A new chapter in Hungarian politics?

I will try to cover two topics today, although practically every time I decide to do that I discover about half way through that I was too ambitious. This time, however, I really would like to talk to about two new developments. The first is the announcement by Piroska Galló that negotiations between her union and the government broke down and so a nationwide one-day strike will take place on April 20. The other astonishing news is that István Nyakó’s referendum question sailed through the Kúria. MSZP can begin collecting the necessary 200,000 signatures to enable them to hold a referendum on the question of Sunday closings.

Since I have followed the teachers’ revolt very closely and often have engaged in discussions with commenters, I think it is clear to all regular readers of Hungarian Spectrum that I consider this movement much more than a run-of-the-mill teachers’ strike of the kind that flare up in communities worldwide. As I have repeated often enough, the goal of the Orbán government’s educational policy is to transform the new generation into cogs in the wheel of the “illiberal state.” Just as the Bolsheviks wanted to create a new Soviet man, so Viktor Orbán wants a certain type of citizen. The school system introduced in 2013 feeds into Viktor Orbán’s system of “national cooperation.” Revolt against it is insurgency against the world Orbán has forced on the Hungarians.

In the last few days we have seen a concerted effort on the part of the government to set the two trade unions, PSZ and PDSZ, against each other, with not much success. Undersecretary László Palkovics went so far as to invite László Mendrey to the ministry for a discussion on the impending strike, but when he and his team got there they discovered that instead of one-to-one strike negotiations the complete membership of the round table was waiting for them. The attempt failed. So tonight PDSZ, PSZ’s strike committee, the Tanítanék Mozgalom, and the Civil Public Education Platform will hold a joint meeting. It looks as if all the organizations involved in the movement are cooperating and will support the strike. According to Piroska Galló, support for the strike among teachers is substantial. The only question is how effective the strike will be and, even more important, how much outside help the teachers will receive. If dissatisfaction spreads to other groups and public support is overwhelming, the government will have to offer substantial concessions, which can undermine the very foundation of the system.

The other important topic is MSZP’s referendum question–“Do you agree that parliament should annul Law CII of 2014 that forbade performing work on Sundays in the retail sector?”–was approved by the Kúria, the supreme court of the land. This decision was totally unexpected. Even the MSZP leadership, whose members kept repeating that the case was so clear cut that the Kúria couldn’t do anything else, were deep down not at all sure. They were ready for rejection. For the last three days MSZP representatives stood in front of the National Election Office to prevent a repeat of what happened last time when about a dozen skinheads prevented István Nyakó, an MSZP politician, from handing in his referendum question.

Yesterday I watched an interview with a particularly obnoxious talking head, who went on and on about the pettiness of Hungarian politics. This came up in the middle of a conversation about the tenth anniversary of the famous Gyurcsány-Orbán debate, which was such a fiasco for Orbán that from that moment on he refused to yield to any demand for a debate. Our talking head asserted that today there would be no topic for a meaningful debate. What would the candidates talk about? Sunday closings? Something that trivial?

I would rather side with the editorial of Magyar Narancs titled “Hungarian politics revived.” The author defines politics as “competition between different modes of management of public affairs.” He claims that politics in this sense came to a halt in 2010. Now it looks as if there might be a change. After this decision “we have reason to be happy” was the last sentence of the article.

The happiest of all are the MSZP politicians, who scored a huge victory. They showed themselves to be so dogged that eventually the government ran out of steam. After the skinheads it was difficult to come up with yet another obstacle. I would be very surprised if MSZP’s popularity would not rise substantially in the coming months. All the criticism of the party’s hesitancy and its political ineptitude will fade if MSZP politicians manage to keep up their present energy and political finesse. At last here is an opposition party that managed to defeat the state machinery, which was bent on preventing a referendum that would question a decision of the government.

MSZP’s victory might also improve the generally lethargic mood of the population: the situation is not hopeless after all. Today’s triumph will most likely help the mood in opposition circles in general. Jobbik already announced that they will join MSZP and will assist in the collection of signatures, and they will encourage their followers to support the cause. DK will do the same. Zsolt Gréczy, spokesman of DK, called the Kúria’s decision “another deep fissure in the Orbán regime.”

István Nyakó and Sándor Lukács / Photo: Miklós Szabó, Népszabadság

MSZP MPs István Nyakó and Sándor Lukács / Photo: Miklós Szabó, Népszabadság

As things now stand, MSZP is planning a repeat of the Fidesz “referendum of the three yeses,” as the 2008 referendum is called. In that case, on Fidesz’s insistence, citizens had to vote on whether they don’t want to pay tuition fees, don’t want a €1 co-pay at doctors’ visits, and don’t want to pay €1 a day during hospital stays. Not surprising, by an overwhelming majority they said “yes, we don’t want to pay” to all three questions. The result of the referendum was interpreted at the time as a rejection of the Gyurcsány government and directly led to the prime minister’s resignation a few months later.

What József Tóbiás, MSZP chairman, is now talking about is another “referendum of the three yeses” because, in addition to Nyakó’s question on Sunday closings, Zoltán Gőgös (MSZP PM) submitted a question on the fate of the agricultural lands currently owned by the state, and Zoltán Kész, an independent MP, submitted a question on the remuneration of business leaders of state enterprises. Yes, says Tóbiás, people should say yes to all these questions: the stores should be open on Sunday, the sale of state lands should come to a halt, and no state business leader should receive more than 2 million forints a month. Indeed, these questions should be very popular with the electorate. Gőgös and Kész collected 50,000 signatures in a single day, and therefore I have no doubt that collecting another 200,000 will be a cinch. Meeting the requirement of about 4 million valid votes, however, might be another matter. The Orbán administration changed the law on referendums. Instead of requiring a turnout of 25% to have a valid referendum, they raised the requirement to 50%, which makes the task almost impossible.

According to some commentators Fidesz has only two options. Either it encourages its followers not to vote or it tries to take the wind out of the sails of the opposition by repealing the law on Sunday closings. The second option would mean a loss of prestige for Orbán, which would be tough for the prime minister to swallow.

Gábor Vona of Jobbik suggested that Viktor Orbán’s own referendum on compulsory quotas should be added to the three current questions. Would that help or hinder the cause of the opposition leaders? We know that the government has overwhelming support for its anti-refugee stance, so the administration might be able to convince large numbers of people to go to the polls to cast their ballot in favor of its referendum question. Would that boost the chances of the three questions submitted by Nyakó, Gőgös, and Kész? And if it does, would Fidesz want that outcome? I’m really curious what Fidesz’s next step will be.

April 6, 2016
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petofi
Guest

Oh no! This will bring on a terrorist ’emergency’ of some sort for sure!

petofi
Guest

Politics in Hungary: ‘A tale told by a fool signifying nothing.’

(apologies to Shakespeare)

tappanch
Guest

“Fidesz has only two options.”

Fidesz also has a third, a favorite option. It can change the law on referendums again to prevent this referendum.

dos929
Guest

Let me quote you Eva: “…..the goal of the Orbán government’s educational policy is to transform the new generation into cogs in the wheel of the ‘illiberal state.’ Just as the Bolsheviks wanted to create a new Soviet man, so Viktor Orbán wants a certain type of citizen….”

Well said… And this policy doesn’t only rule the education, but spreads across the whole Hungarian scene and poisoning the life and minds of the Hungarian people. I can only repeat it again; it is Orwell’s “1984” that rules Orban’s strategies… These four letters tell all about him and the FIDESZ, and no more detailed description is required in order to portray them.

e-end
Guest

Orban forged Hungary into a tool of aggression against Western Europe.

Ogaden was a good textbook example:

The beginning of the end of Somalia: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03pk9c1

petofi
Guest

For webber, and those who claim that muslims are ‘just like us’:

“A Bangladeshi student who expressed secular views online is killed (four Islamists hacked him to death on the street) in the capital Dhaka after a string of murders by Islamist extremists.”

Yes, ‘extremists’–but there are a hell of a lot more extremists among muslims nowdays than any other group…

Guest

petofi: “For webber, and those who claim that muslims are ‘just like us'”

Nobody has claimed that muslims are just like us. If a claim of that sort can be discerned it is that we are just like the muslims. The point is that religous groups, including Christians, tend to meet other religious grups with violence. The world might be a better place without religion.

tappanch
Guest

Fidesz has divided the country and its economy into two realms.

The untouchable (car and drug manufacturing) and
the stealable (everything else: agricultural land, tobacco, energy, gambling, utilities, etc.)

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http://444.hu/2016/04/07/miert-lopnak-ilyen-hihetetlenul-sokat

tappanch
Guest

Something is rotten in the state of Hunmark:

The international reserves of the National Bank sank by 13.1% or 4.1 billion euros in a single month! (or by 25.4% year over year)

Reserves in billions of euros:

2015-02-28: 36.407
2015-03-31: 36.908

2016-02-29: 31.715
2016-03-31: 27.551

http://www.mnb.hu/letoltes/hu0403-tartalek.xls

Matolcsy became the chairman of the MNB on March 4, 2013 by Orban’s “personal” decision.

Here is a partial explanation:

http://www.portfolio.hu/gazdasag/oruljunk_zuhan_magyarorszag_tartaleka.2.229901.html

tappanch
Guest
“The ECB was not consulted by the Hungarian authorities on new legal acts related to: (i) the establishment of an extraordinary investment guarantee fund (ii) personal insolvency measures; and (iii) the conversion of certain consumer loans denominated in foreign currency to Hungarian forints.” “The failures to consult the ECB by Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland and Italy were considered to be clear and repetitive cases” “Following up on the concerns raised in the ECB’s Annual Report of 2014, the ECB has continued to monitor several programmes launched by the Magyar Nemzeti Bank in 2014, which were not related to monetary policy and which could be perceived as being potentially in conflict with the monetary financing prohibition, to the extent that they could be viewed as the Magyar Nemzeti Bank taking over state tasks or otherwise conferring financial benefits on the state. The programmes included real estate investment purchases, a programme to promote financial literacy run through a network of six foundations, the transfer to the central bank of staff formerly employed by the Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority, and a programme of purchases of Hungarian artworks and cultural properties. As the ECB’s concerns were not dispelled in the course of 2015, the… Read more »
wenga
Guest
The decision of the Kuria must be read as another sign that Fidesz isn’t as popular as it used to be (especially as the panel which reviews the appeals re the referenda is very pro-fidesz in private). Institutions always seek legitimacy and thus often want to do popular things. (The politics of the Hungarian Constitutional Court is different, it is now almost entirely made up of loyal, partizan fidesz activits so they are expected to more often side with Fidesz). I think many people in and around the Kuria realized that the population is increasingly critical of Fidesz, that Fidesz is getting more and more unpopular and in a way went crazy. Every day there is some outrageous development (now selling MKB to a bunch of shady Strohmen despite being it explicitly contrary to the Basic Law which prohibits sale by the state to non-transparent entities) which are difficult to defend by even most stalwart fideszniks (and the courts have quite a few of them). As a result there is less milage for the Kúria to remain Fidesz-loyal, the judges there need to be more “balanced”, hence this decision. My hunch is that Orban will somehow give up the Sunday… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“…another sign that Fidesz isn’t as popular”

It don’t matter.
Any attempt to construe weakness in the mafia
power structure that has been established is folly.
If need be, they change the laws;
If need be, they’ll screw around with the elections;
If need be, they’ll move ahead with their plans with
nary a concern for media opposition since they control 95% of it.

Reap as you sow.

Hajra Magyarok!

Guest

Re: Wanting a ‘new citizen’ in a illiberal state’

Fidesz sure appears to take up a similar attitude like the Bolshis. Pasha, Pasternak’s real hardline Bolshevik in his ‘Dr. Zhivago’ , noted ‘the personal life’ was dead after the coming of the Revolution. Forget about things like love and idealism and education where there would be a bettering of oneself as the individual related to the communities they were part of. Time to serve the state in roles defined by the narrow- minded.

The stubborn attitudes shown towards education change by Fidesz indeed show them to be more concerned with forming people who would not think but rather being made out of clay are re-formed in such a way that they simply regurgitate and carry out rubrics of a party line as they are channeled to serve servile party interests. Under these circumstances a mind to think and explore and decide and analyze then is a terrible thing to waste. I hope the ‘education ablaks’ blow wide open. They need lots and lots of fresh air. For now and all the Magyar generations ahead.

petofi
Guest

“The stubborn attitudes shown towards education…”

It don’t matter.
Orbie does not care.
The point of the intimidation is to turn humans into plowshares…that is, the humans should be beaten down into an ‘accepting and unquestioning’ form; somewhat similar to what slaves where in ancient Egypt, don’t you know?

Guest

Ah Petofi… Here’s what I say to you…

‘Thou art a scholar, speak to it Horatio!’….;-)…(Hamlet)

And for me this isn’t far off the mark from a noted educator:

‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life’.

Never such portent in knowing the A , ‘Be’ and ‘See’s of life.

petofi
Guest

@wrfree

You mean to say…that I’m a ghost?

It is for that very reason that I have read the philosphers and lives of great men–to educate myself and to know what a civilized person ought to aim for.

I don’t think that one can any longer stay in Hungary and pursue a civilized form of existence. Hence our departure…imminent. Montreal, here we come!

tappanch
Guest

A.
Good news!

Islamic terrorists are not allowed to strike from April 9 through May 7 (per Allah). I hope there won’t be any massacre tomorrow, April 8.

B.
Bad news!

Angyan has issued his new report.
Only 20% of the distributed state agricultural land in Fejer county went to small farmers in the 4th quarter of 2015.

https://www.atlatszo.hu/2016/04/07/itt-a-legujabb-angyan-tanulmany-a-felcsutiak-vettek-a-legtobb-foldet-fejerben/

tappanch
Guest

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tappanch
Guest

Twenty six families have received 58% of the state agricultural land in Fejer county.

http://nol.hu/belfold/angyan-jozsef-katasztrofahoz-vezet-a-vazallusrendszer-1610005

PALIKA
Guest

I have never understood why Orban has been such a dogged champion of the gloomy Sunday. Maybe, since he is a country boy. he never appreciated the ghastly sentiment in the famous Seres song.

Or is it a misplaced loyalty to the nonentity Semjen’s laughable representation of Christianity.?

Whichever it is i hope that he may reflect on the political fallout of his approach. I know there are winners and losers of Sunday opening. With luck he maybe the biggest loser.

I fear that to welcome the Kuria decision as a watershed is an exaggeration of its importance. The pessimism of some MSZP politicians as to the likely outcome was based on a profound understanding of the realities of Hungarian life. The Kuria have not made summer. They have been let off the leash in the light of an increasingly embarrassing stalemate where the downside for Orban was beginning to outweigh the advantages of any victory. This way he can parade as the gracious loser and upholder of the rule of law.

Let us not be churlish. The result is a victory for the MSZP and for good sense. May more like this one follow?

tappanch
Guest

With all likelihood, the European Union has agreed to punish Hungary with only 10% of the money withheld for suspicion of cartel agreements in road buildings.

The Hungarian government will pay about 0.2 billion euros in fines, but will receive the remaining 1.6 billion euros from the Union in the near future.

http://www.portfolio.hu/unios_forrasok/gazdasagfejlesztes/ez_allhat_lazar_500_milliardos_varatlan_bejelentese_mogott.4.229953.html

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