ideas about what has to be changed to finally arrive at the “decent life in a democracy”, these people would have managed to get rid of Orban within a year but definitely by now. No, if anything, the entire political class is to blame as is the rather lazy public. (Mutt’s ‘M’ word.)

spectator
Guest

“The situation is not funny” – couldn’t agree more.

That’s why feels silly to notice that the slogan “Hét Nap a Szabad Választásokért” doesn’t translate as “Six Days for Free Elections” – he caption above – to me, sorry!
I know, splitting hairs and all that, but still…

Member
Kirsten : Mutt: “Now the nation is having fun watching him and in Planet Hungary this will give them the impression that the issue itself is not big deal.” Are you suggesting that people only see that somebody refuses to eat, find that hilarious (a diet, too weird, haha) and believe that that person must have only wanted to lose weight? (That’s weird, haha.) Well, some are this dumb. Really. But, no, no. The people see Gyurcsany as the household name for sleazy politician. You simply overestimate the intelligence of the average Joe/Mary in Hungary. This is a country where 500k was happily marching (and will again) behind an anti-Semite to support the worst government in post-Communist history. Gyurcsany is simply bad marketing for them. The hysteria that was started in 2006 is still working. I do not think he is sleazy – I’m just banging my head into the wall. He should put his talent into organization instead and stay in the background. Perhaps forever. What he’s doing is like stalking your love interest after you’ve been rejected. He should realize that he will not become a leader in this country, despite being a good man and one of… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest

“Only one former MSZP MP, József Karsai, came to Gyurcsány’s rescue”

Oh I almost skipped over this one. Karsai is the nation’s number one hunger strike expert – inasmuch as he initiated the most ridiculous one in the country’s history. On 20 June 2011 he announced to “the Hungarian Telegraph Bureau, all television stations, printed presses [sic!] and Internet publications” that he would go on a two-day (no kidding!) hunger strike over a plethora of issues (he listed twenty-one).

The next day he announced that his doctor had banned him from doing so.

spectator
Guest

@Tyrker
“…wearing a $100+ Ralph Lauren shirt is downright ridiculous” – if you say so you certainly have a reason, doubtless, I won’t argue.

However, to me this fact rather represent a reasonably good taste, as opposed to another person in shirtsleeves, here:
http://kepviselofunky.blog.hu/2012/08/31/orban_kedvenc_inge
or here:
http://szuperblog.szuperblog.hu/oriasi-tenyleg-a-csikos-orban-kedvenc-inge/
– but of course, I respect your taste too, even if I don’t like it particularly, but hey, don’t worry, – there are a lot of like-minded people around, so you won’t miss my moral support that much!

Jano
Guest
You guys don’t see any contradiction between labelling GyF so smart and talented and the fact that he managed to make himself one of the biggest laughing stocks in Hungary. I know, I know, evil Fidesz propaganda did that to him, but then you must admit that Orbán was indeed a brilliant opposition leader who managed to gather a 2/3 majority against this super smart and talented hero of the nation. On a more serious note, I think that Gyurcsány’s talent is more of a legend than reality and if he is talented in something it’s the same kind of power play and puppetmastering OV is so good at. He beat OV once (but then I admit severely) in a TV debate and ever since then he’s just an icon for that single act (their other battles were a lot closer to a tie). I think he’s a very poor actor trying to create big theatrical drama about himself and this hunger strike is just another pathetic chapter of that. It’s also ironical that back then, his very democratic minded opinion about public protests was: “Let them protest, they’ll get bored eventually and go home”. He’s “popularity” is also based… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest

@spectator

Hey, I actually like RL shirts – I just don’t think they are the proper thing to wear when you’re on a hunger strike. That just doesn’t send the right kind of message. Horses for courses, you know.

As far as Orbán’s appalling red-white-blue striped shirt is concerned, I’m with you 100%.

An
Guest

For many of my acquaintances who voted for Orban, bashing Gurcsany is kind of a last refuge… they’d like to believe they were at least right about him (as they now realize they were wrong about Orban). So, in some sense, wide-spread Gyurcsany bashing is a psychological necessity.

Btw, you’ll never hear an Oszod speech from Orban. Not because he never lies (he lies day and night), but because he is never going to admit it, not even to a close circle of his friends.

Member

Eva S. Balogh :
What an opportunity for all the Gyurcsány haters to come out and vent their hatred of the man.

My point exaclty.

Paul
Guest

oneill and Kingfisher nail it as usual. Silly stunt which will only play into the hands of the very people he is protesting about.

The IRA used to do hunger strikes – until they died, if they didn’t get what they wanted. For instance, Bobby Sands died after 66 days on hunger strike – and died as a member of the British Parliament, having been elected whilst on strike.

That’s a hunger strike. Not eating for a few days is a silly stunt.

Paul
Guest

Just out of interest, this is what Sands died for (from Wikipedia):

“The hunger strike centred around five demands:

1.the right not to wear a prison uniform;
2.the right not to do prison work;
3.the right of free association with other prisoners, and to organise educational and recreational pursuits;
4.the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week;
5.full restoration of remission lost through the protest.”

An
Guest

@Paul: Interesting IRA reference… Do you suggest Gyurcsany should get more radical?

E1776
Guest

Sorry, to find that the people are not responding seriously to the hunger strike action.
It is serious.
Everybody should try to survive one day.
It is fair to express sympathy for Gyurcsany, while we should hopeto find an intelligent, enlightened, untainted leader of the social democrats/liberal classes.

E1776
Guest

The Oszod speech of Gyurcsany was an honest monolog. Unfortunately, Gyurcsan could not counter the hypocritical attackers.

The source of the leak was never found.

In plain view, Gyurcsan was could have been a hero and a decent person, but the critiques managed to use his decency against him.

Member

“There is talk about everything except the reason for the hunger strike. If the bill on the election law includes registration and if the results are detrimental to the opposition, then perhaps the liberal press will not be so delighted as it seems now. ”
Eva, as I stated and predicted on the previous thread, this hunger strike will not bring attention to the cause, or simply the reason will be forgotten. It is just simply does not work, and you can see it too. It backfired. I sympathize with Gyurcsany and I have high respect for him for having the guts (no pun intended) to do this, but this is another “bad public service announcement”. People do not understand what it means what Orban tries to push through, and they only see Gyurcsany going on hunger strike because he does not want voter registration. Voter registration… does that seem so bad from the sound of it? Does this sound bad in Canada? NO. we have voter registration too. WHat the difference is does not get across, and a seven day hunger strike will not do.

Jano
Guest
Eva, Mutt: “What an opportunity for all the Gyurcsány haters to come out and vent their hatred of the man.” We can’t always just hate OV 24-7, we need a break sometimes. Btw, hating is not a crime as long as you have very good reasons to. I for example hate the Nazis and the Hungarian hard right, but don’t make it look like that disliking Gyurcsány is some sort of a lame thing, I admit I have my sarcastic style (just as you do Mutt), but I wasn’t venting. I stated my reasons very clearly, you are very welcome to disagree and start a debate about them. Or we can talk about OV again and have a conversation with 167 subsequent “I agree” ‘s. Keep in mind probably that’s the kind of discussion Orbán usually has with his minions. Some1: You are right the reason of the hungerstrike is perfectly legitimate, I just think we have discussed it several times already, and the tone of the topic – at least according to how I felt – was rather directed towards why people mock GYF for it. But I couldn’t agree more with you on your last sentence. It should… Read more »
hunleonidas
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarianvirus.

hunleonidas
Guest

Dear Eva! Hungarianvirus reblogged your article, with thanx!

Cherry17
Guest

Eva, Mutt: “What an opportunity for all the Gyurcsány haters to come out and vent their hatred of the man.”
I couldn’t agree more. Instead of spreading even more hatred against Gyurcsány,more attention should be focused on the apalling idea of Orbán and his thugs concerning registration for election.
At least DK is trying to do something to draw attention to the destruction of democracy and there aren’t too many tools left for protesters.
Those who keep criticising him and DK should come up with some other alternatives.
It’s easier to mock DK’s supporters from the armchair at home.

wpDiscuz