Introducing two young civic leaders: Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss

At this moment another demonstration is taking place in Budapest. Again thousands are out on the streets. This time they’re demonstrating against the Orbán government’s effort to steal the private pension savings of those 60,000 people who four years ago when the government decided to “nationalize” the accumulated savings of 3 million people opted to leave their savings in private funds despite all sorts of threats.  As it turned out, their decision was wise. These funds did well over the years and by now the average investor has 3.5 million forints in his account. According to estimates, if the government manages to get hold of the savings in these pension funds, it will reap another 200 billion forints. Admittedly, this is a great deal less than the 3 trillion that was brazenly expropriated in 2010, but it looks as if the Hungarian budget is in desperate need of new sources of revenue.

Although it is too early to write anything meaningful about this latest demonstration, it offers an opportunity to say something about the recent demonstrations in general and to acquaint readers with two of their organizers. First, rumor has it that, appearances notwithstanding, the Fidesz leadership is worried about the long-term effects of the demonstrations on Fidesz’s support and image. Apparently, next week the party’s top brass will get together to discuss the situation.

Early on, Fidesz politicians thought that if they retreated on the question of an internet tax the demonstrations would disappear. They were also happy to hear that the organizers of some of the demonstrations don’t want anything to do with politics. Yet there are signs of grave trouble because dissatisfaction with the government is widespread. “Today we don’t really know whom we should appease.”

Here I would like to introduce the organizers of the Facebook group “We will not be silent!” To focus on this group is especially timely because I just learned that one of the speakers of the November 17 gathering in front of the parliament building, Balázs Nemes, who was asked to speak at today’s demonstration, refused to participate because not only a civic group but a political party, Együtt, is involved. And this group doesn’t want to cooperate with any existing parties. In their eyes, the parties are all the same. This group was the one that immediately rejected “the advances of Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK.”

Some of the more seasoned politicians of the democratic parties, for example, Gábor Kuncze, reacted to Balázs Nemes’s November 17 speech rather heatedly on television. He objected to the speaker’s condemnation of the entire period between 1989 and 2014. ATV decided to have Kuncze meet Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss, another organizer of the group. On Sunday the three appeared on Antónia Mészáros’s “Szabad szemmel” program. It was a very informative twenty minutes. My conclusion was that it is unlikely that these particular young people will be the catalysts of regime change in Hungary.

My problem with them was not that they are inexperienced and somewhat ignorant of the political events of the last twenty-five years, but that they didn’t grasp Kuncze’s simple, logical explanation of why their ideas were fallacious. Although the conversation was about 20 minutes long, here I will concentrate on two points that Kuncze made. The first was his description of the difference between the first twenty and the last five years. The second was his emphasis on the necessity of parties and politicians.

The position of Nemes and Kiss was that the earlier governments did something so terribly wrong that it inevitably led to Fidesz’s illiberal governance. Kuncze’s position, on the other hand, was–which he tried to explain at least two different ways to no avail–that yes, past governments didn’t do a good job and the electorate punished them for their bad governance. They lost the election. The problem is not the two-thirds majority but what Fidesz did with it in parliament. In 1994 the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition had more than a two-thirds majority, but the Horn-Kuncze government did not change the constitution or the electoral law, did not appoint party hacks to the constitutional court, and did not build an illiberal state. When the people of Hungary voted for Fidesz, they did not anticipate what was coming. After all, Fidesz did not have a party program. In fact, Viktor Orbán said not a word about his plans. So, the present government’s governing style is not the necessary and inevitable result of the bad governance of earlier governments.

I kept watching the faces of these two young people, and it seemed that they didn’t understand what Kuncze was getting at. Nemes muttered something about a “qualitative” difference between the earlier governments and the one today, but he didn’t grasp the essential difference between them. As for Petra Kiss, she, in my opinion, is even more hostile to everything that happened before 2010. She is also more naive about what one can achieve without parties and politicians. As Kuncze pointed out, if they want to remain involved then sooner or later either they will have to make peace with the present democratic opposition or they themselves will have to create parties. Kiss dreamily announced that for the time being they don’t want to do anything concrete. They just want young people to remain engaged. This is a fine idea, but surely it is not enough if these people are serious about sending the Orbán government packing. She also stressed that “there should be many, many parties,” as if she were totally ignorant of the current electoral law that precludes the existence of many small parties against the Fidesz monolith. All in all, I doubt that these two new stars of the November 17th demonstration will be ready by either 2016 or 2018 for serious roles in a new political constellation.

As for cooperation among the various groups, the prospects are not auspicious. The organizers of the demonstration against the internet tax refused to cooperate with the “We will not be silent!” group. Balázs Nemes was invited by the organizers of today’s demonstration but refused to participate. Meanwhile, their Facebook page is full of criticism of their position. Most of the comments talk about the necessity of cooperation between civic movements and parties. Some accuse the organizers of “not hearing the voice of the masses.” Or, “in my opinion this party neutrality is going in the wrong direction.” Critical comments don’t seem to make a dent on this group’s leaders.

I still think that these demonstrations are important and I’m also sure that some of these Young Turks will have political roles in the future, but I don’t think that Balázs Nemes and Petra Sára Kiss will be among them.

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Webber
Guest
In my view, the problem is that the leaders of parties which lost the elections in 2010 and 2014 still refuse to understand that they repulse the electorate. Indeed, some of them are now promising simply to restore the system from before 2010. Yes, according to polls most ordinary people now agree that the current government is worse than governments before 2010. But no, that does not mean that the electorate wants to return to office politicians they threw out in 2010. What is it about Gyurcsany’s and others’ egos? They had their time in office. They blew it. They were rejected, twice, by the electorate (and in that sense, they share a little responsibility for the current mess). They lost twice, yet they refuse to move aside and let talented new people come forward to lead their parties. Indeed, they prevent new people from getting anywhere near the top. In a milder way, the old leftist leadership in Hungary reminds me of the Whites during the Russian Revolution, when most people agreed that the new Bolshevik system was worse than Tsarism, but very few people indeed were willing to risk anything for people whose sole promise was to restore… Read more »
An
Guest
@Webber: There have been plenty of new faces and formations popping up in Hungarian politics in the last 5-10 years (LMP, PM, Egyutt, 4K!) but none of them seem to have enough traction or mass appeal. I think it is ludicrous to suggest that old timers somehow can prevent new people appear in politics…how? Maybe within their own parties the have some kind of influence, but even MSZP has plenty of new faces. The problem is that these new faces are not much better than the old ones. I think the main issue in Hungarian politics is not a lack of new people in politics, as more and more groups start demonstrating, we have plenty of those. The problem is lost credibility… politicians, am bloc, lost credibility in Hungary. And the credibility issue does not only affect old politicians… as newcomers become “professionals” in politics, they very quickly get lumped in the mistrusted category. (I have to add the Fidesz propaganda machine had been working hard on discrediting opposition politicians as well, and it also has an effect). Hungarians don’t trust politicians, ANY politician. They don’t trust that any politician would represent the country’s and the electorate’s interests. And while… Read more »
Jean-Paul
Guest
The insightful presentation of these two young leaders together with the total loss of credibility of politicians stressed both by Eva and An sum up the tragic and hopeless situation, as I see it, of today’s Hungary. Orbán’s politics leads to the destruction of the country’s economy, democratic life (if there ever was such….) and future (see what’s happening in the field of education), and there are just no political forces, especially not on the dying left, that could do anything about it, that could offer any credible alternative. What can then change this path of destruction? It could be a programless and instinctive explosion of the people, something similar to, but much more massive than the spontaneous manifestations we have seen the last two weeks. Such explosions rarely, if ever, brought about positive changes in history. It could be Jobbik, the only political force that seems to resist to the generalized distrust towards politicians. Lastly, it could be some internal revolution within the Fidesz by people who realize the tragedy that Orbán’s politics means. However, it seems that Orbán has succeeded in eliminating all potential contestation and potential critics within his party. That would leave us with the first… Read more »
Ovidiu
Guest

@An -“Hungarians don’t trust politicians, ANY politician”

People who don’t trust anybody can not change anything.As long as this situation/mentality continues Orban’s regime is safe.

cheshire cat
Guest
This might sound really stupid to some, but I don’t believe that “there are no alternatives, no credible politicians or parties, none at all.” People who claim that, are the victims of Fidesz’s propaganda machine, their dirty character assassination games, and victims of Fidesz’s methodical depriving the other parties of money, media exposure etc. If all parties had had equal opportunities to advertise their faces and their programmes, to receive equal funding, if there had been a live debate of party leaders (imagine one where Orban would have had to face Gyurcsany, Mesterhazy, Bajnai, Bokros etc.!), millions of people watching them, they would have been more able to decide who they want to support. Arguably, some opposition parties have more rational attitudes, better ideas, better faces than others, but to put them all under the umbrella of “not credible, filthy criminals” is and was wrong. I call this the attitude of “aristocratic passivity and inability”, that so many Hungarians have. They want everything, they want it perfect and they want it now, but without having to do anything for it. It’s very easy to turn your nose up at everybody, pick the reasons why you hate each of them –… Read more »
cheshire cat
Guest

Ovidiu

“People who don’t trust anybody can not change anything.As long as this situation/mentality continues Orban’s regime is safe.”

I hadn’t seen this before I posted.
Thank you!, you have summed up my opinion perfectly.

Istvan
Guest

The cynicism being expressed on this blog and among the younger members of my own extended family is not iligitimate. But when I heard a 23 year old cousin tell me last March that the only solution to the inherent corruption in Hungary was some form a ruling movement with a vision that kept Hungary in a state of permanent political revolution, whether in was the Jobbik or another movement I had a chill. It sounds a lot to me like the preclude to full scale Fascism yet again in Hungary.

petofi
Guest

(Some good news for Mr. Orban.)

The American Lieutenant General Ben Hodges has said:

“”I’m going to look at options that would include distributing this equipment in smaller sets, company-size or battalion-size, perhaps in the Baltics, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, places like that…”

Orban can now balance his East/West charade by inviting the nato troops and arms to locate in Hungary.

Webber
Guest
@Eva and An – We’ll have to disagree, and I’m afraid I find your logic a little perverse. Of course the protesters were sending only one person and one party to hell! (see what I said about the govt.) That doesn’t mean the protesters like anybody else. If anyone thinks the protesters like the left’s old leadership just because they hate Fidesz, I suggest another glance at the past two national election results. This year quite a lot of people showed, by staying away from the elections, that there was nobody on the ballot for whom they wanted to vote. As to your remark, An – everyone understands that the opposition will have to unite to beat Fidesz. The establishment of new parties helps nobody but Fidesz. The old parties have the experience and (once had) the voter base to win elections, but they can’t even get their traditional base to vote for them with the old faces. The old leadership should clear out, so that new people can come forward. Yet just look at the disgusting jockeying for position on the left before this year’s elections. I would bet anyone virtually any sum of money that Gyurcsany drove more… Read more »
Webber
Guest

If a party leader lost elections not once but TWICE in the United States or Britain, what would happen to that party leader? You all know the answer. Time for new party leadership in Hungary.

Webber
Guest

The following interview is for those who don’t understand how and why (quite a lot of) people could oppose Fidesz, and still not want to see old leftist leaders return to power – the fellow being interviewed does a much better job of explaining (many) protesters’ views than those in the above video: http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20141124-misetics-balint

teambritanniahungary
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Max
Guest

Here is a nice article about the friends of Kuncze. These political gangsters had paved the way to the current weimarisation

http://www.pestiriport.hu/WebArticleShow.aspx?LN=Hungarian&AGM=Politika&AN=balimesterhazy&MN=Politika

Guido
Guest

These young people may lead the “change”, but will probably not participate in the aftermath,ie. in the elected parliament.

It’s very important that they are angry and active. But they are just not political, wise, clever, experienced enough, they’re are like those doctrinaire marxists of the the first half of the 20th century, for whom perceived ideological purity was always more important than actually getting things done.

But it doesn’t matter, because the elections are far away and the important thing right now is that Fidesz is getting tired and tired and will continue to commit more and more mistakes. Of course huge damage is being done to the country, but Fidesz is depreciating itself by the day. It’s gonna be a long process, but the good news is that it’s at least started.

Webber
Guest

@Guido – Protesters are not expected nor do they generally want to lead a new government. The ones in Hungary today don’t even claim to be “wise, clever” or “experienced enough” to do so, so many of them would have no problem with that part of your statement. Politicians should take a cue from them, not the other way around. A good part of democracy is listening to what people want. But saying (as you have) that the protesters are like doctrinaire marxists is insulting and deeply unfair. They aren’t united in anything except disliking this government. And in Hungary today, protesting against government can cost you your job. Nobody has to like their views as individuals, but I think a little more respect is due. Hats off to them, from me.

Guido
Guest

@Webber

Hats off to these people, sure. I also fully agree with your statement that politicians should take a cue from them.

Having said that, I do see an unfortunate pattern, characteristic of LMP (not really a symbol of success) and many (not a few) of these protesters.

They all “reject the entire 25 years”, the entire political elite, as it were.

They do have a doctrine, which is simply not to cooperate with anyone with whom they feel they have a disagreement on this one principle, hence the petty infightings among the various facebook group leaders, like I won’t give a speech at your demonstration, and the like. Hungarians tend to get offended very easily and these kids have zero experience in organizing something as a result they splinter and infight (it’s an interesting point that even regular attendees of these demonstrations can’t really follow who the ever changing organizers are). I’m not writing them off at all, and I sure hope they continue with their efforts, but I think they needlessly cling to easily contenstable notions. But perhaps exactly the resoluteness on this questionable principle provides them with bravery to go out and act, I dunno.

tappanch
Guest
Orban is about to start a propaganda “counter-offensive”. 1. With the leadership of Giró-Szász & brainstormer Habony, more and more people are employed to improve the government propaganda. http://hvg.hu/itthon/20141126_Ujabb_offenzivara_keszul_az_ujjaszervezet 2. The Hungarian IRS (NAV) just published the strongly blackened out version of its year-old, over-the-weekend “investigation” dismissing whistle-blower Horvath’s charges that were in the confiscated (and not published) “green folder”. http://nav.gov.hu/nav/sajtoszoba/hirek/_Jelentes_vizsgalatro20141125.html I am sure once they have finished destroying and/or altering the evidence, Orban Uninc, will permit an outside investigation of NAV, say three months after the American warning. 3. The various state televisions, radios and the news agency MTI are merged into one state media company. http://hvg.hu/vallalat_vezeto/20141125_Osszeolvasztana_a_negy_kozmedias_ceget_a 4. Chief of Staff Lazar declared that people in the ministries have to work twelve hours or more, answering the reports that people with family quit, since they cannot take the newly introduced 10-hour a day, sometimes no-weekend workload. No journalist has raised the issue that a) this is against the current laws (of course they can be changed overnight, retroactively in Orbanistan). b) last time this happened was 60 years ago under Rakosi and Stalin. Comrade Stalin liked to work at night, so everybody had to follow his schedule in the… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Source of Lazar’s statement:

http://index.hu/belfold/2014/11/25/lazar_a_miniszterelnokseg_nem_csaladbarat_munkahely/

1.
Lazar’s Rolex:

He did not have to declare it in the yearly asset list, because the declaration limit was raised on January 1, 2014.

http://index.hu/belfold/2014/11/25/lazar_janos_oraja/

2.

Fidesz vice chairman Kosa contradicts himself about his trip to New Zealand.

The first version was that he went to see a concert. The second was that he helped shooting a movie about Hungarians living in New Zealand.

My version is that he tended to his bank account in one of the offshore Pacific islands.
(Samoa, Marshall Islands, Nauru did sign up for the data exchange from 2018, so I suspect Vanuatu or Cook Islands by default)

tappanch
Guest
Guido
Guest
Webber, reading your earlier comments: Orban lost two general elections after he was a prime minister (he also lost the 1994 when a month before the elections he was leading the polls), and won two further ones. Daniel Ortega probably lost 3 general elections in a row and won in 2006, reelected in 2011 and has been president ever since. He, as older Hungarian readers may remember has been the leader of Nicaragua from 1979-1990, he also visited Hungary back in the 1980’s. He has been any and everything ideologically during these almost 40 years. Hungary, in my view is very much like (a middle-income) post-colonial country. I think a lot of insights can be gained from looking at such countries. Difficult as it is to face this, those are our peers and not Poland or Austria, especially not the UK or the US. Neither Gyucsany, nor Orban will leave the political scene at their own volition, that is absent debilitating illness or the like. They are not like Western–European politicians of mature democracies but strongmen, I know there are a bunch of political science terms for these boss figures with which I’m not familiar. There is only one way… Read more »
buddy
Guest

Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you our political savior: Mr Lajos Simicska

…who is reportedly considering a run for the open seat in Veszprém, and not necessarily as a Fidesz nominee (!!!!)

http://444.hu/2014/11/26/simicska-lajos-tenyleg-komolyan-gondolkodik-azon-hogy-elindul-a-veszpremi-mandatumert/

(I personally think that there is zero chance that he will actually run, but it’s kind of fun to imagine what would happen if he did…)

Nádas
Guest

Kuncze is a fossil, a dinosaur from another, bygone era. Trouble is, he just hasn’t woken up to that fact yet. Gyurcsány will be in the same position soon. Young voters will reject them both.

Guido
Guest

whoops, guess who’s just come out supporting wholeheartedly the slogan “down with the last 25 years”?

None other than the (now) Marxist TGM. When I saw these kids, I somehow had this gut feeling which reminded me of those old school leftist intellectuals. It’s not the ideology which was important but the modus operandi, the approach to things.

http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20141126_TGM_25_ev_takarodj

Noé
Guest

Nadas, well, yes, but don’t forget that young people don’t vote as actively as older folks do. What’s more, the proportion of young people in the Hungarian society has been in steady decline. Hungary’s aging and as a result it’s naturally getting more conservative. Even in the US which is not aging (as much) the proportion of older people among voters increased significantly at the mid-term elections.

buddy
Guest

When did TGM admit to being a Marxist? I am rather skeptical of that claim.

tappanch
Guest

Attempted export of half-Asian, half-Latin American orbanism:

Hungarian company OLP-TECH employed Hungarians in construction work in France for 2.22 euros an hour (the French minimum is 9.53), six days a week, 11 1/2 hours a day.

The French are upset, this is against THEIR laws.

http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2014/11/25/01016-20141125ARTFIG00179-des-ouvriers-hongrois-etaient-payes-2-euros-de-l-heure.php

Guest

Let’s hope that these people in the UK will get mor pay:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2827625/Factory-bosses-forced-recruit-Hungary-locals-not-apply.html
“Greencore (pictured) say they have failed to attract many applications from potential employees in Northampton – so bosses are now travelling to Hungary to recruit some of the 300-strong workforce needed”

Actually the paper says these Hungarians will be on minimum pay – which still is much more than they get in Hungary.

tappanch
Guest

Actual revenues of the Hungarian government, Jan-Oct 2014:

Indirect consumption taxes: 39.8%
Direct taxes on the population: 16.5%
EU support: 12.0%
Corporate and individual entrepreneur taxes: 10.5%
Other (from other parts of government, local governments, state-owned companies, interest, etc) 21.2%

http://www.kormany.hu/download/1/9d/20000/%C3%81HT%20m%C3%A9rleg.pdf

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