It’s hard to get away from football when discussing Hungarian politics

I picked a few topics today that on the surface don’t have much to do with one another, but by the end I trust we will see a common theme. Yes, I know, the title has already given it away.

First of all, we have a public opinion poll by the newly established ZRI (Závecz Research Institute). Tibor Závecz used to be a member of the Ipsos team, but Ipsos stopped doing political polling. Závecz therefore formed ZRI as a kind of successor to Ipsos. The poll, taken between July 10 and 17, doesn’t reveal any dramatic changes in political trends, but the responses to some of the questions ZRI posed may offer opposition party leaders a strategic compass for the 2018 election.

I will spend little time on the actual numbers. In the sample as a whole, Fidesz gained three percentage points, from 24% to 27%, in the last month. This gain, according to Závecz, is most likely due to the intensification of the anti-migrant campaign and the initial success of the national football team at the European Football Championship. All the other parties moved up or down by about a couple of percentage points. However, the weakening of Jobbik over the last few months can by now be described as a trend. In April Jobbik’s share was 15%, in May 14%, in June 12%, and this month 11%. It looks as if Gábor Vona’s new strategy is not exactly a success among the radical elements. Apparently, the losses are especially noticeable among members of the younger generation and in the countryside where the party was extremely strong. As is usually the case in Hungarian polls, the largest group among the respondents, 36%, could not name a party for which they would vote today.

Among those respondents who said they would definitely vote if the election were held today, 49% said they would vote for Fidesz. Yet in the sample as a whole, 43% would like to see a change of government in 2018 and only 32% would like to see this government continue. The problem is that those who would be happy to see the Orbán government go are extremely passive. Only 16% of them would even bother to vote. The task of the democratic opposition, and it is a daunting task, must therefore be to motivate some of those people whose current attitude is, as Tibor Závecz aptly described it, “I want you to vote and get rid of this government for me.” Leaders of the democratic opposition will have to figure out a way to get these dissatisfied masses to the polls since 43% translates into more than 3 million votes.

Fidesz may have benefited in this survey from the performance of the Hungarian national football team, but Hungarian soccer is an unlikely long-term prop for the party. It’s enough to look at the miserable performance of FTC (Fradi) against Partizani Tirana in the Champion’s League qualifiers. The Albanians beat the Hungarian team 3-1. The Hungarian players were so bad that the coach actually apologized, and the fans demanded the resignation of Gábor Kubatov, Fidesz’s campaign wizard and the chairman of FTC. Fewer than 9,000 spectators showed up for the game, played in the brand new Groupama Arena with a capacity of almost 24,000. The game was a reality check. Hungarian football, despite the flash in the pan in France, cannot compete internationally with any hope of success, despite generous financial support from the Orbán government. FTC received close to 1.5 billion forints from the government just this year, and the new stadium cost almost 16 billion forints.

And now let’s move to Felcsút and the findings of Direkt36, “a non-profit investigative journalism center with the mission to expose wrongdoings and abuse of power through fair but tough reporting.” Direct36 works with, which yesterday published some details of the Orbán family’s land holdings in Felcsút. The details of the story are not entirely new. In 2013 the late Krisztina Ferenczi reported on how Viktor Orbán, at the very end of 2006, made offers to several homeowners in Felcsút to purchase parts of their large backyards. These parcels of land now serve as the VIP parking area for the Pancho Arena. So, Ferenczi concluded, Orbán already had well developed plans for a large arena at a time when he had just lost his second election in a row. He was waiting for the moment when he would be prime minister and could build his hobby arena from taxpayer money.

csaladi focibusiness

Anita Vorák of Direct36 in the article shows that Orbán didn’t fill out the financial statements he submitted to parliament properly. Of course, in comparison to other corruption cases, this “little oversight” is really a small item. But from the way the story of the purchase of these strips of land unfolds, one has the distinct impression that something is very fishy. First of all, it is not at all clear what the connection is between Viktor Orbán’s own holdings and those of the Felcsúti Utánpótlás Neveléséért Alapítvány, a foundation behind the Ferenc Puskás Academy which was established by Viktor Orbán with an initial capital of 150,000 forints. For example, not only Viktor Orbán but also Anikó Lévai, his wife, and Győző Orbán, his father, gave the foundation free use of the land they had purchased for 50 years. The non-profit foundation’s founder has no legal, formal connection with its creation, the Academy. But it’s curious that the founder of the foundation and his family members “lend” land to the foundation, land that will be used by the Academy.

I was astonished to read that the foundation has 110 employees. This is a large tax-free business funded almost exclusively by the state for the pleasure of the founder of the organization. And the wealth of the Academy and therefore of the foundation keeps growing. I really wonder what will happen to this whole edifice when Orbán is no longer prime minister and the flow of money from government coffers comes to an end. Because I assume that the next administration will have the good sense to stop funding this monster and will instead investigate this so-called foundation, what Krisztina Ferenczi called “the Felcsút family football business.”

July 22, 2016
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July 22, 2016 7:24 pm

Re: ‘Hungarian football, despite the flash in the pan in France, cannot compete internationally with any hope of success, despite generous financial support from the Orbán government’

That’s for sure. Maybe just maybe if they had a few players who contribute greatly to their teams in the top European leagues. But until that ephermal success occurs it will be like trying to get blood out of stone. Didn’t see that loss. No doubt a bust up and recriminations were in the clubhouse.

And the ‘Felcsut family football business’. Really a better focused return for them and the entire nation rather than foci is the ‘book binding’ business. At the least it would be a start in generating and distributing knowledge and intelligence so the nation can better go on and develop and control its future.

July 22, 2016 8:10 pm

What makes you think that Hungarians can read?
Sure they can mouth the words…but ‘understanding’?
I’d bet against it–

July 23, 2016 7:40 am
You know indeed priorities are exceedingly askew courtesy of the government. After doing a sort of ‘de Tocqueville’ back in the ‘old’ country I did not expect them to be where they are today. I thought there would be at least some semblance in progress along the area of ‘quality of life’. And it didn’t necessarily have to follow the ‘Western’ definition. The country sadly now is an also-ran. She is a clipped horse that doesn’t run. The ancient and medieval periods are over. Yet the government continues its reign fearing anything opening up ‘progressive’ elements is a challenge to its position. Their rigid shortsightedness hurts the development of the country and people. And further it appears they practice a misogyny to the electorate of a type directed at women… ‘Keep’em barefoot and pregnant’. Until that particular tide comes in ( which it will) to wash away and ‘clean up’ the mess we see it looks to be rough going. That smell of illiberalism appears to be filtering out all over the place. Is it a fad? If it is then better that it fades and dies out like the hula hoop. And Fidesz can stop playing the electorate like… Read more »
July 23, 2016 9:08 am


Hungary’s Orban likes what he hears of ‘valiant’ Trump’s security plans (Reuters)

Click here to see.

July 23, 2016 11:27 am

Sure he does. Fits right in with Papa Putin’s wishes…

July 23, 2016 12:33 pm

I wonder if he consulted Hungarians about his endorsement. he seems to consult them about everything.