Holding a mirror to the Hungarian public: The key to Viktor Orbán’s success

A few hours ago I received two suggestions for discussion. Both are fascinating. The one I decided to take up today is actually not a new survey, but the current political situation makes it relevant.

We keep asking how it could happen that in record time Viktor Orbán and his willing subordinates managed to introduce a political system that turns its back on democratic values. There is nothing surprising about this, says the blogger who returned to this older survey. “The current political structure is the product of societal attitudes, and it can flourish because Hungarian society desires the kind of political elite Fidesz provides. Viktor Orbán is popular because he is the embodiment of the value system of the majority.” That includes “corruption, a strong state, and a leader of unlimited powers.” This sounds terrifying, but a 2009 survey conducted by Tárki supports this claim.

I would like to refer back to the piece I wrote (“Value structure of Hungarian society, 2009“) on October 13, 2009, right after the results of the survey were released. It was the usual short post in which not everything can be mentioned. Moreover, our blogger Anonymus looks at the survey from the perspective of 2013, which naturally I couldn’t have done in 2009 when Viktor Orbán hadn’t yet started his “renewal of Hungary” program with a two-thirds majority behind him.

But in order to get the background you ought to read my short 2009 post. Here I will mention only those details that I did not touch on, including a Pew Research Center study, also from 2009.

Distorting mirror / flickr

Distorting mirror / flickr

We are surprised that all the cases of corruption that surface day after day do not seem to bother the majority of the people. It’s enough to mention the tobacconist shop concessions or the leasing of valuable agricultural lands to politicians’ relatives and friends or political supporters. And yet people are not up in arms. Why would they be, asks Anonymus, when Hungarians even by East European standards are very forgiving when it comes to corruption. In 2009 42% of them found it acceptable to cheat on their income taxes as opposed to 30% of the Poles and 18% of the Czechs. Two-thirds of the population think that “although they themselves are honest and law abiding, the others are not.” They assume that this is simply how things are, and they can live with it.

Then there is the Orbán government’s total lack of sympathy for the poor, the disabled, the disadvantaged. For example, members of the government defend the grotesque idea that in order for poor families who cannot afford to bury their dead to receive some financial assistance they have to help prepare the body for burial, dig the grave, and carry the coffin. In general, according to the 2009 survey, Hungary does not excel in giving assistance to the sick, the disabled, the elderly, neighbors, or immigrants. In fact, in this respect Hungary ended up last in the Union.

According to another survey by the Pew Research Center dealing with the post-communist countries, Hungarians were certain in 2009 that they were economically worse off than they had been under communism. In Hungary 72% of the people considered themselves poorer than they were before 1990, as compared to Slovakia with 48% or Poland with 35%.  And when it comes to the Hungarian attitude toward democracy it is nothing to boast about. While in the Czech Republic 80%, in Slovakia 71%, and in Poland 70% of the respondents approved of democracy, in Hungary the number was only 56%. Just for comparison: Lithuania came in at 55%, Russia 53%, Bulgaria 52%, and Ukraine 30%. Hungarians’ attitude toward capitalism is again the most antagonistic in Eastern Europe. If we compare the sentiments in 1991 and in 2009 we find that enthusiasm waned in all countries studied, but the largest drop (from 80% to 46%) occurred in Hungary.

A working group put up a video based on the Tárki study.

It’s fun to watch it even if one doesn’t understand everything. Basically, the story is that  countries such as Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, and Austria thrive because people there believe that everybody has the opportunity to succeed, they believe in themselves and in their future, they consider hard work important, they appreciate knowledge, they trust each other and their institutions. “So, if you want to change the world, change yourself.”

While Viktor Orbán wants a strong, successful Hungary, he is reinforcing the worst instincts of the majority of Hungarians. Exactly those qualities that retard the kinds of changes that could make Hungary successful. “Összezavarodott magyarok” (confused Hungarians), says the blog’s link. Indeed. The confusion is also in Viktor Orbán’s head.

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An
Guest

I didn’t realize you posted about the survey in 2009! I guess I wasn’t a reader back then. I have to stand corrected, as I have always been on the opinion that the “brave new world” Orban is building is a kind of aberration and that without Orban the story in Hungary would be very different. Well, according to these studies, maybe not…. if the attitudes and values of the Hungarians are such, it was only a question of time when a political manipulator would take advantage of it. I guess I was influenced by my very own circle of friends and acquaintances … who are obviously not representative of Hungary.

Unfortunately, as you noted, Orban is not only using but reinforcing these very harmful tendencies. The real question is, how to get out of this… without swinging into a similar demagoguery and authoritarian leadership style on the other side (on the left).

An
Guest

On another note, maybe this big exodus of young people will bring some change in attitudes. I don’t think that ALL of them are going to stay abroad, some are going to return (especially if Orban disappears by some miracle), and many are going to visit often and keep in touch with their family. I am sure these people will be affected by what they see in western Europe and in return, will affect some of the attitudes at home… Maybe not much, but some. Maybe this “closed” nature of Hungary has something to do with the very low migration that was characteristics of Hungarians until recently (well, other than in the 40s and after 56… which was awhile ago).

kincs
Guest

Appealing to the worst instincts in people – in Hungarians’ case, fear of the modern world, fear of responsibility, cynicism about democracy – is not leadership, it’s demagoguery.

Snoop
Guest
Nice piece Eva. I believe that this is a major element in understanding the Orban situation. He simply could not get away with what he is doing unless there was at least some degree of implicit permission/tolerance from large parts of the electorate. This is an unpleasant fact but it must be faced. Why do people tolerate their own abuse? Parallels may be drawn between the relationship between victims of domestic violence and their abusers. I don’t pretend to be an expert but I believe that when a victim of domestic violence is psychologically broken, demoralised and made dependent on the abuser for survival then in some cases they can start to tolerate and even support and justify the actions of the abuser. It takes a great deal of courage, effort and energy, as well as feedback and support from external observers (friends or unbiased experts such as professional councellors, psychotherapists, etc.) to overcome the FEAR to escape this situation. The abused person needs both a) the will to leave the relationship and b) a viable escape route, of course. Do Hungarians have either? Hungarians have been beaten so many times they act like dogs that have been thrashed -they… Read more »
Joe Simon
Guest

Just a friendly warning! All these writings by HS and your comments are stored by the NSA. Probable category: views and comments from the extreme left, the Jobbik in reverse. Remember, inciting rebellion against an EU country may not sit well with the NSA.

Guest

A pride item for the list of outrages: Orbán opening the Schengen curtain for money.

http://www.budapesttimes.hu/2013/06/14/breaching-the-great-wallof-europe/

When will Hungary be suspended from its Schengen membership?

Guest
Gyor Calling! Message to NSA. Many people here misinterpret the desire for a fair, decent society as ‘Extreme Leftwing’. It is not, cf England. Many people here regard being ‘open’ to European values as having their affairs being interfered with. They are not, cf England. Many people here believe minorities should be suppressed, not having learnt lessons from a disastrous involvement in the war. Creating a fair and equal society is neither right of left. Just right cf England. Many people here hold significant posts in society who were previously informers in a communist informer network. NSA please let us know who they are – the present government is shielding them – can you help with this please? Much of the EU grant money is trousered by cronies of the government and ‘salamied’ on its way down the corruption tree. Please let us know the amounts, to whom and when. Please supply in a handy spreadsheet marked ‘NSA findings’. Overseas account details too would be handy. In England a German historian has just discovered in the public archives the transcripts of MI19. During the war they ‘wired up’ a stately mansion with microphones and eavesdropped on captured German officers. For… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

A Hungarian court convicted journalist Balavany for writing about Jobbik party leader Vona in 2011:

“May cancer eat your bowels”
http://mindennapi.hu/cikk/vezer/a-rak-egye-ki-a-beled-vona/2011-02-01/1401

but acquitted Balavany of libel for calling Vona Nazi and Fascist.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130614_A_rak_egye_ki_a_beled__megrotta_a_birosa

tappanch
Guest

It will be mandatory for every teacher in elementary & high schools to join the “Pedagógus Kar”, a newly created, Fascist-type corporation with government appointed heads.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20130614_Automatikus_lesz_a_pedagoguskari_tagsag

oneill
Guest
The biggest wake-up call for me was the almost complete lack of protest to the theft of the citizens’ private pensions two years ago. The (lack of) reaction was based mainly on apathy, naivety and perhaps to a lot less extent, fear. If my government had attempted to steal my investments in the same way, I would have stayed on the streets and caused as much peaceful civil disorder as I could possibly manage until the thieves had been disposed. Here a disgusting 3% of the population had the balls to stand up to the bullies. In Hungary the regime carried out the theft with the apathetic if not directly active consent, I think, of a clear majority of the population. I know personally intelligent people, ie not your typical idiot Fidesz fascist by any means, who believed Orban when he promised them that he would guarantee their state pension 20, 30, 40 years in the future. WTF?! How do you deal with that kind of blind trust in authority? How far down the line before they start to think “Here, hang on a moment, perhaps he isn’t a direct descendant of St Istvan”. Like all bullying thugs, Orban and… Read more »
newshow2014
Guest

We may call on all remaining intelligent and decent Hungarians to end the rule of the neo-horthyist political and economical oppressors: orban, balogh, simicka, nyerges…..vona, novak, gyongyosi….

Unite and elect a leadership that stops this destructive show directed by arthur finkelstein and associates.

Member

Joe Simon :
Just a friendly warning! All these writings by HS and your comments are stored by the NSA. Probable category: views and comments from the extreme left, the Jobbik in reverse. Remember, inciting rebellion against an EU country may not sit well with the NSA.

We are more worried about the information being stored by Fidesz. By the way this is a public forum… just saying. Since this is a forum about Hungary (I know you are surprised!) here we go:
You know how Fidesz is Simon? THey send out surveys with barcodes, they fire people from the media for not supporting Fidesz, they know if you like them or not and you could end up loosing your business. Fidesz can go and nationalize your property or business if they do not like you. Hungary also like to free axe-murderers while put homeless people in jail.Oh, and Fidesz established different units from the police that can arrest you, enter your house, survey your phone calls, etc. True, they even published that this could happen!

tappanch
Guest

What about this:

The official name of Orban’s Fidesz party has been ” Fidesz – Magyar Polgári Szövetség ” since 2003.

szövetség means union.

The court is not willing to recognize Bajnai’s new party “Együtt 2014-Párbeszéd Magyarországért Választási Szövetség” legal, because a party cannot incorporate the name “szövetség” in its name by a 2011 Fidesz law. [That is the court’s interpretation. I did read the relevant passage in the law and am not able to understand the court].

http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/14/az_egyutt_2014_part_marad_legfeljebb_nem_lesz_szovetseg/

So Bajnai’s party is not able to run in the election with this name.

tappanch
Guest

The next in the daily flood of outrages.

Evaluation for grant from the Academy of Science

Scientific part (previous results, expected results): 80 out 80 points
Subjective part: 0 out of 20 points.

Therefore, you became the 49th out of 86 applicants and did not win the grant.

http://index.hu/belfold/2013/06/14/tokeletes_palyazat_nulla_pontra_ertekelve/

Gardonista
Guest
Thank you, Eva, for this article. If we want to beat Orban, we have to figure out which of his strategies have been successful, and why, and then figure out a way to do it better. In American politics, the Democrats and Republicans are always trying to appropriate the other’s rhetoric. Ronald Reagan (I don’t think many people remember this) defused a lot of the liberal rhetoric. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did everything they could to show that they were better for the economy, which had been the Republican strength. At one point, I was hopeful Bajnai could be the one to defuse Fidesz rhetoric, but I have lost faith in him. I have not lost faith in the discussion on this site. I wish we had more discussion on the majority of Hungarians who don’t want to vote. What could motivate them? And more importantly, WHO are they? Where do they live? We are not going convince the core of Fidesz support, but we should figure the edges of his coalition. We should build on our strength. but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to figure out how these undecided voters think. And this is true whether or… Read more »
Joe Simon
Guest

Some 1. I live in Hungary. Where do you people get all this?

buddy
Guest

Here’s an English-language version of the video embedded above:
http://youtu.be/tGvwg7mIZ4E

GW
Guest

Joe Simon,

Do you deny that the government sent out opinion surveys with bar codes? Do you deny that the government allows homeless people to be jailed while setting an ax murderer free? Do you deny that the government has set up at least four new police or security units with minimal public oversight? Do you deny that the government purchased MOL shares in a non-transparent manner? Do you deny that the government has awarded long term agricultural leases to politically favored bidders? Do you deny that the government has awarded tobacco retail licenses to politically favored bidders? Do you deny that there has been massive government spending on unnecessary projects in the Prime Minister’s own home town? Do you deny that the government kept people from donating to the Red Cross during the recent flooding? Do you deny that the government has massively redirected government advertising to politically friendly newspapers?

Johnny Boy
Guest

What the survey claims is probably real.
What is not real is the conclusions you derive.
Orbán is not successful because of what the survey says but in spite of it. Because things are changing in Hungary, for the better.
The question the survey provides answer for is why the post-communist corrupt nomenclatures could still live and stay in power for 20 years after the regime change.
Because the majority of people were dependent on the state and were motivated by envy and frustration. That’s why there is/was inherent hostility towards those who are more successful and those who emerge as a result of their own hard work.
It is the ‘left’-‘lib’ companions that feed on malignancy and grudge.

Guest

Gyor Calling!

Where? Not from your shackled press, because the journalists ‘self censor’ for being fideszniks or fear losing their jobs.

A free press is a fundamental element of democracy – one of, if not the most important elements.

But hey, how would you know? You’re a product of unthinking, unquestioning propaganda communists.

Regards comrade,

Charlie

tappanch
Guest

Tarlos: Margit island will be closed to the public for another two weeks [as I predicted].

Even after the reopening, “certain” parts remain closed.

His pretext is the 8 (!) trees that were felled by the flooding.

http://www.hirado.hu/Hirek/2013/06/14/14/Ket_het_mulva_nyitjak_meg_a_Margitsziget_egyes.aspx

Member

Joe Simon :
Some 1. I live in Hungary. Where do you people get all this?

bahaha Are you living in a cave in Hungary?
I know you will not get this info from the government portals or from MTI, and that also proves ho w the Fidesz PR and misinformation machine works. You know more about the doings of the USA, than of the doings of your own government!

Enter in your search engine vonalkod, kerdoiv, adatbiztos, and you will get hundreds of results about how the Hungarian Privacy Commissioner’s ( http://www.naih.hu) found that the Orban government illegally used barcodes on its questioners and other documents to id to those who returned (on did not return) the questionnaire. It is also a known fact the Fidesz lied by saying that they consulted the Privacy Commissioners before using the barcodes. http://nol.hu/belfold/20110609-cafoljak_egymast

About my other points, just do your own diligence about the special “forces”, as we discussed this on this very blog, so you do not have to go to far. Top right “Search this blog”

Bowen
Guest

tappanch :
Tarlos: Margit island will be closed to the public for another two weeks [as I predicted].
Even after the reopening, “certain” parts remain closed.
His pretext is the 8 (!) trees that were felled by the flooding.
http://www.hirado.hu/Hirek/2013/06/14/14/Ket_het_mulva_nyitjak_meg_a_Margitsziget_egyes.aspx

Margit Sziget is one of my favourite places here. I go running a few times a week, and it’s really nice to be among hundreds of other runners, and see relatively ‘normal’ faces there. I’m aware that most Hungarians couldn’t care less if the stupid runners lose their place, and Margit Sziget becomes a giant Simicska-owned casino, or gets sold to ‘Chinese investors’ or whatever. But really, this might be the very last straw for me.

Member

Johnny Boy :
What the survey claims is probably real.
What is not real is the conclusions you derive.
Orbán is not successful because of what the survey says but in spite of it. Because things are changing in Hungary, for the better.

The mighty Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Superman, the hero of the levees, relentlessly fighting the apathy of his countrymen and in spite of their negativity he still wins the fight against poverty and corruption … OMG. Where is the bucket …

Johnny, you are right in saying that pretty much all the post-communist governments were inept and corrupt and the reason that they had no opposition is exactly what survey says.

But Orban’s bunch is the worst of all these governments. There are no results. The country is spinning in the toilet bowl like a piece of turd after flushing. They are the one who realized the real potential of the Hungarian spite, laziness and stupidity and they are really pushing the envelope. They practically built their empire on this phenomenon.

Bowen
Guest

Oh, and related to the above … Hasn’t Tarlos on several occasions tried to put a spanner in the works of the Budapest marathon? Or to tax it unnecessarily?

karmester
Guest
An wrote “ An : On another note, maybe this big exodus of young people will bring some change in attitudes. I don’t think that ALL of them are going to stay abroad, some are going to return (especially if Orban disappears by some miracle), and many are going to visit often and keep in touch with their family. I am sure these people will be affected by what they see in western Europe and in return, will affect some of the attitudes at home… Maybe not much, but some. Maybe this “closed” nature of Hungary has something to do with the very low migration that was characteristics of Hungarians until recently (well, other than in the 40s and after 56… which was awhile ago). One risk, as I see it, is that when all these enlightened young people do return, then there will be friction between them and all the democrats who stuck it out in Hungary while Orban was reigning – this sort of thing, I think, has happened before – the ones who stayed and tried to keep some flame of democracy and sanity alive during the dark times will resent the returnees and not see them… Read more »
Member

Joe Simon :
Just a friendly warning! All these writings by HS and your comments are stored by the NSA. Probable category: views and comments from the extreme left, the Jobbik in reverse. Remember, inciting rebellion against an EU country may not sit well with the NSA.

The NSA has only one file. Some guy named Simon keeps making anti American comments on the blog.

Let me remind their computers about you: Allahu Akbar (NSA? Are you listening?)

Guest

Mutt! Hilarious!

Let him run down America – they are used to it.

It probably makes Simple Simon feel better – and it’s a free democracy after all.

Regards

Charlie

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