A divided Hungary: Two images of Viktor Orbán

I will try to demonstrate, mostly for those who are not familiar with the Hungarian political scene, how controversial a character Viktor Orbán is in his own country.

Some Hungarians absolutely adore him and look upon him as the “Savior of  Hungary.” He occasionally alludes to himself as the light that will lead the whole of  Europe out of darkness. Just as he did Hungary. His detractors are just as passionate. They loathe him and often view him as a common thief.

Yesterday was the prime minister’s fiftieth birthday. To mark the occasion an organization called Lányok és Asszonyok Orbán Viktorért Egyesület (Association of Girls and Women for Viktor Orbán) ordered a mass for him, his family, and the whole nation. Celebrating the mass was Zoltán Osztie, the parish priest of Pest’s oldest church near the Elizabeth Bridge and an ardent supporter of Viktor Orbán and his regime. He has been involved in the organization of the Peace Marches alongside such men as Zsolt Bayer, Gábor Széles, and András Bencsik.

The government decided to downplay the adulatory birthday mass. There are already signs of a growing personality cult in Hungary, and so as not to fan it further (especially in light of EU criticisms of Orbán’s anti-democratic ways) word went out to keep birthday celebrations to a minimum. MTI, the Hungarian telegraphic agency, published only a couple of pictures, no story. Magyar Nemzet made no mention of  the mass.

Not so the opposition papers from which we even learned what gospel passage Osztie chose (excerpts from Mark 11:2-17):

2 On the following day, when they [Jesus and his followers] came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.

15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”

Jesus in the temple

Osztie and the 600-700 people who listened to him obviously look upon Viktor Orbán as a messiah who was sent to Hungary to cleanse the country from the filth the liberals and socialists left behind. To drive the money changers out and to create a country of honesty, decency, and purpose.

By contrast, among those who hate him the general belief is that Viktor Orbán is himself a thief and his inner circle a den of robbers. There are literally hundreds of blogs and thousands of reader comments that refer to him as a mafioso and a common criminal. I picked a blog post that is perhaps the harshest I have ever encountered. It appeared on pupublogja, “blog of the camel.” The blogger is a prolific writer and an Orbán hater. He calls him “the Hibbant” (cracked, a man with a loose screw). According to “pupu,” Orbán is a liar “who steals the country blind.”

People call Orbán “talented” because “he managed to survive all his friends and adversaries and destroy all his enemies.” But for “pupu” he is “the leader of a shoddy, trashy band of robbers.” The author of the blog compares him to László Moré, a sixteenth-century soldier of fortune who took advantage of the chaotic political situation that developed after the Battle of Mohács (1526) in which King Louis II died without issue. At times Moré supported Ferdinand and at other times János Szapolyai, the two contenders for the Hungarian throne, but while they fought each other Moré managed to rob practically the whole Transdanubian area until the two finally got rid of him by defeating his forces in Palota (today Várpalota) in 1533.

An increasing number of people suspect, just like “pupu,” that Orbán’s wealth is enormous and that what we see is “only the tip of the iceberg.” “Pupu” is certain that 90% of Orbán’s wealth is hidden. Moreover, not only is he a crook; he is also an untalented prime minister. His first premiership was a disaster: empty coffers, alienated neighbors, and his reputation abroad was such that every politician west of Hungary was relieved when he was defeated. And what is he doing now? “No more democracy, no sustainable economic growth, national debt is as high as before, people’s mood is rotten… Azeri murderer, stolen pension funds, Simicska, Lázár, Semjén, and a deal with Gábor Vona perhaps still to come. Stadiums, five million citizens under the poverty line, hungry children, and the plundering of the country. Yesterday tobacconist shops, today forests, tomorrow National Liquor Stores, a narrow-gauge railway for the family, and a stadium for son Gazsi.”

“On the list of the casualties are democracy, youth, education, healthcare, Hungarian agriculture, modernization, our lives…. Is this man talented? I don’t even know whether I should question the ‘man’ or the ‘talented.’ Perhaps both together and also separately.”

Yet there remain those in whose eyes Orbán is a saint. Cult of personality? During the summer the streetcar rails normally get repaired and therefore the Budapest Transit Authority reroutes certain lines. Streetcar #50 was one of those that will be rerouted this year. Index decided to make a little joke of it, recalling 1948 when Stalin celebrated his seventieth birthday and the servile Rákosi government renumbered one of the Budapest streetcar lines #70. A reporter and a camera man showed up at the current route of streetcar #50 and asked people what they thought about its being rerouted from its lowly position in the outskirts to somewhere closer to parliament.

It seemed that most of the people who commented missed the point of the comparison to Stalin’s 70th birthday. Some of them refused to answer “political questions.” But there was one pugnacious older woman who found nothing wrong with the idea of rerouting streetcar #50 to celebrate the prime minister’s birthday. After all, he is the prime minister of the country and he deserves it. She very much hopes that he will have many years to guide the country. Some people might complain that he didn’t manage to create one million new jobs, but after all it took even God seven days to create the world and in three years he couldn’t fix everything that the communists ruined. Try to explain to this woman that three years ago the Hungarian economy was in better shape than it is today. It would be a hopeless task. Just as “pupu” couldn’t be persuaded that Viktor Orbán is God’s gift to Hungary and the Hungarian people.

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Paul
Guest

Unfortunately, you only have to look at the opinion polls to see who believes this sort of thing, despite everything that has happened since 2010, and those who don’t. Fidesz support isn’t exactly crumbling.

Paul
Guest
By the by, and only slightly OT – my father-in-law, who truly believes Orbán is the Messiah and socialists are commie, Jewish scum, was so happy with the news from the EU the other day that he broke the normally observed ‘no politics’ family rule and started not only looking up pro-Orbán stuff on our PC, but reading chunks of it out loud! Afterwards, I checked what he’d been reading and quoting (with some glee) and this is it: http://www.magyarhirlap.hu/orban-a-kormany-a-nemzetek-europajanak-hive I only have Google’s word for it, but this appears to be an article about some sort of anti-EU conference St Orbán attended (joined by the Spanish PM), at which he was pushing the idea of replacing the EU with a Europe of ‘communities’, or some such (I’m not entirely sure what, exactly). Anyway, that is not really the point. What most struck me about the article was the picture of Orbán they used. Gone is the tired, greying, overweight man, clearly worn down by all the aggravation of trying to ‘run’ the country that we’ve got used to recently, and instead we see a buoyant, triumphant, happy Viktor (in both senses). Here is unmistakable proof of the huge fillip… Read more »
2132
Guest

Horthy was left in a symbolic leadership role by the old oligarchy.
Orban can thank his job to a similar crime.
I think Orban is overpaid.
He would act out the same inept screenplay for less money.
What a waste!

tappanch
Guest

It is incredible that Minister Zoltan Balog received an award from President Gauck of Germany recently. It is also incredible to me that the journalist of Spiegel Online calls him the “liberal figurehead” (Liberales Aushängeschild) of the Orban administration.

http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ungarn-deutscher-verdienstorden-fuer-umstrittenen-minister-a-903006.html

In my opinion, Mr Balog is one of Orban’s most sinister ideologues, a liaison to the Jobbik infested Calvinist Church and to Jobbik as well.

What is your opinion?

Minusio
Guest

I am glad that you mentioned Orbáns first premiership. The end was even worse than you described it. Because he likes to forget it as much as almost everyone else already had. This – and him in the opposition – was to me a clear sign that Orbán was a dangerous man without any ethics. So I had my opinion set as of 2003.

Grossly OT: Jesus didn’t drive out money lenders from the temple in Jerusalem. They were money changers. Jews had to pay yearly temple dues. In the Roman period there was only one mint that stamped silver tetradachms that were not debased by adding copper or other less valuable materials. That was the mint of Tyros (now Lebanon). The temple insisted that the yearly temple dues had to be paid in this coinage. This was why there were money changers around and in the temple. – Interestingly, the fact that these silver coins had the picture of the emperor on one side was outweighed by its consistent value to the temple. Because theoretically, nothing that had a picture on it was allowed to enter the temple (or any orthodox household, for that matter)

Guest

OT:

Regarding money lenders. I remember reading that Jews were forced in some parts of Germany to work in some businesses which were not allowed for Christians – like money lenders, travelling salesmen etc …

On the other hand Jews (for example in Württemberg) were not allowed to work in “normal businesses” or agriculture or as craftsmen until late in the 19th Century. Did Hungary under Austrian rule have similar laws ?

Guest

From the press coverage of the rebellion in Turkey I learn (to my surprise) that Recep Tayyip Erdogan long time ago has succeeded in doing to Turkey what Orban is trying to do to Hungary.

The Turkish rebellion started when the autocrat wanted to build a shopping centre in one of Instanbuls few parks.

Will the same happen in Hungary when Orban begins parcelling out the Margit Island to his friends as planned?

Minusio
Guest

tappanch :
It is incredible that Minister Zoltan Balog received an award from President Gauck of Germany recently. It is also incredible to me that the journalist of Spiegel Online calls him the
“liberal figurehead” (Liberales Aushängeschild) of the Orban administration.
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ungarn-deutscher-verdienstorden-fuer-umstrittenen-minister-a-903006.html
In my opinion, Mr Balog is one of Orban’s most sinister ideologues, a liaison to the Jobbik infested Calvinist Church and to Jobbik as well.
What is your opinion?

@ tappanch. I share your disgust and sent an open letter to Gauck complaining about Balog’s decoration. It should be in Pusztaranger, but I can’t find it.

Minusio
Guest

wolfi :
OT:
Regarding money lenders. I remember reading that Jews were forced in some parts of Germany to work in some businesses which were not allowed for Christians – like money lenders, travelling salesmen etc …
On the other hand Jews (for example in Württemberg) were not allowed to work in “normal businesses” or agriculture or as craftsmen until late in the 19th Century. Did Hungary under Austrian rule have similar laws ?

@ wolfi. Yes, it was more or less the same, although the changes came earlier. In 1800 there were already close to 2000 Jewish handicrafts in Hungary, but very few in Pest. By the 1840s, Jews were theoretically allowed to take up any profession they wanted, but were still pestered and marginalised by the (Christian) guilds. For example, they couldn’t have signs in front of the house and the entrance to their shops and workshops was not to be at the street but in one of the backyards. (There are still buildings in Budapest that have up to 8 backyards.) This can all be read in an excellent book: Julia Richers, Jüdisches Budapest. Kulturelle Topographien einer Stadtgemeinde im 19. Jahjundert. Böhlau, 2009.

Minusio
Guest

@ tappanch. My Open Letter to President Gauck is on the Pusztaranger site, directly under the “Trabant”.

Joe Simon
Guest

VO was interviewd a few week ago by two Portuguese journalists. He spoke well, he sounded modest about his achievements. In fact, he was quite self-effacing. Of course, he is a politician, in the end, no better or worse than any other. That is the view that HS should take to achieve a balanced reporting. Eva is biased and very narrow in her focus.

Minusio
Guest

@ Joe Simon. I think you have been a lurker for quite a while. That was good. Even if I might agree that at present, the political personnel around the world is worse than it used to be, it’s still quite outrageous to state that Orbán is no better or worse than any other politician. Don’t bash HS, just try to understand the megalomaniac, corrupt OV system. If you have any, that should open your eyes.

If you can’t follow, you’ll be regarded as a troll. And we don’t feed trolls. Remember?

Guest

So Eva is biased while the Hungarian media (especially the state owned tv etc) are balanced ?
Imho the state media look like North Korean state tv – so a counterpoint is absolutely necessary! Compared to that Eva is almost neutral/balanced …

And if you think this blog is narrow – well it is just one woman’s unpaid labour, so please go on and start your own blog – some of the readers her might even look at it …

Or send Eva enough money, then she might gladly employ a few journalists!

petofi
Guest
@ Joe Simon, (Hi Joe. Is the money coming in regular?) So, then, Viktor was ‘modest’ about his achievements, huh? He’s got quite a lot to be modest about. But the other day I thought to myself: “What is it that truly illustrates Orban’s ill will towards his people? And I came upon this: the government–ie. this term always refers to Orban who deciders EVERYTHING–could do no worse than the Malev fiasco which blackened the name of Hungarian travel…who knows for how many years to come. Many major airlines no longer have an office at Ferihegy. But worse, of course, is that one stop travel is a thing of the past–now you have to take one/two stops to Canada or the US lengthening an 8 hour trip to 12 or 16 hours. Now, Hungarians who like, no, crave, abuse, don’t mind this; but tourists coming from afar certainly do. The fall in tourism is significant. As for us expats here in the land of Oz-Orban, we’re gifted with a 20hr trip to Miami instead of say 12 hrs. “Good!” say the Bekemenet mustachios, ” serve those rich, bloody foreigners right!” Ahh, the delicious hospitality of Orban’s Hungary! Thanks for the… Read more »
Karl Pfeifer
Guest
Joe Simon : VO was interviewd a few week ago by two Portuguese journalists. He spoke well, he sounded modest about his achievements. In fact, he was quite self-effacing. Of course, he is a politician, in the end, no better or worse than any other. That is the view that HS should take to achieve a balanced reporting. Eva is biased and very narrow in her focus. Joe Simon, since I don’t read Portuguese I have instead read the interview Stephan Löwenstein made with V.O. in the German conservative daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on 16. April 2013. There he appears as a conceited politician, who is praising his own Blood and Soil Turul speech. http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/im-gespraech-viktor-orban-ungarn-braucht-zur-zeit-keine-netten-jungs-12149848.html Eva is an excellent and objective observer of Hungarian affairs who wrote about: >>A divided Hungary: Two images of Viktor Orbán>Some Hungarians absolutely adore him and look upon him as the >Savior of Hungary< He occasionally alludes to himself as the light that will lead the whole of Europe out of darkness. Just as he did Hungary. His detractors are just as passionate. They loathe him and often view him as a common thief. << This is evidence enough that she is not biased.… Read more »
Guest

The situation at Budapest airport is really bad – we just had one holiday flight to the USA from there – that was American Airlines to New York, really practical, but it only lasted one season …

And the Hévíz/Balaton airport at Sármellékhas also been struggling – no more flights to London, which we (and my English relatives too …) used, so the only alternative is Vienna – which we’ve been using regularly …

In a way Vienna is almost more comfortable and easier to reach for us than Budapest, so even if direct intercontinental flights returned to Budapest we’d think twice about using them again.

So the Hungarian economy is continuing its downward spiral. Well, as I’ve written before on pol.hu:

Orbán wants Hungarians to return to the good old times of raising pigs – so who needs technology, infrastructure, universities, artists, etc …

The English science fiction writer John Brunner comes to my mind and his novel:

The sheep look up (that sentence is by John Milton originally …)

Member

Joe Simon :
VO was interviewd a few week ago by two Portuguese journalists. He spoke well, he sounded modest about his achievements. In fact, he was quite self-effacing. Of course, he is a politician, in the end, no better or worse than any other.

Joe forget the link. I wonder why … You don’t need to speak Portuguese:

http://index.hu/belfold/2013/05/12/orban_en_nem_vagyok_populista

Self-effacing my butt.

By the way I don’t want the Hungarian Prime minister to be modest. I want him to boast loudly about a booming economy, low unemployment, less national debt. I want him to brag about a society where racism is pushed back. I want him proudly saying that we have good international relations. I would like him to take credit for upholding law and order in Hungary. I’d like him to toot his own horn about successfully fighting corruption. Bring it on!!

I have only one tiny condition Joe: he must not lie.

tappanch
Guest

@Eva, re: shadow dancers

” a prophet has no honor in his own country. “

Ron
Guest

wolfi :
The situation at Budapest airport is really bad – we just had one holiday flight to the USA from there – that was American Airlines to New York, really practical, but it only lasted one season …

I was reading about Ferihegy (Sorry I am not used to the new name) in the Economist.
http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2013/05/hungary

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :The funny (or not so funny thing) is that a few years ago they tried their luck in Hungary but there they were thrown out after the first round.Take a look. They are really fantastic. So, there is talent but in Hungary it is rarely appreciated.

It is a curse. While Centre Pompidou in Paris is holding a fantastic retrospective of the works of the late Hantaï Simon. the Mayor of Budapest wants to have a street named after Tormay.

Bowen
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
In case you haven’t heard of them. It is a group from Hungary which went to Britain to enter the Got Talent show. The group is called Attraction. They are “shadow dancers.” They are really amazing.

And without irony, the ‘Friends of Hungary’ Facebook site (I won’t provide a link) keeps getting misty eyed about them.

cheshire cat
Guest
http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20130530-hogy-latjak-az-50-eves-orban-viktort-a-fideszben.html A collection of descriptions of Orban by people who are close to him. All spoke without giving their names to it. It might be explained by their honesty, but one definitely needs to take it with a pinch of salt. Some of what they say has been obvious: only his opinion counts, he gets very rough if you disagree with him, he broke down after the 2002 elections very badly, he blamed everyone, including all Hungarians who are so stupid that voted against him after what he saw had been successful government. It was then that he decided “being a good PM is not enough”. He is always at war with real or imaginary enemies. He can seduce people with his charisma without them realizing that he is lying to them. He only trusts people who are 100% loyal to him, and he has fewer and fewer of those. He likes to force people loyal to him by “holding them tight on their balls” (whatever that means!). But some of the things were interesting. He apparently keeps breaking the rules because that way he is one step ahead of his “enemies”. He never forgets anyone who did him harm,… Read more »
Guest

Not too much OT, I hope:

We’re just watching the news on “North Korean State TV” aka M1 and my wife got really angry: Demagogues, liars, corrupt liars (I can’t repeat here the expletive that followed …)!

Then came the high point:

They showed some ceremonies from a small town (somewhere in the East of Hungary ??) remembering Trianon – the full program, Magyar Garda and and …

It all looked so unreal …

For those in Hungary: It’ll sure be repeated on M2 news.

Ron
Guest

wolfi :
Not too much OT, I hope:
We’re just watching the news on “North Korean State TV” aka M1 and my wife got really angry: Demagogues, liars, corrupt liars (I can’t repeat here the expletive that followed …)!
Then came the high point:
They showed some ceremonies from a small town (somewhere in the East of Hungary ??) remembering Trianon – the full program, Magyar Garda and and …
It all looked so unreal …
For those in Hungary: It’ll sure be repeated on M2 news.

I got a similar reply from my wife with a program called A lenyeg with today’s program on MTV1.

Ron
Guest

Euronews is finally in Hungarian. If only they reported more about Hungary.

http://hu.euronews.com/

Kirsten
Guest

2132: “I think Orban is overpaid.”

Yes, that can be safely said. 🙂

Cheshire cat: “he can’t wait to retire and live for his family and football.”

Either this observation is correct or those that you wrote in the paragraphs above. If he does not trust many people (generally or anymore), it would be very unwise to long for quite retirement any time soon – at least not in Hungary and close to his football stadiums. Those people surrounding OV also seem to believe in this untouchable status.

And also, the observations in the first paragraph in particular make me think how come he has so many followers. You cannot just decide: Being PM is not enough, I need autocracy. So perhaps those people around OV who were so kind and share this character analysis of OV could also try to find out about their motives when serving such an exceptional crook.

Paul
Guest

Re Cheshire Cat’s comment:

Our only real hope is that Orbán’s ego will somehow cause him to self-destruct, and without him, Fidesz will be rudderless and drift onto the rocks.

Perhaps that hope is more real than I imagined?

Paul
Guest

Jean P :
From the press coverage of the rebellion in Turkey I learn (to my surprise) that Recep Tayyip Erdogan long time ago has succeeded in doing to Turkey what Orban is trying to do to Hungary.
The Turkish rebellion started when the autocrat wanted to build a shopping centre in one of Instanbuls few parks.
Will the same happen in Hungary when Orban begins parcelling out the Margit Island to his friends as planned?

Eye witness blog: http://defnesumanblogs.com/2013/06/01/what-is-happenning-in-istanbul/

cheshire cat
Guest
Kirsten: that’s exactly what I thought. These guys describe him as an undemocratic, unreliable autocrat full of vengence – why on earth do they support him? They also said, by the way, that they had joined Fidesz because they fell under his spell. They heard him speak, and his confidence, his energetic style impressed them. To many many people, this is still the case. Whenever he speaks, either to a journalist or to a crowd of ten thousand, his confidence is impressive. Everything he says sounds very convincing, clever and logical – unless you know enough about politics, economy, diplomacy etc to see the flaws in his arguments (or that all of is nonsense). The article I linked to is not right or left, so there were a lot of comments from pro-Orbaners. Most were wishing him happy 50th, and expressed their gratefulness for such an exceptional “statesman”. Almost all of them say he is someone who “stands up for Hungarians’ interests” (“kiall a magyar erdekekert”). This expression keeps coming up. I’m sure Paul’s father-in-law would also interpret the article as more proof of the greatness of his leader. Kirsten, “it’s not enough to be a good PM (so I’ll… Read more »