The constitutional amendments failed: Another blow to Orbán

As soon as I turned my computer on this morning, a desk-top notification from a Hungarian internet news site informed me that the vote on Viktor Orbán’s amendments to the constitution had failed. He needed 133 votes and came up two short. Those opposition parties that have recognized delegations abstained, and three of the ten independent members voted “no.” I must admit I was surprised because, in the last few days when I repeatedly heard from Fidesz politicians that they would go ahead with the vote on November 8 as planned, I was certain that Viktor Orbán had already secured the two extra votes necessary for another Fidesz parliamentary success.

I was even more surprised when I read the article, which claimed that this defeat was actually a great victory for Viktor Orbán in the long run. And it wasn’t only this media outlet that seemed to be convinced that no matter what happens, Fidesz always wins. But that’s just not the case. It’s high time to abandon this increasingly unfounded assumption. Over the last few months Viktor Orbán’s strategy has suffered several serious setbacks. This last one is perhaps the worst.

All along Orbán had argued that his government needs a valid referendum, which would strengthen his position in his negotiations with Brussels. If the European Union is confronted with the fact that more than 50% of the Hungarian electorate stands fast behind him, he will have a much easier time defending Hungary’s strongly anti-migrant position in the European Council. But the referendum was not valid. Far from it. The opposition parties’ call for a boycott was effective. Only 39% of the electorate showed up. Admittedly, 98% of those who went to the polls supported Orbán’s purposely misleading and meaningless question. No, they didn’t want to have compulsory quotas unless parliament approves them. Who could say “yes” to that? Not too many people.

Orbán and his closest associates who gathered after the result became known looked as if they were attending a funeral. But by the next day Orbán was ready to give a positive spin to the outcome. The overwhelming number of “no” votes proves that his support is larger than ever before. In 2014, 2.2 million people voted for Fidesz, but 3.3 million people supported Fidesz’s referendum. A new unity, he said, has emerged behind his party. This large mandate means that the government party can amend the constitution regardless of its failure to secure a valid referendum.

But the failure of the referendum undercut Viktor Orbán’s clout in the European Union’s community. Many EU officials and members of the European Parliament expressed their relief that the referendum was not valid. The Hungarian people are wiser than their government, Martin Schulz said.

Then came the proposed amendments. Some people judged them to be totally unnecessary and meaningless. Others believed that certain sections of the amendments might be useful in attacking the very constitution of the European Union.

Initially, passing the proposed amendments seemed foolproof. The government assumed it would have the support of Jobbik, the party that used to be a radical right party but by now is practically indistinguishable from Fidesz. Jobbik supported the referendum because its followers are against immigration at least as much as, if not more than, Fidesz voters. But the Jobbik leadership saw an opportunity. Since Fidesz needed the Jobbik votes in parliament, the party decided to demand a price for its support: the immediate cessation of the sale of so-called residency bonds. The program is a fantastic deal for those who have 300 million euros to purchase a five-year bond in exchange for a residency permit and free movement within the European Union. And a good deal as well for those who benefit from the corruption that permeates the program.

Some politicians on the left were convinced that Gábor Vona either didn’t issue an ultimatum or that, if he did, he wouldn’t follow through on it. Well, they were wrong on both counts. Vona did deliver an ultimatum, and he meant every word of it.

Initially Orbán opted to oblige. It seemed that these amendments were so important to him that he would swallow a huge one and stop selling residency bonds to mostly Chinese and Russian businessmen. But then he changed his mind.

Fidesz announced that it would go ahead as scheduled, putting the amendments to a vote on November 8. Jobbik politicians swore that their 24-member delegation would not vote for the amendments. And so, if the opposition members on the left remained steadfast, the package of amendments was doomed. They did, and it was.

With this defeat Orbán can no longer go to Brussels and say that his hands are tied not only by 3.3 million Hungarian patriots but also by a two-thirds majority of the parliament. And that even if he wanted to, he couldn’t agree to accept any quotas. Today’s vote is a huge failure. Months of political maneuvering by Orbán have led nowhere.

A couple of foreign commentators concur. They note that this defeat will most likely weaken him “in his long-running fight with Brussels.” It is a personal blow to the prime minister. BBC’s Nick Thorpe described it as the second blow in a month, the first, of course, being the referendum itself. No constitutional amendment has ever been defeated since 1990, the beginning of the Third Republic. Since 2011 Fidesz easily pushed through six amendments. Well, things have changed.

Although, as I noted earlier, a few newspapers looked at the parliamentary vote as a success for a politician who is unbeatable, several others saw it quite differently, as a defeat that will hurt Fidesz both in the short and the long run. Jobbik’s strategy was praised by such until recently pro-Fidesz media as Válasz. Jobbik’s position is very simple: “neither poor nor rich migrants” should come to Hungary. Gábor Török, the well-known political commentator, called Jobbik the clear winner of this game. Until recently, Jobbik wasn’t a distinct political actor because the parties on the left conflated it with Fidesz. But in the last two weeks Jobbik was the leading force in the opposition’s attack on Fidesz. The left was nowhere.

Bálint Molnár, one of the editors of Kolozsvári Szalonna (Bacon à la Kolozsvár), and I seem to agree on the significance of what happened this morning in parliament. Let me quote: “I don’t agree with those who claim that Fidesz-KDNP, headed by someone named Orbán, won the match even if he was worsted. In my opinion, no one won here. On his own playing field, according to his own rules, he has burned an incredible amount of money and yet the seventh amendment of the Orbán all-mighty basic botchery has failed badly. The Young Democrats managed to bungle the all-time most expensive public opinion poll. That’s the essence of it. That is the situation. The hero, the martyr, the knight of a border fortress [végvári vitéz], the general of all Hungarians fell on his face…. For the first time since 2010 Orbán has tumbled and sunk to his knees.”

amendment-vote

Photo: Attila Kisbenedek / AFP

That pretty well sums it up. After this it will be difficult for Orbán to play the strong man who flexes his muscles.

I would like to call special attention to the photo Kolozsvári Szalonna attached to their piece on today’s vote in parliament. As soon as it became known that the government proposal had failed, Orbán got up and darted toward the exit. Gergely Gulyás, his eyes cast downward, may well be afraid of what’s waiting for him as the man responsible for legislative acts. He was full of self-confidence about easy sailing for this piece of legislation. Péter Harrach is scratching his head as if doesn’t know what to make of the situation.

Orbán is no longer accustomed to defeat. I’m sure he will take it very hard. And lash out.

November 8, 2016
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Member

US Election not looking good at 9:45pm DST. Even if she wins it will have been appalingly, deplorably close, but the unthinkable is now looking as if it is closing in…

Member

And the press is already preparing its obeisances…

Hungary has no monopoly on either deplorables or demagogues.

Member

Democracy R.I.P. (Nov 8 2016) Hail to the chief.
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Member

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webber
Guest

Well, I was wrong, and have never been so sorry to have been wrong.
My apologies to Petofi.

petofi
Guest

I take no pleasure in Trump’s win. I only know that Hillary was toxic and clearly a fake–someone who claimed that she had a special understanding of the common man. Yeah, someone who made $400,000 a speech (and never personally gave a dime to a needy school or hospital) knew the concerns of the average American.

As I watched the events unfold, I found myself cheering for Trump. When my wife asked why, I said that with Trump, there’s tremendous amount of room for improvement–with Hillary, there was none.

FreeWheeling
Guest

Sounds like you actually did take pleasure in Trump’s win. 🙂 There’s a lot of downside to Trump’s win as he doesn’t have a coherent vision that corresponds with his own party stalwarts. His own supporters may become very disenchanted with the reality of the US political system that is fundamentally resistant to change. It takes a very long sustained effort to make fundamental domestic changes and is far more difficult that building a skyscraper in NYC.

Latefor
Guest

Orban is a true visionary, he endorsed Donald Trump weeks ago. This is a victory for the people, and a defeat for the media. Is this the end of Neo-liberalism? And people gave their trust to a Republican? BUMMER!

FreeWheeling
Guest

Except OV’s team in recent weeks distanced himself from DJT and would correct anyone that OV didn’t endorse DJT but only said his policies would be better for Hungary and the mass immigration issue.

Guest

I thought Hillary had it in the bag. What did I know.
With Trump winning the election well now he has the proverbial ‘monkey on his back’. It will be interesting to see how he ‘heals’ this divisive country. Question is will he get cooperation? We will see if he can follow-up
on his promises and goals. If not we’ll be running in place with this ‘change’ POTUS.

Observer
Guest

“Orban is a visionary..”. Haaa, ha , ha.
This is a good one, but don’t tell it to him, he just lost a referendum and a vote on his pet hate project, after the most expensive campaign in history (kickbacks including).

BTW this is the first exception in Orban’s series of bets on the wrong horses.

true-1956
Guest

Petofi is mostly right.
Trump is better for us than Hillary.
Sorry.

Istvan
Guest

Hungary has probably just lost its Nuclear shield from NATO unless it radically increases its military spending. The officers in the US military who put themselves on the line to support Trump will hold Trump to his pledge on NATO requiring it to meeting the GDP spending 2 percent target.

It is also very possible the US will target IS stronghold Raqqa with a low yield nuclear weapon shortly after he enters office and be done with it. There are officers who are Trump supporters who fully endorse doing that. Trump has publicly discussed massive bombardment of Raqqa, he never ruled out using nuclear weapons.

The gates of hell are now open, yes things will be much better for Hungary under Trump.

webber
Guest

Better for Fidesz. Worse for Hungary and the majority of Hungarians who are now anti-Fidesz (just look at the numbers).

Guest

And what remains to be see is how Mr. Trump will interact with his counterpart Vlad the Inveigler. I sure hope we won’t have a POTUS asleep at the wheel
with that guy. It will be interesting how Trump will handle the first few ‘tests’.

Guest

Sorry I can’t control the printing!

Joe the plumber
Guest

Why democracy RIP? Democracy has (unfortunately) prevailed….

Democracy can be a b…. if your favourite doesn’t win.

Oh well…I don’t suppose he can fulfill his many promises (famous last words).

Ironic that Trumps acronym for “Make America great again” is MAGA

Ferenc
Guest

the result of an irreality show, American democracy going from parody to caricature

Tyrker
Guest
Professor Harnad, I understand and share your disgust and embitterment at the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections. But I do not understand or share your shock and surprise. Back in July, when Ms. Balogh posted a piece on Orban’s endorsement of Trump, I wrote in a comment, “It doesn’t matter if Orbán has a personal affection for Trump or not. I think he’s simply come to terms with the reality that the next president of the USA will be called Donald Trump – Hillary really doesn’t stand a chance now.” And in another comment on the same blog entry: “there’s no way Hillary Clinton could win this battle now.” Yes, by July it was clear that Mrs. Clinton was not going to win this election. Are you familiar with Lichtman’s 13 keys to the White House? Just by going through them, you could see the incumbent party’s candidate had no chance of winning. Back in May, when Lichtman was first interviewed about his predictions, he shunned the answer but by, September, he conceded that Trump was the likely winner. And you know what? This guy and his 13 keys have correctly predicted the results of every single presidential election… Read more »
webber
Guest

Tyrker, I don’t understand why you don’t understand that intelligent people are be surprised. ALL news sources I have seen are calling Trump’s victory a shock or a surprise.
You mention Lichtman – and yes, he got it right. But Lichtman is just one of many, and most pollsters got it wrong.
If Lichtman is a sort of god to you, fine. Most people, however, don’t trust any one person. Most people look at all the poll numbers and theories they can find, and most of those were wrong.

Tyrker
Guest
Sure, Lichtman is just “one of many,” but let me repeat – he’s the one who correctly forecast the results of every single presidential election since 1984, including the ones that the pollsters got wrong. Polls have inherent limitations, which is why the 13 keys do not rely on them at all. That doesn’t mean that public opinion polls will always be wrong on everything but they are inherently unreliable. Furthermore, the special characteristics of the U.S. presidential elections mean that the results of nationwide polls are irrelevant even when they are accurate. Which is why other methods of forecasting were needed. Lichtman’s keys are but one of them. Another one is MogIA, an artificial intelligence system that came about in 2004, and correctly predicted the results of every U.S. election held since then. MogIA also forecast a Trump victory in 2016. And it’s not only about forecasts and predictions. Look, really intelligent people tend to read a variety of news sources, including those whose ideological stance is markedly different to theirs – and are also capable of reading between the lines. It was painstakingly evident to me, even from a continent away, that 1) a huge part of American… Read more »
Guest

“Orbán is no longer accustomed to defeat. I’m sure he will take it very hard. And lash out.”

He will talk as little as possible about it and bask in his endorsement of Trump.

FreeWheeling
Guest

Except that his spokespeople maintained that he didn’t actually endorse him but said that DJT’s election would be better for Hungary. But then his rather large communications team assiduously defend most anything that is said in the press that isn’t correct in their eyes did nothing. In essence, like any halfwit politico, he is trying to have it both ways.

FreeWheeling
Guest

Correction: When DJT was doing well in the polls and it became widely reported that OV favoured DJT, his communications team did nothing to correct the record. Ever since DJT’s slide in the polls after his candid “locker room” antics towards other women, OV’s communication team would officially correct the record and say that OV did not endorse DJT. Otherwise said, OV is a fair weather friend. Most professional politicians are.

Ferenc
Guest

OV’s direction is probably guided by the wind vane, or weathercock.

Guest

Orbán reminds me of an old joke:

We have a law which contains just two paragraphs.

paragraph 1 says: O is always right.

paragraph 2 says: If O should be wong, paragraph 1 gets applied automatically …

Re Trump:

May you live in interesting times!

And it’s funny but not surprising that latefor is jubilant about this.

Ferenc
Guest

I only recently (since August) started to follow Hungarian politics closely. Now trying to see a bigger picture and coming to this question:
Can it be said that since the start of the “Propaganda Ministerium”, OV/Fidesz is getting more defeats than before and going down in popularity?

true-1956
Guest

ferenc is welcome.
we are all students of history.

aida
Guest

Well, the fate of the constitutional amendment’s is good news, but mostly because of what it says about Orban’s omnipotence. There are two points to make still. The actual proposed amendment is largely a non event. But, why does the left wing opposition does not oppose? They think opposition is to abstain, stay away, walk out? How about getting involved?
OT. Whilst I welcome HRC’s political demise I can see that there are strongly held and loudly expressed reservations about the Presidential elect. I am confident that since the Constitution of the USA was designed with care and wisdom and its checks and balances will ensure that nothing too desperate is going to happen. The odd policy adjustment, even if unwelcome to some who hold a particular ideological stand, does not necessarily herald a world catastrophe. Just the necessity to learn to live with unwelcome facts. Life goes on, so let us make the most of it and enjoy.

Member

Checks and balances? Trump White House, Trump Senate, Trump House, Trump Supreme Court, Trump Tower, and a Trump Majority Populace: Trump Nation. And a declining planet held hostage. Horrescat elector.
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Guest

Prof… It appears the people of the United States have to hope for our own good there will be ‘dialogue’ and not the dictum ‘to the victor go the spoils’. If not we will be up the creek .. …with no paddle.

petofi
Guest

Americans can thank Hillary and the power elite of both Republican and Democratic parties…Bernie would’ve trulmped Frump by 20 points; but of course, Bernie was not ‘controllable’ and a loose cannon.

petofi
Guest

Oh yes, and by the way, we Canadians can now look forward to Trump’s move on BC water…

petofi
Guest

However, there is one brilliant move Trump can make…to invite Bernie Sanders to be Secretary of State!

true-1956
Guest

We need a new party, formed from the sane Democrats and Republican.
A realignment is highly possible.

aida
Guest
Professor, clearly you are upset and I empathise. Some of the Trump election promises are impossible. The wall with Mexico. Fantasy. Also migration from Mexico is largely under control. The restriction on Muslim travellers to the US. It is symbolic and cannot be implemented for practical reasons. Expelling 11million illegal migrants. Presumably they are needed but mostly exploited. How do you get 11million people to leave? A logistical problem on a major scale. Infrastructure projects to improve the country and to reduce unemployment. Can you fault it? NATO? Imbalance of contributions. It will probably result in the members paying their share rather than the breakup of the organisation. Free trade treaties. A major cause of globalisation. Many workers suffer by the disappearance of jobs and lower wages. Why not take a second look? Maybe it will result in fewer benefits claimants. Is Obama care in its present form too much a burden on employers? Or is it a much needed benefit at an affordable cost? Environmental measures, tinkering with these is potentially alarming. GWBush was very much against. Is that still the mindset? He has a friendly legislature but is is a tame one? Will it last beyond the midterm?… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

“Some of the Trump election promises are impossible.”
Which serious election promises he did make at all? Just tell me one……
May the Slovenian (folk)music scene will get a boost out of this, and pull scenes in neighbouring countries up after some time.

Ron
Guest

Eva: The program is a fantastic deal for those who have 300 million euros to purchase a five-year bond in exchange for a residency permit and free movement within the European Union.

If you have Eur 300 million to spent anywhere in the world you will get not only a residence permit but also the keys to the country.

However, it is a little bit less. According to me it is Eur 300,000 (bonds for 5 years) plus Eur 60,000 as fee. I believe around 10,000 used his arrangement.

Observer
Guest

The residency bonds scheme / sham was a ripper for the orban Mafia – their offshore cos pocketed HUF 100 billion so far, ie. $ 350 million, instead of the state. The admin prosedures and the supposed security checking was carried out by the state.
Beat that.

Guest

Of course it’s 300 000€ – but actually the cost is just those 60 000, plus interest (which is low right now …) for five years on the 300 000.

And the permit (for life!) includes the wife and the children – really a fantastic deal!

PS: Probably everybody here knows the numbers so nobody reacted to that “little error” of our gracious hostess … 🙂

Joe Simon
Guest

Viktor Orban has an ally now in Washington, also in London. (Just read T. May`s comments in the October issue of The Economist.) This must be a humbling experience for you all at HS.

Bowen
Guest

Orban has also had a long-time ally in Moscow. You neglected to mention that.

Ferenc
Guest

Joe, please explain why should this be a humbling experience for anybody.

Member

Why did the polls fail to approximate the final result?

Here is an article from January 2016.

“Don’t trust the polls: the systemic issues that make voter surveys unreliable ” by Mona Chalabi

“In 2013, 41% of US households had a cellphone but no landline and that number is on the rise. This poses a problem for polling companies because the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act means that they can’t just autodial those cellphones. Not being able to autodial means that it is incredibly expensive and time-consuming for companies to poll those people. Even more problematic, this varies across America – younger households and poorer ones are much less likely to have a landline ”

“Response rates (that’s the percentage of people who answer a survey when asked) have plummeted. In the 1930s, it was over 90%; in 2012 it was 9%, and it has continued to decline since then. ”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/datablog/2016/jan/27/dont-trust-the-polls-the-systemic-issues-that-make-voter-surveys-unreliable

Member

US citizens over 18; turnout in millions; in %

2008: 225.5; 131.3; 58.2%
2012: 235.2; 129.1; 54.9%
2016: > 245; 125.1; < 51.1%

Member

This means that the turnout % was the 5th lowest in American history (data go back to 1828)

1924: 48.9%; Coolidge
1996: 49.0%; Clinton’s 2nd term
1920: 49.2%; Harding
1988: 50.1%; Bush Sr
2016: <51.1%; Trump
2000: 51.2%; Bush Jr 1st term

Guest

Though I’ve known that voter turnout in the USA has always been much lower than in the European democracies and elsewhere I’m kind of shocked that it was much lower even than when Obama was elected!
What does that tell us about democracy in the USA?

It would be interesting to see data re the turnout of minorities – there have been reports that Blacks and Hispanics were systematically kept from voting. Reducing the number of polling stations (and the opening hours) which lead to unbelievable waiting times etc …

Member

voting-age population (VAP):=
since 1972: everyone residing in the United States, age 18 and older
before 1971: age 21 and older for most states.

voting-eligible population (VEP):= VAP
– non-citizens
– felons (depending on state law)
– mentally incapacitated persons

Eligible to vote := VEP + eligible US citizens living abroad

2016:
VAP = 251.107 million
non-citizens = 21.093 million
ineligible felons = 3.243 million
eligible US citizens living abroad = 4.740 million

Member

The previous turnout %’s were ballots/VAP.

Since VAP includes an increasing (and only approximate) % of legal or illegal aliens, the ratio is decreasing even if the number of ballots is constant.

Member

@wolfi

Exit poll data about voting preference by sex, age, income, etc.:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/08/us/politics/election-exit-polls.html

Guest

Holy moley! Mr. Trump got 67% ( off the charts!) of the white no college vote. Let’s see how he deals with them. How the heck he’s going to fill their coffers is beyond me.

Member

Final average of the polls vs actual election results

Trump: 42.2% vs 47.5%
Clinton: 45.5% vs 47.7%

So while the final polls gave a 3.3% lead to Clinton in the popular vote, she received only 0.2% more votes than Trump.

https://ig.ft.com/us-elections/polls

Member

Lots of Libertarians in the polls must have voted for Trump in the last moment.

Member

In Florida, 9.387 million votes were cast

Their distribution:

voted by mail: 2.649
voted early [October 24, November 6]: 3.875
voted on November 8: 2.863

https://countyballotfiles.elections.myflorida.com/FVRSCountyBallotReports/AbsenteeEarlyVotingReports/PublicStats

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