The failure of Hungarian democracy: The universities

Yesterday I indicated that the administration at ELTE must have known what was going on in HÖK (Hallgatói Önkormányzat). It has been an open secret inside and outside of the university for years.

Since I aired my suspicions yesterday afternoon, more and more facts have surfaced about the activities not only of the HÖK of the Faculty of Arts but also of the HÖK that represents the law students at ELTE.

Last night a website appeared written by an unnamed student of ELTE’s faculty of arts (BTK) who penetrated Ádám Garbai’s HÖK, allegedly in order to unveil their activities. Although some of the Fidesz politicians, like István Klinghammer, the new undersecretary in charge of higher education and former president of ELTE, expressed their suspicion that the list is a fake, or as Klinghammer put it, “a provocation,” our unnamed student swears that the lists are for real.  Our “secret agent” claims that “the reign of Jobbik in HÖK has been going on for years with the tacit consent of the administration.” I think that it is enough to look at the following interview of Olga Kálmán with György Fábri, vice president of ELTE, to believe what our “secret agent” alleges.

Fábri seems to be very satisfied with the work of HÖK, which he considers to be a vital part of Hungarian university life. He obviously wouldn’t like to curtail their wide financial and educational powers. As for the concern expressed by Olga Kálmán about the undue influence of Jobbik within HÖK, he defended their right to belong to the party of their choice. As it turned out at the end of the conversation, he as a student was one of the founders of the first HÖK at ELTE. I couldn’t help thinking that Fábri might be a supporter of Jobbik himself. If that is the case, HÖK will never be cleansed, at least not as long as Viktor Orbán is the prime minister of Hungary.

Mushroom farm

Mushroom farm

But it is not only the administration that seems to be tacitly supporting HÖK and through it Jobbik. There are several faculty members who are actively involved with this extremist party. For example, János Stummer, former BTK HÖK deputy chairman, who just started a student movement at ELTE called Magyar Tavasz Mozgalom (Hungarian Spring). A video that is available on kuruc.info.hu about this movement indicates that it subscribes to a far right irredentist ideology. Even the freshman picnics that BTK HÖK organizes regularly end with “Down with Trianon,” says our informer.

HÖK activists have been involved with Jobbik’s election campaigns, often being used to distribute Jobbik propaganda material. Their latest contribution was the distribution of 6,600 copies of a free Jobbik newspaper called Hazai Pálya (Domestic Course) in District VI in Budapest. Often the propaganda material was actually stored in the university’s building on Múzeum körút. Naturally, after the scandal hit the Internet the Jobbik leadership tried to distance itself from the official university student groups.

The semi-official government paper Magyar Nemzet was slow to respond to ATV’s publication of the list and the comments. Quite a few hours passed before they managed to find their voice. A few minutes after Antal Rogán warned people that one must carefully check the authenticity of the list, Magyar Nemzet decided to publish an article with the headline: “One must very carefully check whether the students really made lists at the university.” Almost as if the editors waited for a signal from the government on how to respond to this embarrassing event.

Naturally, HírTV was quick to interview Ádám Garbai. Garbai “admitted that they were negligent” because they were not careful enough when storing the lists and thus enemies of HÖK could get to them and alter their content. Because this is Garbai’s story. He also claims that he has not seen any lists since he became chairman in January 2011. Our informant predicts that they will deny the charges to the bitter end.

Yesterday right-wing students tried to break HaHa’s strike. However, they seem to have a manpower shortage. They managed to gather about 50 students, not all of whom were students at ELTE’s BTK. Their plan was to join the HaHa students and outvote them in order to end the strike. Once that plan failed, they were satisfied to conduct a shouting match in which they fiercely defended HÖK and claimed that the list is a fake.

So, here we are in a politically polarized situation at the universities. All this while no political activity is allowed in Hungarian universities. This decision was made back in 1990 when perhaps the restriction was more understandable than it is today. During the Rákosi and Kádár regimes both at the workplaces and at the schools and universities there used to be communist party cells.  Naturally, the opposition didn’t want parties to recruit or put pressure on students and employees and therefore fought to end the practice.

But in normal democratic societies it is in schools and universities that students learn the rudiments of democracy in theory and practice. In the United States already in elementary school students learn to campaign for class offices. By the time they reach college age they have a fair idea about political campaigning. Both in Canada and in the United States political parties have student organizations in the universities. I urge readers to take a look at the parties that exist at Yale University under the umbrella organization called the Political Union. To ban political discussion at universities is a crime against democracy.

Moreover, as we can see, the ban was good for only one thing: the underground–or not so underground–growth of a racist, irredentist, far right party. And this official student organization has the support of both the university and the government. It is a shame.

Demokratikus Koalíció was the first to respond with a suggestion that might remedy the current situation. Csaba Molnár, one of the deputy chairmen of DK, suggested that parties should be able to function under the supervision of the university authorities. This is the situation in Germany and in Austria. He might also have mentioned the United Kingdom, Canada, or the United States. I can only agree.

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Member

The action of the plainclothes policemen inside the university is described by a student journalist:

http://magyarnarancs.hu/belpol/somolygas-es-fenyegetes-igy-vegzaltak-a-nyomozok-a-diakokat-az-elte-n-83668

Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

The reported events at ELTE are absolutely wrong, but the fact that the university took the correct steps in remedying the situation is encouraging.

The actions of a small number of radical advocates does not necessarily mirror the sentiment of society. In the U.S. criticism of “political correctness” pushed by those far removed from the mainstream has recently found an echo in the media. Good examples are known from Brown University and New York where recently invited speakers were disinvited by those in charge who thought that they might disagree with what the invited speakers could advocate. Though troubling, especially in university environments, this does not signal the end of American Democracy.

Paul
Guest

Traditionally, with oppressive regimes, the universities are the centres of resistance, the last place the spark of rebellion survives, the one place the regime daren’t hit too hard – our own Éva is living proof of that.

But, once the universities, the students themselves, become agents/supporters of the government, what hope is there?

I can’t remember another situation like this where this has happened. Another first for Hungary.

Paul
Guest

Csaba K. Zoltani :
The reported events at ELTE are absolutely wrong, but the fact that the university took the correct steps in remedying the situation is encouraging.
The actions of a small number of radical advocates does not necessarily mirror the sentiment of society. In the U.S. criticism of “political correctness” pushed by those far removed from the mainstream has recently found an echo in the media. Good examples are known from Brown University and New York where recently invited speakers were disinvited by those in charge who thought that they might disagree with what the invited speakers could advocate. Though troubling, especially in university environments, this does not signal the end of American Democracy.

Superb! I really miss our trolls. This is straight out of the Fidesz-Jobbik ‘how to reply to posts from Hungary Haters’ manual – 1) deny it, 2) compare to some fatuous, irrelevancy in the US.

Thank you, Csaba, I was feeling a bit down tonight, after a rather painful minor op today, but you made me laugh!

CCrem
Guest

The administration of ELTE is made up of Jobbik and Fidesz leaning people, who started at HÖK.

They must have known because they were HÖK before.

That is how the right takes over the adminstration and the teaching positions and later the curriculum too. Systemaitcally and strategically and over the long term. Meanwhile the left and the liberals do nothing, have no organisations, don’t give a damn.

The Socialists or Bajnai have nothing to comment, they are not organising, just sitting on their buttocks.

U14
Guest

Louis Kovach/Zoltani redux.
Have these people got this twisted in kindergarten age?
The nation is dying, and the privileged few still sleep.

Member

Csaba K. Zoltani :
In the U.S. criticism of “political correctness” pushed by those far removed from the mainstream has recently found an echo in the media. Good examples are known from Brown University and New York where recently invited speakers were disinvited by those in charge who thought that they might disagree with what the invited speakers could advocate

Can you be more specific? We have no idea what are you referring to.
At the same time let me tell you that in Canada too, they turn away certain speakers from universities, mostly those who teach and speech hate. That is not political correctness, that is sticking with the morals of a developed, democratic country. In democracy everyone has the right to live a life without being pre-labelled, and without being subjected to hate speech, harassment and verbal abuse. Hungary has a long way to go to protect its citizens from its careerist clowns, religious fools, nationalist hypocrites and certainly from organizations, like HOK, that is a puppet of bad intentions.

dormant
Guest

There is wide-scale social acceptance for tragic political views on all levels of university life. As a former student at a Hungarian university, I can tell you that I’ve seen some appalling stuff.

In people’s minds, being a radical today is just like being anything else. If I want to summarize the mood at universities: general consensus among young people is often that it is okay to hate others because Gyurcsany lied.

I’ve had many fellow students tell me the exact line that was repeated by a govt official at the Kossuth House in DC some years ago: the Jews had the Holocaust, and we’ve had Trianon. In light of this previous knowledge, I’m actually not shocked at all. I’m sad, but not shocked.

gdfxx
Guest

Csaba K. Zoltani :
The actions of a small number of radical advocates does not necessarily mirror the sentiment of society. In the U.S. criticism of “political correctness” pushed by those far removed from the mainstream has recently found an echo in the media. Good examples are known from Brown University and New York where recently invited speakers were disinvited by those in charge who thought that they might disagree with what the invited speakers could advocate. Though troubling, especially in university environments, this does not signal the end of American Democracy.

To compare the American democracy, based on a Constitution that rarely gets amended and through a very complex and difficult process, his to what’s going on in the Fidesz-Jobbik Hungary under Orban, where the “Basic Law” is changed by the ruling party every time the Constitutional Court objects to anything, well this is more than a slight exaggeration.

petofi
Guest
gdfxx : Csaba K. Zoltani : The actions of a small number of radical advocates does not necessarily mirror the sentiment of society. In the U.S. criticism of “political correctness” pushed by those far removed from the mainstream has recently found an echo in the media. Good examples are known from Brown University and New York where recently invited speakers were disinvited by those in charge who thought that they might disagree with what the invited speakers could advocate. Though troubling, especially in university environments, this does not signal the end of American Democracy. To compare the American democracy, based on a Constitution that rarely gets amended and through a very complex and difficult process, his to what’s going on in the Fidesz-Jobbik Hungary under Orban, where the “Basic Law” is changed by the ruling party every time the Constitutional Court objects to anything, well this is more than a slight exaggeration. Quite aright, gdfx. This is Fidesz ‘misdirection’ 101–pick a slight appearance of similarity and extrapolate it to the whole. Here’s an example: “I have a belly-button as do you, therefore I am just as honest and honorable as your are.” Quite ludicrous, really, but to the unsophisticated mustachios… Read more »
Member
Fremant
Guest
By Fidesz and by the Fidesz-related media there is now an all-out assault on HaHa and comprehensive efforts to defend and rehabilitate HÖK. I will not repeat the lies the Fidesz-media now repeats. Fidesz and Jobbik will not give up its influence on the existing power network and access to youth minds at universities without a fight. And their fight is concentrated and meticulously planned. They include a concerted efforts of government people, various media outlets, blogs, blog-comments, physical presence and so on. Fidesz does not take prisoners and everyone must realise that if someone opposes the governmnet’s plans and agents, he/she will be a ‘target’ and will be shred. They do it with András Simor (the outgoing NBH governor, effectively the last man standing against the government or the hardliner but sometimes wavering Fidesznik László L. Simon at the ministry of culture) now HaHA is the target. But the most important method to target HaHA is simply saying that they are l-s. “A certain l-party is behind them”. “And behind them the financier, and certain others, whom we know of course, but we shall not name.” With this, noobody wants to associate them, because it’s uncool to seem liberal… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

Off topic:

We were checking our bank statements recently, and wondering why every time we withdrew money, we were charged an extra 260 HUF. We thought it might be some extra bank charge for withdrawals, until we realised that this is the new ‘transaction tax’ which the government takes. It seems that it’s not 0.3% after all. It’s a minimum of 260HUF each time, and then perhaps 0.3% above a certain minimum limit. Turns out we’ve been donating a couple of forints to the Hungarian government over the last few weeks!

I wonder how long it will take the majority of people to notice this, or realise it’s a government tax. Admittedly, my wife checks her bank statement online every day.

Éljen a Fidesz!
Guest

HÖK is a democratic university institution for students with ELECTED members of the universities. Therefore: It has the LEGITIMACY. While so-called “HAHA” is just a self-appointed organization. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

Éljen a Fidesz!
Guest

HAHA is a flash mob organisation , for students who want free lessons and university from the taxpayers’ money, than they want to left Hungary and move to western Europe for Higher salary….

Member

Bowen :
Off topic:
We were checking our bank statements recently, and wondering why every time we withdrew money, we were charged an extra 260 HUF. We thought it might be some extra bank charge for withdrawals, until we realised that this is the new ‘transaction tax’ which the government takes. It seems that it’s not 0.3% after all. It’s a minimum of 260HUF each time, and then perhaps 0.3% above a certain minimum limit. Turns out we’ve been donating a couple of forints to the Hungarian government over the last few weeks!
I wonder how long it will take the majority of people to notice this, or realise it’s a government tax. Admittedly, my wife checks her bank statement online every day.

My remarks on Feb 7:

“Most banks started to collect Orban’s transaction taxes from February 1st.

In dollar terms, it looks like the maximum of [0.3% or $1].
….
I think the government gets exactly 0.3% no matter how much you withdraw.
(So the bank makes some profit out of this if you withdraw less than $340)”

Vorm
Guest
Bowen: They don’t care (noone checks the bank statments, too compliacted). “Plus, it’s the banks again, stupid, sucking the blood of the Hungarian citizens as is their wont, with various fees. They just increase their fees all the time. Why can’t Fidesz force them to decrease the fees as with electricity? We need a stronger government. Jobbik would cut banks to shape, I guarantee you.” People can’t make the connection. And it seems that there is a reason why are not a politician (sorry). Meahwhile KH Bank made – “despite all the crying that the banks are overtaxed” – HUF 20bn profit. In an astonoshingly stupid PR move KH Bank (owned by debil Belgians, the KBC Bank) opened the season of reporting on banks profits. Although the profits did not come from improved opartions, but from the release of reserves (provisions for loan losses; so its a reasignment of previous losses, not profits made this year) it looks terrible (or rather, it is a gem for Fidesz). Meanhile today it was announced that three unnamed banks made a loss of HUF 160bn (!). But who cares, if we don’t know the names. All we know is that KH is huuugely… Read more »
Member

Éljen a Fidesz! :
HAHA is a flash mob organisation , for students who want free lessons and university from the taxpayers’ money, than they want to left Hungary and move to western Europe for Higher salary….

Without good higher education, a country is condemned to perpetual poverty.

I would rather give my taxes to students than to Orban, Simicska and their maffia, who take Hungary back to the Dark Age.

An
Guest
Bowen : Off topic: We were checking our bank statements recently, and wondering why every time we withdrew money, we were charged an extra 260 HUF. We thought it might be some extra bank charge for withdrawals, until we realised that this is the new ‘transaction tax’ which the government takes. It seems that it’s not 0.3% after all. It’s a minimum of 260HUF each time, and then perhaps 0.3% above a certain minimum limit. Turns out we’ve been donating a couple of forints to the Hungarian government over the last few weeks! I wonder how long it will take the majority of people to notice this, or realise it’s a government tax. Admittedly, my wife checks her bank statement online every day. Even though the extra charge at the ATM is the result of the new government tax, Fidesz is just going to blame the banks for it… that’s the beauty of the transaction tax. It makes it possible for Fidesz to tax people and blame someone else (the evil banks). And a lot of people who never think anything through will fall for it. Orban is an idiot but there is one area in which he is a… Read more »
Ron
Guest

An: Orban is an idiot but there is one area in which he is a genius: manipulation. This is the skill that earned him the power he has in the country now.

If he is such a genius, why is failing with most of the readers and commentators of this and many other blogs?

Is it because the non-readers are stupid and/or are unable to think for themselves, or is it because due to his 2/3 majority he can do anything he wants and there is nothing anybody (including the EU) can do?

Ron
Guest

Bowen: I wonder how long it will take the majority of people to notice this, or realize it’s a government tax. Admittedly, my wife checks her bank statement online every day.

Most banks have not introduce this ATM tax, until recently. Most banks will have implemented this by March 1. This, by the way, includes the OTP.

Member

I cannot watch Orban’s conceited, self-congratulatory lies any longer on television.

There is no one in the crowd of few hundred who would stand up and say

“Down with you, dictator Ceau 2”.

No, the crowd consists solely of the beneficiaries of Orban’s maffia rule.

Member

His speech writer is also not top-notch. Orban quoted allegedly Marai, but the quote was from Ottlik.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130222_Ottlikot_idezett_Maraiket_Orban

Bowen
Guest

tappanch :I cannot watch Orban’s conceited, self-congratulatory lies any longer on television.
There is no one in the crowd of few hundred who would stand up and say
“Down with you, dictator Ceau 2″.
No, the crowd consists solely of the beneficiaries of Orban’s maffia rule.

Indeed. Which nation is Orban talking about? Surely it isn’t Hungary.

An
Guest

@Ron: Orban is not a genius, only that he is genius of manipulation. Manipulation does not work very well with people who are well- informed and like to think critically about what they hear and read. The readers of this blog belong to this category. The average Hungarian (and most people anywhere) does not.

His “genius” talent for manipulation was enough to get him 2/3, and yes, 2/3 gives him a lot of power. And though a lot of people, are seeing through him and getting fed up with him, he still influences a sizable chunk of the population… this is quite a feat, with all the moronic stuff he does.

Member

Nielsen poll:

Is there recession in Hungary?
Yes 93% (half a year ago : yes 86%)

Did you change your spending habits in the last year?

Yes 91%

http://hu.nielsen.com/site/20120810.shtml

Member

I have to correct myself. The poll itself is dated, it was published in August 2012. I apologize.

Éljen a FIDESZ!
Guest

The low turnout ratio doesn’t nullify the legitimacy of a democratic institution. Think about the usual low turnout of the parliamentary elections in most Western-European countries. Do you think that Western European parliaments and governments are all illegitimate?

Eva S. Balogh :

Éljen a Fidesz! :
HÖK is a democratic university institution for students with ELECTED members of the universities. Therefore: It has the LEGITIMACY. While so-called “HAHA” is just a self-appointed organization. HUGE DIFFERENCE.

I’m afraid, you are wrong. According to new regulations HÖK members must be elected by at least 25% of the student population. ELTE BTK HÖK was not elected this way. It was elected by a very small percentage of the students. So, they are not legal and therefore they are not legitimate. However, Zoltán Balog, the minister in charge of education, declared that the BTK HÖK can function undisturbed regardless. However, he added, the leadership doesn’t have decision making powers. Whatever that means.

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