The first sign of opposition in the Fidesz parliamentary caucus: No compulsory urine tests

The furor over John McCain’s harsh words about Hungary’s “neo-fascist dictator” and his “illiberal state” hadn’t subsided when a new Hungarian bombshell exploded: Máté Kocsis, a two-bit district mayor in Budapest, had a great idea which he immediately made public on his Facebook page last Friday. Given the widespread use of drugs, it would be a good idea, he claimed, to introduce compulsory yearly drug tests for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 18 as well as for elected politicians and journalists. Why politicians and journalists? Politicians’ decisions have a lasting impact on the citizens while journalists have the power to influence public opinion. He promised that he would suggest to the Fidesz parliamentary delegation that they discuss the idea and prepare a legislative proposal to this end.

From what we have learned about this latest brainstorm of Kocsis, it looks as if the idea did not originate with the mayor of District VIII (at least not in his role as mayor) but with Viktor Orbán’s communication staff. It was, it seems, part of a desperate effort to devise a strategy that could neutralize the growing public dissatisfaction with Viktor Orbán and his government.

Directly after the election Orbán talked about creating a “new communication team” headed by the chief communication adviser, Árpád Habony. I wrote about Habony earlier. He’s a shadowy figure with enormous influence within the party and the government but without an official title or an official salary. This new group apparently meets every Friday to discuss some of the issues that cropped up during the previous week. Máté Kocsis, who is no longer a member of parliament but besides being mayor of District VIII is communication director of Fidesz, is an ex officio member of the staff. So it’s no wonder, claim investigative journalists, that Kocsis’s bright idea was published on Facebook on Friday night.

Reports of this crazy idea spread like wildfire. The Associated Press immediately picked up the story. Scores of newspapers and television stations carried the news because journalists find such bizarre items outright delicious.

By now the general consensus is that, with this whacky idea, communication strategists were trying to divert the public’s attention from the corruption case of Ildikó Vida and five unnamed others. Apparently, Viktor Orbán himself thought that the idea of yearly drug tests was a capital idea and decided to support it. And of course we know from past experience that if the Hungarian prime minister supports something it will be law in no time. The members of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation will automatically vote for it even if some MPs consider the idea to be of dubious value and/or legally questionable. By Monday, the Fidesz parliamentary caucus decided with some major changes to consider the proposal.

The idea of mandating regular drug tests for politicians and journalists was dropped by the caucus because such a law would clearly be unconstitutional. Even the Fidesz-dominated fake “constitutional court” couldn’t close their eyes to such a law. As for children’s screening, the Fidesz legislators opted to support only voluntary tests initiated by the children themselves or by their parents. This is certainly nothing like what the “communication staff” cooked up last Friday.

I wonder how Viktor Orbán will react to this unheard-of “revolt” of the Fidesz caucus. After all, the Sunday closing of stores will most likely be approved unaltered although the Fidesz delegation was deeply split on the issue. But now it looks as if Fidesz MPs finally balked at orders from above. If I were Viktor Orbán I would ponder the significance of this earlier unimaginable event.

The way Népszava sees Máté Kocsis's proposition

The way Népszava sees Máté Kocsis’s proposition

But let’s go back to the Habony-led communication staff’s activities. It is rumored that leaking the U.S. decision to bar six Hungarian citizens from entering the United States because of charges of corruption was the idea of Árpád Habony. Again, naturally, with Viktor Orbán’s blessing. We who look at events from the outside think that this was a singularly bad idea that created serious tensions between the United States and Hungary. Ever since mid-October major newspapers all over the world have been talking about the Orbán government’s systemic corruption. The leak resulted in massive anti-corruption demonstrations which in turn added to the growing dissatisfaction with the government. A huge drop in popularity followed. In brief, most independent observers would consider this particular idea of Habony outright injurious to Viktor Orbán and his government. Yet not only has Habony not been fired; his position as chief communication adviser has been strengthened. Moreover, his advice about mandatory drug tests was heeded by the prime minister.

How can we explain this seeming contradiction? In my opinion only one way: Viktor Orbán still thinks that leaking the news of the American ban was a good idea. It was a clever communication ploy. Why? Because Hungary’s position in world affairs is a great deal less important to him than his domestic standing with the electorate. And obviously he must think that the contentious American-Hungarian relations actually work in his favor at home. Fidesz supporters who lately have become disenchanted will perhaps return to the flock because of hurt national pride. He thinks that the risk is worth the gamble. After all, it seems to be working in Russia.

So far so good, but there is the growing dissatisfaction of some members of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation as demonstrated during the “stormy debates” that accompanied discussions on the Sunday closing of stores and the compulsory yearly drug test. In yesterday’s debate on drug testing Viktor Orbán came out the loser. What will happen next?

Let me bring up something that might further demonstrate intra-party dissatisfaction with Fidesz directives coming from above. You will recall that the former Fidesz mayor of Ózd, a very poor town in northeastern Hungary, was so unpopular that the citizens went out in hordes to vote for the only electable opponent, a young Jobbik candidate, who was elected with a two-thirds majority. But in the city council Fidesz was in the majority. The members of the caucus were obviously instructed from above to follow the strategy of Fidesz in Esztergom where the Fidesz majority refused to cooperate with the independent mayor and as a result nothing whatsoever could be accomplished for four long years. Within a few days it became obvious that Ózd had become ungovernable due to the refusal of the Fidesz council members to cooperate. But this time some of the Fidesz city fathers revolted. Three of the eight decided to quit the Fidesz caucus and serve as independents. Fidesz’s majority collapsed. I think we can expect more such events to take place on the local level. A certain erosion has begun that will be very difficult to stop.

György Rubovszky, a Christian Democrat member of parliament and a most faithful supporter of the Orbán government, found the drug test proposal “legally indefensible.” But he also had a personal story that he shared with a journalist of Népszabadság. His twelve-year-old granddaughter phoned him crying bitterly. “Grandpa, I must leave this country because I am not willing to pee in front of strangers.” I must say Rubovszky, who is not my favorite, has a smart granddaughter. Válasz, a pro-government site, wrote yesterday that this latest idea of Fidesz is a sure way to lose all the first-time voters in 2018. Even the party faithful recognize that some of these maneuvers may backfire.

Meanwhile those opposing the proposal are busily collecting urine and leaving it in a large bottle outside the city hall of District VIII. One really wonders whether Viktor Orbán has lost his touch–or, as some might claim, whether he is touched.

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Member

About the current Fidesz government. The spokesperson of Fidesz, Laszlo Kovacs made a comment today to journalist about what the economical impact of a new law introduced by Fidesz could be:
“It is not government’s job to calculate how many stores have to move out, or how many people will be fired because off the new regulation”

“nem a kormány feladata, hogy számításokat végezzen arról, hány nagy boltnak kell költöznie, vagy hogy hány embert fognak kirúgni a szabályozás miatt”
http://index.hu/gazdasag/ado_es_koltsegvetes/2014/12/09/kovacs_nem_a_kormany_feladata_hogy_szamitasokat_vegezzen/

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

tmas
Guest

Orban totally trusts Habony, Orban could simply not exist without Habony, who has been acting as Orban’s confessor and closest friend in the last decade. Orban depends on Habony. Drugs are bad and people are freaked out when they hear drugs in any form, all the non drug abusing kids too support the tests. Moreover, it doesn’t really matter if the proposal is watered down. The message is out and everybody got to know about it: the government is conservative, law and order anti-liberal. It worked, message received. It was not popular with the Budapest based liberal crowd, but do they have political influence? Can Budapest have a serious influence within this election system? So, whatever happened, the idea was good and Orban is happy. More such ideas to follow.

http://martonbede.tumblr.com/post/104759762509

PWT
Guest

Did the well-known cocaine habit of a certain early FIDESZ member play a role in the decision to exclude politicians from this bill?

Oszkar
Guest

PWT:

It doesn’t matter. Fidesz appears as merciless on drugs, while the “liberals are whining because they are afraid that they can’t continue to corrupt our kids”. That’s the image for average rural voters and this is what counts, not what urban bloggers post at 444.hu.

Nobody knows – outside the urban, liberal, blog-reading readers, who anyway don’t vote for Fidesz – about these drug abusing fideszniks.

This issue has been thoroughly polled by the Habony brain trust before the publication of the proposal. It’s natural that in the Parliament the text changes.

Fidesz scored again, its conservative credentials have been strengthened. They want law and order, not out of control liberalism, that leads nowhere.

Meanwhile Orban pushed the left wing into the position of the defender (based on urban, intellectual considerations like human rights and whatnot) of the drug abusers.

The left wing (politicians, media) can’t catch a break, it’s been consistently forced into the position of the “out of touch urban intellectual” (like when it was fighting the German memorial, instead of campaigning for pension increases or further utility rate cuts).

Orban is very happy with this drug test thing.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Speaking about Fidesz dissent, a commenter (sorry I forgot the handle) posted a couple of days ago a link to an article about Tibor Navracsics in Le Monde. The full piece can be read here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/revue-de-presse-theatre/p/4033278872/2014/12/10/tibor-navracsics-non-commissaire-europeen-a-la-culture

The piece strongly suggests that Mr. Navracsics’ appointment to the EC was actually meant to set him aside. Had anyone heard of this before?

native hungarian
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarianshortnews and commented:
Yessss!

native hungarian
Guest

“latest brainstorm of Kocsis” I must laughing loudly 🙂 I reposted it, i like it 🙂

jungle drum
Guest
Now that’s a problem. The young journalist at Valasz.hu (the internet site of the weekly Fidesz mouthpiece) is complaining that Fidesz is losing young voters. He’s actually pretty livid. Link below. His argument: not so long ago it was still *cool* to run around waving a right wing newspaper in the halls of ELTE University. That’s apparently over. The article of course reflects the increasing discomfort of young fideszninks to come out and live as fideszniks in Budapest. Among youngsters, say under 30 – absolutely everything is about perceived coolness. Once something loses its coolness factor, it’s dead in the water. That’s happened with the left-wing (well, it was never cool to begin with; the young fideszniks, the ‘boys’ from Bibo college were cool when democracy appeared) and the result is that no person under 40 joined the left-wing in the last 20 years, it was just totally uncool and indefensible to stand out and be wanting to be similar to Gyula Horn, Imre Szekeres, Feri Baja and the like (or to Csaba Horvath, Zsolt Molnar, Attila Mesterhazy, Janos Tobias for that matter). Now the plague reached Fidesz. Too bad, it is now Jobbik, despite its tastelessness (no to mention… Read more »
Webber
Guest

tmas and Oszkar – I seriously doubt the drugs test was popular in rural areas. It implied that even country kids could not be trusted, and that their parents are not in control. 12 year old peasant girls would have been required to supply urine to unknown testers, with the implication that they MIGHT be drug addicts. How do you think their parents felt about that suggestion? I can imagine the quiet fury in villages throughout Hungary.

Member
Oszkar: Everything shows the opposite of what you saying. Fidesz is not so cool anymore and I do not think “they scored” with the drug test idea. I also want to clarify something what Fidesz is trying to test for is “light drugs”. These are cannabis that you can freely buy in Sweden (age restrictions exist), in a country that does not seem to went down the drain from drug use. While Mate Kocsis on ATV went on about children who die of drug use, and that in the last year he hadn’t heard a kid who died from alcohol, he forgot to mention that those children did not doe from cannabis, but other type of (likely designer) drugs that “cheap ” urine tests would not detect. Now, why chastise students and parents (it would be voluntary, but at the same Laszlo Kovacs says “If you do not support the test you support drug use”, spend tax payers’ money (just like with the national consultation) on something that has no results. WHat are they trying to achieve? Kids would drink alcohol versus use cannabis, kids would move on to harder drugs that is hard to detect, the program would not… Read more »
Guest

If you want to get a perspective on the real drug problems in Hungary, just read this:
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/economy/hungary_fidesz_party_backs_idea_of_mandatory_drug_test_for_12-18-yr_olds_journalists_politicians.28815.html
“Gábor Zacher, toxicologist and head of ER at the Honvéd Hospital in Budapest, said the cost of the proposed drug testing would be enough to screen the entire Hungarian population for cancer, high cholesterol, hypertension, prostate and colorectal cancer, cervical and breast cancer. The public health risks of these diseases are higher than those of drugs, he stressed. ”

and

“Zacher also pointed out that there are 800,000 alcoholics and 20,000 drug addicts in Hungary. Whereas some 30,000 people die every year from alcohol use, drug use cost the lives of “twenty something” people last year and longstanding health condition sends less than 1,000 people to hospital annually. Consequently the public health risk of drug use is negligible compared to the risk of alcohol use, Zacher stressed. ”
We all know that in many countries (even parts of the USA) Cannabis is no longer illegal and even German police (we still have strict laws – on paper) treat small quantities as non-existent …

Member

@wolfi Facts will not deter Fidesz, let alone Mate Kocsis who has to see it with his own eyes to believe in facts, except if Orban tells him so.

Slightly OT: An other brain gem form Mate Kocsis. I am not a legal expert remind you, but Mate Kocsis seems to believe he is. By January 15th, anyone who is renting their apartment, house, etc. or partially renting the above, must pay a district tax of Ft 28,140. It does not matter that you are renting a room to help out with your income, a 700 sq2 or 3,000 sq2 apartment, everyone have to pay the same. All buildings have to have the sign out regarding this new tax. I assume the caretakers will be reporting on all the units that are rented.
I yet to hear about the same form the wealthier districts. I have no idea if you can even implement such thing per district without the approval of the whole Council of Budapest. I never heard of any consolations regarding this either. Mate Kocsis is the favourite toy of Orban and Tarlos, so there you have it.

Istvan
Guest
The results of multiple studies conducted for the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) indicate that drug use, in particular cannabis and amphetamines, has become more prevalent among school-aged youth in Hungary in the last 10 years. We all are well aware that Hungary has a huge problem with alcoholism. Many pubs are bustling by 8:30 in the morning. If you don’t want to drink, your best bet is to tell people you’re a recovering alcoholic and then they leave you be. Eva has commented on this issue before on this blog. Fidesz apparently is waking up to the reality of addiction in Hungary and trying to respond in typical right wing fashion, just like the idiotic war on drugs in the USA. Possibly the next social ill they will suddenly become aware of will be how many young rural Hungarian women are entering the prostitution trade. Women from Hungary are forced into prostitution either by poverty or deception and sent to the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Greece, and the United States. Women from eastern Hungary are subjected to forced prostitution in Budapest and areas in Hungary along the Austrian… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Some1 – Property taxes have been taken by local councils/governments in parts of Hungary for a long time now. The local government has the right to impose such taxes. The town just outside Budapest, Erd, for instance, has had property taxes for the last decade. Many places have no property taxes, of course, including most districts of Budapest.

Istvan – The US seems to be decriminalizing marijuana. At least that’s what happened as a result of the recent referenda in several states (Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Maine, etc.). Public opinion and drug policy are two things. People sometimes aren’t willing to admit in public what they’ll vote for in a private ballot booth.

pokornee
Guest

@wolfi

Yes, but Zacher knows the answer to this riddle.

Exactly *because* there are 800k alcoholics and further hundreds of thousands who drink a lot of alcohol (but may not qualify as alcoholics) alcoholism is normal.

It is accepted as part of life. Therefore nobody cares about it.

Illegal drugs are scary, however, you immediately imagine the dirty syringes which spread AIDS and god knows what else, it’s just repulsive even to contemplate it. It’s also something new, it seems to have come with this Western liberalism or whatever it is.

So people are freaked out about illegal drugs.

Legal, prescription drug abuse is normal, on the other hand, many of those 800k proper alcoholics consume – taxpayer financed – subsidized anti-depressants and other psychoactive drugs.

Politics by aggressive politicians (so we’re not talking about your usual naive Western European gentlemen) is too often about creating panic, scare, hysteria, outrage.

Eg. the figure of the “Terrorist” in the US, which has been the answer to everything in the last 14 years, requiring no further explanation.

Member

@Webber: I understand that, but Erd has property tax all across. Does Budapest can impose (not property) but various taxes district to district?

Member

Marginally OT:

”Defend Orban Against McCain’s Unfair Barbs”

The bright idea that Julia Lakatos, “politologus,” aired on ATV last might (to Olga Kalman’s visible disappoinment and frustartion) was that everyone is at fault in the latest wave of American criticism of the Hungarian government, including the Hungarian opposition.

http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20141210-lakatos-a-kormany-egyet-tehet-elengedi-vida-ildiko-kezet

“How is the opposition at fault in this?” Asks Olga, her perplexity not feigned this time.

“Because they failed to defend Orban against McCain’s hyperbole in calling him a ‘neofascist dictator’…”

I could leave this without comment, except that not even the factual observation is true:

Some members of the opposition alas did cluck — no doubt in a bid to curry favour as “moderates” — that the epithet was excessive…

(Before you ask: No, I would not put the diplomatic demurrals by some US government officials in the same category.)

Lakatos’s vapid ecumenism is in fact content-free, insight-free cluckery. She has not lost sight of reality; there is not the slightest hint that she ever had it.

Member

(And if I recall correctly, some ATV presenters clucked too…)

Max
Guest
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10) I only heard about the interview from the internal European Commission daily press summary, which carried the short translation below from Paris. I found it stunning. Navracsics is the son of party apparatchik whose father had worked for Veszprém county HQ of the communist party until 1989. So his message to the French audience on that period is controversial. Also, I find tactless (if not tasteless) how he handles his own appointment as Commissioner for Education and Culture. Interview with Culture Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, “Non-Commissioner of Culture” Mr Navracsics’s appointment as Commissioner has raised much criticism from within the cultural sector’s ranks, due to his former position as number two in Viktor Orban’s controversial government. In an interview with Le Monde, he discusses his country’s situation and particularly the state of its cultural sector, explaining that Hungary is currently coming to terms with its Communist past, which poses a number of issues. He also comments on his increasing disagreements with Viktor Orban, which probably led the PM to send him to Brussels. More at ease with Central European issues, he never wanted to get the Culture and Sports portfolio in the first place, but was nevertheless granted… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Some1 – Since each district of Budapest has its own local government with its own responsibilities (things it needs to pay for), each district in Budapest can introduce its own property tax in the form it chooses. A friend of mine has a flat in a district in Pest (can’t remember which district) that already charges property taxes on people who don’t live in the district. So, the idea isn’t a new one.

An
Guest

@Max: I agree, the interview is tasteless, given Navracsics’ active and willing cooperation in removing the checks and balances in the Orban government between 2010-14. But, I guess, Nr Navracsics is building his own political career and has no backbone whatsoever.

Webber
Guest

Navracsics has a backbone. He put it aside for a time. He just found it again and is trying to see if it works. The same goes for Pokorni, btw.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Max

I’m afraid the summary doesn’t do justice to the full article.

That said, I wanted to bring to attention one particular aspect of the piece, contained in two quotes (my translation): one from Héti Valasz’s Bálint Ablonczy (“By dint of hearing [Navracsics] criticize him, Viktor Orbán eventually considered him disloyal …”) and the other by Magyar Narancs’ Pal Daniel Rényi (“He tried to build a network of affinities and supports around him, but never succeeded. When Orbán learned about it, his fate was sealed …”).

Member

@Webber I honestly was not aware of that. Still it perplexes me the flat nature of the tax, regardless of size or income.

Guest

Re drugs: Joszefvaros has had a needle exchange program since 2006–Kek Pont. It was abandoned in August of this year. I do not know if other districts also had this program. 8ker, on Facebook, has often posted pictures of used needles in parks in the 8th.

An
Guest

@Webber, I hope that was a joke…if you have a backbone, you don’t put it aside for a time.

@MarcelDe: There is some truth in that that Navracsics, despite his strong support of OV, was getting pushed in the background by younger, more ambitious and agressive Fideszniks, for example Lazar. I don’t think Navracsics deserved it as he never was openly critical of Orban, and indeed he was openly supportive of him in some very sordid affairs (e.g. media law)… he may have had his own opinions in some cases, but was always very careful not to voice them. And silent support or the lack of speaking up is still support in my eyes (lack of backbones).
It’s hard to say whether placing him to the EU was an actual demotion. Remember, what you quoted are some Fidesznik’s speculations about this. Orban needs a trusted man in there.

An
Guest

@Gertchen: The needle exchange program was abandoned because the Fidesz-led local government made it impossible for the foundation to continue.
http://www.kekpont.hu/blog/2013-09-18-jozsefvaros-felbontja-egyuttmukodeset-a-kek-ponttal/

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