Sunday shopping? The Christian Democrats against the multinational chains

It was only yesterday that Viktor Orbán had to retreat, even if only temporarily, on the issue of taxing internet usage. A hundred thousand people were out on the streets of Budapest and elsewhere in the country. Now the government may be preparing the way for a new debacle, although I personally can’t believe they will be so dim-witted.

The Orbán government on paper is a coalition government. Fidesz’s partner is the Christian Democratic People’s Party or KDNP whose chairman, Zsolt Semjén, is Viktor Orbán’s deputy. The funny thing about KDNP is that it is a non-party. It’s like a private club where the party leaders get together now and again, but for over a decade the party has been absent as a separate entity at national elections.

The Christian Democrats don’t disturb much water. Their parliamentary members dutifully vote alongside the Fidesz PMs. In fact, it seems almost random who sits with the KDNP caucus and who with Fidesz. The important thing is that KDNP’s caucus should be bigger than that of MSZP, Jobbik, or LMP. The Christian Democrats don’t contribute much to Fidesz and Orbán’s government. Their main purpose is to provide Christian trimmings to a Christian-national regime. Occasionally, thankfully only very rarely, they come out with ideas of their own. Three years ago they proposed that stores should be closed on Sundays. Good Christian families should attend church instead of shopping in department stores and malls. And the poor workers who are forced to work on Sundays must be protected from those awful foreign capitalists. At that time, the government–where of course the last word is that of Fidesz–refused to introduce the measure, which would have had disastrous consequences for the economy.

Source: Europress / AFP

Source: Europress / AFP

But these Christian Democrats are tenacious; they don’t give up easily. They came out with a new version of a bill which was leaked to Magyar NemzetThe proposed bill is an attack on supermarket chains and discount stores owned by international companies because the bill’s provisions would affect only shopping centers and stores larger than 400m². Tobacconists, pharmacies, gas stations, flower shops, newspaper stands, and bakeries would be able to remain open with some restrictions. For example, they could sell their wares only until noon. Restaurants, stores in airports and railway stations, and open-air markets could continue doing business as usual.

But restricting Sunday shopping is not enough for our Christian Democrats. They are upset over those foxy owners of chains who try to sidestep the controversial “plaza stop” law by establishing smaller stores and thus competing with those mom and pop stores the “plaza stop” legislation is designed to protect. They opened stores in buildings that are now deemed to be of historic significance or in world heritage sites. If the proposal is adopted, these intruders would have to vacate their current premises by January 2016.

If the KDNP’s bill on Sunday closings was a bad idea three years, it is doubly so today. The government has enough on its plate: corruption cases, strained relations with the United States, the internet tax, and the growing displeasure of Brussels over the Hungarian government’s flaunting of every rule in the book. This move is blatantly discriminatory against foreign companies.

A blogger who happens to be familiar with the retail trade brought up multiple arguments against the proposal. It is injurious not only to the financial well-being of the stores but also to the employees who receive a higher salary (+50%) for working on Sundays. Stores also often hire outsiders for the weekends. These people are happy to supplement their meager salaries with some extra work. In these chains Sunday is the third busiest day of the week, after Saturday and Friday.

How would people feel about this restriction? The Christian Democrats claim that they discussed the matter with employees and with families who have many children and that they were most enthusiastic about the plan. I doubt that the party is basing its estimates on scientifically conducted polls because I’m almost certain that the great majority of the population would be outraged at the very idea. I talked to people who went through the times during the Kádár regime when everything closed at 5 p.m. and who said how happy people were when stores were open on Thursday nights. Apparently everybody felt liberated when, after the change of regime, stores were open all day long, including Sundays. The Christian Democrats bring up the examples of Austria and Germany where stores are closed on Sundays. But it is one thing to have a long tradition of Sunday closings, to which people are accustomed, and another thing entirely when people who are used to stores being open seven days a week for  the last twenty-five years are now being told that, sorry Charlie, no more family shopping on Sundays.

A couple of online sites offer their readers the possibility to vote on the matter. I checked out both, and a sizable (although again unscientific) majority opposes the measure. On one site: 69%. Another blogger makes fun of the Christian Democrats, saying “nonexistence must be hard for a party.” They feel that they have to come up with something now and again, but they surely picked a very bad time to introduce this bill. I must agree with him. I can already see another 100,000 demonstrators on the streets all over the country if the government makes Sunday shopping impossible.

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I was banned yesterday from Dr Laszlo Surjan’s Facebook page for commenting on his propaganda post on the same subject. I told him they better not take away that little money these Sunday workers scrape together for their families. One cannot make ends meet from 47k HUF, you know. These people are not happy to work on Sunday, but they need to.

I didn’t even say that, that is because your beautiful Christian government screwed the poor big time, since they came into power.

This guy is such a tool … he was/is a KDNP chief muckety muck, even “Minister of Welfare” during the Antal government, from 1990. Welfare my ass … He is neither Christian or Democrat in my book.


Mutt, I guess there is a lack of comprehension going on big time!
They seem to have problem already with the definition of democracy, let alone more exotic words like liberalism or understanding, so, what one can expect when it comes to so complicated expressions like christianity..?
Come on, we are talking about Hungarian politicians, what did you expect?
But really?


” I can already see another 100,000 demonstrators on the streets all over the country if the government makes Sunday shopping impossible.”

This really underlines the difference between 2014 and 2006.

In 2006 demonstrators were attacked in the streets and beaten, tear gassed and shot at. Later captured demonstrators were practically tortured, had bones broken in custody by the dozens. Thus in 2006 the average people never dared to go on the streets, many people were blinded others harassed and intimidated just for walking home from a pub at the wrong time.

Nowdays nobody is afraid, everyone knows that the streets are safe to demonstrate. There were no rubber bullets, no tear gas in years. All these things combined mean that even a small issue like Sunday shopping may be able to draw a large crowd.

Even though to be honest Sunday shopping is banned in Germany and we don’t see one million people demonstrating so they can shop on Sundays as well.

They just shop more on the other days like Saturday. Pretty easy solution ain’t it?


The Christian Democratic People’s Party is really behind the times, they need to embrace capitalism and especially the largest retail firms like Walmart who can be just great allies of Christian fundamentalism. In a modern capitalist nation like the USA conservative companies are looked on very positively by the churches, in fact it would be considered down right unchristian not to stop at Walmart for sweets and coffee before church in some towns in America’s Bible Belt. See the Book Review of “To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise” by Bethany Moreton.

This was meant as szatíra, I am not really advocating Hungarian churches follow I the footpath of American Evangelicals.


Turkey’s government shows the way how to wage internet wars:

they employ & deploy thousands of “social media experts” and “twitter bots”.

I hope that our Fidesz bots get more than the “fostered worker” wage…


Hoxton, although Sunday shopping is indeed not allowed widely in Germany, there are pressures towards liberalisation. For instance, in Berlin Sunday shopping is allowed on some weekends, as it was found out that people like shopping on Sunday and because weekend tourists bring extra income to the city. And also, certainly shops in Hungary are not forced to open on Sundays. You can keep your shop closed if you prefer your Sunday to be a day off. Also in other countries where Sunday shopping is allowed not all shops decide to open. Most often it is the shops in the city centres or large shopping malls that find Sunday shopping profitable. So it is just another measure designed only to concentrate economic power in the circle of Orban. It is him who decides about what you are allowed to do or not. But in one thing I agree, people use their opportunity to protest against this government too little.


Erdogan’s move to his new palace:

price: $350 million

“The White House would be a tiny wing of Turkey’s new presidential palace”

Orban’s move to the Royal Castle of Buda

price: $1,600 million [this is just for remaking the castle, add the cost of building the new library and museums in the Liget]


“Esztergom-style scandal on the first meeting of the 15th district assembly”


I can only hope that the Christina Democrats will start to copy something else from Austria and Germany first. Why is it that every single time Orban’s friends cough up something ridiculous, a whole bunch of not so smart other friends start to pull out examples from other countries, but not once the best examples. Why don’t they try to copy the wages to the Austrian and German workers first? How about copying the buying power as to the Austrians and Germans? Hospital food. Why don’t we copy the hospital foods first, and in general the healthcare. When Fidesz finished all the copying with Austria and Germany, then they can start to copy the Sunday closings. Fair game.


Some1: “Why don’t they try to copy the wages to the Austrian and German workers first?”

How about allowing them to get to know the capitalist system first. They will get there soon, give it some time.
Re: demonstrations against internet tax.
I happened to be in Hungary (around Karoly korut) at the time. It was good to see democracy at work. People were against it, the PM listened. (I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not to tax internet providers. They can hold the gun at our heads, same as power companies etc. etc.).


It’s really very simple:

Since so many Hungarians have a second or even third job it’s not a pleasure for them to do their shopping on Sunday – but a necessity, they just don’t have time on weekdays!

I just have to watch my neighbours to realise that …

And btw Britain has had Sunday shopping for umpteen years – even in those times when they still had those ridiculous laws forbidding the opening of pubs in the morning or afternoon …


Latest news – not too much OT:

Mrs Merkel will not tolerate Cameron’s ideas of special treatment for the Brits any longer – she now thinks there’s a real possibility of Britain leaving the EU …

Maybe Orbán could/should follow Cameron!

dorogi Kalmanffy
This is a political masterstroke. Let’s interpret this. KDNP submits the bill so that Fidesz’ brand is not damaged because fideszniks know this could be controversial among the general population (I also want to be able to purchase on Sundays). The little shopowners, small entrepreneurs (the petit bourgeoisie from history books) are all, fidesz and increasingly jobbik voters. No exception. It was the same in 1935 (then with national socialist parties) and it is the same now. These voters hate competition and are deeply conservative. Will they want to vote Left? As a result Fidesz wants to score points with them, but because of damage control it wants to submit the bill under a different brand. KDNP is just another brand for Fidesz which can come in handy. MSZP or DK each has only one brand which limits their ability to come up with risky propositions (Együtt is the other end, with some many side bnands Milla, PM whatever that nobody’s able to follow them, anyway it’s a nonexistent party too). Now let’s see what happens. The core voter base is happy, the government shows it cares about Hungarian enterpreneurs and tries to inflict damage on the dreaded “multies”. Both… Read more »
Otto 1982

I always had the impression, but I haven’t checked numerically that KDNP actually contained more people from Budapest, and Fidesz more from the provinces (adjusting for the population differences).

It’s a bit like Orban doesn’t trust Budapest-based fideszniks (they could be too liberal) and wants the more hardliner KDNP bunch from Budapest.

While I agree that KDNP politically is a non-party, its wholly a branding, marketing segmentation vehicle, its Budapest organization is the only relevant organizational unit and it did attract Buda-dwelling Christian hardliners. So in a way its also a recruitment basis for Budapest-based politicians as well. Just a thought.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
It is true that in Hungary hyper- & super- markets / big box stores are foreign-owned, which in the current chauvinistic context makes them a target of choice for the gov’t. However, regarding restrictions on Sunday shopping, I’ve been hearing the same arguments in France for decades (and the sector is almost 100% French-owned). I don’t see why the Hungarian lawmakers should not debate the topic, regardless of the nationality of the owners. Naturally, when it comes to the current Parliament, ‘debate’ may be seriously overstating it – that’s the supermajority malediction. Now, I understand that in the last 25 years many former soviet-bloc citizens have associated a relatively unrestricted freedom of commerce with the end of the communist-era organization of rarity. It should obviously be taken into account. However I don’t believe there’s an easy way to ponder between the needs of consumers, freedom of commerce and the principle of a rest day common to most people (the latter is not only about going to Church, far from it: a whole range of collective practices depend on it, from amateur sports to museum-going, and of course family and friends reunions). PS: the picture is from a Russian supermarket in… Read more »
The problem with retail trade is that 25 years after the fall of commmunism, there’s still zero Hungarian know-how in retail. In household chemicals there’s DM, Rossmann and Müller, Azur the Hungarian chain closed at least a decade ago. How complicated could this trading of the very same 1,000 items could be? Apparently very. But look at the shops which were owned by Match (owned by a struggling Belgian chain) before and now the bigger ones are operated by Spar and the smaller ones by CBA. CBA is essentially a franchise system with various operators of a handful of shops each lacking professional background (no market analysis, no merchandizing know-how, design know-how etc.) and capital. CBA (at least some of its franchisees) is also involved in various shenanigans (forging sell by dates and the like), besides the VAT tax fraud which is rampant. As a result the formerly Match stores which CBA took over are still the same disgusting shabby rooms, while Spar’s units have been all renovated, with unified look, all looking professional, tidy, well-lit, employees are polite and friendly. The problem is that this cannot be solved by laws designed to make life more difficult for the big… Read more »

PUG described the problem very nicely!

When we go to Interspar or Tesco nowadays we not only pay at least 20% less than at CBA – often we get coupons for another 10% (or a fixed sum of 500/1000 HUF) but of course you have to spend then at least 10 000HUF …

Which Hungarian pensioner can afford to do this?


Why do we spend so much? Well, we shop not only for us but for the young ones and a friend – and we bring a lot of Hungarian specialties to our friends and family in Germany …


Undersecretary Rétvári [non-Christian non-Democratic non-Party]
about closing the big stores on Sunday, internet tax and others:

Tündér Lala

re district XV of Budapest

Fidesz was reelected in Esztergom, which was anyway always a right-leaning place. Fidesz “persuaded” the voters, that it was in the voters’ “interest” to elect a fidesznik instead of an independent.

The tactics of scorched earth and no compromise (even if that means inflicting damage on the very municipality these fidesz/jobbiknik local councilmen are supposed to represent) worked splendidly.

It almost always works for Fidesz. (It also works for the Republicans).

Thus the conclusion is simple: more of the same will work in district XV too.


15th district video:



Is Adrienn Szaniszló the daughter of Ferenc Szaniszló, the crazy and crazily pro-Russia IMO-graduate TV presenter on EchoTV?

Adrienn who “is sometimes presented as Jobbik’s Secretary of Russian-Hungarian Relations” was in Donyeck with Marton Gyönygyösi this weekend to “monitor” the regional “elections” of Novorossya.

Look at this pic:


She likes only 2 television shows:

“You rang M’Lord” and Ferenc Szaniszlo’s.

Ferenc must be her dad, and Vladimir her love.


Nem lep meg a XV-ik kerületi botrány. Ezen a linken további esetek vannak, arról, hogy hogyan áll a Fidesz bosszút azokon a településeken ahol a baloldal vagy függetlenek nyertek a Fidesszel szemben.


Apologies, I forgot myself and had written in Hungarian in my prvious comment. The link is to an artcile in Hungarian about the revenge Fidesz is carrying out against all those town and villages where the left and independents have beaten Fidesz in the recent council elections.