Hungary’s pending blue law

For weeks we have been reading about the Christian Democrats’ brainstorm to close stores over a certain size on Sundays. This despite the fact that in the past twenty years shoppers have gotten used to stores being open on Sundays; shopping has become a family affair. Everybody can have a say in the purchase of large items: a new refrigerator, stove, TV set, or new furniture. And while they are out shopping on Sunday, the family often has lunch in one of the malls or goes to the latest movie.  People like the convenience, and I’m certain they will be mighty unhappy if and when the Fidesz and KDNP majority votes to close targeted stores on Sundays. People expect their options to increase, not decrease.

Until now it looked as if Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz leadership would not endorse the KDNP plan. Mihály Varga, minister of national economy, said that, given the touch-and-go economic situation in the country, taking away the opportunity to conduct business seven days a week was not a good idea. Associations representing the merchants reported that Sunday is their third busiest shopping day. They figured that about 12,000 jobs would be lost if they were forced to close their doors. Even Viktor Orbán announced a couple of weeks ago that the question should be discussed with everybody involved because the Christian Democrats consulted only those organizations that supported their position: right-wing trade unions and groups like the association of large families who backed their plan for ideological reasons.

The way the proposal was originally worded, the bill discriminated against foreign-owned large chains since only those stores larger than 400m² that were not family-owned and operated would have been forced to close. The bill would not have applied to Hungarian franchises such as CBA, a chain of smaller stores owned by three fanatic supporters of the current Hungarian government: László Baldauf, Vilmos Lázár, and his brother Zoltán. These small stores can’t compete successfully with the large chains. Their selection is limited and their prices are higher. If the large chains were forced to close on Sundays, the small CBA stores would reap the benefit. I suspect that Fidesz’s initial hesitation was due to their recognition that the bill was discriminatory. After all, having German, British, and French companies sue the Hungarian government is not something Fidesz needs at the moment.

Today Antal Rogán came out with what seems to be the final word on the subject. The Fidesz parliamentary delegation will support the proposal but with substantial amendments. Even the name of the bill will be changed. From here on it will be known as the “Law on the prohibition of work on Sundays.” The aim is, Rogán said, the “total cessation of work on Sundays.” An ambitious plan indeed, and I could give Rogán a few suggestions. No football on Sunday; after all those players are paid for their work. And then there are the priests and ministers who are also paid for Sunday work. And one could continue with policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, or agricultural workers during planting and harvest season. What about restaurants or theaters, movies, concert halls? This proposed Hungarian blue law reminds me of Ottawa in the 1950s and 1960s when everything but everything was closed. It was a jolly place indeed. When I read such nonsense I always suspect that these people don’t think before they speak.

I understand that some of the influential higher-ups in Fidesz argued against the store closures because they knew that the move would be unpopular and, they argued, the government does not need another huge demonstration. According to an article that appeared on November 19, the Christian Democratic proposal was not popular among Fidesz leaders, including Viktor Orbán. But now, it seems, he changed his mind. According to vs.huOrbán turned against those, among them Lajos Kósa, who today argued for dropping the idea because of the current public mood. Orbán apparently countered that unpopular pieces of legislation should be introduced right at the beginning of the new administration. But, of course, this does not answer the question: why is the Sunday closing of stores such an important issue? Why should the government gamble on its already waning popularity? It is hard to fathom what’s going on in Orbán’s head. Has he lost his earlier keen political sense or is the Christian Democratic delegation perhaps blackmailing him, threatening him with a withdrawal of their support?

CBA Pecs

We know few details of the Fidesz amendments to the KDNP bill. One change that has been mentioned is that only very small family-owned stores can be open and only members of the family can work in them on Sundays. The size of stores that will be exempted from the blue law will be smaller than the originally proposed 400m² because it will include not only the shopping space but the store’s storage area as well. With the Fidesz amendments it seems that most CBA franchises will suffer along with the foreign-owned supermarkets. I don’t know the average area of these stores (or the average size of the families owning the franchises), but the Pécs CBA I found pictured online surely couldn’t do business on Sunday if this proposal becomes law.

Switching topics: Vladimir Putin announced a few hours ago that Gazprom has cancelled the construction of the South Stream pipeline. Not a good day for Viktor Orbán. What will happen to the storage facilities in Hungary? What about Paks? It looks as if Viktor Orbán might fall between two stools. It was risky gamble from day one, and it is getting riskier by the day.

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Ljudmilla
Guest
I think the Sunday law is introduced for two main reasons. 1. One is the hope that the smaller CBAs, which are franchises will pick up the Sunday business which otherwise would have gone to Tesco and Aldi, ie. Orban naively hopes that people won’t shop on Saturday more in their favorite shops. But much more importantly this is an important gesture which shows that Orban cares about the small businesses (like CBA) and wants to hurt big foreign businesses. It’s very important for his image. With the utility rate cuts it wasn’t the actual extra 465 forint which was important to the voters, but the message that Orban finally cares about issues about which the little people cares (not about some intellectual issues like constitutions and romas and human rights). Fidesz is rotten to the core, but it’s still – despite all – seen as a party of the little (Hungarian) people. Meanwhile many people think that the “Left” contains parties which favor foreigners and big businesses, which isn’t so nice, I mean are these leftists Hungarians or what? 2. Orban wants to send the message that he is a principled conservative, Christian who rather suffers in popularity but… Read more »
An
Guest

Now they are trying to sell this very controversial law as some kind of labor friendly initiative (people shouldn’t work on Sunday) to make it more palatable, but I think it still will be an extremely unpopular measure. There is also a strong possibility that the state is going to lose tax revenue over this (some shopping that is usually done on Sundays will be done on other days, but not all) at a time when the budget is not on rock solid foundations. It is hard to see what the government has to gain from this.

I wonder what kind of leverage KDNP, a ghost party with no political support from the population, has over Orban to be able to push this through.

Realitycheck
Guest
googly
Guest

Ljudmilla,

Not just in distant historical times, but as recently as the 1970’s, Hungarians were expected to work on Saturdays. Interestingly, “Vasárnap” has lost a diacritical mark somewhere in ancient history, or “vásár” has gained one – or perhaps the similarity of the two words is just another huge coincidence borne from the Hungarian language.

googly
Guest

I wonder if maybe the large foreign chains wouldn’t end up benefiting from almost every store being closed on Sundays. Those thousands of lost jobs might save them more money than the lost business costs them (especially if most CBA’s are closed, too). Almost everything is closed on Sunday already, so people will mostly just shop on Saturdays, I think.

I really pity the people who work two jobs and can only shop on Sundays. They will have to shop at 10pm at Tesco if this law really goes into effect, or get gouged at the mom-and-pop stores.

When I lived in Germany, the Sunday closings were my biggest complaint, especially if I stayed up late on Friday night and couldn’t get to the store on Saturday morning. Many people happily work on Sundays, and they would be even happier if they got extra pay to do so. That’s the best way to solve the “problem” of worker exploitation, in my opinion – pass a law mandating overtime pay on Sundays!

tappanch
Guest

Re: Sunday in various Asian languages, or long live the Azeri – Hungarian friendship

Hungarian < vásár nap (market day). Indeed the Sunday markets or fairs were banned in 1061 by Bela I. Other opinion attributes this ban to Geza I (1075-77). First, the fairs were ordered to be held on Saturdays (wikipedia contains 4 Szombathelys), later Wednesday became the market or fair day at some places (15 Szerdahelys in wikipedia)

Sunday in Turkish: pazar
Sunday in Azeri: bazar

Although the origin of the word "[p/b/w/v] a [s/z/ch/sh] ar" is Persian, Sunday is called "first day" in Persian. Other Central Asian Turkic languages now use the same Arabic, originally Hebrew numbering.

tappanch
Guest

This ban cannot be justified by referring to the unwritten and fuzzy “historical” constitution which originates in 1222.

So Orban must feel like an eleventh century absolute ruler of Hungary: he just repeats a thousand-year-old ban.

Paul
Guest

Why not go the whole Hungarian hog and make ALL shops close at 1pm on Saturday?

That would immediately achieve at least three benefits: very happy nationalists (except those who do the shopping), mass demonstrations, and the economy tanking.

As for Paks – was it priced in Forint or Roubles? If the latter, it’s getting cheaper by the minute!

tappanch
Guest

I have found only 6 languages, where Sunday means Market Day.

Apart from Hungarian, Azeri (bazar) and Turkish (pazar), I have found only Crimean Tatar (pazar), Gagauz (pazar) and Daghestani Lezghian examples.

The Chuvash word or none of the words in other Finno-Ugric languages are related.

Paul
Guest

“Eva S. Balogh

December 1, 2014 at 5:45 pm

@An. I wonder what kind of leverage KDNP, a ghost party with no political support from the population, has over Orban to be able to push this through.”

This is what intrigues me.”

Me too. I’ve never understood what Orbán gets out of this fiction that the governing party is a coalition. Surely there aren’t enough extremist religious votes in Hungary to be worth the hassle he gets from these nutters?

They are in an incredibly weak position, as all he has to do is make them run as a separate party in the next election. So, either it’s yet another of these unfathomable Orbán oddities, or else they really do have a hold on him. But, if so, what?

(Why is it no longer possible to quote posts on HS???)

tappanch
Guest

@Paul

The ultimate Fidesz mandatory store hours:

Monday through Friday 9 to 5.

This will leave the still working population a generous 2 hours to shop every week: Friday 3 to 5.

Shopping is the sign of the decadent West!

It will be fun to watch all the commoners killing each other to get food, while
the fidesznik ruling class would use servants to do the shopping.

tappanch
Guest

FiDeSz, or rather KöF.Sz (Union of Middle-aged Fascists) must have copied the CDU-CSU with its lopsided FiDeSz-KDNP duo.

In reality, KDNP is the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church (and the Submachine Gun Hunters Association)

cheshire cat
Guest
Eva, I think the Christian Democrats must have suddenly understood that with the 2/3 just balancing on a single vote, they have bargaining power. Either Fidesz support their mad-cap ideas, or they will not vote with them on the important issues that require constitution changes. As for the Christian Democrats, I think they genuinely believe that they are protecting the shop-assistants who are forced to work on Sundays. To be honest, some do complain that they have no say in deciding if they get Sunday shifts or not. A much better solution would have been to 1 enforce the existing laws that shop assistants can choose or the number of Sunday shifts should be limited – if there are any 2 apart from Monday-Friday shifts for regular shop-assistants, they could employ weekend-only employees for higher pay, in which the regular staff can also volunteer. (After all, not everybody has a family.) Or/and they could simply reduce / maximize the Sunday opening hours. It is not rocket sience, you don’t need to drastically shut the supermarkets, but it seems to be beyond Mr Harrach and all. Here in Britain, we are really spoilt, I think. Supermarkets can open for a max.… Read more »
celebrate
Guest

So the Southern stream is canceled.

Hungary will not get foreign direct investment from the pipeline. No new jobs from the pipeline (builders-operators). No transit fees for Hungary (full transit fees on all the gas going to Italy and Austria, big consumers). No increased energy security of having two pipelines instead of one. I understand why many of you are so happy.

Those who feel hatred for Hungary must be jubilant for this news. Reading some comments you can feel the mood. It is time to celebrate!

All the new gas related investment will go to Turkey and Turkey alone. There will be a new pipeline and a large gas storage and distribution center very near the Greek border.

Several other deals were signed between Turkey and Russia as well. It seems they are getting ready to enter into an alliance in all but name.

tappanch
Guest

I have found the KDNP power chain. 🙂

Fidesz —- KDNP (Semjén) —- Hunters’ Associations —– Chief Prosecutor Polt.

Another link

CSU (Franz-Josef Strauss, now Stoiber??) —- Hunters’ Associations —- KDNP — Fidesz

Geza Kmetty
Guest

The inmates are running the asylum. A complete lunatic communist era inspired threat to the free enterprise system. The(ir) end is near, and they are beginning to feel it!!!

Webber
Guest

@celebrate – I take it you celebrate when Russian interests are fulfilled.

Webber
Guest

@Paul – Paks was priced in neither forints nor rubles. It was set in Euros. The final price was estimated at somewhere between 10 and 12.5 billion Euros, but there is a clause in the contract saying that the (Russian) builder can raise prices at will if real costs are greater than the estimate and that Hungary will be required to pay the full cost, whatever that should be. We know this because, thankfully, the contract was published online by the Russian Duma, in compliance with Russian regulations on publishing laws voted on by the Duma. In Hungary, by contrast, the government made the contract a state secret.

Guest

“Vladimir Putin announced a few hours ago that Gazprom has cancelled the construction of the South Stream pipeline. Not a good day for Viktor Orbán.”

Viktor Orban never backs down. He will build his section anyway.

ivan
Guest

Whoever concluded the Paks contracts will end up in jail. This is simple treason.

I’m only repeating Orban, ie. here before was purchased by Putin.

There was a good point in a recent Spiegel article about Yanukovich’ change of heart about the EU. Within the EU it is suspected that Putin pulled out a nice Kompromat which ‘persuaded’ Yanukovich to turn around. I’m guessing the same with Orban. This profound change is impossible without a complex carrot (the monies from the energy deals) and stick (the Kompromat) strategy.

By the way Orban will build the Hungarian section of the South Stream, I agree with Jean P.

It will be designated as a domestic pipeline, albeit one that can be connected to the Serbian section later.

Orban earmarked the money for the project, and in his head he already spent his cut from the deal, there’s no backing down now.

Tibor
Guest

@Celebrate

Try to understand that there’s no demand for the gas in the South Stream.

Have you checked Hungary’s natural gas consumption data during the last say 20 years? You will be surprised.

We similarly don’t need Paks 2.

By the same token we can also build pyramids from Russian money and that will “create jobs” too.

Even the dismantling of Paks 1 and the creation of the repository for the spent fuel rods — which Russia refuses to take back, itself a breach of a former agreement — will cost fortunes, probably in the 1,000 bn HUF range (at present prices), probably more.

dakota rider
Guest

Abortion will be next, mark my words.

Orban loves a bit of street action. He thrives on conflict, feeds on it, that’s his element.

Meanwhile people don’t care about cuts in education or healthcare or that the pension funds are being confiscated or that there aren’t real jobs created or that Hungary is getting indebted or that Orban and his pals are looting Hungary as we speak. Meanwhile he will gain a the image of a principled Christian fundamentalist who opposes the capitalists. Jobbik’s fans (formerly almost all Fidesz voters) are his target and his going after them.

W Bush did what Orban did. They both governed for their target group of voters only, not for the nation as a whole. The neocons saw that what Obama or MSZP or Gyurcsány couldn’t: a certain portion of the voters will never ever vote for you and your ideological convictions are more important in the long term than short term “compromises” and “bipartizanships”: they decided quickly to cater only to their fans and never apologize. In their view compromise is for losers who apologize even for their existence, like MSZP or the Hungarian left.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Magyarország jobban teljesit
Hungary performs better or more
Magyarország összefog
Hungary is closing ranks
A magyar népesség 46,6 százaléka él szegénységben
46.6 percent of the inhabitants in Hungary live in poverty
The government has to simulate action and closing the shops on Sunday does make the impression that they are doing something besides getting rich.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

tappanch: In reality, KDNP is the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church …

Agreed. Incidentally, I recently read about the political influence of the Hungarian Catholic Church during the interwar era, and… wow.

Member

I agree with Webber. It is ironic that some people feel that serving the personal interest of Orban’s inner circle is more important than the well being and integrity of Hungary. THose who still buy into the Orban propaganda should educate themselves before posting here. Although the construction would of provide some jobs, those jobs would of been awarded to Orban’s friends, and many of the physical labour would of been done by the “forced labourers” under minimum wage. Work could arrive from the West, if Orban would look out for the best interest of Hungary, but western companies do not want to expand or open new outlets under Orban.

Zork
Guest
Orban will also push his new conservative Christian credentials with the Republicans and the CSU people. These credentials will help him a lot. If Orban will indeed ban or severely restrict abortion (Barnabas Lenkovics the newly, but provisionally elected new head of the constitutional court will be tested on this one, remember Lenkovics was involved in the infamous davodi kislany story) or introduce what is anyway the normal way in the US, that is that weddings will be officially (sanctioned by the state) concluded in churches everything about Russia and everything else (corruption etc.) will immediately be forgiven and forgotten, even if of course Orban will continue to be doing the Russian deals like Paks 2 and MET gas deals. If he will also be more anti-gay, I think the American paleo conservatives will find a new European role model in him. There are tons of crazy GOP congressman who would praise him openly like that New Jersey representative or Germans like Seehofer. Don’t underestimate how easy it is to find “friends” in the West and how easy it is to divide the Western stance. Putin has been doing it splendidly (he is the role model of conservatives all over… Read more »
Member

OT: I am very curious of the commenter “celebrate” regarding the FACTs that the 1% tax money (EUR 1,630,000) donated by Hungarian citizens like him to the government in order to fight against ragweed was spent on shoe polishing machines, pastry, mobile phones, computers, office products, etc. I am afraid that any financial gain (if any) from the Russian-Hungarian Friendship Projects would been spent the same way. I do not think that Hungary should be “protected” from the sceptics of Orban, but from Orban and from his supporters who would give anything to their dear leader versus to the Hungarian people.

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