Fidesz omnipresence in small towns in Hungary

As if Buda-Cash, Hungária, and Quaestor weren’t enough, we have a new financial scandal, this time in Karcag, a small town half way between Szolnok and Debrecen. Right now it’s is hard to know how many billions of forints disappeared after Mrs. Sándor Dobrai, the co-owner of Kun-Mediátor, a travel agency, together with her daughters and grandchildren, packed up and left Hungary in a great hurry. The woman was a “highly esteemed” member of Karcag society, the mayor of the town said after the scandal broke. The town’s political leadership, with whom she had excellent relations, had no idea that for years she had been acting as a quasi-broker for perhaps as many as one thousand people in town, promising them a 20% annual return on their investments.

Here I will not dwell on the shady business of Marcsi, as she was known to the locals. I am more interested in those small towns where nothing can happen without the approval of Fidesz. Karcag is prototypical of the settlements I have in mind.

Karcag has been in Fidesz hands since 1990. In that year Sándor Fazekas, a 27-year-old lawyer and brand new member of the then still liberal Fidesz, became the mayor of the town. Fazekas must have done something right because he remained in his post until 2010. In 2006, when he last ran as a candidate for mayor, he received almost 80% of the votes. He also became a member of parliament that year.

Everything revolves around Fidesz in Karcag, where the party’s only apparent opposition these days is Jobbik, whose candidate, an elderly gentleman, received 22.69% of the votes. This is a fairly new development. Four years earlier Jobbik had no mayoral candidate, and MSZP’s man received 20% of the votes. Last year the parties of the democratic opposition didn’t even bother entering the race. The lone “independent” candidate received 9.83%.

When Fidesz won the national election in 2010, Fazekas became minister of agriculture even though, according to Zoltán Gőgös, MSZP’s agricultural expert, he “cannot distinguish the front from the back of a cow.” Indeed, his performance has been spotty at best, and his questionable dealings with Russia via Szilárd Kiss brought calls for his resignation.

In addition to Fazekas, there is another “distinguished” son of the town–Mihály Varga, minister of national economy. The anomaly in this group of high level Karcag politicians is Ágnes Vadai, formerly of MSZP and now deputy chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Vadai has not lived in Karcag since the age of 14, but she knows the situation in town well because her parents still live there. As she mentioned in one of her interviews, Karcag is so imbued with Fidesz ideology and a hatred of the “communists” that when she tried to buy red carnations at the flower shop she was told that they don’t stock the flower because it is part of MSZP’s logo. According to her, in Karcag everybody knows everything about everybody else, and therefore she finds it impossible to believe that the Fidesz city fathers knew nothing about the booming business of Mrs. Dobrai, especially since her relationship with town hall was close. Kun-Mediátor also owned a one-person television station that broadcast a two-hour program every evening, dealing mostly with local events. Fazekas as well as Varga appeared as guests on Mediátor TV several times in the past.

Karcag City Hall

Karcag City Hall

Of course, this proves nothing. It certainly doesn’t indicate that local Fidesz politicians were in any way involved in Mrs. Dobrai’s scheme. But then why does Mihály Varga feel compelled to write a Facebook note saying that “it is a well-known fact that during the 2002 and 2006 election campaign Ágnes Vadai received considerable help from the business group which also owns Kun-Mediátor”? Launching countercharges against political opponents is a typical Fidesz tactic, which I consider unfortunate because it calls, perhaps unwittingly, attention to their own possible culpability. The reaction from a commenter was that “in Karcag one cannot even go to the toilet without Fidesz’s permission,” and he accused the local Fidesz leadership of being involved in the illegal financial hoax. He mysteriously added: “ARE YOU PERHAPS AFRAID OF TALKING ABOUT ÉPKART?”

It was in 2011 that Tibor Szanyi called attention to a Karcag firm called Épkart Zrt., which was given preferential treatment when EU grants were handed out. The game was the same as that which the European Commission complained about the other day. The demands of the tender were such that only one company was eligible to apply and win it. Since then, Épkart has received numerous large jobs and the company has moved its headquarters from Karcag to Budapest. Last August the company even received an award from Sándor Fazekas for its excellent job in restoring the Grassalkovich Castle in Hatvan. Clearly, Fazekas, as the mayor of the small town for twenty years, and the owner of Épkart must be old acquaintances if not friends. Népszabadság learned a few days ago that Kun-Mediátor Kft., which also moved to Budapest, just happened to have the same address as Épkart Zrt. Moreover, it turned out that Épkart has been renting a building in Karcag to the two daughters of Mrs. Dobrai ever since 2013. Otherwise, Épkart denies any business dealings with Kun-Mediátor.

I’m certain that most people in Budapest and the few larger cities in Hungary have absolutely no idea of what’s going on in towns the size of Karcag. Just recently I read an article by Tamás Bod, the sole representative of the united opposition on the town council of Gyula, a town 90 km away from Karcag, close to the Romanian-Hungarian border. The mayor of Gyula received 67% of the votes. Out of the 14 members of the council eight are Fidesz, two represent a local group but usually vote with Fidesz, one is a member of Jobbik, and then there’s Tamás Bod. Bod used to be a newspaperman and was considered to be an enemy by the local Fidesz leadership even before he decided to enter local politics. For example, he was forbidden access to Fidesz events even in those days.

After he entered the race he was called “the shame of Gyula” and a “failed journalist” who was now trying to make a living as a politician. (By the way, he gets 48,000 forints a month for serving on the council.) They had a policeman “interrogate” him about a fist fight he allegedly caused miles away and used it as a photo op. He got a seat on the council from the compensation list. He is allowed to speak at council meetings for five minutes only, while the Fidesz members answer with 15- to 20-minute speeches. The local paper refused to let him answer an article by the editor-in-chief which reminded Bod “of the 1950s.” When he asked for remedy from a member of the board of directors, a literary historian, he was told that board members can deal only with financial matters, which Bod found strange since all three members of the board have a literary background. He is totally helpless, and the only thing he can say under the circumstances is “I hope I disturb you.”

If you take a look at the local paper, the Gyulai Hírlap, you will see that Tamás Bod is really trying, but in this town very few people would ever join Bod’s demonstration against Fidesz corruption.

At least in Karcag no one disturbs the work of the council as Bod does in Gyula. Fidesz and Jobbik members decide all matters. In Karcag the few people who don’t agree with the policies of the Orbán government must either hide their anti-government sentiments or pretend that they are a faithful followers of the party. It will be very difficult to break the stranglehold of Fidesz rule in these smaller towns where Fidesz functionaries have been in power for a decade or more.

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Member

The people in Karcag, who voted for Fidesz/KDNP and put their money in Marcsi’s hand, deserve what happened. No problem, in 2018, they can vote for Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik candidates again. And they will!

Webber
Guest

On the situation in Gyula – A good illustration of why, in much of the country, it takes quite a lot of bravery to speak out against Fidesz in public. Those who do so can lose their jobs, and become targets of hate campaigns in the local press.

Elektra
Guest
Fidesz smartly rearranged the election system so that leftists of urban settings (all leftists are urban) have no say whatsoever, they are totally compartmentalized. And the more urban the leftists become the more leftists are hated by rural people as the dreaded urbanites will be equated with leftists. Rural people hate urban people as all bad like communism tend to come from urban regions, most importantly Budapest and Brussels. If this is a surprise, though then it’s too late. Look at Western Hungary, it’s exactly the same and has been the same for 25 years. People had communists for 45 years and won’t have them again, thank you very much. Rural Hungary was always like this. On the left there are only “communists” and a proper rural person would never contemplate communists. Együtt or DK or MSZP are the same shit for rural people, they are all communists and so will never win in rural Hungary. People just aren’t curious about what leftists have to say (admittedly, they don’t have anything to say), one has to be a right-wing politician to even get the attention of rural people. Yep, this is Hungary. Hopefully this will dawn on the leftists. There’s… Read more »
Webber
Guest

That is just a mythologizing of the countryside and city, alike.
With that extraordinarily simplistic theory, you have no explanation whatsoever for the the national election results in 2002 and in 2006, or in recent elections wherever in the countryside leftists won seats in rural councils.
Indeed, if one accepted your ideas, one would expect not a single vote for the left anywhere in the countryside. Yet even in the most pro-Fidesz areas, some people vote for the left.
I personally know leftists from villages in Hungary. And Hungary has a long tradition of rural leftist movements, going right back to Habsburg times.
There are, of course, right-wingers in Budapest, and leftists in rural places. And then there is the mass of people who couldn’t care less about right or left.

Webber
Guest

I’ll go further: if your explanation were correct (and it clearly isn’t), and the left can only win in cities while the right will always take the countryside, then the left has a very bright future indeed and the right is doomed to permanent failure, because the majority of Hungarians – 69.5% of them – live in cities (this is true of the majority of Europeans in general – I’ve just looked).
So, your explanation not only fails to account for the national elections of 1994, 2002 and 2006, it even fails to explain the results of the elections of 2010 and 2014.

In Hungarian:
69,5% városban, 30,5% más településen.

A népszámlálás időpontjában 328 városi és 2826 községi jogállású település volt Magyarországon. A lakónépesség 17,4 százaléka Budapesten, 52,1 százaléka a többi városban, és 30,5 százaléka a községekben él.

telkes
Guest
Webber, I think you misinterpret the data. It’s not the statistics which makes a region rural or urban. This is a factual question. Nowadays if they are good lobbyists villages with 5,000 people can receive the title “town” from the government and thus count as urban areas. The late Szilard Borbély said that Debrecen, Hungary’s second city currently with some 200,000 people (roughly the same as Zürich) is just a giant village. Its population began to grow after 1945 as people from the extremely rural and deprived regions like Nyírség (where Borbély’s last book plays) moved to Debrecen en masse. However these cities (just like Karcag, Gyula etc.) never really had a burgher, bourgeoise tradition like Kassa, Eperjes, Zólyom (now in Slovakia) or Kolozsvár (Romania) did going back hundreds of years. Plus the rural jews were all murdered. The society remained even in Debrecen, which soak up a 100,000 new inhabitants thereby doubling its size, that of an agriculture based, backward village only grown into a giant mezőváros. In fact most towns in Hungary are mezőváros (agricultural towns, effectively villages all but in size). By the Veszprem was one of the few towns with a vibrant (at least as far… Read more »
Reginald
Guest
Every such comment is a generalization. You can have 10-15% leftists votes in West-Hungary and so what? Of course it’s true that there are many unattached, undecided people and they are open to persuasion. Things change, however. In west-Hungary people voted even for SZDSZ – until they realized that SZDSZ wasn’t just anti-communist, but also liberal, pro-foreign, pushing unpopular issues. But that’s not an argument for the current existence of liberals in West-Hungary. The same with the left, the current left isn’t the same left as in 2002 or 2006, most of its leaders and many of its voters are gone meanwhile the younger generations grew up hating and laughing at old-style Socialists, communists. This is not the US where there are only two parties, so if people are fed up with one then they have no other choice but to vote for the other even if they don’t like that second one too much. Of course this was Orban’s plan too: to build out an effective two party (cartel-like) system where you are bound get back to power simply because there are only two parties. It didn’t turn out according to plans. The ingrained image of the left is… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Look, all I am objecting to is the generalization of any group of voters, rural or urban, that suggests that from here on out they – the majority of them – will vote in a certain way. As if they might not change their minds just because of where they live.
That is nonsense.
It is especially nonsense in places like Hungary where the majority of voters are, by their own definition, “undecided.”
For some reason that I cannot fathom, that sort of nonsense is spouted more about rural voters than urban ones (I’ve heard it in the States too). Maybe that’s because of a romantic view of rural places. Maybe it’s because people from urban places – the majority now, almost everywhere – are able to see through the lie when it’s told about them, and slap it down.
Let me state it again – in Hungary, in certain elections, parts of the countryside have gone for the left. These parts may go for the left again. They certainly cannot be counted upon to vote for the right for eternity.
I did not say a thing about the current state of the Hungarian left. That is another issue.

Reginald
Guest
Rural people tend to be more conservative (plus less educated and poorer too), while urban people are less conservative which inevitably means that they tend to be more open to new ideas, new parties, that is where the system allows more parties. This means that urban voters are less predictable, while rural voters are more predictable and are at the same time conservative. I’m not saying this is a uniform rule, of course, but a useful generalization supported by data/averages. In the US there is, moreover, the issue of suburbs/exurbs like Virginia, Maryland around DC which are places where “urban” (in behavior, thinking, more open to modernity) people moved to and upset the old political calculus. But in Hungary the demographic changes are somewhat different in nature. There is a somewhat similar demographic shift (in addition to the decrease of population) in Hungary: educated, more ambitious, competitive people tend to move to towns to be able to meet like minded people and get a job with a higher salary, while the less competitive people (who are unable to compete and get a job in the more demanding Budapest) tend to stay at home. On a bigger scale that’s what is… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

If the general elections were held today:
comment image

Webber
Guest

And with that result, Fidesz would not have a majority in Parliament – quoting from the same article from Index:

egyéni listás összes %

FIDESZ–KDNP 63 33 96 48,24%
JOBBIK 10 34 44 22,11%
LMP 0 5 5 2,51%
MSZP–EGYÜTT–DK–PM–MLP 33 21 54 27,14%

If trends continue as they are going now, that map above will get less and less orange as time goes on.

petofi
Guest

“…highly esteemed…”

Yeah, right.
With the skewed values of Hungarians, where money and influence supplants merit, this madam may well have been ‘highly esteemed’…

Guest

‘Left’ and ‘right’, ‘right’ and ‘left’….At this time, it’s very evident Hungary looks to be marching one way to a beat of the rightist drummers.

Here was Mr. Orwell’s view of the ‘left’…

‘So much of left wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot’. And no doubt the old boy was shrewd enough to know it could work in the other direction as well. Thing is Orban could be setting up a sort of political arson without even knowing it. Just saying.

Guest

Reginald’s description of “rural thinking” being conservative, anti-modern, anti-immigration etc seems a general idea not only in Hungary.

Some time ago there was an initiative against immigration (from the EU even!) in Switzerland and rural counties (Kanton) like Appenzell-Innerroden (funny name btw) voted against immigration with huge majorities – though there are nary any immigrants there! So there is some truth in the expression “country bumpkin” – in the villages around Hévíz we find a lot of them …
They’re quite nice people – but really, really backwards, sorry conservative …

An
Guest

In this respect not much changed since 1526 in Hungary. Local oligarchs are running small towns who only care about their own power and enrichment at the expense of the future of the country.

Szása
Guest

The Paks 2 supply agreement is OKd by the EU Commission – Lazar gets the deal done.

Never trust the EU to care about anything other than the jobs of the bureaucrats — and the bureaucrats always, I repeat always settle.

Orban knows this and uses to his advantage.

Paks 2 will be built, Orban and Putin (and Jobbik) will ensure that.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2015/04/20/az_europai_bizottsag_megis_alairta_a_paksi_szerzodest/

Kot Kotafejics
Guest

Yep, The Empire Strikes Back.

Not even the mighty EU can do a thing when Orban decides to do something (well, we always knew that).

With Paks 2 on track Fidesz will regain its stature. No more wobbly background people.

Fidesz will hold the keys to this 12-20bn Euro project and those numbers are pretty titillating to even the most leftists, MSZPnik, PM-supporting entrepreneur (as if there were any).

This nice carrot will ensure discipline.

Morningstar
Guest

Why do Hungarian politicians lie so much? Can someone explain it?

http://index.hu/belfold/2015/04/20/magyarorszag_korrupcio_amerikai_nagykovet_april_foley_gyurcsany_putyin_gazprom/

April Foley the former US ambassador said that Gyurcsany admitted the corruption of the Socialist years with some words in 2009

“I don’t think Hungary is ready for transparency, I don’t think Hungary is ready for market competition”. – Gyurcsany said according to April Foley about the corruption situation in Hungary in 2009

But now in 2015 Gyurcsany lies about saying it, and for what purpose? Gyurcsany lies AFTER the April Foley statement is public knowledge, out on the front page of Index, for all to see.

Does Gyurcsany think that anyone will believe that April Foley made up quotes, and lied about Gyurcsany 5 years later?

Even the index article, which usually does not do this starts out with “This can only be Gyurcsany. Gyurcsany denies this.” (=Gyurcsany lied again).

When the left is in great trouble and has a myriad of problems, why is it necessary to lie so stupidly and so transparently?

spectator
Guest

“I don’t think Hungary is ready for transparency, I don’t think Hungary is ready for market competition”. – Gyurcsany said according to April Foley about the corruption situation in Hungary in 2009

Would you mind to point out exactly where in the article have you read that April Foley explicitly named Gyurcsány?
According to the article which your link lead to, she said “a former prime minister”, only the journalist concluded that it must have been Gyurcsány, because of the time frame.

Apparently none of you remember that there was another PM within the given period, Gordon Bajnai his name.
Did anybody asked him?

Or just the orbanist standard working in overtime, if nobody knows a damn thing, then must have been Gyurcsány!

Hell, he admitted lying, so he is a liar!

The word “logic” isn’t a Hungarian one, consequently it have been omitted from the vocabulary of the nationalist Fidesz supporters, obviously…

“Lying” is still there, it must needed as it seems.

Rob
Guest

Spectator, Your objection to not using a name and only a description is not a very strong one. Let me explain by an example:

Imagine someone describes a commenter at the HS who is “not very bright”. The description says, that this commenter’s (who shall not be named) nickname starts with S, nickname ends with OR, he commented on April 20, and his comment included the phrase “if nobody knows a damn thing”.

No in this case would you take offence to the description “not very bright”? Could it be anybody, since a name was not used?

Truth is if a description only fits one person, then it completely does not matter if a name were said or not.

In any case, April Foley’s term ended before Bajnai was even elected. Foley was only ambassador during the time that Ferenc Gyurcsany was prime minister. So Foley was no longer ambassador during Bajnai’s time, it is not a good aim to accuse and attack Bajnai with this.

spectator
Guest

Rob, you are right, there is two weeks in Gyurcsány’s favour.

However, what part of my comment attacked Bajnai, even if I was wrong with the date?

If you’ll pay some attention you will see that I reacted primarily to the false and misleading information what “Morningstar” presented above: “Gyurcsany said according to April Foley” – it isn’t true, she never stated this explicitly.

I just hate it when someone falsifying information. There are many ways to present the news, even without outright lies.

Otherwise she didn’t specified either if her source was active PM at the time, she even mentioned that it wasn’t the present one (Orbán) even if he wasn’t active PM during Foley’s service period either. In this light it could be anyone, even before and/or after that time, who was Hungarian prime minister, there is no word from her which point only one direction.

In short, the available information far too vague and let far too much room for speculation to be sure, without asking. That’s what I proposed, to be certain.

I’d do, before I am about to take a statement – apparently others quite happy with their assumptions.

nix ugribugri
Guest

Liberal students and professors are up in arms as their jobs and places are gone.

Orban and his pals are so happy tonight.

It was worth winning the election just for these days.

Poor lefty students they think they can keep their programs.

Orban decided and that’s that. It’s party time.

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