The Orbán government is determined: it alone will decide on the state of terror threat

At the moment the Orbán government has two serious challenges. One is its absolute determination to introduce an amendment to the constitution that would authorize the government to unilaterally declare a “state of terror threat” that would lead to draconian limitations of the basic rights of citizens for sixty days and that could be extended indefinitely. Since the governing party, Fidesz-KDNP, doesn’t have the requisite two-thirds majority in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment, it would need the cooperation of the opposition parties. Most are, however, suspicious of the real intent of this amendment.

The other headache for the government is the unexpected outburst of discontent among the nation’s teachers, who are being supported by students and parents. Demonstrations and strikes may be forthcoming, not just by the teachers but also by the railroad workers and bus drivers.

Today Viktor Orbán devoted the lion’s share of his usual Friday morning interview to these two challenges.

In a way, the constitutional amendment issue is the easier of the two to solve. Only a few members of parliament need to be persuaded or bribed to vote with the Fidesz majority and the problem will go away. Dealing with tens of thousands of teachers and other dissatisfied state employees is a much more difficult proposition. So it’s no wonder that Viktor Orbán began his interview with the teachers’ demand to undo the fundamental changes the government has made in the educational system since 2010.

Yet here I would like to talk about the amendment, because from the point of view of Hungarian democracy it is a potential threat to the very structure of governance as well as to human rights. I detailed its key provisions earlier.

So, let’s see where things stand with the amendment, whose passage seems to be of tremendous importance to the government. Its rigid insistence on the exclusive right of the government to declare a state of terror threat is frightening to those who are suspicious of the government’s intentions, especially since the word “terrorism” has been bandied about by government spokesmen without any justification. Yet Viktor Orbán refuses to yield any say in the matter to parliament. In the last few days various Fidesz politicians have declared that the government will submit the proposal unaltered.

At first it looked as if the opposition was united in opposing the measure, but two days ago Ádám Mirkóczki, Jobbik’s spokesman, casually remarked at a press conference that his party would agree to allow the government to declare a state of emergency for three days. After three days, he said, Jobbik would insist on parliamentary approval for its extension by a fourth-fifths majority of parliament.

Mirkóczki’s remarks must have sounded encouraging, so the Orbán government decided to pursue the possibility of shortening the duration of a state of emergency as a promising basis for negotiations. In an interview with Die Presse Gergely Gulyás, the Fidesz politician in charge of shepherding the amendment through parliament, stated that as far as the government is concerned even fifteen days may be enough. Or, if necessary, Jobbik and Fidesz could agree on something between these two lengths of time. Gulyás also revealed in the same interview that the government has most likely been having private conversations with András Schiffer, co-chair of LMP. In fact, he expressed his belief that if there is an agreement it will be between the government and LMP.

So I suspect that the government will have the necessary votes to pass the odious bill, not for a sixty-day duration but for a shorter length of time which, I assume, could be extended if necessary. This is very bad news for Hungarian democracy.

This morning the Hungarian media was in turmoil when MTVA’s Híradó and Magyar Idők, two government publications, came out with the following headline, accompanying their articles on Viktor Orbán’s interview this morning: “Orbán: Preparation is underway for an attack against the Hungarian people.” In no time dozens of publications asserted that Hungary is under a terror threat at this very moment. About an hour later the journalists discovered their mistake. What Orbán actually said was that the “state of terror threat” can be declared “if there is credible information about the preparation of a terror attack.” As Népszabadság rightly pointed out, this is the first time that anyone from the government had “attempted to define the state of terror threat.”

Magyar Idők misinforms public about alleged terror threat

Magyar Idők misinforms public about an alleged terror threat

As we know from opposition members of the parliamentary committee on national security, at no time did Terrorelhárítási Központ (TEK), the police, or the intelligence services ever report any terror threat. When asked, they always answered that they have no such information. Now, the MSZP chairman of the committee, Zsolt Molnár, will specifically ask the services whether the terror threat has grown lately or not. If it has, why didn’t they inform the members of the committee?

I think the question is a legitimate one: why does the Orbán government find this amendment so crucial? Rumors are flying in Budapest about possible reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism. One provision currently in the amendment might be of some importance to the government: “the prohibition of organizing events and demonstrations in public spaces.” Nothing could stop the government from declaring a state of terror threat if it was itself challenged by mass demonstrations or strikes. Imposing a curfew could also come in handy in case of disturbances. Closing the borders might be useful. Or contact with foreign journalists in case of trouble. I know some people might say that such a scenario is unlikely. Maybe, but this government is paranoid. So, I wouldn’t put it past Viktor Orbán and his minions to resort to extreme measures if they felt threatened. After all, we just heard that the chairman of the central bank, in addition to his protection by the ordinary police force, just created a new guard and ordered 112 weapons and 200,000 rounds of ammunition.

February 5, 2016
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Guest

London Calling!

Hungary is becoming one hell of a nasty place to ‘live’.

Regards

Charlie

Guest

Just remember one thing charliecharlie: Orbán and his gang are a characteristic PRODUCT of Hungarian society at large.

If Hungarian society at large was not the nasty thing that it really is, there would be no Orbán and no mafia.

As it is, Orbán and his gang are profoundly rooted in Hungarian cultural proclivities and in the political comfort zone of the vast majority of Hungarians.

As a secular Jew, I have always found Hungary a nasty place to live in and that is why I left a long, long time ago.

After all, it is nothing new that there are many places around the world that are a heck of a lot more congenial to live in than nasty little Hungary.

Guest

Meanwhile, the British International School of Budapest has just this week received its third bomb threat, communicated from a foreign telephone line. Other then send police out to the school, it has made no effort to trace the calls, citing that it’s impossible to trace foreign telephone lines.
.
I wonder if the FBI or MI5 would also find it impossible to trace calls if they are made from abroad. And if Orbán were threatend would the terror headquarters still find it impossible to trace?

The new “terror” laws are to protect Orbán only, and are a means of controlling any and all dissent, and will be used against Hungarians, and not in order to protect them.

We desperately need the West to protect us from Orbán.

Guest

What I meant to say in the above comment was that Orbán’s security team in his newly fortified Hungary, has made no effort to trace the bomb threat phone calls to the school.

Guest
webber ‘facetious’ is the only word that has all the vowels in the correct order. In a previous life in regulatory finance I was responsible for obtaining all communication data under our powerful – but controlled – RIPA legislation (look it up). I had authority over all audit trails including telecommunications data and my lips are sealed over some of what I know. (However I have no concerns Snowden-wise over what is available and how it is used in England.) Everything that is done under RIPA is subject to personal liability for potential misuse; is subject to instant and ongoing review by the Data Registrar; is subject to peer review before being obtained and in many cases requires a magistrate to sign the warrant. Orban’s laws require real-time remote access to all telecommunications systems in Hungary which he uses even to spy on his colleagues without any accountability. But even without it his police authorities have redress to international data requests – providing they meet the requesting-country’s law requirements. It is but a simple trace request to follow the trail through Hungary – then to request a trace through other country’s networks. There is a standard legal request protocol. Providing… Read more »
Guest

@time4change
February 5, 2016 8:48 pm

May be it is Orbán’s security team, the new Hungarian gendarmerie, that is trying to get rid of a perceived thorn in the side with a bogus security threat.

After all, as far as the Fidesz/KDNP leadership is concerned, the fewer Hungarians are fluent in English, the better.

And maybe the next in line would be the CEU, the Soros-funded anglophone university in Budapest.

Guest

ambilant
After the first bomb threat at the BISB, I thought just the same, that it is concoted by some ingenious branch of Orbán’s government, which has in the past crossed swords with the school.
But now it seems that sadly all the Nord Anglia schools in Europe have also received the same threats, so I think even Orbán and his band of merry helpers have other things to do.
But I wonder what efforts the security team are making to locate the source of the threat.

webber
Guest

BISB and bomb threats:
I wonder if it was exam time there? Ordinary Hungarian high schools often have bomb threats called in at exam time. Hungarian police automatically evacuate schools to which bomb threats have been made to thoroughly check the school. This takes many hours, and exams are cancelled for that day. The police, however, generally suppose the caller is a student or the friend of a student, and when such people are caught the authorities often enough don’t bother to press charges – they just scare the bejasus out of the little hooligan (sometimes he or she is expelled, as well – though that does nobody any good).
It would not be terribly hard for a student to get a SIM card in a different country to use to call BISB. That would, I suppose, show up as a call from abroad. I quote from BISB’s weppage:
“…the British International School Budapest, with students from over 60 different nationalities…”
Obviously many students there, and their parents, spend a certain amount of time outside Hungary.

webber
Guest

Fine – just tell us what number to call if we want to contact “the West”?

Member

For consideration,

Fidesz terror threats; opportunity to hide accountability.

Threats, pre-planned to coincide with property deals in Budapest district 5, + extrapolated out to other districts / cities / sectors / as needed.

Hidden under a cloak of invisibility, impervious to external investigations.

In essence, the dream ticket of a state run mafia, un-accountability.

webber
Guest

Eva, you will never have to look at that dreadful outfit again.
Czunyiné has been fired.
Now, if we could only get rid of that awful hairdo (Szíjjártó), we might finally concentrate on the other example of horrible tailoring (Orbán).

Nwo
Guest

With this type of proposed law, no level of paranoia about Govt measures is too paranoid. One cannot be too cynical. Power corrupts, absolute power…

Istvan
Guest
So I have a lot questions In relationship to the February 13th demonstration called by teachers in Budapest in Kossuth Square and supported by the chemical industry trade union confederation (VDSZ). What other unions are supporting the Feb 13 demonstration at this time? Human Resources Minister Zoltan Balog, who oversees education, said in an RTL Klub TV interview last month that the government had “overdone” centralization and is open to loosening it. Later tried to create a round table discussion with teachers that failed. The consensus is that offer was to little to late. It seems now that some of the core demands are: 1.decrease the burden on teachers 2.modify the National Curriculum 3.decrease administration 4.clarify the role of the state in education 5. increase the minimum school leaving age to 18 from the current 16 6. reducing the amount of lexical material that students are required to learn 7. restoring the independence of schools 8. providing principals with more powers over their budgets 9. Better upkeep of school facilities 10. A demand about human resource decision making that I can’t figure out 11. restoration of a maximum of 22 classes for teachers, who would receive overtime if this number… Read more »
Guest

Re: \’discontent\’ and \’extreme measures\’

Not sure on the actual probability of a strike but if it does happen it would appear that more types of commitment could also then be forthcoming in that enlightened quest for social justice by the people in Hungary.

It is then that the country will see the true colors of its populist leader and government as they handle dissent in the body politic. Arguably Hungary will see if the \’people\’ and their concerns are simply a side appendage to holding power at all costs and following a roadmap toward a specific nation state. Perhaps as things move on we will then see the \’incorruptibility\’ of their avowed goals.

Guest

Re: the 25 demands..

And last but not least was the cue to rights in the ‘higher education’ area. Interesting how ‘King John’ , one who throws weight around, will look at that one since the consequences of mingling education and politics go into a different atmosphere. The education group has a sort of little ‘Magna Carta’ there. ‘Negotiations’ with the ‘ruler’ and government will be interesting.

Istvan
Guest

I read this article today http://nol.hu/belfold/kepes-vagyok-elmenni-akarmeddig-1600117 It’s an interview with Stephen Pukli, Teleki Blanka Grammar School director who is described as among the most hardened supporters of Herman petitions. But he seems to have no clear action plan, he does not even mention the Feb 13 demonstration.

I am finding this revolt of schools somewhat confusing.

péter
Guest
Two points. The “government” means Orban. He will decide about the state of emergency, just to make it clear. Of course on paper the government (as a collective body) will decide of which Orban is only one member. Actually he may not even sign such a declaration for legal reasons (he usually not in the Parliament when the most controversial laws are passed), but it would be his sole decision, make no mistake. The other is that Orban and his disciples are all lawyers. We should keep that in mind. They certainly prepare for many possibilities, and they may plan to orchestrate an inside job which could then be used to create a state of emergency. It is widely rumored that the burning down of the TF (the campus of the national sports school so dear to the heart of Orban, the school where fomer president Pal Schmitt obtained his PhD which was revoked) was an inside job: the fire apparently started at several locations of the property at the same time, while there were security people on site they apparently didn’t call the firefighters for half an hour, the government people prevented the loss adjusters/experts of the insurance company… Read more »
webber
Guest
Guest

Webber, you beat me to it!
Totally agree – this “terror threat” thing is very dangerous for Hungary!

petofi
Guest

If I’m right about the tilt of Orban’s mindset…a fire will take place at the Dohany Synagogue, and Orban will respond with the terrorism decrees to ‘protect the jews’.
How’s that for suitable irony.
Certainly something to giggle over at the Friday night cook-outs, wouldn’t you think?

webber
Guest

I’d guess no fire – but bombs, placed in garbage cans. Remember the convicted German bomb manufacturer Clodo, the Interior Minister Pinter’s old friend. There was a bomb in a garbage can near the synagogue before, recall.

webber
Guest

and I wouldn’t be surprised if Orban’s garbage can exploded (as Torgyan’s did all those years ago)

Istvan
Guest
Some of my confusion around the Feb 13 demonstration to be held in Budapest is clarified in the article http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1084690-beerett-a-tragyahegy-az-oktatasban it appears there are different organizing groups and for a while there were competing national demonstrations. It also appears that PDSD has changed its position and is no longer boycotting government sponsored public educational roundtable meeting to be held next week see http://mno.hu/oktatas_es_neveles/a-pdsz-felfuggeszti-a-bojkottot-1327395 This link http://www.pdsz.hu/cikk/36879 is the only formal list of demands I can find on the PDSD website. One leaflet for the Feb 13 demonstration that can be found at http://www.pedagogusok.hu/sites/default/files/felhivas-2016-02-13.pdf the 25 demands are not listed. Instead there is a generally militant statement reading in part ( my weak translation be nice folks ): “Every child is entitled from their ability to realize their own talents. This is every family’s interest. The teacher’s task is to help the child to be successful. For this well-equipped institutions, curriculum and methodological freedom is required. To educate children requires caring for love, mutual cooperation, so trust can be built. There is no place for law enforcement tools and methods. No need for constant monitoring of state school pupils and teachers, educational work is inhibited by unnecessary administrative work.” It goes… Read more »
webber
Guest

Looks like the teachers in some places won’t have to go on strike. The school in Gyöngyöstarján has been closed because KLIK, the government’s central education authority, didn’t pay the gas bills so long that the provider turned the gas off.
KLIK owes huge sums of money all over the country. Part-time teachers’ pay is in arrears. Gas and electric bills aren’t being paid. The compulsory swimming lessons are being cancelled everywhere because KLIK hasn’t paid the swimming pools or swimming instructors.
And now a whole school has been closed. I wonder what working parents will do?
If the government can effectively shut down a school with this sort of negligence, why shouldn’t teachers be able to strike during the school year?

Paul
Guest

For me, the likelihood of the teacher’ action leading to anything that could threaten Orbán is summed up in Éva’s previous post on this subject, when, towards the end of her piece, she wrote:

“Of course, a lot will depend on the strength of the movement, which local Fidesz authorities are trying to dampen. For example, where Fidesz is very strong, like in Debrecen, the teachers either don’t want or don’t dare to join their colleagues elsewhere.”

If I hear of Teachers’ strikes in Debrecen, then I’ll believe that something really is underway. Until then, a ‘movement’ that can’t get any support in the many places “where Fidesz is very strong” (i.e. most of Hungary, outside Bp) isn’t going to achieve anything.

Until a substantial number of Fidesz supporters/voters start to turn against Orbán – or at least start to doubt him – nothing will change.

Guest

I have an acquaintance who is a teacher in Debrecen. She says that the KLIK has been more nasty in Debrecen than elsewhere. Only two schools in Debrecen are on the side of the protest. She and her colleges don’t have the courage to sign the petition, because their director has told them that if they do, there will come sanctions against the school. Less money, less pupils, less classes. He also hinted that those who signed would be registered.

tappanch
Guest

News director of the Simicska television admitted that government or Fidesz party figures regularly gave instructions to the news service of his “commercial” channel before Simicska broke with Orban.

https://www.mediapiac.com/mediapiac/Tobb-nezo-jott-mint-ment/112473/

Observer
Guest

Thanks for the link.
Hungarian readers see https://www.mediapiac.com/mediapiac/Tobb-nezo-jott-mint-ment/112473/.

How Orban’s minions ran the “commercial” media.
Here it is from the horse’s mouth:

Part of the interview with CEO Deputy of Hír TV owned by the oligarch L. Simicska.

Q. Earlier you stated that Fidesz came weekly to the channel to instruct the management.

A. So it was. The officials in charge of government communications expressed what was the current party message, what should we prepare for, what should be included into the program, whom to invite, who would comment on what issues and where and what should be emphasized.

Q. Professionalism is important to you?

A. Of course it is.

Q. Then why did you assist in this?

A. There were days when we have resisted a little. But I do not want to appear a great dissident. The truth is that we served the system. Only occasionally we tried to remain a professional press. We produced excellent professional programs as well. There were a couple of exposing, investigative materials. Already when there was no need to run the parrot commando.

Guest

Yes – Hir TV have declared that they will follow the BBC guidelines for news reporting and programming.

It’s a bit late to suddenly ‘get religion’.

By being willing accomplices in this propaganda past – they have lost all credibility and sacrificed any hint of professionalism.

Who knows that they wouldn’t take Orban’s – or anybody’s – forint again?

These journalists have shot their bolt and should find alternative employment – but not where trust from the public is required.

Guest

Why does this remind me of an old German proverb:
Huren werden im Alter fromm.
Loosely translated:
Whores get religion when they get old …

Guest

Re: \’We served the system\’

I remember back in the 80\’s seeing a newsman at a network being interviewed on how \’they\’ handled reporting the \’news\’. In answer , that newsman (and he had responsibility for what got put out) noted in essence that they \’knew\’ how to intrinsically report the news. That is they knew \’how far\’ to go. Seems free media today continues having its issues courtesy of a government which seeks to corral it. And from it all we can take it that the great Magyar media mascots indeed babble as parrot commandos and dress up as pink elephants.

Observer
Guest

Terror threat is whatever makes Orban uncomfortable let alone terrifies him.
Fidesz called terrorists the 50 or so boys and girls sitting in the yard of the disused Fidesz headquarters at Lendvay str, so were the migrants trying to WALK OUT of Hungary, so were the collectors digging out rusty WWII weapons. And don’t forget the “terror” of opinion or PC conducted by the democratic media.

Ergo there is always some “terrorist”threatening the regime and its beloved leader. And if these prove unconvincing, the regime can always produce a cuople of “untraceable” phone threats or fire crackers.

Heil. We have arrived.

Guest

Yes – and don’t omit the Terror House!

I’m still laughing at that videoette that someone posted where the rather short TEK ‘soldier’ raised his leg to boot open the left of two doors – which didn’t budge – but would have clearly opened towards him. Only for a lowly rendorseg to pull the other one open towards him to let the TEK idiot through. They’re all ACTION these TEK goons!

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