A woman prime minister for Hungary?

A surprising number of listeners, mostly men, to György Bolgár’s call-in program on Klubrádió keep suggesting that what Hungary needs today is a woman as prime minister. My first thought was that the reason for this unexpected enthusiasm for a woman to lead the country is the undeniable failure of the Hungarian political elite in the last 25 years. Female participation in politics has been negligible, so politics is associated with the male gender. Perhaps disillusioned voters think that with more women in high political offices politics itself would be transformed into something more civilized and less corrupt.

Regardless of whether Hungary had a conservative or a liberal-socialist government, women never made up more than 10 percent of the country’s legislators. With that figure Hungary is dead last among all member states of the European Union. Currently the percentage of women in the lower houses of parliament in the European Union is 29%. The goal is 40% by 2020. With the exception of LMP, Hungary’s green party, there has been no concerted effort to encourage women to enter politics and promote their careers.

In the last 25 years only two women were chosen to lead their parties: Ibolya Dávid of the by now defunct Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF) and Ildikó Lendvai of the socialist party (MSZP). At the ministerial level, again regardless of whether the government was conservative or liberal-socialist, the number of women was very small or nonexistent. Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz has had the worst record in this respect. The first Orbán government did have one female member, Ibolya Dávid, but her appointment was forced upon him by the coalition agreement signed by Fidesz and MDF. Once he was free of any such encumbrance, he had no desire to see a woman near the apex of power. Moreover, he doesn’t want to see too many of them in parliament either. Of the 114 Fidesz MPs only eight, or 7%, are women. We mustn’t forget that all MPs are handpicked by Orbán himself.

Sometime in the spring of 2015 Viktor Orbán paid a visit to his old college dormitory to have a chat with the current students of the famed birthplace of Fidesz. In the freewheeling conversation that followed, which was later leaked to the media, Viktor Orbán shared some of his thoughts on women and politics. I devoted a whole post to this topic, in which I summarized Orbán’s ambivalent attitude toward women in general and women in politics in particular. He characterized Hungarian politics as savage and said its main weapon was “character assassination.” Therefore, women should be spared this pain. Perhaps they are better suited to becoming ambassadors because in that position women “are not torn to pieces.” So, Orbán, by not allowing women into the political arena, is doing them a favor.

The other day “Integrity Lab” released a study based on polling of the public’s attitudes toward women politicians, which was most likely inspired by Hillary Clinton’s nomination to become the first woman president of the United States. If she is elected, three women–Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Hillary Clinton–will have a substantial say in which direction the western world heads.

Source: Aftenposten, Norway

Source: Aftenposten, Norway

Considering the low numbers of female politicians in Hungary, the Hungarian public is quite open-minded on the subject. The first surprise was that 51% of the population believe that the socialist-liberal parties should name a woman as their prospective prime minister while only 30% would disapprove of such a choice. The rest (19%) have no opinion.

The enthusiasm for a socialist-liberal prime minister naturally varies by party preference. The most baffling result is the relatively low percentage of LMP voters who would support the idea of a female prime minister (43%) as opposed to those (38%) who would not welcome such an outcome. These figures are mystifying because LMP believes in a 50-50 quota system. In the five-member LMP parliamentary delegation there are two women, and if six of them had been elected, there would have been three women. The leadership is in the hands of co-chairs, a man and a woman.

The other surprise is the less than enthusiastic endorsement of a female candidate by the voters of the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK). Only 50% of them would support the idea, compared to 57% among MSZP voters and 65% among the smaller democratic parties (Együtt, PM, MLP). The explanation, I assume, stems from the standing of the party leader, Ferenc Gyurcsány, in the eyes of his devoted followers. Jobbik voters, as far as their attitudes toward a female candidate are concerned, are more enlightened than their friends in Fidesz. Thirty-eight percent of Jobbik voters would accept a woman as prime minister. A mere 15% of Fidesz voters would.

Only 12% of the population think that the reason there are so few women in politics is their unsuitability for the profession. This is heartening, even if a rather large percentage (22%) of Fidesz voters share their leader’s skeptical view of women’s suitability for the job. This 22% is especially glaring if we compare it to 11% of Jobbik, 12% of LMP, 3% of DK, and 12% of MSZP voters.

So, Hungarians are on the whole not as disapproving of women in high positions as one might have suspected on the basis of the very low female participation in politics and the present government’s attitude toward women. On the other hand, other widely held views might negate this somewhat optimistic assessment of the situation. For instance, Hungarians totally reject any kinds of quotas, especially the kind that would give preferential treatment to certain groups. This is one of the reasons that the path to higher education is often cut off for Roma youngsters. To promote the entry of women into politics would need a conscious effort, most likely some kind of hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the allotment of party positions. That would mean that a number of ensconced male politicians would have to give up their places, a move that would undoubtedly be fiercely resisted.

It’s nice to dream about a female prime minister for Hungary, but at the present I am hard-pressed to come up with a candidate with the necessary experience and stature. I can think of only five well-known women politicians: Ildikó Lendvai (MSZP), Ágnes Vadai (DK), Erzsébet Pusztai (Modern Magyarország Mozgalom, earlier MDF), Kinga Göncz (MSZP, former foreign minister and member of the European Parliament) and the still very young Ágnes Kunhalmi (MSZP). The Hungarian democratic opposition should work very hard to include more women within their ranks and to mentor and promote them so they would be prepared to hold top positions in the parties and in a future government. Otherwise, Hungarians will not have a female prime minister any time soon.

August 7, 2016
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Member

Based on their very high proportion among animal rights advocates and greens, I have much greater hopes from women too. (But let’s not forget that both genders have their rotten apples too…)

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Member

It is wrong to vote for or select someone for a given job, position, responsibility based on his/her sex. Ideally one should select the one who is best qualified.

However, predominantly men screwed up the World so far, so now the pendulum swings and the women have a chance to do the same.

It will be screwed up, perhaps even more so, it is guaranteed, but at least differently.

PALIKA
Guest
A tempting generalisation which is patent nonsense when examined more closely. Since historically men have been in positions of power those who have screwed up are more likely to be male. There is always merit in widening the pool of talent and the increased involvement of women in politics and other areas of life is welcome. We are now in danger, as people often are, to attribute qualities to either sex that are supposed to be of universal application that is completely unsupported by any scientific data. Women have been historically “up against it”, so to succeed they need greater effort and commitment. Fine, if this produces a large number of Thatcher, Merkel, May personalities. We benefit. Not because as women they possess some workd redeeming qualities, but because they do a good job. As do their male equivalents. The militant feminists forget one important fact: they have made it. Stop fighting, there is nothing to fight about. The rest will follow as night follows day. Male? Female? Who cares? Up it the job and does it well is what matters. HC’s problem is not that she is a woman. No one suggested that. It is that she is not… Read more »
Member
You think that you replied to my statement? I think not! I have not stated, that men or women can do a better job of anything or that I have any preference selecting either for any kind of position. ==== People are not perfect (including you and I) so the work performed by people is cannot be perfect. The work of politicians and leaders of people are even less perfect than most anything else, since the work involves many compromises. Anything that is a result of a compromise cannot be even close to perfection. As a matter of fact, anything that is imperfect will deteriorates even more so and the end result is lack of success or a failure. Men and women are equally imperfect and so is their work. ==== Human history is nothing else but the vane efforts of mankind to try to correct all the screw ups being made constantly. Ultimately some politicians and leaders decide that the repairs are impossible and resort to war as an imagined solution. After the destruction the cycle starts again. ====== Men and women did wage wars equally well and equally badly. Therefore, both sexes deserve an equal chance to try… Read more »
Gabor Toka
Guest
I think you read too much into the responses to a typically poorly worded question in a poll. By “typically poor” I mean a common worldwide tendency of not taking the time to properly translate a research question into a survey question. Instead, they say, hey, I want to know what people think of X [here: the possibility of a female prime minister], so let’s ask them to answer exactly that question. But the respondents respond to the question as they hear it, not as the guys who wrote the question (and wrote up the results) meant it, which is what you yourself note in the case of the DK supporters. So, for example, an LMP supporter may start thinking, uh, do I want Bernadett Szel (the female co-president) or Ákos Hadházy (the male co-president) as our number one – and who knows what s/he means by number one, as s/he surely does not expect an LMP “candidate for prime minister” to actually become a PM -, and answers accordingly. One Fidesz supporter, in turn, thinks that you are joking, of course I want Viktor as prime minister rather than some non-political figure, because surely that is what you imply,… Read more »
Guest

Here again as in most aspects of politics and society Hungary is 50 years behind Western Europe!
Of course there are qualified women (not only in politics …) but most Hungarians don’t want them in a “responsible position” – yet …

Though right now it seems to me that Hungary is not catching up, but falling back again in all respects – those who might change something have all decided to leave the country …

PALIKA
Guest

Yet another popular misconception loved by superficial thinkers. Why should every country be built to the same model? It maybe a sign of retarded development in relation to Hungary that as a free, albeit poorly run, country it chooses a different model for gender roles. If the time comes and they are ready for it Hungary will have her own HC. However I think most Hungarians have rather better taste than to go for that. More likely a Margaret Thatcher would suit them.

Maybe Hungarians would prefer to be spared the stridency of the last 40 years of militant feminist campaigning.

Reality Check
Guest

Strident? Forceful and loud is just how I would act if I was treated as the lesser sex? How dare they demand equality! Keep fighting Hungarian women, you are treated like s$%t.

hvsss
Guest

OT.

Michael J. Morell (a former deputy director of the CIA during Obama) said about Trump in a recent op-ed:

“In the intelligence business, we would say that Putin had recruited Trump as an unwitting agent of the Russian Federation.”

I just wonder how he would characterize Viktor Orban?

Istvan
Guest
First was all thanks hvss for the reference to,the op ed which can be read in full at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/05/opinion/campaign-stops/i-ran-the-cia-now-im-endorsing-hillary-clinton.html?_r=1 Michael J. Morell was the acting director and deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2010 to 2013. He knows of what he writes about and has served his nation under both Republicans and Democrats. For myself this was the most interesting aspect of his op ed: “President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was a career intelligence officer, trained to identify vulnerabilities in an individual and to exploit them. That is exactly what he did early in the primaries. Mr. Putin played upon Mr. Trump’s vulnerabilities by complimenting him. He responded just as Mr. Putin had calculated.” As to what the CIA thinks of Orban, I suspect it is more complex than we might at first guess. This is because of the useful role Orban and the MOL Group has played in Kurdistan, where it has clearly worked with the blessing of US security agencies. ( Akri-Bijeel Block, located in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq) It is my opinion from the outside that MOL has been cooperative with US security interests of my country, and Orban has not betrayed those… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Guest

It sure would be fascinating for the country to have a female prime minister. Looks as if there must be time set aside for those who have the tremendous drive, confidence and determination to get experience and develop that ‘stature’ before they can go for the great position of leading their country. The job awaits for those who see the inclination within themselves.

But as to that ‘savage’ politics going on in the country perhaps it may good in the drive for the PM position to realize perhaps they may have to have the qualities of a Lady Macbeth. a formidable presence in the drive and wielding of power. She knew what she wanted and went at it relentlessly. Something the opposition should think about in their quest for political gratification.

petofi
Guest

It’ll never happen: men would have to think twice about beating their wives…Which Hungarico would want to give THAT up?

Guest

Re: ‘It’ll never happen’

Well it will take time time and more time on top of that. Maybe not in my lifetime nor the next generation. Took us in this society a great while to get a Catholic and a black POTUS. From indications we may get the first female sitting in the White House. And she won’t be cooking in the kitchen for Billy. If he thinks she’ll shake and bake he’s got another thing coming ’cause he’ll have to buy and fry..;-)…

webber
Guest

Unless I am very much mistaken, the Clintons have had a cook (and cleaners) for a very long time – surely from when Bill was first Governor of Arkansas (1979), if not earlier.

Guest

Ah webber you’re taking me ‘literally’….

linky
Guest

This may apply to Hungarians as well.

“The youth culture that is Poland
by Tyler Cowen on July 31, 2016 at 12:36 am in Current Affairs, Political Science, Religion | Permalink

“”The young are more hostile to refugees than their parents: over 80% of Poles aged 18-34 oppose taking them in, compared with 52% of those over 65. They are also more in favour of border controls within the EU. Many of the teenage pilgrims in Krakow say they fear a wave of “Islamisation” or “secularisation” from western Europe. (Oddly, they sometimes conflate the two.) The Pope is “great on faith but not on politics”, says a young street sweeper from Nowa Huta, an industrial area of Krakow.””

That is from The Economist, the article is interesting more generally. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the important European thinkers of the next generation will be religious, not left-wing and secular.”

Guest

Re: ‘…the important European thinkers of the next generation will be religious, not left-wing and secular’

And the thing about that I would suggest is how and in what way they think and act about it. Really instead of ‘church and state’ occupying two separate hemispheres they arguably sit together now like two snuggled peas in a pod. And we see the ramifications.

petofi
Guest

“…the important European thinkers of the next generation will be religious…” –what the hell does that mean?

Over the last 5600 years, all the major religions have fleshed out
their faith with commenters (especially the yiddishers who are at it constantly)…so what, pray tell, can be left to discover?

webber
Guest

Well, there were the great “discoveries” of the Nazi cult, for example….
There may be some more “interesting” discoveries in the future. We can just hope not.

Jean P.
Guest

…so what, pray tell, can be left to discover?

That it is all meaningless.

Guest

If it’s religion, I’d think it has plenty of meaning in the land of Orban. He’s chained it to the country’s mast come hell or high water. The new Constantine. Through that he believes he will conquer.

Guest

You made me laugh again!

important European thinkers of the next generation will be religious
Where did you get that ?

Thinking and believingin any religion is an oxymoron …

Anyway, maybe in Poland youths are religious – but not in Western Europe, except a very small minority!

PS:
Religion is one of the factors that got Europe in so much trouble in the last two thousand years – and I hope that we’ve got over it at last!

Separation of politics and religion is an essential component of democracy …

linky
Guest

@wolfi7777

This was a copy and paste exercise from Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution blog as you can see from the top of the text and also everything was in quotation marks.

Prof. Cowen is probably one of the most respected economics bloggers by the way, which of course doesn’t mean he is right.

The most interesting part for me was the extreme conservatism of the Polish youth compared to their parents’, grandparents’ generations. One would’ve thought people get more conservative as they age, but this theory I guess is being upset in many places and I would include Hungary too.

Guest

Well, an expert in economics and releigion? From the article (here’s the link you might have given) it seems that some Polish youths are as reactionary as some Hungarians:
http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21702770-global-church-trends-liberal-polish-church-not-following-cross-purposes

And another similarity to Hungary:

Many Poles left for the West …

PS:
I do not see any “rise of religion” in Germany or other parts of Western/Central Europe, seems really strange to me that idea of Mr Cowen.

Member

2 wrong statements in the article:

– not only LMP, but the left-green Dialogue for Hungary (Párbeszéd Magyarországért, PM) also has a gender quota, has a women representative in the Parliament and the party has two co-chairs of man and woman.

– PM’s co-chair Timea Szabo is much more known than the mentioned women, for example her Facebook page has 66800 fans (https://www.facebook.com/szabotimeapm). The second best Kunhalmi has 22000. Many people still think however that she is still in LMP.

Guest

And PM developed out of LMP …

Member

And?

Develop is a wrong word here, anyway. It was formed from the LMP members. Political parties have a custom to break apart and forming a new one. Present-day LMP is different a lot from the party before the break-up.

Paul
Guest

A bit late on this, as I haven’t read HS for a few days (bizarrely because we are in Hungary at the moment!), but this is one of the all too rare moments when I am proud of the UK.

Not only do we have a female PM, but the leaders of two of the other three countries that make up the UK are also women – only Wales is led by a man.

Add to that that the leader of the Green Party is also female (as is their only MP), and the leaders of three of the four main parties in Scotland are also women. Even UKIP looks likely to have a female leader in the near future.

And with Clinton likely to be elected (surely!) and May already in place alongside Merkel, Orbán could be having even more uncomfortable meetings than usual.

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