The Orbán government’s swift move toward the far right

I wrote about some of the people who received high awards from the Orbán government on March 15, one of the official national holidays in Hungary. They were either racist, antisemitic neo-Nazis or representatives of unscientific, bogus “scholarship” whose numbers have been growing in Hungary in the last twenty years or so. The greatest attention was showered on Ferenc Szaniszló, who received the Táncsics Prize from Zoltán Balog.

I left the story at the point that Zoltán Balog claimed that he knew nothing about Szaniszló’s program on EchoTV. He simply accepted the recommendation of the committee appointed by the Orbán government and made up of right-leaning journalists. Balog also insisted that he couldn’t withdraw the prize. Either Szaniszló gives it back on his own volition or everything remains as is. (I might mention here that when the writer Ákos Kertész made the mistake of saying something derogatory about Hungarians his honorary citizenship of Budapest was withdrawn without the slightest difficulty.) In any case, Balog wrote a letter to Szaniszló in which he practically begged him to return the prize. He did, but only after he delivered another of his harangues on March 18 in an extra edition of Világ-Panoráma. This extra edition was just as long as his other programs, but this time it dealt only with all the indignities he had to suffer from the “szocik” and the “liberok.” One shouldn’t have expected anything else, but at least at the end he announced that he would return the prize–but not to the ministry but to the U.S. Embassy!

Balog might have thought that his troubles were over, but then came the revelation in Heti Válasz, a right-wing, pro-Fidesz publication, that Balog hadn’t told the truth earlier. The committee didn’t recommend Szaniszló for the prize. In fact, as Ágnes Osztovits, who is on the staff of Heti Válasz, revealed, the committee endorsed only one person, a reporter for Magyar Rádió, out of the three who eventually received the awards. In addition to Szaniszló, Márta Ágnes Vertse of Vatikán Rádió was also picked by the ministry against the advice of the nominating committee. Moreover, Heti Válasz learned who promoted Szaniszló and Vertse. None other than the new undersecretary in charge of cultural affairs, János Halász. Balog doesn’t seem to have much luck with his undersecretaries. He couldn’t get along with László L. Simon, who after eight months was fired, and now here is Balog’s own man who immediately gets him into trouble. Both the American and the Israeli embassies officially protested and demanded immediate action in connection with the case.

Szaniszló became an international cause célèbre, although he wasn’t the only one whose recognition by the Hungarian government was questionable. Let’s start with the award of the “Magyar Érdemrend középkeresztje” to Gábor Széles, who is the owner of the very EchoTV that employs Szaniszló in addition to Zsolt Bayer. Széles is also the owner of Magyar Hírlap where Zsolt Bayer is senior editor. Or there is Kornél Bakay, the “archaeologist” who received the “Magyar Érdemrend Tisztikereszt (polgári tagozat)” on March 15. When he was the director of the museum in Szombathely in 2003 Bakay organized an exhibit entitled “Soldiers of Horthy, Arrowmen of Szálasi.” On the basis of this exhibit it became clear that Bakay is “an enthusiastic propagandist of the Szálasi cult.” After a huge outcry the exhibit was dismantled.

The government claims that these awards, decorations, and prizes demonstrate the “Hungarian nation’s recognition of and gratitude to those who represent the best of the nation.” So, let’s see what János Petrás, lead singer of the “nemzeti” rock band, represents because he also received the “Magyar Arany Érdemkereszt (polgári tagozat).” This pride of the nation said at the “Magyar Sziget” neo-Nazi gathering in 2009: “Those people–who are really not human as far as we are concerned–are misfits, inferior somethings. They are gay and they are proud of it….One day this breed will become extinct. They should go somewhere and live together but separately. We will pass a law that will state that we don’t tolerate this perversity.”

It is hard to imagine that all these awards, prizes, and decorations given to people belonging to the far right are simply mistakes. There is a concerted effort to court the Hungarian neo-Nazis. It is government policy. So is the whipping up of nationalist sentiment.

Orbán imitates members of the Magyar GárdaPhoto MTI / Attila Kovács

Orbán imitates the uniform of the Magyar Gárda
Photo MTI / Attila Kovács

This morning I was reading about Viktor Orbán’s latest Friday morning interview on Magyar Rádió when I noticed something that might be significant. Normally on such an occasion Orbán wears a suit but no tie. This morning it was brisk in Budapest. During the day, around 6°C. At 7:00 a.m. it was most likely close to O°. Yet Orbán appeared in a white shirt with a black vest. An outfit preferred by people who are close to Jobbik or the far right in general. Journalists noted, for example, that Attila Vidnyánszky, the new director of the National Theater, began wearing this type of outfit lately; he seems to have committed his career to creating a truly “national” theater.

I suspect that Orbán’s choice of clothing this morning was a conscious decision to be identified with the Hungarian far right. The outfit was certainly appropriate, given the content of the speech in which he made no bones about his determination not to accept lectures or limits on Hungary’s national sovereignty from Brussels. As one of the headlines in a paper reporting on the speech read, “Orbán: They shouldn’t phone here from Brussels.” And that was before it became known that José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, will in the future personally oversee all contested issues concerning the amendments to the Hungarian constitution. Perhaps it is not only telephone calls that should stop coming from Brussels. What about money?

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Member
March 22, 2013 6:05 pm

I agree with Orban. They should not phone him from Brussels, and vica-versa. I think Orban voting rights in the EU should be suspended, and any money provided to Hungary should also be suspended. They want to be free from Brussels? Be it.

petofi
Guest
petofi
March 22, 2013 7:45 pm

Orban wants the no-money route! Then he can turn to the Muscovites for help….

Member
March 22, 2013 7:52 pm

petofi :
Orban wants the no-money route! Then he can turn to the Muscovites for help….

Good luck for him with that. They care about Hungary, like … zero.

act act act
Guest
act act act
March 22, 2013 8:47 pm

Somebody is paying this poor fellow to act abnormally.
The masses in Hungary should be informed of this miserable game.

cheshire cat
Guest
cheshire cat
March 22, 2013 9:04 pm
I can’t remember who it was, maybe Laszlo Keri?, who wrote a prediction on Orban’s possible election strategy very soon after Bajnai’s speech on the 23rd October last year. In his analysis, the only way Fidesz can hope to win the election is from the right – because Bajnai had announced his wish to gather supporters from the centre. He also wrote that anybody had always managed to win elections in Hungary by recruiting voters from the centre – so Orban’s strategy is to fail at the end. I don’t know whether it will fail or not, but Orban is certainly shifting to the far right very fast. Some people in Hungary say the problem with pleasing far-right voters is that REAL Jobbikers hate Orban as well, they call him gypsy or Jew (or both). But he might lose a lot of centre-right voters with this behaviour. My first thought, like Eva’s, when I saw his photo this morning was, “this is garda uniform”. My second thought was, my word, is this guy exhausted. I know it was early morning but still… Also his interview contained things like: he has been beaten by whips and heavy rods recently, by very… Read more »
Guest
March 23, 2013 1:33 am

Hitler in SA uniform.

Member
March 23, 2013 1:52 am

Reminds me of Kevin Phillips-Bong, Slightly Silly Party. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31FFTx6AKmU , at ca. 2:10 …)

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Karl Pfeifer
March 23, 2013 2:05 am

Yesterday Budapest weekly Élet és Irodalom (ES) an excellent political and literary paper published an article of László Kasza about the question “how long will Europe tolerate us”
Kasza who worked for RFE in Münich quotes the conservative janitor of the house, who votes for CSU the conservative bavarian party. The janitor asked Kasza “What are you Hungarians doing?” and said
„elfogadtunk egy nyilatkozatot, amelyben támogatjuk Frau Stamm döntését. Egy uniós tagállam nem viselkedhet úgy, mint most a magyarok, mi meg fizetünk nekik”.
We [the local CSU group] have adopted a resolution of solidarity with Mrs. Stamm [Barbara Stamm, CSU, president of the bavarian Landtag, did not receive the speaker of Hungarian parliament László Kövér] a memberstate of the European Union, can’t behave like the Hungarians do now, and we finance them in addition.
The Times They Are a-Changin’

Guest
March 23, 2013 3:37 am

Győr Calling!

On topic for a change!

Surely all these shenanigans with the Táncsics awards have devalued them forever?

The integrity and prestige of the award can never be restored – so RIP Mihály Táncsics?

Where is the contrition from Balog in achieving this so comprehensively – for failing to safeguard the historical legacy and reputation of the award?

And, of course, the devaluing of the award to past winners.

Where is the apology to the Mihály Táncsics estate?

Wikipedia is very sparse on his history – but states that he worked tirelessly:

“……to extend elementary education in Hungarian among children and adults in Hungary’s urban centres……..”

Certainly irony there.

I think the awards will be very low key from now on – history destroyed in one ignorant move – by one ignorant Minister.

So RIP Mihály Táncsics.

Regards

Charlie

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
March 23, 2013 4:39 am

Dear Eva,

You left out Vilmos Lazar, one of the owners of the CBA retail chain, who is the main supporter and honorary president of the anti-Semitic group “Goy Motorists”. The chain gave plenty of money to Fidesz as well, in return for preferential tax treatment and EU money:

http://atlatszo.blog.hu/2013/01/21/erdekes_nyertesek_a_szallashelypalyazaton

Gehe
Guest
Gehe
March 23, 2013 5:08 am
It’s clear Orbán needs the far right votes because of the new election system whose most important part is the first past the post contest in the local districts. He absolutely want to make sure that Jobbik voters are Ok with Fidesz and – since their vote (poeple have two votes, one for the party list and one in the local disctrict for an individual) would be lost if cast for Jobbik in the local dictrict polls – so they would cast those for Fidesz (otherwise the Jobbik votes in the local districts would get lost and count as votes towards the “communists”, so it’s “either Fidesz or the godless commmies”). So expect that Orbán will be very firendly towards Jobbik’s voters in the coming months and (if they win again) years. After all politics is about channeling the majority. That is why I agree the courts will not give a stamp of approval to László Karsai to say that Jobbik is neo-nazi. This quazi-official aproval would hurt Fidesz very much, plus there are a lot of Jobbik voters among judges and prosecutors and attorneys (with whom judges work on a daily basis) so it would be branding the colleagues… Read more »
Nick
Guest
Nick
March 23, 2013 5:48 am

Its a sad reflection on Hungary that a politician has to move to the far right to win an election.

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
March 23, 2013 5:59 am

Gehe: “there are a lot of Jobbik voters among judges and prosecutors and attorneys (with whom judges work on a daily basis) so it would be branding the colleagues as neo-nazi whereas these colleagues are nice professional people, arent they?”

Without any offence, but what fascinates me is that we frequently read here that some people in Hungary are willing to do practically anything for “gains” (material or other), while at some other occassions I am led to believe that people are guided by “professional solidarity”. So does “solidarity” exist or not? And in which moments can it be exploited? In particular when it comes to liberation of Hungary from Fidesz? Or is it in the end only the “solidarity” of the cowards that by being “loyal” just try to avoid conflict? The critics of OV should wake up to the fact that without conflict with Fidesz the way forward for Hungary is ruin, and the fact that so many people were “loyal to the nation” will not improve matters a bit.

Paul Wal
Guest
Paul Wal
March 23, 2013 5:59 am

Ferenc Kumin talking about the animated clip “A red card for Hungary,” which appeared on German tv.

“Political pederasty of the worst kind”.
Oh my….how disgusting can you get. Well apparently very disgusting.

Paul de Man
Guest
Paul de Man
March 23, 2013 6:28 am
Kirsten: Solidarity exists in certain professions, if you are a doctor another doctor will see you without an appointment. There is huge solidarity within the police and I guess within the legal professions. Partly, I guess, because these groups tend to be homogenous in many respects. It’s not like when a II. dictrict Buda citizen has to feel solidarity with a village dweller in Borsod county. Also, you can feel solidarity with someone who is different from you, but not too different. (It’s also the way one accepts change, it’s usually not effective to shock, but one step at a time, you will get through it and get used to it.) Thus a Fidesz voter judge can feel that with a Jobbik voter judge. But a Jobbik voter judge will not feel that with an MSZP voter judge (though the latter don’t even exist any more, or rather the way you can spot the opposition voter judge is that they are extremely diplomatic and will not reveal that they dislike Fidesz or the government, but since Fidesz/Jobbik voters are very enthusiastic they actually revealed themselves, well not really, cause since they don’t talk, there remains a doubt). Also, it’s about… Read more »
quest quest
Guest
quest quest
March 23, 2013 10:04 am

Gretchen – please explain your: “conflict with FIDESZ”…
Is FIDESZ a decent party?
Are they good fiduciaries of the nation?
Are they destroying the county?

bubububu
Guest
bubububu
March 23, 2013 10:09 am

Paul de Man: “People don’t want to be liberated from Fidesz.”

It may be the sad truth.

The voices of Csaba Fazekas, Zsofia Mihancsik, Laszlo Kakuk on galamus …..

Galamus must be broadcasted louder and louder, to liberate the ordinary Hungarians from believing in FIDESZ or JOBBIK.

Guest
March 23, 2013 10:26 am

quest quest :
Gretchen – please explain your: “conflict with FIDESZ”…

Is FIDESZ a decent party?
Are they good fiduciaries of the nation?
Are they destroying the county?

@questquest–you are quoting me apparently, but from where? Where is my comment appended, to which blog? Perhaps that doesn’t matter (except that I don’t remember saying that). No, Fidesz is not a good caretaker of the nation in my view. At times it may appear benevolent, but the underlying purpose is far from benevolent.

petofi
Guest
petofi
March 23, 2013 10:43 am

act act act :
Somebody is paying this poor fellow to act abnormally.
The masses in Hungary should be informed of this miserable game.

I’ve been saying this for over a year…

gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx
March 23, 2013 11:42 am

Nick :
Its a sad reflection on Hungary that a politician has to move to the far right to win an election.

This is the crux of the matter, unfortunately…

petofi
Guest
petofi
March 23, 2013 11:48 am

Cyprus going belly hp….2 years after getting 2.5 billion loan from Mother Russia.

Are Hungarians listening?

LwiiH
Guest
LwiiH
March 23, 2013 11:49 am

Some1 :
I agree with Orban. They should not phone him from Brussels, and vica-versa. I think Orban voting rights in the EU should be suspended, and any money provided to Hungary should also be suspended. They want to be free from Brussels? Be it.

I agree also, cut and then wait for OV to call them.. that is when they know he’ll be ready to listen.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
March 23, 2013 12:49 pm

The situation is not as hopeless as it looks by some of the previous commenters [commentators].

The number of open supporters of the democratic opposition is still slightly larger than the number of Fidesz supporters. Fidesz tries to draw people from the 8% Jobbik pool. But the majority of Jobbik supporters dislike Orban personally. The democratic opposition should aim at the much larger (44%) pool of undecided or apolitical voters. This is where the election should be decided in a fair election.

The democratic opposition is leaderless, this is a huge problem. Mesterhazy of MSzP is a nice man but not fit for the tough job, in my h. o. Choose Botka, he looks tougher.

There is tremendous need to reduce the probability of Fidesz fraud by changing the brand new Fidesz election laws using external, yes, external pressure.

EU and US should declare that these new election laws
(secret pools of ballots from abroad, secret counting of those ballots, Fidesz super majority in the election committees, unilaterally redrawn boundaries)
would result in an illegal, unrecognized Fidesz government.

Guest
March 23, 2013 1:34 pm

Győr Calling!

(Sorry – this got posted to wrong place initially.)

Petofi! One suggestion the Cyprus government is looking at is to use the pension funds to rescue the banking system.

Now where did they get that idea from?

(It’s apparently been condemned by Merkel though.)

Looks like the Russians will have to take quite a big hit with their squirreled- away funds in Cyprus.

You have alleged before that Orban has money salted away there – do you think he is watching closely? Could cost him a packet.

Anyway looks like the corrupt tax haven will have to change to a more honest banking system (and I’m an Englishman saying that!) – so there may be more fallout as events unfold.

I think the EU have found a rubicon at last!

I hope you’re watching and listening Orban!

Regards

Charlie

quest quest
Guest
quest quest
March 23, 2013 2:25 pm

Gretchen – thanks for the clarification.
We agree.
The Orbans are obviously paid to fail.
Scheppele was great on the panel.
Many old fashion Hungarians can not accept the unpleasant facts.
Ferenc Deak was such a great leader, and his ideas are remaining too abstract to too many.

quest quest
Guest
quest quest
March 23, 2013 2:28 pm

Clarification – the quote of “conflict with FIDESZ” was posted by Kirsten. She could add more explanation?

Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
March 23, 2013 5:49 pm
quest quest: Gladly, although I believe it should be clear from the context. So: without some willingness to go into conflict with those people (in whatever positions) who are active supporters of Fidesz, matters will worsen by the day. Why I say it is that I doubt Fidesz would be so powerful as it currently is if fewer people accepted the general notion of their almightiness. People say: we are powerless, they will fire us, no one would show solidarity if we protested. Then I read: IF they are Jobbik or Fidesz supporters, to the contrary, they can count on huge “professional” solidarity. Etc. So why is that only for the Jobbik and Fidesz supporters. Why are “the others” not able or willing to support each other, also when it comes to a situation when you are requested to support the extreme right wing? But I got a very good answer from Paul de Wal: The broad public apparently does NOT feel to be much in conflict with the current Fidesz propaganda; the idea of Fidesz’ almightiness has quite an appeal. That I can believe more easily than suggestions of general passivity of Hungarians, or general lack of solidarity, general… Read more »
Paul
Guest
March 23, 2013 6:29 pm
petofi : Cyprus going belly hp….2 years after getting 2.5 billion loan from Mother Russia. Are Hungarians listening? The Cyprus situation has some interesting parallels for Hungary and Orbán. And mostly not good ones from our point of view. Firstly, Orbán’s stand against the IMF and the EU is now looking quite wise – you only have to look at Cyprus (his people will argue) to see where relying on them gets you. And secondly, one of the proposals for generating Cyprus’s ‘contribution’ to their bailout was to use the state pension funds – effectively what Orbán has already done to meet the EU’s deficit rules. So, when his supporters chant their constant refrain that other countries are looking up to Orbán and following his lead, they can finally point to something concrete. If you were a politician in Hungary trying to make a case for supporting the EU or the IMF, the situation in Cyprus would be reducing you to tears. But there is one small glimmer of sunshine in all this – when Cyprus tried to get money from Putin, he said ‘no’. That must have been a sobering moment for Viktor – to see his plan B,… Read more »
An
Guest
An
March 23, 2013 6:53 pm
@Paul: “Firstly, Orbán’s stand against the IMF and the EU is now looking quite wise – you only have to look at Cyprus (his people will argue) to see where relying on them gets you.” Yes, this definitely plays into Orban’s hands, and Fidesz propaganda is already using it (just today read in the papers that Fidesz is claiming that he IMF was planning to do in Hungary exactly what they are doing now in Cyprus, and that is what the decision of kicking out the IMF averted). This is a lie, of course, the IMF had no such plans for Hungary. But, like I said, this hardliner stance with Cyprus plays into Orban’s hand. Mind you, I can’t blame the EU-IMF not wanting to bail out Russian and other maffia money from taxpayer money… though their initial suggestion of taxing ALL deposits was a huge political mistake. The latest suggestions now, taxing only deposits above 100,000 Euros, is a more reasonable suggestion, if their aim is to weed out dubious deposit holders. I find the precedent still scary, though. I’m sure Orban will have no problem to retort to similar measures if he really badly needs money (only after… Read more »
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