Viktor Orbán’s new infatuation with modernity

The Orbán government fell in love with the word “modern.” As we just learned today, the leadership of Fidesz has been dissatisfied with the media portfolio of Lajos Simicska for some time. They considered it old-fashioned and hence ineffective. Therefore, quite independently of the quarrel between Orbán and Simicska, the party’s leadership was thinking of pro-government media that can have a greater impact, especially on the younger generation. They have been working on a new media portfolio under the supervision of Árpád Habony, who will also be part owner of the new enterprise. The name of the company will be Modern Média Group (MMG). It looks to me as if Fidesz is no longer capable of coming up with anything new because, as HVG discovered, there used to be a company called Modern Média. It was one of those bankrupt companies around Fidesz that was sold to Josip Tot, the penniless Croatian guest worker, in 1998.

MMG’s plans are ambitious. They will have an internet site called that will publish opinion pieces and political analyses. The new owners are also planning to launch a free paper to replace Helyi Téma, which ceased to exist a few weeks ago due to the financial troubles of its owner, Tamás Vitézy. In addition, their plans include a financial paper. There is also talk about a possible radio station. All of this requires a lot of money. Where do Árpád Habony and his business partner, Tibor Győri, who used to be undersecretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, get the money for such a media empire? We pretty well know where Lajos Simicska got his money, but what about Habony, who as far as we know doesn’t have a job? Before 2010 Győri was CEO of Mahír, one of Simicska’s companies, but I can’t believe that he is a billionaire.

I’m rather skeptical of the prospects for this new Fidesz-Orbán media empire simply because government-created propaganda is almost never financially successful. As for modernity, it is the last word one would associate with the Orbán government, which has been doing nothing else in the last five years but trying to turn back the clock.

But that’s not all. The Orbán government has a new project called the Modern Városok Program (Modern Cities Program), which Viktor Orbán launched in Sopron on March 25. Unfortunately for Orbán, his speech on that occasion was totally overshadowed by his revelation in the question and answer period that he was the person who ordered his ministers to withdraw all government money deposited at the Quaestor Group.

His visit to Sopron signaled the beginning of a road show that includes visits to all 23 cities labeled as “megyei jogú városok,” which simply means that these cities also take care of the business of the county in which they are situated although not all of them are county seats. According to plans, about 1,000-1,200 billion forints, coming largely from Brussels, will be spent on “modernizing” the infrastructure. Originally, the government planned to finish all the expressways that would connect these cities to “motorways” or superhighways only by 2020, but given the sorry state of Fidesz and the Orbán government, the decision was made to speed up the process and finish the work by 2018, i.e., before the next election. In addition to an expressway between Sopron and Győr (M1), money would go for renovations of “church and government buildings” in Sopron and for the development of a tourist center at Lake Fertő. The expressway itself would cost more than 100 billion forints.

This “modernization” for Orbán means that “anyone crossing the border between Austria and Hungary wouldn’t notice any difference in quality.” But, of course, we know that not everything depends on new paint on buildings and an expressway leading into the city. What is missing on the Hungarian side cannot be remedied by road building and renovation. What is lacking is a forward-looking government and population.

On April 10 Orbán visited Eger, where the goodies coming from Brussels were more modest than in Sopron–only 30 billion forints. In addition to another expressway, Eger would receive a “national swimming and waterpolo centrum” to the tune of six billion forints. This center will be grandiose: several pools, “not just one or two.” After all, “let’s dream of great things, and do it right,” he said. I guess after the stadiums we can expect many, many swimming centers, which actually makes more sense than the stadium building mania for the nonexistent Hungarian football players. At least Hungarian swimmers and water polo players are world famous. Another six billion will be spent on the famous castle where in 1552 the Hungarian forces successfully defended the town from the Turkish invaders. Mind you, in 1596 Eger fell anyway and became part of the Ottoman Empire. An industrial center will be built, waiting for investors who will be able to reach Eger more easily after the expressway is built to M3.

The next stop was Zalaegerszeg. Another expressway by 2018 and another swimming pool with a recreation center. The city will also build a pilgrimage center devoted to József Mindszenty, the last Prince Primate of Hungary. Mindszenty became a parish priest in the Church of Mária Magdolna in Zalaegerszeg in 1919 and spent almost twenty years there. Although his beatification has been pending since 1996, it looks as if the city fathers of Zalaegerszeg are optimistic about the final outcome. I have no idea how popular such a pilgrimage center will be, but it looks as if the mayor and the city council consider it a good business opportunity.

Of course, the roadshow is not over. There are twenty more cities to visit.

I find the Orbán government’s sudden interest in modernity curious. If anything, Viktor Orbán is a man of the past. Even before he became prime minister in 2010, he fought tooth and nail against modern shopping habits. It’s enough to think of his crusade against the government’s plans to allow over-the-counter medications to be sold outside of pharmacies. And the government’s newly introduced Sunday store closings are supposed to favor small business owners and punish the large supermarket chains.

modernityYes, in the last fifty years or so small business owners have been pushed out of the market. It is sad. Where are the small bookstores? Few of them survive. The small pharmacy I used to visit even in the 1980s is gone. Pharmacies have been replaced by chains. Some large retail outlets, like Walmart, have their own pharmacies. There are fewer and fewer flower shops because every supermarket sells flowers. Certain professions have completely disappeared. For example, typesetting. But there is nothing new about that. After all, when Gutenberg introduced movable type, within a few years scribes lost their jobs. To try to stop these developments by government edict is more than foolhardy. Such an attempt can bring only disaster–backwardness and poverty. Moreover, it is hopeless. Anyone who attempts to stop the clock, unless it is Kim Jong-un in isolated North Korea, is doomed to failure.

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A thought or two on the Sunday shopping situation. This has been our first trip over here since the new legislation came in and I was interested to see what impact it has had. The answer appears to be – none. (Excluding, of course, those who have lost jobs or hours as a result.) Although it’s true that this new law is fairly unpopular, it isn’t universally so. Many Hungarians, especially the older ones, and even some amongst those who are theoretically in favour of Sunday trading, are actually supportive of Sundays returning to their traditional place in Hungarian society. And this is almost entirely a non-religious reaction – those who go to church, do so whether Tesco is open or not. In Hungary, family is everything (Hungarians aren’t just suspicious of foreigners, they are suspicious of anyone outside their own family!) and Sunday was (is) the day for visiting your family. Now the distraction of Tesco is out of the way, they can happily go back to the comfortable old ways. As for not being able to shop on a Sunday, we need to remember that this is a country where it isn’t even that easy to shop on… Read more »

Paul, you and I are not the typical Hungarian …
Most of my neighbours in the village (and my wife’s family members too) have a second or even third job – so Sunday was their only free day when they could do leisurely shopping …
But of course everybody can manage somehow, even if it means rushing down to the local CBA for those things you need immediately and paying 50% more …


Poll after poll – no matter who takes the survey, or how the question is posed – the answer is always the same: the vast majority of Hungarians despise the Sunday closing law.
Naturally, a minority likes it, or isn’t bothered. There are always minority opinions. No society is ever unified in thought.


Turul Trendiness

I wouldn’t call Orban a man of the past either — not the real past.

He certainly doesn’t know history, only simplistic populist myths, and pretty petty ones at that.

The only past he might know is his own, but it’s clear that apart from a knack for manipulation (oiled by a complete absence of honesty or scruple) his perception of even his own past is probably quite fuzzy and delusional (he neither admits nor corrects errors, so his minions spare him any negative feedback).

The only aspects of modernity that tempt him are the tools for manipulation: the media, the myths —and of course the money.


Fidesz and Modernity is a total oxymoron.
Internet tax, National Tabac, Sunday closing, new toll road taxes, feudal systems etc.

One clue is the governments overuse of the word ‘National’. It’s draconian thinking made manifest. + a trigger word to stir up fake memories of a dead past.

Today, who wants to live in country where there’s a new law every week that directly affects your quality of life and in a bad way.

Modernity should equal freedom; the people’s choice, not Fidez’s choice.

Victor wants to pull Hungary back to Victorian times, and lord over the manor in his Buda castle.


Swimming pools are also completely unnecessary, there are dozens upon dozens of new swimming pool from SportMax in district 12 of Budapest to Szentendre which were built (let’s do anything from which we can steal) and are completely empty.

The thing with swimming pools is the heating, energy costs which are just enormous. Plus there are other issues, like water vapor which necessitates constant maintenance.

All in all very expensive, but once there what can you do with such a giant project? Orban knows this so he doesn’t care.

Now taxpayers operate (with a huge loss that is) almost all new swimming pools.

Where are the funds for all this going to come from? The EU has just suspended a lot of money – 700 bn. forints worth – and until that little problem is resolved, there’s no counting on that source. A huge amount of money is needed immediately just to maintain infrastructure and ordinary operations. For instance, Hungarian hospitals are bankrupt and are (many of them) in a terrible state – paint peeling off the walls, plaster falling, etc. They owe their suppliers @900 bn. forints. The government claims it has set aside 600 bn. to help the hospitals, but hospitals are still waiting for the funds. Universities have had funding frozen, and university workers haven’t had a pay raise for roughly a decade. Schools are not in great shape, either. Local governments are still in debt. The national pension fund isn’t in great shape. All this is a perennial problem – government after government has failed to set aside enough money for basic maintenance and repairs, preferring to build grandiose new things instead. So, where is all the money going to come from for the new things to be built, and the old things that need repairing? (and where is… Read more »
From EU funds of course. But this is just a desperate political road show given that Orban’s ratings are down. His people thought that this might help. This is more about Orban’s underlings, to show to the boss that they’re still busy and can up with ideas and organize a road trip. The thing is Orban’s been in power for 5 years now and so the results by now must be evident — just as for Obama the results of his economic plans plus QE started bearing fruit by the end of his first cycle and now more or less clear that he was right. There is no such hope with respect to Orban at all as he never had any plans whatsoever other than to burn the pensions funds and survive the next fiscal quarter or year (and steal meanwhile as much as he can). Policy-wise Orban is a short-term player, he always was. He is a lawyer who has no interest in anything other than power games backed up by legalistic maneuvering. He wants to survive the next quarter and sell more bonds to foreign investors who buy everything with high enough yields. (Power-wise Orban plans for many… Read more »

error above:
Hospital debt is 90 bn. (not 900) – and that is debt owed by the government.
It is growing by roughly 150 mn. a day.


Where is Habony’s money from? Ask Moscow.


Summer officially arrived with bright sunny whether, with temperatures close to 30 degrees celsius (84 degrees fahrenheit). Nobody will care about politics.

People are out sipping their coffees or beer of házi limonádé or tending to their Balaton houses. They stop giving a damn about politics. Orban can finally catch a little break and turn up the – completely legal – looting.

I hear some fideszniks have grandiose plans with acquired state assets. It’s not as though fideszniks think there’s any reason to slow down. Why would they, they have three more years to legally rob the country.

Jobbikniks are out working, the urban lefties are hanging out playing with their Ipads. Nothing’s gonna change until October when the next political season begins.


Colder weather is on the way now, they say – to hit by Saturday at the latest.
The government has already had a cold shower today. More of its lies have been exposed by the EU. Yesterday, after the EU announced that massive funds were being suspended because of suspect tender processes, the government said that these problems from the time the Socialists were in power. Now the EU has spoken – the only problems it has pointed out are with projects after 2010, after the time Fidesz changed the tender procedure. So, again, the government lied.
Pray tell, when does it ever tell the truth?


The absolute key signifier (word) of the entire Orban-era – as Lajos Simicska unwittingly made it obvious – is: geci.

Why fidesznik politicians do this or that instead of something else? Why this or that happens and why not something else?

One hears this term and everything suddenly falls in place.


Degas is right:

It’s become rather obvious – Fidesz is the mother of corruption, anything connected to Orbán is corrupt, or will be corrupted …

Just read this:
And that’s just one example …
In the neighbouring village Orbán’s son in law will install new street lights – they are really needed because the pedestrian walkway is full of holes, but of course there’s no money to repair them!
The street lights are still ok – but they’ll get new ones …


But they must be happy – now there is a clear picture of all the potholes, even after sunset..!


At the begging of all times there was only the great emptiness and total darkness – that’s all.
Then came along God and said “There must be light!” – and so it happened.

There still wasn’t anything at all, all around, but from that point of time you could see that clearly…


I am not sure if this information is still up to date but here is a possible explanation for extra swimming pools: I think “modern” means state of the art in this context.
BTW I would resist being carried away by buzzwords like Christian values in foreign policy or other utter nonsense. It’s all about tools controlling public opinion. All Hungarian parties are “left leaning” (FidASS being far left) except Jobbik. The big question who they are next to being nationalist, xenophobic and racists? (Please look out for deeds not buzzwords).


Jobbik’s economic policies are extreme left – indeed, Bolshevik, or National Socialist if you prefer.