The Századvég saga: Largely useless studies commissioned by the Orbán government

In the last three or four days the Hungarian media has been fixated on the “Századvég saga.” Századvég in Hungarian means fin de siècle. It began as a periodical published by the members of a youth organization that later became known as Fidesz. Their first publication appeared in 1985. Among the editors of the early issues were such eventual Fidesz luminaries as László Kövér, Viktor Orbán, Tünde Handó, József Szájer, and Tamás Fellegi. Later came the Századvég Foundation, the Századvég Politikai Iskola, the Századvég Gazdaságkutató Zrt, and the Strategopolis Kft. In brief, over the last thirty years the modest student periodical morphed into a multi-billion forint business venture with a political mission. I think it is not an exaggeration to say that Századvég is Fidesz’s exclusive research institute, with a perhaps more sinister role.

Tamás Mellár, an economist who for a while was considered to be close to Fidesz and who was one of the founders of Századvég Gazdaságkutató Zrt., called Századvég nothing more than “a money laundering device.” Business is especially brisk when Fidesz is in power. A tremendous amount of public money ends up in the hands of the Századvég leadership. Where some of this money ultimately finds a home we don’t know for sure, but many people are convinced that a large percentage of the profit, which is substantial, ends up in the coffers of Viktor Orbán’s party.

Here is the Századvég saga in a nutshell. In December 2011 Századvég Politikai Iskola, Századvég Gazdaságkutató Zrt, and Strategopolis Kft. jointly won a tender to provide political advice, to the tune of 1.4 billion forints, for the next two years. In February 2012 another contract was signed that more than doubled the original amount. A few months later yet another contract raised the amount again, until for two years of political advice Századvég received altogether 4.1 billion forints.

Shortly after the contracts between the prime minister’s office and Századvég were signed, Hajnalka Joó, then a journalist with Origo who is by now at vs.hu, sued the prime minister’s office because of its refusal to release documents relating to these contracts. It has taken almost three years, but finally the Kúria, which is the country’s highest court, ruled that there are no legal ways to avoid the release of the documents. In February the prime minister’s office most reluctantly agreed.

Hajnalka Joó received 77,000 pages of documents on 7 pen drives. Either Századvég or the ministry made sure that the studies looked substantial. They used 36-point type instead of the normal 12. Of the 77,000 pages only about 18,000 pages are of any use whatsoever. The rest are “raw data,” which pollsters use to arrive at their results. As vs.hu explained, what researchers at Századvég did was akin to a journalist including his notes in his final article. Again, either the ministry or Századvég made sure that the journalists at vs.hu would have a very hard time with this enormous amount of material. The original documents were written in Word, which they converted to .pdf format in such a way that they were not searchable, not printable, and undated.

Source: Budapest Beacon

Source: Budapest Beacon

Vs.hu’s second article on the subject gives a few examples of Századvég’s so-called research. They asked people whether they frequent a farmers’ market and whether they enjoy its atmosphere. They also asked the same people for their party sympathies. Then they came up with the following nonsense: if someone frequents farmers’ markets and enjoys them, he is most likely an MSZP voter. If not, he might be an LMP voter or sympathize with KDNP. How did they come up with these results? By combining the results of two different series of questions. Vs.hu naturally consulted bona fide pollsters, who explained that this method is called “all by all” comparisons, which takes no work because a so-called SPSS predictive analytics program unearths the patterns.

Naturally, not all of the material submitted is of such low quality. According to experts, about 25% of the material contains useful information. Moreover, from the opinion polls ordered by the government we can now gauge what information the Orbán administration found politically important. They inquired whether people would be willing to give up, completely or in part, free hospital care or their pension in exchange for lower social security contributions. The answer was a resounding “no.” Or, the government wanted to know whether people would be willing to pay higher taxes to ensure the continuation of good service in healthcare, education, cultural activities, and in local government offices. Almost 60% of the people said “no” to healthcare and education and almost 66% were not interested in culture. Well, with these kinds of answers it’s no wonder that the Orbán government is not pouring money into healthcare and education.

From one of the sets of polling data we learn that, despite protestations to the contrary, the government was thinking of setting up state liquor stores similar to the National Tobacco Shops. Sixty percent of those polled were against them. Interestingly enough, the majority of Hungarians, including Fidesz sympathizers (again 60%), wanted Róbert Alföldi to remain the director of the National Theater, but Orbán decided otherwise–a move that created an uproar. It is also somewhat heartwarming that 86% of the people considered political sympathies irrelevant to the value of an artist. Seventy-four percent of the people considered the establishment of highly regulated tobacco shops useless as a deterrent to young people smoking. The government disregarded their opinion. The Orbán government also got a message from the electorate on building stadiums: 56% were totally or somewhat against building all those football stadiums while only 18% supported the project wholeheartedly. Well, that didn’t make a dent with Orbán.

It is clear from the documents that the government learned a great deal about the people Századvég interviewed: age, sex, profession, income, and political sympathies–information it could use to target different groups of people in its political campaigns. That the government, on taxpayer money, underwrote these studies in some instances blurred what should be a boundary between a political party (here, the government party) and the government itself. In fact, just yesterday DK announced that it is suing the Orbán government because, according to its estimate, the government used 1.4 billion forints of public funds for political advertising over the course of two campaigns, touting the accomplishments of the Fidesz government.

April 12, 2016
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Ron
Guest

Eva are you sure that Szazadveg asked only “Or, the government wanted to know whether people would be willing to pay higher taxes to ensure the continuation of good service in healthcare, education, cultural activities, and in local government offices.”,

And not for more taxes to ensure improved services in healthcare, education, cultural activities, and in local government offices.

If they really asked the first question only, my answer would have been no as well.

tappanch
Guest

Back to the resigned head of the Hungarian national swimming team:

Not only did he participate in a gang rape in the 1960s, but, as a coach, he also gave out steroids to swimmers in the 1980s.

http://www.nyugat.hu/tartalom/cikk/fiatal_uszok_dopping_kiss_laszlo

spectator
Guest

Do you have any idea of just what period of time could it have happened?
Just curious, since there is quite some decades what went by.

tappanch
Guest

A British estimate:

Top 6 recent countries of origin for EU migrants, 2011-2015

2011 2015 Change
Poland 615,000 ; 818,000 ; 33.0%
Romania 87,000 ;223,000 ;156.3%
Spain 63,000 ;137,000 ;117.5%
Italy 126,000 ;176,000 ; 39.7%
Hungary 50,000 ; 96,000 ; 92.0%
Portugal 96,000 ;140,000 ; 45.8%

All EEA 2,580,000 ;3,277,000 ; 27.0%

% of top 6 recent EEA in all EEA 40% 49%

http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/commentary/pulling-power-why-are-eu-citizens-migrating-uk

Observer
Guest

Százdv received approx. 8 bil. Ft altogether according to this count. I think I saw a 8.9 figure.
Are the media ads campaigns included – they would be billions more.
Then Mr Fellegi’s US lobbying was reported to be funded to the tune of 11 billion.
All local gov media support country wide was used for party support.
Finally “private” advertising or support by gov cronies getting rich on fat gov orders.
The total is much higher.

petofi
Guest

Nonsense questions. They are ‘loaded’ to provide answers that would buttress Fidesz plans later on. Such horseshit it all is.

Member

“Tamás Mellár, an economist who for a while was considered to be close to Fidesz and who was one of the founders of Századvég Gazdaságkutató Zrt., called Századvég nothing more than ‘a money laundering device.'”

Mellar’s comment could apply to just about any Hungarian research group/think tank. THe MSZP and SZDSZ were notorious for commissioning useless studies for big money. A prime example is the MSZP’s “Government Quarter” real estate boondoggle. Even after the Gyurcsany government cancelled the project, they still paid a research group tens of millions of forints to complete a feasability study “in case a future government wants to use it,” according to spokeswoman Bernadett Budai.

I’m not trying to excuse Fidesz. What I’m saying is, there’s a fundamental problem with the way all Hungarian political parties do business. (LMP is a possible exception.) We need transparent poltical-finance laws, and no major political party is offering such an option.

Observer
Guest

@pibroch
It’s nonsense to say there was corruption, crime, poverty or whatever there also. Yes, there’s murder in Sweden and in Colombia, there were overpriced or useless studies (corruption) before, now we have Columbia…
I would rather run the risk of Sweden.

Istvan
Guest

Additional developments on a national teachers strike. Nepszava today has two articles on developments relating to a teachers strike and Civil Public Education Platform and the Tanitanek movement. For those who read Hungarian they can be seen at http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1091059-igy-jatszik-a-tanarokkal-a-hatalom and http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1091107-a-tanarsztrajkot-is-megpuccsolnak—retvari-az-allami-mediaban

Bence Rétvári secretary of state for Emmi (Ministry of Human Resources) was on M1 TV and Kossuth Radio taking a very hard line with the teachers unions in relationship to the provisions of the Fidesz strike law on the “minimum services” that have to be guaranteed before workers or unions planning to go on strike. It was the opinion of Sec Rétvári in relationship to the forthcoming teachers strike each and every school has to provide for children’s custody and support during the strike including meals. Effectively his interpretation of minimum services is so extensive that the strike would be undetectable to the families of children in Hungary. If the unions and Emmi remain at an impasse on the issue of minimum services, Emmi has the legal right to seek to block the strike action completely.

Gyula
Guest

This game will be won by Emmi again. The case is handled by pros within Fidesz and Emmi. Palkovics is very smart, the hapless teachers will be a piece of cake for him. He is a professor too.

The teachers will gain nothing. Orban will never give in to the teachers especially that they are all loyal Fidesz voters. Believe me, no self-respecting teacher in Debrecen or Szolnok would have the idea to vote for the communists. It’s just not done. Budapest is different, but who cares about Budapest? It’s irrelevant in the new election system exactly because of such risks.

It’s totally usual that any reform results in discontent. But once the decision has been made and Orban made up his mind long ago then that’s that. Roma locuta, causa finita.

I’d rather the teachers cared about the children and not about leftist politics but such is life. That said, Fidesz will not give in on core ideas that’s been decided, compromise on immaterial issues and the peacock dance which worked so well with the IMF and the EU will continue and work again. Believe me.

Member

Can you let us know who are the communists when you are writing:
“Believe me, no self-respecting teacher in Debrecen or Szolnok would have the idea to vote for the communists.”?
I am just confused as you also write: “the teachers especially that they are all loyal Fidesz voters.”
It is Fidesz that has the most ex-communists according to every record. Orban used to be local leader and member of the young communist party, Kover worked for the communist party, and the list goes on.
So if the teachers are Fidesz (ex-communist) supporters, but would not for the communists, do you mean they come to their sense and would vote for anyone but Fidesz?
I hope you are also a self-respecting individual and would not vote for the bunch of criminals, called Fidesz who robbed the country blind, as any intelligent person can see based on facts.

Guest

Gyula the troll!

You’re late!

We’ve been expecting you.

Fidesz voters vote FOR communism. Orban is a communist dictator.
His den of thieves are the old Nomenklatura – Kover, Ader, Orban’s Dad, Matolcsy……… and on and on.

You haven’t given us the “Orban is a winner” mantra.

Where’s your conviction, man? Weakening is it? Convincing yourself are we?

Just give us the old crap as usual?

It gives us a laugh!

(But I’ve noticed a lack of commitment from you trolls lately. What’s up? you getting frit?)

Guest

and btw……. It’s not a Peacock dance – that’s an insult to peacocks.

Orban is a cuckoo’s egg.

The EU has mistakenly been feeding the cuckoo – but it is slowly understanding the nature of Orban’s commocracy and corruption and will soon eject the cuckoo.

This ain’t no game, chum. It’s life.

Guest
@Gyula This game will be won by Emmi again. The case is handled by pros within Fidesz and Emmi. Palkovics is very smart, the hapless teachers will be a piece of cake for him. He is a professor too. (Your contemptuous attitude towards teachers is appalling.) The teachers will gain nothing. Orban will never give in to the teachers especially that they are all loyal Fidesz voters. Believe me, no self-respecting teacher in Debrecen or Szolnok would have the idea to vote for the communists. It’s just not done. Budapest is different, but who cares about Budapest? It’s irrelevant in the new election system exactly because of such risks. (Your contemptuous attitude towards Budapest is appalling.) It’s totally usual that any reform results in discontent. But once the decision has been made and Orban made up his mind long ago then that’s that. Roma locuta, causa finita. (The reform is a Schlimverbesserung. Schluß.) I’d rather the teachers cared about the children and not about leftist politics but such is life. That said, Fidesz will not give in on core ideas that’s been decided, compromise on immaterial issues and the peacock dance which worked so well with the IMF and the… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Poor blind troll, the new “communists” are up his a.., but he’s busy cheering. Enjoy the ride even.

webber
Guest

“game will be won by Emmi again…”
Remind me, which “game” did Emmi ever win? I can’t remember a single one. It’s been wrong, wrong, wrong – so wrong that the Great O himself fired a bunch of his fellow losers there.

ambator
Member

The union has a hundred different ways of counteracting that official blockage. And if the ministry is “seeking” to do so, how is it going to do it? The only way is the court and there they have to argue against the teachers. That may, or may not work, but in any case, in the meantime the strike is going ahead.

webber
Guest

The court won’t work. I won’t detail why, but the teachers will win, though it might have to go to the highest court.

ambator
Member

The PDF documents are easily converted to Word documents again, albeit without formatting, on the Mac computers and their version of Acrobat. Further more, on the Mac even PDFs are searchable, also, they often, but not always, can be copied and pasted into Word, thus becoming searchable again.
Nevertheless, the government’s sinister trick is just an other testimonial to the depravity of the Orban regime.

Reality Check
Guest

I think you can make a pdf unsearchable by first saving it as an image and converting the image to a pdf.

spectator
Guest

@Reality Check
Wrong. Acrobat has an inbuilt OCR engine, and can turn your image to searchable text in no time. Furthermore, if you know what are you doing you can preserve the formatting too, even on a Mac.

Better believe me, I run Microsoft free environment since ’93, never had problem to convert just about whatever suit to human consumption.

Member

Wrong. If the text is below 72 dpi, or if there are watermarks on the pages OCR cannot read it.

Member

I should of read all the way. I posted the same hours after your reply. Sorry.

Guest

Think-tank operating In the country? Just has to be a research process oxymoron. For with clever statisticians and researchers..

“A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.” Saul Bellow

These researcher-authors must enjoy writing and conveying fables as they rake in the forints. Those stories apparently are the new ‘realities’ subject to constant tinkering. Hope they don’t do this kind of research in health/medicine if they do it at all.

spectator
Guest

The most interesting part of this story is that even if the majority of the populace didn’t support quite a few of the Orbanian idiocy, they still went along with it without protest.

If you remember, the whole game started with putting the people in uncertain and dependent situation (changing the law here and there, sacking a few hundred time by time – preempting any kind of protest movement) and when most of them started to have concerns about their status, came the changes anyway.

At least the opinion polls helped to determine the direction of the main strikes.
I’ts good to know, who is the most vulnerable to attack, so the services of Századvég undeniable.

berci
Guest

Szelhamos tolvaj a Szazadveg tobbsegi tulajdonosa. Mit varunk tole.? Objektive elemzeseket?

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