How do Hungarians see Viktor Orbán’s political system and its corruption?

I don’t know whether you have ever encountered people from Hungary, mostly those who are no friends of Fidesz and the government, who tell you that this government is thoroughly disliked by a large majority of the population. They know this to be the case because they talk to a lot of people who all have devastating opinions about the performance of the Orbán government. The standard reaction to these claims is that such stories are anecdotal. Moreover, our friends and acquaintances usually come from a well-defined circle whose social standing and political views more or less resemble our own. We are apt to point to all the monthly polls that attest to the fact that Fidesz is still the most popular party and that, if national elections were held today, Viktor Orbán’s party could win easily and even regain its supermajority. So, those people who claim that “everybody hates this government” are wrong. They merely project their own dislike of the present regime.

Well, today we received data from the highly regarded Medián polling company suggesting that our acquaintances’ description of the mood on the street is not just wishful thinking. The poll that was made public today by Endre Hann, CEO of Medián, shows that the Hungarian people are not blind to the fact that the present political leadership is robbing the country blind. Moreover, a majority of Hungarians don’t consider Orbán’s Hungary a democracy.

Most of the questions centered around corruption, which in at least one of the questions was defined as “visszaélések” (abuses), which apparently most of the respondents found too mild a description of what’s going on in Orbán’s Hungary nowadays and used stronger words instead: “korrupció,” “családi összefonódás” (nepotism), “állami  bűnszervezet” (a state directed criminal organization, using mafia methods).

When asked about “financial abuses” characteristic of the Orbán government, respondents could choose from five categories: (1) in very great measure, (2) in great measure, (3) in small measure, (4) not at all, and (5) doesn’t know. Among the respondents only 6% think that Fidesz is in no way tainted by corruption. On the other hand, 67% think that the present government is in very great or great measure corrupt. Even a large minority of Fidesz voters (37%) believe their favorite party is corrupt while only 15% think that Fidesz is pure as the driven snow. Jobbik voters are just as skeptical about Fidesz (86%) as are voters from the democratic opposition (88%).

Questions and answers about the extent of corruption

Questions and answers about the extent of corruption

The next question was about the nature of corruption. Respondents were offered two choices: (1) private actions of dishonest civil servants or (2) systemic corruption centrally directed from above. This is a crucial distinction because the corruption that beset Hungary between 1990 and 2010 was of the first kind while the corruption Viktor Orbán introduced is of the second variety. While the former type of corruption can, to a greater or lesser extent, be found in all countries, the latter kind is encountered in countries with a strong central power without any possibility of legal or civic oversight.

It seems that an overwhelming majority of the population has grasped the difference between the ordinary garden variety of corruption and the systemic corruption that analysts like Bálint Magyar have been talking about. That recognition takes a certain amount of political sophistication, which it seems the Hungarian population has managed to acquire. Sixty percent of people of different political stripes think that Viktor Orbán, sitting at the top of the pyramid, is systematically organizing the plunder of the country for the benefit of himself and his supporters. Almost 40% of Fidesz supporters consider corruption as it exists in Hungary to be systemic.  Jobbik (67%), the democratic opposition (77%), and even undecided voters (70%) are convinced that Orbán and his minions are heading a criminal organization for their own benefit.

Answers about the nature of corruption

Answers about the nature of corruption

Although commentators often complain about the general lack of attention to politics and the dearth of information that reaches the population, in large measure because of the filters imposed on news by state television and radio stations, 56% of the population have noticed that corruption cases involving Fidesz politicians and government officials are swept under the rug. Chief Prosecutor Péter Polt, perhaps the most important man in that “criminal organization,” makes sure that the chief actors of the “mafia state” will not have sleepless nights even as prosecutors over the last six years have dragged politicians active in the MSZP-SZDSZ government through the mud, most of the time without any cause. This is how the government managed to convince the population, at least initially, that the corruption of socialists and liberals was sky high while Fidesz was a party of upright citizens. By 2014 the public was convinced that MSZP was at least twice as corrupt as Fidesz. This perception is changing. By now Fidesz’s score is slightly higher than that of MSZP, and I assume that as time goes by the gap between them will widen further.

Perhaps the most astonishing finding of the poll is the population’s opinion of the enrichment of Viktor Orbán. It widely believed that the extremely successful businessmen around Viktor Orbán, like István Garancsi, Lőrinc Mészáros, and Andy Vajna, are actually “strómanok” (front men) of Viktor Orbán who hand over a large portion of their profits to the prime minister. The question posed was whether the respondent found this proposition (1) probable, (2) conceivable, (3) inconceivable, (4) doesn’t know. Only 15% of the respondents believe that Viktor Orbán is not the personal beneficiary of the profits these men have acquired through his good offices. Almost half of the population (47%) find it conceivable and 31% probable that Viktor Orbán is getting rich, mostly from EU money filtered through his favorite oligarchs.

Amswers concerning Orbán's personal corruption

Answers concerning Orbán’s personal corruption

Finally, a question was added to the questionnaire that has no direct connection to corruption per se. Medián wanted to find out how people would describe the political system in which they live. The respondents came up with six different labels: (1) diktatúra (20%), (2) democracy (18%), (3) autocratic regime (18%), (4) mafia state (15%), (5) system of national cooperation [NER] (9%), (6) illiberal democracy (8%).  The rest, 12%, either didn’t answer or chose some other label. NER (Nemzeti Együttműködés Rendszere) is the official name of the political system Orbán announced in April 2010.

People's thoughts on the nature of Orbán's political system

People’s thoughts on the nature of Orbán’s political system

Endre Hann, in his article on the poll, speculates on some of the conclusions one can draw from these labels. Those who think that Hungary is still a democracy and those who describe the country’s political system as a structure based on national cooperation are most likely Fidesz supporters. There is no doubt that those who consider Orbán’s world a dictatorship or a mafia state belong in the anti-Fidesz category. It’s harder to place those who describe the government as an “autocratic regime” or an “illiberal democracy.”

What I find important is that only 18% of the population think that Hungary is a democracy, while 53% consider Orbán’s system either a dictatorship, an autocracy, or a mafia state. So, it’s time for foreign newspaper editors to change their own labels when talking about Orbán’s Hungary. Let’s not pretend that Hungary is still a democratic state, let’s not talk about a right-of-center or conservative government. Let’s believe the people who live under Viktor Orbán’s system.

July 28, 2016
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webber
Guest

Excellent article! Thank you, Eva.

Observer
Guest

In the light of the revealed findings, Brexit, Trump, etc. I start to loose faith in humanity, not yet as God did when he decided on a deluge.

It’s a cold comfort to see that the average Hungarian is not completely ignorant or dumb since 80% thought MSZP – 62% thought Fidesz corrupt in 2014 and now Fidesz is considered more corrupt (but just so).
In view of the weekly revelations re the workings of the mafia state, the historic scale of the embezzlement already measured in % of GDP, and even taking into account the regime’s information/media control in the countryside, these figures are stunning, more so put together with the professed support for Fidesz.
Orban lost the 2002 elections polled to be his, but the current system is rigged.

Maybe one day sociology will study and explain the “Hungarian syndrome” , a magyar ugor, by something more than being ignorant and dump.

Guest

Re: ‘decided on a deluge’..

On the Flood, sure funny turn of events in our days. There’s a ‘deluge’ alright emanating on the banks of the Donau. But it’s not God being the apparent ‘Destroyer’ but the corruptors themselves feeding the watery graves of the country.

Biondi
Guest

Indeed sociology can explain Brexit, Trump, Orban in 2010. People are fed up with the prevailing order of globalized capitalism (maybe not so in Germany or Switzearland which are extremely competitive) but feel that they are powerless and the entire elite is the same (like in France where they all went to ENA), it does not matter which party is governing the situation remains the same. The hollowing out of the middle classes and the fact that if you are a middle class it can still mean you are struggling paycheck to paycheck. It would be the task of the leftwing to offer something but they so thoroughly accepted the system that they are unable to do so. Voters have realized that. Many people are desperate and have resigned, their only option to have a minimal say in the course of events if they cause chaos. Close to half of Americans do not even have 500 bucks in savings, do you think they care about Trump being a Russian agent or about the complaints of smart journalists who brand them racist, stupid loser?

Istvan
Guest
The least wealthy in the USA are African Americans and Hispanics. The typical black household now has just 6% of the wealth of the typical white household; the typical Latino household has just 8%. Trump has almost no support from those communities. The disaffected voters who feel under attack and become Trump voters are white working class people who in many ways thought because of their race and status of being white were entitled to a comfortable middle class life. Effectively they are the losers in globalization, they will not constitute enough of the electorate to win the election unless the Democrats stay home, especially the Sanders voters who are overwhelmingly white college educated people many of whom are deeply in debt for their college educations. As I have noted I am a Republican and I can’t vote for Trump, there are thousands like me. Trump’s pro-Putin stance will cause me to vote for Clinton because he is in my opinion so dangerous and I don’t know how many other Republicans who oppose Trump will be moved by concern and patriotism to vote for Clinton. Last night Ret Marine Corp General Marine Gen. John Allen spoke in support of Sec… Read more »
Guest

Thanks for that. Just have to say the retired general is really politically animated after serving and having great responsibilitues in taking the war to ISIS. If he will be an advisor to Clinton he will have a generation or more as he himself noted to continue the fight which arguably has shown its poor teeth for some.

If Trump does indeed grab the White House and with the way current politico-military give and take goes on let’s hope we don’t see ‘seven days in May’ syndrome one day down the road. Everybody seems to operate on thin lines now feeling the margin for ‘error’ is really tight with consequences. So under difficult and trying environments maybe its best that military talking heads stay in barracks.

webber
Guest

Retired military men are civilians. They have every right, and indeed duty, to express their political convictions.

PALIKA
Guest

And indeed run for political office as did General Dwight Eisenhower, aka Ike.

Guest

Of course. I’m with you on that. This is a democracy. What I am afraid of is the increasingly partisan and discordant politics of our day could possibly interfere negatively in the defense and security of the US. Sometimes it appears it isn’t rational.

It’s a bad area to see military minds jawbone their ideas and opinions through in the strident and grab-for-vote-public sphere. I see Trump and Clinton have incorporated this strategy. Is it for the well-being of the American people or simply for the two who dream the dream of being POTUS? Frankly both pander to tweet-bit ripostes. They’ll look to do and say anything for votes now. It’s a dirty game and as we’ve said we are in dangerous times.

Guest

Thanks from me too!

In a way it is a good sign that so many military men (and women) realise that Trump is not a valid option – even if they have difficulties with Hillary Clinton!

PS:

I’m sure that there are many things on which Istvan and me (as a Green Liberal …) wouldn’t agree – but the basics of democracy are the same for us!
Just an example: In Baden Württemberg aka Schwab country we now have a Green/Christian Democrat coalition government – who would have thought this possible 30 or 20 years ago?

Roderick Beck
Guest

This sort of rhetoric is getting tiresome. Free trade was a key driver in the post war II prosperity and there is no substitute. The Communist idea of autarchy was a dismal failure. And I remind you that among large developed nations, the US had the highest median household income in real terms.

webber
Guest

Autarchy wasn’t a communist idea.

Guest

Sure wonder how ‘in-house’ government research of the population ( if done) compares in some way to the Median poll results. Have a feeling the data hit them like a bunch of ‘black swans’ hitting their windshields. I’m not too sure they are exactly rigorous and detail oriented when it would come to random samples that could be fully extrapolated to the entire population. That ‘research’ has to be far from getting a ‘Good Housekeeping’ seal of approval.

And with research like this with its data results filled with great disappointments and negative observations we should not be surprised that independent polling would come under watch down the line as certain media have. Some information is worth a great deal of weight in influence.

koeszet
Guest

Shame on you Ilan Mor!!!
Israeli Ambassador, Ilan Mor, accepted Hungarian government award. An award which was renounced and returned by Elie Wiesel and Randolph Braham due to whitewashing of nazi history.
“It has become increasingly clear that Hungarian authorities are encouraging the whitewashing of tragic and criminal episodes in Hungary’s past, namely the wartime Hungarian governments’ involvement in the deportation and murder of hundreds of thousands of its Jewish citizens,” Wiesel wrote in his letter.
The photographer of the Israel in Hungary facebook page prepared the perfect album of the shameful ambassador and all leaders of the Hungarian Jewish community who are collaborating with the antisemitic government. Congratulations.
Please share it and urge the Israeli Foreign Ministry to make him return this medal!

https://www.facebook.com/IsraelinHungary/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1252032904831677

Guest

With respect, the Jewish nationalists in Israel have few friends and many enemies. In Europe in particular, Israel has very few government-level friends today. The ruling Hungarian nationalists are willing and interested in being friends of the State of Israel and it is in Israel’s national interest to nurture and encourage this government-level friendship. It is that simple. As to the Hungarian Holocaust, as far as Israel’s officialdom is concerned “that was then and this is now.” You can “koesz” as much as you like about all this, but that is the way the cookie crumbles, and if you don’t like it, you are welcome to lump it.

Mihal
Guest

I live in Hungary and I can confirm that this is matching my experience. One of the most shocking things for me is that there are Fidesz supporters who see Fidesz as a criminal organisation with Orban heading it and they are STILL VOTING FOR FIDESZ. It would be great if there would be a research with that as topic. Somehow these people think it will benefit them somehow if they vote a criminal organisation in the parliament.

Observer
Guest

Prejudice, complexes, negativism/hate and ignorance of how things work beyond the very short term are the main factors , I suspect. But to this absurd extent ?!

Why not, after all the Hungarians lead the stats of alcoholism and suicide.
There must be some genetic predisposition too. The mood of neighbouring Croats, Czechs, Austrians is very different for the better.
Sad, very sad.

Guest

Careful about genetic predisposition . . . Shades of Ákos Kertész . . . :-)))

Observer
Guest

Like it or not, can’t get away from genes. Check out Zs. Boldodköi – A szabad akarat téveszme, D.Kaneman – Thinking fast and slow. Blink, Tipping Point, etc.
On the “nature or nurture” question nature has retaken a lot of ground.

Observer
Guest
tappanch
Guest
Joe Simon
Guest

Yes, there is corruption in Hungary. The FIDESZ must have studied the American political system. They were good learners. You at HS should read up on this subject. You would have a more balanced view. This blog is full of one-sided epistles and childish comments.

‘Selling U.S. Out: J.R. Martin got it right when he stated that “neither party represents the interests of the American people since both are controlled by foreign and domestic corporations and special interest groups that provide the majority of their funding […] [B]oth parties practice dishonest, divisive politics aimed at dividing and manipulating public opinion instead of seeking to build an honest national consensus on important issues confronting our nation.

Roderick Beck
Guest

Your comments are idiotic. The American system is downright sparkling white compared to Hungary.

Joe Simon
Guest

The researchers studied more than 25,000 convictions of public officials for violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 and 2008 as well as patterns in state spending to develop a corruption index that estimates the most and least corrupt states in the union. Based on this method, the the most corrupt states are:

1. Mississippi
2. Louisiana
3. Tennessee
4. Illinois
5. Pennsylvania
6. Alabama
7. Alaska
8. South Dakota
9. Kentucky
10. Florida

Look in your own back-yards first.

Jean P.
Guest

If there is corruption in your country you have no business critizising corruption in Hungary. Logic, isn’t it? No.

Observer
Guest

@Fidesznik Joe

You are just peddling flat apologies for the Fidesz mafia.

What does you comparison help the victims here?
Why not get some info on corruption in Nigeria or Pakistan, that will make the Orban mafia look much better in comparison.

The facts are that nobody had embezzled more that the Orban gang in the whole OECD world: take L.Mészáros, the gas fitter villager who had only debts and made to 86th in the richest Hungarians list in four years exclusively on gov contracts, (by being Orban’s neighbour in the village and front man, they say).

Or take the estimate that in 2014-15 the Orban mafia embezzled in various ways 1.2% GDP from the EU funds alone (Transparency Intl. study).
My guess of the loot total is a whopping 4.5-5% GDP, including the VAT frauds, which would be impossible without the gov involvement.

There is no project or single gov contract or even permission without substantial kick back in Orbanistan. The rates are often stunning – a 2.5 million Ft. playground was billed for 23 million, EU money, a 1.5 million Ft simple website creation was billed 530 million.
Beat those.

Observer
Guest

BTW, unfortunately my backyard is the political pigsty referred to as Orbanistan, hence I don’t so much care about S.Dakota.

Guest

Observer… on South Dakota. Could be off the beaten path just like Sarszentmihaly…;-)…I’ll put in a plug for it. Maybe not a place to live for you but maybe to visit. From what I can tell you’d inherently appreciate Mt. Rushmore. The stone carvers who made it would love for you to see Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. And the trolls might want to check it out too. Just to learn a little about who they seem to have ‘issues’ with nowadays….;-)…

PALIKA
Guest

Joe Simon,

The information is very interesting. Now would you please provide us with the same figures for Hungary, viz the details of the number of public officials convicted of violation of Hungarian corruption laws for the same period?

The number of convictions is a good indication of the size of the problem as well as the determination of the Police to deal with corrupt officials. I suspect that in Hungary they prosecute people in accordance with ancient custom. In other words they only prosecute those who have lost the protection of comrades in high places. The current system with the chief prosecutor who is a political appointee with questionable ethical standards is not likely to have broken with this much respected Hungaricum.

My verdict about Hungary does not matter any more than that about the USA in regard to corruption. Transparency Int. publish league tables. Take a look

Guest

public officials convicted of violation of Hungarian corruption laws

Never! Don’t you know the Hungarian motto:

It’s only corruption if I’m not in it …

And there’s always the kis kapú …

Guest

JS:

Not sure exactly what you see in Magyarorszag. Political perfection? Over 50% of the country sees a problem. One would be ahead of the game to entertain a great reckoning to come and sound a call.

webber
Guest

Joe Simon obviously doesn’t give a damn what the majority of Hungarians living in Hungary think.

Jean P.
Guest

“…the chief prosecutor …. with questionable ethical standards….”

The understatement of the year.

webber
Guest

They are prosecuted in the US! That is the difference.

Hungary is my backyard.

Where is your backyard, Joe Simon?

Roderick Beck
Guest

You not going to convince anyone intelligent that Hungarian-in-your-face corruption is rivaled by American political corruption. By the way, why don’t you post under your true, Hungarian name?

Biondi
Guest

Great news, great article. But lets not make a huge mistake.

Everybody agrees that Putin is corrupt, yet he is still very popular. Nobody says that Erdogan is clean. They and their parties are popular despite the corruption. The coup failed against Erdogan exactly because at the end of the day he is still very popular at least compared to his divided opposition. These tyrants have a strong, entrenched, grass roots following (though Erdogan more so than Putin). Orban is very similar.

Many Hungarians do not care about corruption (or not enough, they care about other issues more or simply they can live with corruption), nor about the nature of the Hungarian political system.

While these numbers offer hope that there is indeed dissatisfaction with the government I would not translate the numbers as Hungarians are about to sack the Fidesz government.

Observer
Guest

Yes, unfortunately.
See my opening post July 28, 2016 6:39 pm

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