After the demonstration: Fidesz is in a quandary

László Mendrey, leader of the Pedagógusok Demokratikus Szakszervezete (PDSZ), in his speech delivered this morning in pouring rain at the mass demonstration organized by the trade unions, said that the government, which he labelled “the Power,” overestimated its strength and greatly underestimated the determination of the teachers. This is most likely the case, judging from the public statements of Fidesz officials, including those of the prime minister.

One can always be sure that János Lázár will be the harbinger of the impertinent, insulting tone that is typical in Fidesz circles. He has also acquired the reputation of being a liar. Most of his assertions are unfounded, and the Hungarian media can usually prove it within days. In his “government info” on February 11 he accused the teachers’ unions of refusing the offer to negotiate and instead opting to create a fracas (balhé). The teachers were understandably offended. First of all, they have been negotiating with the government, admittedly unsuccessfully, since January. Second, fracases are not the style of the anti-Fidesz forces in general. So far all of their demonstrations have been peaceful and dignified, unlike that of the national-Christian forces supporting Fidesz in the fall of 2006. In addition, Lázár accused the unions of “creating a political brawl” because their leaders have been organizing demonstrations against the government. As if a demonstration against a government were an unforgivable sin. He also accused unnamed persons and organizations of financing the opposition and indirectly the teachers.

People who have followed the careers of Viktor Orbán and his minions should not be surprised that their reaction to the teachers’ revolt is a total rejection of the idea that the chaos created by the new law on public education is somehow their fault. This is especially the case because everybody knows that the concept of the new educational system came straight from the “Great Leader,” as he is nicknamed by his critics. Apparently during 2010 and 2011 when Zoltán Pokorni, Fidesz minister of education in the first Orbán government, tried to counter Orbán’s arguments in favor of centralization and offered examples and numbers, Orbán replied, “Zoli, you can bring up all sorts of facts and figures, but I have a different opinion.”

So, what was Orbán’s first reaction to the unrest among the teachers? In his opinion, the teachers are egged on by outside forces. It simply cannot be the case that “Oszkár Pilz wakes up one nice morning in Miskolc and suddenly realizes that he is extremely dissatisfied and begins to write a letter and protest.”

Viktor Orbán, perhaps because he has been in the international limelight lately and has seen support for Fidesz increase as a result of the refugee crisis, feels very confident. Most likely overconfident. He thinks that the situation today is less dangerous than it was last October when thousands marched to protest the internet tax. His confidence, I believe, is misplaced. Then the protesters had only one simple demand: to withdraw a bill that hadn’t even been voted on. Today the teachers insist on dismantling the entire edifice that was forced on them and their students. To satisfy them will be a great deal more difficult than Orbán imagines.

I suspect that there is considerable confusion within Fidesz over the whole issue. I understand that there are several Fidesz bigwigs who have doubts about the current system. After all, most of them have children or grandchildren and are therefore fully aware of the problems that make successful teaching and learning in this new system close to impossible. For the time being at least, they are quiet. It is not advisable to contradict the boss. On the other hand, those who condemn the teachers’ demonstrations began openly criticizing the quality of the teachers, which might further impede any understanding between the government and the teachers’ unions.

While the demonstration was going on, László Palkovics, the undersecretary who replaced Mrs. Czunyi, gave a press conference at which he declared that the demonstration had lost its purpose because everything will be taken care of in the forthcoming roundtable discussions. He charged that the teachers are bringing politics within the walls of the schools. He also accused them of an unwillingness to engage in negotiations. As he put it, “it is a question of taste: some people like to negotiate while others would rather demonstrate.” Another ill-conceived remark.

Former undersecretary for higher education István Klinghammer, former ELTE president, questioned the competence of the teachers. “Just as Lóránd Eötvös said a long time ago, the quality of education depends solely on the quality of the students…. We need teachers who are clever and moral and who can pass these virtues on to their students. That’s why I’m so angry when I see these unshaven, disheveled teachers in checkered shirts on the TV monitor, wandering about.” Rózsa Hoffmann, in her inimitable fashion, said the teachers were “wailing for nothing.” László Posán, a Fidesz MP who used to teach history at the University of Debrecen before he became a politician, also accused the teachers of political bias. According to him, the demonstration was totally uncalled for. Teachers have never had it so good as now. And earlier Posán was known as a moderate who, alongside Zoltán Pokorni, didn’t vote for the public education law in 2011.

So, for the time being an incredible self-confidence prevails. Mind you, some of these statements were made before the demonstration took place and before a public opinion poll was released about public support for the teachers’ demands, which brought some bad news to the Fidesz government.

The poll was conducted by the Publicus Intézet between February 9 and 11. The first surprise is that 90% of the adult population had heard about the demonstrations held in the last few days. Seventy-six percent support the demands of the teachers and only 14% are hostile. The Fidesz claim that the unrest is being fueled by the opposition parties is undercut because two-thirds of Fidesz voters support the demonstrating teachers. What do people see as core problems? Overworked students and teachers, unacceptably low teachers’ salaries, and a lack of textbooks of the teachers’ choice. Two-thirds of people believe that if the demands of the teachers were met, the quality of Hungarian education would improve. Three-quarters of them believe that the quality of education has deteriorated in the last few years and for that state of affairs the government is responsible.

Publicus2

A few days ago rumors circulated to the effect that Fidesz may declare an early election. After all, the argument goes, Fidesz’s popularity is at its height and Fidesz would like to reclaim the two-thirds majority it enjoyed a year ago. Perhaps they should grab the opportunity and ask the people to vote in the next month or so. At the moment the opposition is totally unprepared and support for Fidesz, according to all recent polls, is overwhelming. There is a good chance for them to regain that greatly missed and greatly desired two-thirds.

With Fidesz one doesn’t know what to believe, but if they seriously contemplated an early election, in light of this poll they should abandon any such thought. According to the latest polls that measure party support, 36% of the population is currently undecided. In the poll on education, however, only 10% had no opinion. While some people may be leery about disclosing their political preferences, they exhibit less hesitation when answering questions about education. All in all, the desired two-thirds might not be so easily achieved as some Fidesz leaders thought a few weeks ago.

What the government’s next step is I have no idea. I suspect that Orbán and company don’t either.

February 13, 2016
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Observer
Guest

I couldn’t find any estimates of the participation. Only Hungarian Free Press mentions 20 000.

What I saw: the square was packed, incl. 30-40 m into Alkotmány u., empty north side behind the Kosuth monument, and on the south side between tram rails and building it was sparse (11.15h), but I found a photo where this part was also packed to the Danube side banister.

So my latest conservative estimate is 62 000 (play with 24 – 26 k sqm x 2.5 or 3 p/sqm).
Note that when Fidesz packs this square it contains 500 k to a million.

(This reminds me that not only Lázár, but every Fidesz functionary is a liar by appointment to a party position or a government office. After all Orban’s advancement has been a triumphal match of the lie “a hazugság diadalas menete”)

The teachers got a momentum, but if they want to achieve something they should hold a national strike. After that, with (a lot of) luck – a national general one may follow.

Guest

London Calling!

It will be interesting to see the published photos in the papers.

A few at the edge of the square and an empty street?

Remember the Opera House?

So a couple of thousand then!

Regards

Charlie

tappanch
Guest

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Bowen
Guest

Here you go Charlie:
“State news broadcaster M1 did not cover the protest, choosing instead to report on the three day mangalica pig festival taking place in nearby Szabadság (Freedom) square just steps away and the chocolate competition in the southern university city of Szeged.”
http://budapestbeacon.com/news-in-brief/welcome-to-orbanistan-where-every-days-a-perfect-day/32151

Thomas
Guest

since last time, when FIDESS supporters filled the then small square, the government estimated that there were close to 2 million people there, then now there must have been about 3 millions. But realistically there could have been about 20,000.

petofi
Guest

Everything works in Orban’s favour. First off, allowing the demonstration by the parliament is a vote for government patience and kindly handling. Second, Orban will just target a few of the leaders, buy them off, and then make fairly generous offers to the teachers over 3/4 years. End of story.

All the breast-beating of the 12 or so leaders on stage makes no matter.
This whole strike is just a re-affirmation that the only time Hungarians go out to demonstrate is when their own interest is at stake.

Where were these anti-Orbanistas when the government stole the pension moneys? or when Orban de-boned the courts and the justice system?

First, you must have a sense of the ‘just society’, and the Hungarians
are far, far, away from knowing the significance of that phrase.

Live long and prosper
Guest
Live long and prosper

Am just testing login

webber
Guest

I also think Fidesz doesn’t know how to handle this. The latest balloon was that they will be reviving the anti-migrant campaign to divert attention from the teachers’ grievances. The problem with doing that, for Fidesz, is that they have claimed so proudly and loudly that they “solved” the migrant issue with their fence, and indeed there are hardly any refugees at all in the country.
I may be paranoid, but yesterday I saw several women wearing headscarves and an African fellow walking around in a mall in an outer district of Budapest, where refugees would normally never appear (they looked like nice people – well dressed). I wonder if the gates have quietly been opened for the campaign?

Uburka
Guest

Good point. I think the probability is extremely high. This is exactly the kind of trick Orban and his KGB inspired people would think of.

Orban hasn’t got too many political options. He can throw around money but people will forget about that soon. The refugee issue, the fear of the Islamist terrorists who also out to rape our children, now that story still has a lot of mileage in it.

Orban and his people won’t give up power, they will fight until the bitter end.

The entire state security apparatus is at their disposal and Orban is making a good use of it.

Prepare for another well-reported migrant crisis in downtown Budapest and rural Csongrád.

Guest

“He [László Palkovics]charged that the teachers are bringing politics within the walls of the schools.”

Are Fideszniks really as dilusional as they seem?
In fact it is Orbán and Corrupt, kft., who have taken their retrograde politics into schools and are shoving it down the throats of teachers, students, parents, et al.

And as for “those who condemn the teachers’ demonstrations began openly criticizing the quality of the teachers,” one must assume that Orbán and Corrupt kft feel the same about doctors and nurses who complain about the appalling conditions within the medical professions.

According to their great minds it must be the fault of underachieving medical staff that there are problems in Hungarian health care, and not because of the lack of funds due to Orbán and Corrupt kft. syphoning off to increase their greedy and selfish private empire.

webber
Guest

A 4th assignment in Environmental Studies (környezetismeret) from the govt.’s textbook: Write a few words about friendship. Write a few words about patriotism.
This comes just after the section of the book on vitamins and minerals.

webber
Guest

4th grade, I meant to write.

Observer
Guest

Write a few words about our beloved Great Leader….

webber
Guest

Hazaszeretet was the word. I wonder: is kormányzószeretet better, or or fideszeretet? (and one sz, or two ssz?) Hard to decide.

webber
Guest

P.S. I wasn’t joking about the assignment (even TEST) to “write a few words about patriotism” – that’s actually in the 4th grade book, and really does come after the section on vitamins and minerals.

Judit
Guest

Yesterday I was also surprised to see many more migrant looking people than before. Maybe the government wants to recreate the situation we saw in summer so that they can introduce state of emergency thus hindering a nationwide strike.

Guest

If this standoff is a chess game well it looks like pawn to K4 for the Magyar educators. Next move…the government. Expect defense . They are black now.

I would just hope that the teachers can deflect the canard of being \’used\’ by the left on these very important issues. Issues that at bottom are more relegated to the entire nation and its people rather than to a dumbing down to simply being a \’right or left\’ thing. Truly if that strategy is pursued the leaders in government show their vacuousness when it comes to have learned anything as regards the quest for individual and group autonomy after ten centuries. All they then show are minds of sawdust.

Istvan
Guest

For those who read Hungarian a creative video clip developed for yesterday’s demonstration titled: Hitler’s Fall of 2016 the teacher’s protest

https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=Oj5uPnohahc

Hitler in this video is obviously Orban.

Guest

Just great. Herr Adolf … Not in a good mood. Scenes taken from the film \’Downfall\’.

In my video library is another which I thought very well done. \’Hitler\’s Trial\’. Theme: a young German lawyer in 1931 having Hitler in the crosshairs in court as he tries to expose the future Fuhrer\’s disdain for the law and democracy. I have to watch it every few months. Absolutely compelling. Arguably perhaps we are \’back into the future\’?

bimbi
Guest
On the Sunday Kossuth ter demo, I would say that the organizers and their supporters made a pretty good fist of it, especially in view of the adverse weather conditions. There is strength, honesty and justice in this movement. They now need to keep their sights on the goal of Total Educational Reform and not be diverted by the divisive tricks of a dishonest government. It is certainly true-to-form that the government has pulled out all the stops in its anti-teacher propaganda; the liars, dishonest and the propagandists are well listed in the blog. This is the reaction one would expect and especially so since the teachers’ movement shows the strength it does. As to Lazar, one recalls that a few years ago he was described on an English-language blog as a ‘country bumpkin’ but now one feels he has moved on from there as the Minister of Misinformation as well as the head of his own mafia family – Mr. 2.6 million, all taken from the plate of the Hungarian people! The trouble with these teachers is that they are diverting the government from its true task of theft and pillage at the expense of the people. Accordingly, the… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
I agree with Eva that Fidesz is in a quandary, really that is a good description of their situation. As with many demonstrations in Budapest there was clearly an anti-Orban theme among the demonstrators. There is a huge amount of video available of the demonstration including some incredibly moving clips of interviews with primary school children who were no doubt shipped to the demonstration by Soros, according to part of the Fidesz narrative. But when one examines the 25 demands of the teachers, which Eva linked to the other day, but has yet to examine in detail, one realizes many are related to what can be called work rules. Many of those issues can be addressed if Fidesz is so inclined to do so. One of the issues is exactly the same as militant teachers here in Chicago have fought against and that is the extended length of the school day which in Chicago they gave in on for a salary increase. ( http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/01/how-teachers-deal-with-a-longer-school-day/283211/ ) This relates also to point 3 of the demands “significantly reduce the mandatory hours for students.” Points 11 and 13 also directly relate to work time. Another interesting demand was number 5 which deals with… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

The most humorous speech from yesterday’s demonstration:

index.indavideo.hu/video/Egy_szulo_mondta_a_tuntetes_legszorakoztatobb_beszedet

tappanch
Guest

Has a Russian – Turkish war started ?

Russian reconnaissance troops and air power helped Syrian Kurdish troops to take the Menagh air base from the Sunni rebels two days ago. Turkish artillery units are firing at the Kurds and some troops have reportedly entered Syria.

webber
Guest

The Russians don’t give a damn about Kurds. They’re seen as Washington’s proteges.

tappanch
Guest

There were two “red” Kurdistans for a short while. (Lachin in 1923-1929 and Mahabad in Iran in 1946)

tappanch
Guest

The Kurdish YPG in NE Syria has early, naive communistic ideals with some personality cult towards Ocalan, the jailed PKK leader.

webber
Guest

And?
Turkey had very good relations with the Soviet Union under Atatürk.
What does that have to do with Russia today?

tappanch
Guest

Temporary coalitions:

A. Shi’a coalition (Assad, Iran. Hizbullah, and non-Shi’a Kurds and Russians)
B. Sunni coalition (Turkey, various Sunni rebels, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and tacitly Da’esh)

US is leaning towards supporting coalition B, but appreciates the new relationship with Iran too.

At this moment, Turkish troops are also amassing at the eastern Syrian border too to conquer Syrian Kurdish border regions Qamishli and Kobane. This will help Da’esh a great deal.

tappanch
Guest

Correction: Qamishli and Serekaniye.

webber
Guest

Let’s stick with Hungary, kay?

tappanch
Guest

You are right, Hungary will be unaffected by the Syrian mess, because our father Orban will protect us from the refugees…

webber
Guest

I just don’t think anonymous Hungarians pontificating about the Syrian mess will change anything there or here.

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