Criticisms ignored: Advising the Orbán government

I would like to return to the 70,000 pages of polling data and analysis prepared by Fidesz’s own think tank, Századvég. The internet news site vs.hu, the recipient of this enormous data dump, daily releases bits and pieces of information the editors believe to be of interest. In the last three days they have been concentrating on the analysts’ disapproval of some of the Orbán government’s decisions. The reports are full of expressions of doubt about the wisdom of many actions of the administration. The editors rightly point out that these criticisms are not very different from what we have been encountering in the last six years in the anti-government media.

We don’t know, of course, when these documents were written. Since vs.hu has not been able to date them, some may have been written later. We mustn’t forget that wrangling over the release of the documents went on for almost three years, so it is possible that the in-depth analyses were added later to make Századvég’s output seem more substantial. The reason I even mention this possibility is that we know from other sources that Viktor Orbán doesn’t tolerate criticism from experts. A well-known story illustrating this point comes from Tamás Mellár, who was one of the founders of the branch of Századvég that deals with the economy. Mellár recalled a meeting with Orbán, also attended by Mihály Varga, the economy minister. At one point Mellár spoke up and criticized the great man’s wisdom, whereupon Varga stepped on his foot under the table, indicating that this is something one doesn’t do to the prime minister.

It is also possible that these critical warnings never got as far as Viktor Orbán, who doesn’t like to bother with details of governance. But in that case why did the Orbán administration bother to hire “expert” advisers? I even wonder whether anyone in the prime minister’s office took the trouble to read these quarterly reports. Let’s put it this way, the government rarely acted on their advice. The analysts at Századvég worried about the government’s loss of popularity, but the Orbán administration’s way of doing business almost never changed. For example, the analysts were concerned about the “improvised nature” of economic decisions. They pointed out the government’s disregard of the poorest segment of society, which they feared might cause “social tensions.” But there was no change in strategy. In fact, the number of people below the poverty line in Hungary has only grown, and nothing has been done about it.

Századvég kept writing about overly hasty decisions and the absence of careful deliberation, but the performance of government officials didn’t improve. Warnings came about the government’s regimentation of the population, to no avail. Hungarians had gotten accustomed to the practice János Kádár introduced in the early 1960s, which was based on keeping the government out of the private lives of ordinary citizens. It was a kind of unwritten contract between the government and the governed. We don’t poke our noses into your private lives and you let us handle politics as we see fit. Fidesz works differently. Orbán’s government tends to regulate every facet of life, which the analysts thought would eventually backfire. They predicted that this over-regulation would turn people against the government. Interestingly enough, it took six years before people got fed up with this paternalistic behavior and massively objected to the government telling them what to do and what not to do on Sundays.

kartyavar

Századvég apparently warned the government about the dangers of setting up a huge organization (KLIK) that would be the employer of about 140,000 people. If something goes wrong, Fidesz might lose the majority of schoolteachers, the analysts argued. Again, the government paid no attention to the advice. For a while it seemed that no harm had come of this decision, but here we are almost six years later with a huge mess as the result of the overly centralized system dreamed up by Viktor Orbán and Rózsa Hoffmann.

The advisers called attention to the populace’s perception of corruption. When people thought about corruption, they were not thinking of individual office holders on the take but rather considered the source of the trouble to lie in “political decisions.” This is what we call “systemic corruption,” originating with the lawmakers themselves. Yet nothing has been done about it. Obviously, Orbán is not concerned with widely-held beliefs of this sort. He may, however, be sitting on a time bomb. Corruption cases in which he and his closest associates are involved are becoming daily fodder for the media.

The Orbán government paid no attention to Századvég’s apprehension about its heavy-handed interference with the media either, most prominently the campaign the government waged against Klubrádió. The case became an international scandal that prompted worldwide condemnation. It did great harm to the already shaky reputation of the Orbán government. Yet the case dragged on and on. As a matter of fact, the station is still battling in court for compensation for the financial losses incurred as a result of the government’s refusal to grant Klubrádió a permanent frequency.

Today vs.hu concentrated on cultural matters. Fidesz not only wanted to create its own wealthy business clientele but also insisted from the very beginning on forging a cultural elite of its own. A number of writers, artists, philosophers, etc. are convinced that their careers were stunted because only “liberals” could succeed. They felt discriminated against. So the Orbán government decided to help them along and began actively promoting their careers. The idea in the heads of the Orbán coterie is something like this: “you liberals were on top before, now our time has arrived.” In fact, Századvég’s analysts didn’t see anything wrong with this idea of “breaking the monopoly of the left-wing [literary] canon” and replacing it with a canon that draws its inspiration from the national-Christian idea. One of the vehicles of that change of elites is the Magyar Művészeti Akadémia (MMA/Hungarian Academy of Arts), which is a gathering place of conservative, nationalist literary historians, artists, architects, and musicians. The Írószövetség (Writers’ Union) is today also an organization in which only right-wing writers can be found because the liberals walked out some time ago. By now there is an unbridgeable gulf between the two groups. Századvég was worried that such a division would spread and might also infect university communities, and therefore it criticized the policy pursued by the Orbán government on cultural matters.

I agree with the editors of vs.hu that it is an odd feeling to read comments coming from ardent supporters of Fidesz and the Orbán government that are very similar to the criticisms the liberal media and political critics of the present regime have voiced for years. One’s first reaction is that these comments are in effect an affirmation of the opposition’s view of the nature and performance of this government. The second is: How on earth can this incompetent bunch of people still be in power? I will tackle that problem tomorrow.

April 15, 2016
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Observer
Guest

What can be expected from this half baked, deeply provincial, but arrogant, pig headed bunch. They were focused on their top priority – to get very rich very quickly. Damn the rest.

Guest

Though we’ve all known about this for years – to hear that even their own “experts” telling Fidesz what a bunch of crooked idiots they are leaves me almost speechless.

Only in Hungary – or any other Balkan state?

Observer
Guest

@wolfi

I insist on “pig headed bullies”, accept “crooked”, but reject “idiots” unless used as expletive.
Let’s not forget that many of these materials may be bogus, ie. written with other purpose in mind.

Guest

Some of you may know this stage of affairs from the ‘working world. Perhaps applicable to Fidesz.

The gist of it (from management theory) is individuals in organizations get ‘promoted to their own level of incompetence’. There apparently has come a time in Fideszian affairs where they have seemed to have succeeded. ‘Machines’ only run when they’re well-oiled by good mechanics who can prevent problems.

Problem now is those guys still think they’re workin’ on Ladas or Trabants. Time to get new blueprints and trained mechanics.

Guest

The law of promotion to the level of incompetence is the Peter Principle and supposed to be serious. Nevertheless it is by many erroniously thought to be a part of Parkinson’s law which is supposed to be a joke. In management theory it is often difficult to know what is serious and what is a joke.

Guest

A corollary to the Peter principle is known in German as the “Flaschenzug”:

An incompetent manager will usually also want incompetent subordinates/submanagers – because a competent one might steal his job …
Don’t know if there’s a name for this law – I heard it first in the Siemens company which used to have a large number of hierarchical levels …

Guest

Re: ‘Flaschenzug’

I like that! That and Herr Klopp’s ‘gegenpressing’ is another word I have added to my German vocabulary…;-)..

Ideally good leaders and managers of very important enterprises like the Magyar government should have subordinates ‘smarter’ than themselves in positions of power. That is if they are confident in themselves. An orientation like that is one of a few needed catalysts that which produces sharp enterprises.

Hopefully the electorate in ’18 will be better in assessing the capabilities of their future leaders. The intervening years apparently have shown that giving ‘promotions’ faked them out at the back end. So when once ‘bitten’ it’s incumbent to be twice shy.

Istvan
Guest
Additional information on yesterday’s two hour warning strike by PDSU in schools. HírTV which is a mouth piece for Fidesz has a clip of the PDSU press conference that can be viewed at http://hirtv.hu/ahirtvhirei/az-erettsegi-idejen-is-folytathatjak-a-demonstraciot-1337861 Laszlo Mendrey discussed at the press conference the attempts of two Fidesz Mayors to prevent the two hour strike in their towns and a Bishop’s resolution that asked the teachers not to engage in a work stoppage. Mendrey’s presentation on the Teachers Trade Union strike to take place on April 20 was curious, effectively he spoke past it to further actions in May that could effectively disrupt graduation events in schools. A photo montage of Friday’s PDSU two hour strike can be seen here http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1091338-igy-sztrajkolnak-a-tanarok—fotogaleria another group of photos can be seen here http://nol.hu/galeria/A_sztrajk_szinei , the Tanitanek movement website has 42 additional photos that can be viewed at https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipPv3P0BmXF2GxntBZCNvqOAbXIzTIx6b5K0FrR62b5Fe1nXkUnB_PnDCbzSQWfkmg?key=RzlEQjVWRUZqbGNMM0trVHlRNGVIXzBzeDdtZzZ3 The photos from inside schools really look as though they were taken prior to the arrival of students with PDSU members gathered together. What it particularly interesting about the photos of solidarity demonstrations in front of schools are the older ages of the demonstrators, particularly in front of Teleki Blanka Gimnáziumnál which is the epicenter of the… Read more »
Observer
Guest

@István
Hír TV USED TO BE Fidesz mouthpiece, not any more after the rift between orban and Simicska.

webber
Guest
István – “weakness” of Friday’s actions? What weakness? FYI, the Union of Higher Education Employees has just issued a statement (see below – in Hungarian) saying it supports the goals of the strikers. This union includes everyone from professors down through secretaries to cleaning and janitorial staff. A Felsőoktatási Dolgozók Szakszervezete (FDSZ) Állásfoglalása a Pedagógusok Sztrájkbizottsága követeléseiről 2016.04.14. 1. Az FDSZ egyetért a Pedagógusok Sztrájkbizottsága azon követelésével, hogy át kell szervezni az állami intézményfenntartó központot, világosan meg kell fogalmazni feladatait oly módon, hogy biztosítsa a köznevelési intézmények szakmai, gazdasági és munkáltatói önállóságát. 2. Az FDSZ támogatja a Pedagógusok Sztrájkbizottsága azon követelését, hogy a pedagógus munkakörben dolgozó kollégáink kötelező óraszámát heti 22 órában kell meghatározni. 3. Az FDSZ egyetért azzal a Pedagógus sztrájkbizottsági követeléssel, hogy az oktató-nevelő munkát közvetlenül segítő kollégáink részesüljenek havi rendszeres – keresetükön felüli – többletjuttatásban függetlenül attól, hogy milyen intézménytípusban dolgoznak. A 2017-es költségvetés tárgyalásakor generálisan foglalkozni kell az érintettek bérhelyzetével. 4. Az FDSZ támogatja a Pedagógusok Sztrájkbizottsága azon követelését, hogy a 2017-es költségvetési tárgyalások során meg kell teremteni annak az anyagi feltételeit, hogy az intézményvezetők a minőségi munkavégzésért járó minőségi bérpótlékkal ismerjék el az átlagon felüli munkateljesítményt. 5. Az FDSZ egyetért a Pedagógusok Sztrájkbizottsága követelésével, hogy… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Maybe Webber the higher education workers will turn out by the thousands on April 20, they certainly were not present for either the actions at Hospitals or schools on Friday in any significant numbers. Solidarity statements are all nice and good, Fidesz is not impressed by them I suspect. I am very worried also about the obvoius division between the two major teachers unions. But the leaders of the two unions have shown great restraint in their public commentary about any disagreements their may be so as to maintain the appearance of unity which I find to be admirable.

I know the Tanitanék movement is supporting both unions in their separate actions against the government which too is admirable. I feel very badly for Steven Pukli, Torley Catherine, and Oliver Pilz who have put so much effort into organizing actions. I hope the strike on the 20th has a greater impact because if the movement fades the quiet purges of schools will begin in full by Fidesz operatives.

webber
Guest

Istvan, I’ve said it before… you just don’t get it.

“Fidesz is not impressed by them…” Who gives a damn what Fidesz thinks? That is the point.

The strike was not about “turning out.” It was what the Wobblies of old would have called a slow-down strike. There was no demand for picket lines or picketers, and there were no such.

Call that a failure? Why?

Purging schools – that’s the rub. They CAN’T! It’s like firing all the skilled workers in a factory of old – or all the printers in the 19th century. Who are you going to get to replace them?

Where is Fidesz going to get enough politically-friendly teachers to keep the schools running? Nowhere.

I personally know two Fidesz-voting teachers who were on strike for those two hours. This runs across party lines. The demands are real

There is absolutely no demand for educators in higher education to go to picket lines.

Can I ask you why you keep repeating this nonsense? It’s the sort of thing Fideszniks say.

Your tone above is a bit smarmy.

troll
Guest

Why can’t fidesz purge the schools. The will just fill up the vacancies with incompetent but loyal fidesz supporters like they do everywhere

webber
Guest

Because, even in Hungary, you need certain qualifications to teach, and those qualifications take years to get.

Also, it’s not as if teaching in Hungary is an attractive job. The pay is awful. There is not a surfeit of unemployed teachers out there, desperate to get into the field.

webber
Guest

Like all the thousands of “loyal doctors” out there, desperate to take jobs in Hungarian hospitals?…. (there aren’t any – there’s a massive shortage of doctors in Hungary now).

Dirk Diggler
Guest

“How on earth can this incompetent bunch of people still be in power?”

C’mon, how on earth can any tyranny (electoral autocracy) be still in power?

Yet, they are.

They keep evolving and are smart and have powers which no opposition can possibly have (financing, secret services, prosecution and the like).

Mugabe is still in power, Maduro is still in power, Putin is still in power, more beloved than ever and the list goes on and on.

There’s nothing Hungarian about this. Democracy is extremely easy to hijack but it’s extremely difficult to take back.