Potpourri: shifting public mood, protest vote, continued attack on the U.S.

Well, in the two days I spent in Switzerland (alas, virtually), a lot of things happened in Hungary. Since I found it difficult to choose a single topic, today’s post will be somewhat scattershot.

Yesterday we got the first public opinion poll since the unrest caused initially by the planned introduction of an internet tax and later by the corruption cases that surfaced at NAV. The frustration vented at the three large demonstrations that took place over the past two weeks went far beyond these issues, however. The participants seemed to have had enough of the whole political system that Viktor Orbán has been systematically building since 2010.

Of course, we will have to wait for a few more polling results to know whether Nézőpont Intézet, a pro-Fidesz company, is correct in its assessment. A few years ago they were utterly unreliable, but recently their results have been quite accurate. So, what’s the word? It looks as if Fidesz has lost some of its supporters. As Gábor Török, a political scientist who is famous for being noncommittal, noted on his Facebook page, this is the first time since June 2012 that Fidesz’s support in the adult population dropped below 30%. Just between October 14-17 and November 3-7 Fidesz lost 3%, about a tenth of its supporters. Most opposition parties had gains, including Jobbik and DK. MSZP by contrast seems to be in worse shape than before. Among eligible voters the socialists are at 7% while their arch rival, the Demokratikus Koalíció, is at 6%. MSZP’s situation is even worse when it comes to “potential voters,” i.e. people who indicate that they would go and vote if elections were held next Sunday. Here DK would garner 11% of the votes while MSZP would get only 9%. DK doubled its support in the last few months while the socialists are working hard at obliterating themselves. The graph below clearly shows clearly the trends in the last four and a half years.

Source Origo / Nézőpont Intézet

Source Origo / Nézőpont Intézet

Talking about parties, Jobbik had a huge success in Ózd, a kind of Hungarian Detroit, except that Ózd in the socialist period became a center of iron smelting. After the change of regime the coke works became less profitable and many folks lost their jobs. The people of Ózd were victims of the Kádár regime’s forced industrialization that in the new competitive environment was bound to fail.

Ózd was a solidly socialist city until 2010, when Pál Fürjes (Fidesz-KDNP) was elected mayor and the city council had 9 Fidesz members out of 14. MSZP had to be satisfied with one lone seat. The desperate inhabitants of the town undoubtedly hoped that a Fidesz administration would be able the reverse the city’s downward spiral. They were disappointed. Nothing changed. In addition, people noticed with dismay that the new Fidesz administration was “arrogant, condescending and corrupt.” The locals could hardly wait to get rid of Fürjes and his friends. The DK-MSZP candidate was new with little political experience and since Jobbik was strong in town, even the DK-MSZP supporters saw little chance of winning against Fürjes. And indeed, a 27-year-old Jobbik candidate of Polish origin, Dávid Janiczak, won with a margin of 66 votes.

But no Fidesz candidate can stomach defeat after having been in office for a while. In several places losers insisted on annulling the results. In two Budapest districts their efforts failed, but in the case of Ózd, where the case went all the way to the Debrecen Appellate Court, a new election had to be held. As you will see from the results, the people of Ózd revolted. One woman told Népszabadság that in October she did not bother to vote because her feet hurt but this time she would have crawled on all fours to vote for Fürjes’s opponent. The inhabitants found Fürjes’s behavior unacceptable and wanted to “punish him.” Well, they did. First of all, they went out to vote in record numbers. While in October only 10,927 people voted, in November the number was 15,982. While in October Janiczak received 4,214 votes, in November he more than doubled that result, with 10,299 votes. Fürjes got only a few dozen extra votes. The most remarkable aspect of the Ózd situation is that while the DK-MSZP candidate in October received 2,238 votes, in November he got only 520. Even people on the left were so determined that the Fidesz mayor not be reelected that they voted for the Jobbik candidate who had a real chance. In brief, it was a protest vote.

Anyone who would like portray the Ózd results as the beginning of an era of Jobbik dominance in Hungarian politics is wrong. This was a unique situation that was created by the usual Fidesz insatiability. Fidesz politicians cannot bear losing. Moreover, they have the feeling that the whole country should be theirs. They are not satisfied until every hamlet, every position everywhere is in their hands.

Fidesz likes to frighten the West with the specter of Jobbik. The usual mantra is: “Don’t criticize the present government and Fidesz because we are the guarantee that the far-right Jobbik will not swallow up the whole country.” This time too a so-called political scientist of the by now notorious Századvég foundation wrote in his blog: “Telegram to America: Ózd.” In plain English, “Goodfriend et al., get off your high horses. You bother about such trifling matters as corruption at the tax authority when we are the bulwark that holds back the far right. You see what you did? The Jobbik revolt in Ózd resulted from your high-handed behavior.” Of course, this is all nonsense. The people of Ózd said that they had had enough of  both MSZP and Fidesz. Let’s see what Jobbik can do. Not all these voters hold  far-right views and not all are racists. They are just fed up. As for how much the Jobbik mayor will be able to achieve, I fear not much even if he is a talented politician with full of good intentions. In the council there is still a solid Fidesz majority, and we know what Fidesz politicians do in such cases. We saw four years of struggle in Esztergom between a Fidesz-majority council and an independent mayor who defeated the Fidesz candidate in 2006. In District XV, where a DK man won this year, the Fidesz majority has already boycotted council meetings, preventing the election of deputy mayors. They will try their best to prevent the DK mayor from actually running the district. Most likely something like that will also happen in Ózd. The last thing that poor city needs.

Finally, the Orbán government’s attacks on the United States continue. In fact, the volume has been turned up somewhat. According to Antal Rogán, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, M. André Goodfriend, U.S. chargé d’affaires in Budapest, is “not a truthful man” (nem szavahihető). Even the honey-tongued Zoltán Kovács, one of the many government spokesmen, couldn’t quite manage to explain today that “not truthful” means anything other than “not truthful.”

Then there is the parliamentary committee on national security whose Fidesz majority decided last week to ask André Goodfriend to appear before them. The MSZP chairman had such serious doubts about the advisability of such a move that he refused to extend the “invitation.” Well, the deputy chair, Szilárd Németh, the one I described as a perfect candidate for a bouncer in a shady part of town, decided to go ahead anyway.

But the funniest part of the American-Hungarian tug-of-war was Ildikó Vida’s visit to the U.S. Embassy yesterday. Vida, head of the Hungarian tax authority, is one of the six Hungarians who cannot enter the United States because of their possible involvement in corrupt practices in connection with American firms doing business in Hungary. Vida, accompanied by her lawyer and a reporter and cameraman from HírTV, showed up at the U.S. Embassy unannounced and uninvited. It just happened that Goodfriend was going out for a walk when he was accosted by Vida and her lawyer. The encounter is the object of great hilarity on the internet, especially since Hungarians learned that the almighty head of the tax authority does not know a word of English.

I'm saying it slowly so even Ildikó Vida would understand it: cheers

I’m saying it slowly so even Ildikó Vida would understand it: cheers

In any case, eventually Vida and her lawyer had a fairly lengthy discussion with Goodfriend, during which Vida failed to learn anything new. Afterwards, she said that she considers the chargé totally ignorant of the details of her arduous work uncovering tax corruption. She also announced that she will force the issue by applying for a visa to the United States. Today Vida’s lawyer, Barnabás Futó, who is described as “the Fidesz-mafia’s well-known lawyer,” claimed on Olga Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd (ATV) that “the American chargé informed him that he had received documents from András Horváth,” the whistleblower who first called attention to the highly irregular practices at NAV. Horváth, who was watching the program, immediately phoned in and announced that he had never met André Goodfriend. After this, however, he said he will have to meet the American diplomat in person to find out what transpired in his meeting with Vida and her lawyer. Perhaps the reason for the misunderstanding was Vida’s and Futó’s lack of language skills.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest

I read with incredulity the incident where Vida and her lawyer turned up uninvited at the American Embassy, puppet TV crew in tow. In what civilized country would a senior public servant ever do such a thing or even think it was an acceptable way to engage in discussions of a serious nature? It is nothing if not amazingly rude to turn up unannounced and expect to be seen. That Goodfriend spoke with her at all is full credit to him. I can see kinda see the humorous side of this, but really, it shows the arrogance and incompetence of a corrupt government.

LwiiH
Guest

It’s kind of funny that Vida is trying to take advantage of people’s ignorance of the US visa process. First, the US can deny entry to *anyone* at any time and is not required to provide a reason for doing so. Second, if she wants to test the visa system all she needs to do is get on a plane to the US.. no she, and Fidesz would rather just play on people’s ignorance. Again, that the opposition can’t seem to make much hay from this golden opportunity is a shame….

nimh2
Guest

Hm, I hate that Origo/Nézőpont chart. They picked one data point from each year between 2010 and 2013, and then four from 2014 — but each interval still gets the same width on x-axis. The result is that the 3-month intervals in 2014 look just as long as the whole-year intervals before.

Also, there’s no line included for the share of people answering they had no preference, which in Hungary tends to be especially high and fluctuates sharply.

What about this alternative chart? For clarity’s sake, though, I grouped all center-left opposition parties (MSzP, DK, Egyutt-PM but also the LMP) together, which is admittedly a controversial shortcut and removes a lot of info; but I thought it would make the overall balance between the main camps more clear:

comment image

define
Guest
@nimh “What about this alternative chart? For clarity’s sake, though, I grouped all center-left opposition parties (MSzP, DK, Egyutt-PM but also the LMP) together, which is admittedly a controversial shortcut and removes a lot of info;” It is not a “controversial shortcut” it is simply a falsification of the chart. LMP wants nothing to do with the “corrupt politicians of the last 8 years” as they call them. And the feelings are mutual. Gyurcsanyists often speak about LMP with venom in their voice and hatred in their hearts. But just an average centre-left voter is not too fond of LMP either. They constantly speak of LMP’s support of Fidesz and LMP’s “secret alliance” with Fidesz. And I distinctly remember some LMP politician calling Gyurcsany a “retarded Bolshevik billionare, with whom it is impossible to build a normal future”. LMP’s position may change in the future but when viewing past data it is impossible to mish-mash them together with the others. ” “the American chargé informed him that he had received documents from András Horváth,” … who was watching the program, immediately phoned in and announced that he had never met André Goodfriend. From these sentences it appears that Andre Goodfriend… Read more »
nimh2
Guest
Oh, of course, I’m well aware of the mutual hostility between the LMP and, for example, Gyurcsany’s DK. But then, as you say, “The left is fragmented into about 5 different little political groups” which “could never agree among themselves in even simple questions”. Relations between the PM and DK aren’t exactly warm either, or between Egyutt and the MSzP, et cetera. That all says a lot about the petty infighting and dilettantism of the various center-left politicians, but it doesn’t necessarily say much of anything else. It doesn’t change the fact that all of these parties are located somewhere on the center-left of the political spectrum, and, as such, form a counterpart to Jobbik on the one hand and Fidesz on the other. And those are roughly the three camps that have marked the political landscape these last seven years or so. Even Bokros, who sat with the Tories in the European Parliament, ended up categorized as “baloldali” in this logic. When purely looking at who will work with whom, obviously it doesn’t make sense to group the LMP and DK together in one category. (But then, by that logic, you couldn’t even group two Trotskyite groups together, because… Read more »
Member

TILL THE TIME COMES, ADJECTIVES WILL HAVE TO DO…

It’s obvious that Mr. Goodfriend said he “knew of the information of Mr. Horvath” not that he “knew of the information from Mr Horvath” (but the Fidesz spin machine is milking the ambiguity for all it’s worth — while it lasts). (These two senses of the genitive are lost on magyar monoglots.)

And yes, although it’s unfair, short-sighted and misleading to blame the left’s ineffectuality on its failure to provide a viable alternative to Fidik — democracy is definitely an alternative, but Fidesz’s foul play, media stranglehold, law-making/breaking powers and the colossal scale of its crony pay-offs, corruption and utter lack of scruples or principles overwhelm any fair means of lodging them so far — nevertheless the left’s petty, parochial fatuous, short-sighted divisiveness is unforgivable, even disgusting, and will certainly prove historically shameful. (And although the left’s corruption isn’t even faintly as flagrant as Fidesz’s, it certainly does not help their cause either). And let’s not forget the credulousness, pettiness and apathy of enough of the Hungarian populace to keep Fidik in business for a bit longer yet…

Member

The best “La Vida Loca” joke:

http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-sajnos-nem-%C3%A9rtem-1

(Keep calm and sorry I don’t understand)

andysomos
Guest

I was delighted to see the recent video-interview with Eva Balogh on the Budapest Beacon site. I now have a clearer idea of who is writing the Hungarian Spectrum blog. Such access to full information is a great element of the age of the internet and the fuller communication it enables us to have.

I would have a request for Éva: I would like to see a much needed effort to cover the human aspects of the Orban regime, and in particular the very troublesome death on the night preceding the recent mayoral elections, namely of András Váradi, the candidate for Mayor of Alcsút (village next to Viktor Orban’s Felcsut.

The police seem not to be making the slightest effort to provide information as to the minimal facts necessary for such an inuiry!!! The Hungarian Media is also taking surprisingly little interest relative to the absolute seriousness of the issue. If this issue is not dealt with correctly the cancer will spread very quicly with the most dire consequences.

I refer the reader to a rare article on this topic:
http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1037821-ki-okozta-varadi-andras-halalat

nimh2
Guest

@define OK, so here’s what a reworked chart looks like which avoids the Origo/Nezopont chart’s mistakes but does show all the parties separately:

comment image

Can’t say it gives a clear picture of the overall balance of political currents in Hungary, but at least it provides a vivid illustration of the center-left’s divisions.

Btw, I can’t agree that “an average centre-left voter” will “constantly speak of LMP’s support of Fidesz and LMP’s “secret alliance” with Fidesz” and such. The only people I’ve heard or seen talk about the LMP like that were pretty much hardened partisans of the MSzP or DK.

My impression is that the broader mass of center-left floating voters doesn’t buy into “secret alliance” conspiracy theories and such, and in general doesn’t care for (or about) all of the recriminations the opposition parties aim at each other. They’re just annoyed about them and wish these parties would get their act together.

petofi
Guest

@define

Here’s a couple of clues to spotting a Troll:

a) Simply, their comment is longer than the norm;

b) A comment will generally taint all opposition members in one way or another;

c) The comment will generate the notion, and elicit fears, that any defeat of Fidesz will result
in a government of Jobbik.

(Are you in for a bonus, Mr. d?)

Now to the argument about the significance of Ozd: Have people not yet realized that Orban
is capable of creating this scenario where Jobbik wins? Note that the inferiority and haplessness of the Left is accentuated. Also, the ‘cautionary message’ has been delivered to one and all: beat Fidesz and prepare for a Jobbik government.

Of course, let us remember that voting is not monitored and results can be manufactured.

Also, in the real world, as both Fidesz and Jobbik are the puppets of Putin, there’s no question
that an Orban would be replaced by a Voda.

No, folks, it’s all smoke and mirrors–anything to confuse and muddy the situation.

D7 Democrat
Guest

“The encounter is the object of great hilarity on the internet, especially since Hungarians learned that the almighty head of the tax authority does not know a word of English.”

That fact is less important than the reality that she nor the moronic bootlickers from Hir TV didn’t think beforehand that a translator may just be required if she couldn’t speak English?

Regarding the “The Jobbik revolt in Ózd resulted from your high-handed behavior.” fallacy-

The US and indeed any intelligent observer of Hungarian politics knows that “on the ground” there is next to no difference between the two far-right parties. Fidesz politicians have better suits, Jobbik is less corrupt (they haven’t had the chance yet) but both capitalize on the racism, anti-semitism homophobia and let’s be brutally honest, the general stupidity of much of the Hungarian electorate.

Member

Eva – I’m not sure the time is ripe to declare a “shifting public mood.” Hungarian political analysts – e.g. Gabor Torok and Political Capital – are entirely unfamiliar with the concept of “margin of error.” Most Hungarian pollsters do not even provide one.

When there is a shift of 3% in one direction or another, people act as if the earth has moved. It hasn’t. Nezopont’s margin of error was 3.2%.

Moreover, Hungarians are likely to forget about any ill-will toward Fidesz following the next round of rezsicsokkentes or some such. Take Orban’s “illiberal state” debacle for example: After Orban delivered his Tusnadfurdo speech in July, Fidesz experienced a month-on-month decline of around 7% in Ipsos’s “decided voter” poll for August, dropping to 49%. By September, Fidesz had regained all the ground it had lost. Among the entire sample, Fidesz’s support actually increased two points to 35% from July to September, according to Ipsos.

In other words, the Nezpont poll can’t provide any evidence of a shift, even if other pollsters reflect similar numbers in the short term. And given the experience of the past four years, I cannot be optimistic that things will change in the mid- to long-term.

tappanch
Guest

November 12.
The “conditions” are not yet right to resume the gas deliveries from Hungary to the Ukraine, announced the company FGSz.

The gas storage facilities in Hungary are filled to 70.8% capacity.

http://napigazdasag.hu/cikk/28061/

(this portal is close to Fidesz)

tappanch
Guest

From the reality show “1984+30”:

Episode 331: “Let us erase history”

Fidesz’s HirTV had their own goal (Vida’s attack on Goodfriend) removed from youtube.

Did anyone download the clip?

http://444.hu/2014/11/12/eltunt-a-youtube-rol-vida-ildiko-es-andre-goodfriend-kamarakomediaja/

Guest

D7 Democrat: “That fact is less important than the reality that she nor the moronic bootlickers from Hir TV didn’t think beforehand that a translator may just be required if she couldn’t speak English?”

She does not trust the discretion of a translator provided by the Fidesz family.

whoever
Guest

Eva, I’m afraid you’re totally wrong about Jobbik in the areas outside Budapest. It would be very easy to tip the almost entirely opportunistic Fidesz activists and their browbeaten voters into the Jobbik camp, were Orban’s house of cards to collapse. The dynamic is in place. You are certainly right to think that Fidesz exploit this situation, yet there is no guarantee that they themselves will not also be losers of this, in much the same way the von Papen was unable to tame another tiger back in the early 1930s.

Guest

I won’t comment on “define” because I also have the suspicion of a new troll – maybe not as obvious as the others …

A clarification re US-VISA:

Hungarian citizens just like most other EU citizens don’t need a Visa to visit the USA if they want to go on holiday or a short business trip (max 90 days)!

There is the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) where you fill out an ESTA form (online!) and pay 14$ for the privilege to enter the USA – valid for two years. Because Hungary became a member of this on Nov 18 in 2008 (and my wife and I flew to Miami on Nov 19 …) I know about this from personal experience.

To qualify you have to give the right answers to some questions like “have you ever been sentenced to jail” etc …
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

googly
Guest

Jean P,

Normally I admire your comments, and this latest one may be true, but you might not realize that it’s not at all difficult to find an English-language interpreter in Budapest who is not tainted by association with Fidesz. I’m sure Vida has plenty of money (even if she’s not corrupt, she has a very well-paid job), so she could easily have afforded an independent interpreter on short notice. The reality is that she’s obviously not very intelligent, or at least was not thinking straight when she decided to take the time to obtain a “news” crew for a trip to the US Embassy. I imagine that the embassy doesn’t take visitors without appointments, which she also did not think to obtain.

How is it possible that someone could be this lacking in intelligence, yet hold a law degree? Well, when Vida applied for law school, intelligence was not as important as connections or money, and I have met many law-degree holders who are either astonishingly lacking in smarts or cripplingly lazy. I don’t know if law-degree holders from the past 20 years or so are any higher quality, but I’m sure someone on this website could enlighten us.

Kaffer
Guest
The Vida/Futó antics were like a scene from an absurdist/Dadaist comedy. Kind of similar scene to the bucket challenge video about that poor leftist mayoral candidate. I mean who would think in their right minds to visit a foreign embassy if they don’t speak a word in the relevant language. And why involve a lawyer when one has no legal case? Futó’s probably well liked within the Fidesz universe because he doesn’t tell uncomfortable facts to his clients like that one usually cannot sue a foreign embassy and its diplomats. I think Orban, instead of trying to weaken Jobbik will do everything he can to strengthen it, because that’s his very last argument against the West: “Fidesz with all its insanity and corruption is still better than Jobbik which is directly managed from Moscow.” I’m sure this can be sold to many foreigners, including Republicans (never mind that Orban is in bed with Putin). Since Fidesz owns the legal infrastructure if push comes to shove Orban thinks he can still ban Jobbik and prevent it from getting elected, so he’s not worried about Jobbik too much (of course Orban will not ban Jobbik because then then jobbikniks might stage a… Read more »
andysomos
Guest

re: @googly — Y need to understand that the current crop of chiefs in the govenment have not the SLIGTEST sense of minimal etiquette and their brash – “its in my power to…” modus operandi ehnaces this appearance. Also they specilize in taunting the system when it is not theri own, but punctilious when it comes to others interfereing in their own regimen…

So Messrs Rogán and other d’mmies were looking for any opportunity to trip up anyone on the US premises (i.e. embassy grounds.) Thank goodness the US employees did not fall for it. Nevertheless the Orban system is really playing the stupid by coninually harping on the US for not showing its cards. Its just a ploy for them to avoid having to start an inquiry at NAV – something they need to avoid at all costs because it would bring down the whole house of cards…

Taunts and mean, unsightly behavior is ALL the government is good at… (besides raking in others’ hard earned cash and spreading ot out among themselves….)

buddy
Guest

Ooof, it seems that our Prime Minister has been given a “worst actor” award from our neighbor to the West. (Maybe one of our kind German speakers would be able to provide a decent translation of this?)

“und für den „schlechtesten Schauspieler“ an den ungarischen Regierungschef Viktor Orban für seine Darstellung eines zeitgemäßen Staatsmannes vergeben.”

http://wien.orf.at/news/stories/2678543/

Webber
Guest

So, someone from Századvég has finally admitted that the tax authorities are corrupt (as quoted by Éva above): “Telegram to America: Ózd.” “Goodfriend et al., get off your high horses. You bother about such trifling matters as corruption at the tax authority when we are the bulwark that holds back the far right. You see what you did? The Jobbik revolt in Ózd resulted from your high-handed behavior.”

Caprice Goldberg
Guest

Eva,

Index is now featuring your tweet to Goodfriend and his reply as one of their main stories…

http://index.hu/kulfold/2014/11/11/goodfriend_reagalt_a_vidas_talalkozasra/

tappanch
Guest

Fidesz to raise ante in war against RTL.

The highest marginal tax rate will be raised from 40% to 50%.
It will effect RTL Klub only.

The tax is levied on the gross advertisement revenue, not on the profit (!) – if I remember correctly.

http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/adozas/ez_fajhat_az_rtl-nek_megemelnek_a_reklamado_legfelso_kulcsat.3.206333.html

tappanch
Guest

More on the government tricks to lower the gross debt/GDP by 1% just for December 31:

http://www.portfolio.hu/deviza_kotveny/allampapirpiac/rendkivul_erzekeny_adatokat_adott_ki_az_ngm.5.206309.html

tappanch
Guest

Correction: combined with another trick, the statistical debt/GDP will be 3% (!) lower than the actual one on December 31, 2014.

Roll down to the red letter “KESz” comment at the end of the article:

http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/furcsa_szamok_a_kormanytol_vajon_mire_keszul.206200.html

Istvan
Guest
In my opinion the vote in Ozd was not only an anti Fidesz vote it was also an anti-Roma vote. The program on which Janiczak ran in the first election was explicit in singling out the Roma community. Reuters ran a story last month that contained this: “The manifesto, posted on the Jobbik Internet site next to a photograph of Janiczak, states: “We think there are two ways to solve the Gypsy question…The first one is based on peaceful consent, the second on radical exclusion.” “Our party wishes to offer one last chance to the destructive minority that lives here, so first it will consider peaceful consent. If that agreement fails, then and only then the radical solution can follow.” The program threatens to “chase off people who are unable to conform”. Janiczak after he was in theory elected began to talk about creating jobs for the Roma and the bad conditions in which they lived. Eva back in August of 2013 ran a post about Fidesz’s attempt to cut off water from the Roma ghetto in Ozd. It’s not hard to find video of the nightmarish conditions the Roma of Ozd live under, Ukrainian TV produced this short video… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

@Eva

“I consider Fidesz a worse threat to democracy than Jobbik. Vona and Co. could never maintain such a political system as the devilish Viktor Orbán managed to introduce.”

I agree wholeheartedly.

wpDiscuz