Another attempt to change the political landscape: The Momentum Movement

Even as we all complain about the political lethargy of Hungarians, a new political group has appeared on the scene. These self-assured young people in their late twenties and early thirties emerged from seemingly nowhere. But they handle their new roles in front of the cameras with poise and, unlike some earlier groups, they seem to have well-defined ideas about what they want. Although their immediate goal is to hold a referendum in Budapest to avert Orbán’s folly of hosting the 2024 Olympics in the capital, they are braced for an intensive political role. They call their movement Momentum.

Skeptics would say that Momentum’s efforts to defeat Hungary’s Olympics bid will be in vain. They must collect 130,000 signatures in 30 days in the dead of winter. And even if they get the necessary signatures, the prospect of a valid referendum is slim. Not even Fidesz’s outsize spending was enough to achieve that.

Momentum’s leaders seem to be realistic in their expectations: they will be satisfied even if all they achieve is getting the necessary number of signatures. After all, this would be a first among numerous failed attempts in the past. As for the likelihood of their ultimate success, the population of Budapest is divided on the issue of the Olympics. While about half of the population of Budapest opposes the games for economic reasons, the other half supports them either because of national pride or because they consider the infrastructure investment beneficial for their city.

If the only aim of the leaders of Momentum were to oppose holding the Olympics in Budapest, they wouldn’t have had such an enthusiastic reception in democratic circles. What Momentum offers is something new. The group unequivocally defines itself as a political organization. Why is that so significant? Because until now, newly emerged and promising civic groups refused any cooperation with political parties or declared themselves to be purely “professional” organizations. The leaders of these organizations denied any political motives, with the inevitable result that they became isolated and eventually disappeared. When, for instance, the teachers’ demonstration managed to get 40,000 people out in the pouring rain, it was clear that most of the people in the crowd were there because of their opposition to the government that was responsible for the ruined educational system. The teacher’s movement failed because it was unwilling “to get involved in politics.” Eventually, they noticed their mistake, but by that time it was too late.

What do we know about the Momentum group? I encountered two of the leaders in interview situations on ATV and HírTV, and I must admit that I was impressed. The chairman of the group, András Fekete-Győr (27), is a lawyer who works in an international law office in Budapest but earlier worked in the European Parliament and the Bundestag. The other person I watched was Anna Orosz (27), who studied economics in Budapest and Berlin with work experience in both cities. I haven’t seen a third member of the team, Miklós Hajnal, but I read a long interview with him. He is just finishing his last year as a student of philosophy, political science and economics in Oxford. According to him, about one-fifth of the membership either studied or lived abroad at one time or another and are eager “to bring home the best practices” they encountered abroad.

András Fekete-Győr and Anna Orosz

Momentum has had a longer history than I initially realized. At the beginning of 2015 nine young people established Momentum because “they were convinced that a purely civic initiative is not enough to achieve any systemic change. Therefore, they were thinking in terms of a political community which in the long run can offer itself as a replacement for the current political elite.” Their first move was to organize a get-together in a summer camp, attended by 200 people, somewhat similarly to what Fidesz did in 1985, in order to exchange ideas and hammer out a program. By the spring of 2016 the membership was large enough to establish an association with several working groups. What brought them together was a common feeling of “political orphanhood,” Miklós Hajnal told mandiner.hu.

I assume that if this group survives, we will know more about their political ideas. What I have learned so far is that although they don’t want to join any existing party, they are ready to work with all of them. They are not interested in ideology, and therefore they find labels like “left” and “right” obsolete. They find Viktor Orbán’s “work-based society” a dead end. They wouldn’t participate in primaries, which they consider “unfortunate and misleading.” Otherwise, their social policy strikes me as liberal. Anna Orosz’s historical ideal is Árpád Göncz, while András Fekete-Győr talked about St. Stephen and István Széchenyi. Judging from these references, both liberal and conservative strands are present in Momentum.

A right-wing blogger called the leadership of Momentum nothing more than a revival of the liberal SZDSZ’s youth organization. He reacted to the word “liberal” with the usual intense hatred. He described them as irrepressible and destructive people who keep returning in different guises. Among the leadership he called attention to András Radnóti, Momentum’s coordinator for foreign relations. He is the son of Sándor Radnóti, who indeed was very active in SZDSZ in the 1980s.

Former Prime Minister József Antall’s son Péter, who is heading the government-financed József Antall Center of Knowledge (Antall József Tudásközpont), wrote on Facebook that any associate of the foundation who expresses public support for Momentum’s anti-Olympics effort will lose his job. Those “who want to be independent politically” can pack. This is the son of the first democratically elected Hungarian prime minister after the regime change.

Magyar Idők also noted Momentum’s “attack on the Olympics,” which “is political in nature.” The current Hungarian government uses the words “politics” and “political” as practical equivalents of “treachery” and “treasonous.” One of the officials responsible for the preparation of the Olympics announced that “every time politics has gotten involved in sports, the sports have suffered.” This assertion is especially amusing considering that sports are such an important part of Viktor Orbán’s political arsenal.

I’m really curious what the reactions of other opposition parties will be to Momentum. LMP, Párbeszéd, Együtt, and the Two-Tailed Dog Party have already promised to help in gathering signatures. DK’s leadership hasn’t made any decision yet, but since DK also belongs to the anti-Olympics camp, I’m pretty sure that the decision will be favorable. MSZP, as usual, is divided on the issue of the Olympics, but MSZP’s spokesman promised an answer sometime next week.

As I said earlier, these young people are very self-assured and keep repeating that they are well prepared to enter the political struggle. Anna Orosz said in one of her interviews that “we would like to spread our ideas in ever larger circles and transplant them into reality.” The reporter’s reaction was that “in the next 30 days they will certainly meet reality” on the streets of Budapest. It will be an eye-opener and a challenge, I’m sure.

January 18, 2017
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e-1956
Guest

Like in 1956, Momentum has to announce its firm opposition against the creeping russianization of the Hungarian leadership now.

Less than that will end their movement.

Guest

I wish them luck.

Member

Momentum is also organizing the “Trump and Hungary” talk tonight that they say will be broadcast live online at 1pm EST/7pm CET.

Guest

“…political lethargy of Hungarians…” and “…national pride…”: 2 reasons why Fidesz has comfortably been in power for the past years. National pride which Fidesz successfully translated into “attack against Hungary” when under the criticism of foreign democratic supporters. It beautifully works for instance with my father-in-law although he is no particular Fidesz fan (but no real opponent either after all).

Ferenc
Guest

Let me first state that I wish that the Olympic Games were such that more cities/countries could be able to organize it.
Unfortunately this is not the case, and it is growing in a direction that less and less wil be able to do so.
Let’s list the cities/countries, of similar size like Budapest/Hungary, which seriously think they can organize it: NONE
Let’s list the cities/countries of similar size like Bp/Hu, which recently organized it: GREECE.
For Greece the main reason to run for and to get it, was clearly and only historical. Anything like that for Bp/Hu: NONE.
And furthermore the organization of the 2004 OG in Athens, could be one of the roots of the current financial problems in Greece. So please prevent Bp/Hu for getting pushed by OV/Fidesz* into this dead-end street.

So, Hajra illimbpia – Nolimpia!!

*not any political motivation, just ‘leading’ their people

Ferenc
Guest
Ferenc
Guest

Strange thing: searched: nolimpia / nolimpia budapest / nolimpia hungary / nolimpia momentum / all using google and no direct result for their site: https://nolimpia.com/ (what’s going on here?)

Tyrker
Guest

I googled nolimpia and the first result was their website.

Ferenc
Guest

Probably it’s so new, that when I searched earlier today, it wasn’t in the first 10 google results (for all searches above).
Now it is, so dive into the NOlimpia if you like

Istvan
Guest
Related to Eva’s discussions on Vona and the Jobbik. We can read in this article http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1117750-a-jobbik-nem-kot-valasztasi-szovetseget that the Jobbik have completely rejected a left/right block for the present. They denounced the “circle of left-wing intelligentsia” that promoted rumors of an electoral block to remove Fidesz, arguing that both the left parties and Fidesz are “twentieth century” political parties rooted in corruption and only Jobbik is the political party of the “twenty-first century.” Then about the Jobbik itself we get today this story of its own likely corruption http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1118159-merre-mutat-az-iranytu – basically as The Who song said prophetically A Dal Ugyanaz Marad. On Eva’s topic today, it’s laudable that Momentum is opposed to the Olympics proposal for Budapest. But the formation seems to be what we would call here in the USA or in the UK, yuppie (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuppie ). I am not sure that such a strata is sociologically capable of expanding its political reach beyond a relatively narrow scope of influence within Budapest, I mean what do the lost souls in Ozd have in common with these worldly well educated Hungarians, searching for firewood? Or what do they have to do with the thousands of the down trodden depicted brilliantly by… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

A Spectrum reader from the USA emailed me and said the song I was thinking of was by Led Zeppelin, not The Who. I stand corrected.

Ferenc
Guest

Regarding the NOlimpia referendum (and it’s organizers): As far as I understand it’s a referendum in Budapest only (as Bp is running for it, similar like in Hamburg).
Furthermore them being yuppie or not doesn’t seem relevant to me, the question is: do you see a future political role for them? My answer: YES!
PS: yuppie is an outdated term (already) and original yuppies were not interested in politics, these new kids on the block seem for sure

webber
Guest

OT – but relevant to Paks, and so might send the troll army into headspins. On the topic of what looks to be an increasing irrelevance of fossil fuels and nuclear energy, the following is good:
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/19/reasons-to-be-cheerful-full-switch-low-carbon-energy-in-sight

Guest

In the Guardian article I noticed the following:

“When electricity is abundant, and therefore very cheap, Electrochaea converts it into natural gas using microbes. This renewable gas can then be burned to generate power when electricity is scarce. In the autumn, Hungary signed an agreement to build an Electrochaea plant 10 times the scale of the Copenhagen trial.”

Reading Electrochea’s home page I learned that their process has two steps. First electricity is spent to generate hydrogen by electrolysis. Then hydrogen and carbon dioxide is fed to a microbial culture that converts the two gases to methane gas.

Since hydrogen generated in the first step is in itself a storable fuel, what is the idea in converting it into methane with an expensive microbial process that is hardly 100% efficient? I can only imagine that the process can be used to convert surplus wind energy (that would sell for a negative price) into a gas that can be fed directly into the natural gas net.

Is that really what Hungary needs?

http://www.electrochaea.com/

Guest

gas that can be fed directly into the natural gas net.
Obviously that’s one easy solution, that gas can also be stored in conventional systems – that’s part of their mission:
utility-scale energy storage, grid balancing …

Totally OT and a funny coincidence:
Their address is Semmelweisstrasse in the town of Planegg near Munich …

Guest

As far as I know Hungary has little wind energy and disposing of surplus wind energy that cannot be sold for money will never be a problem.

Ferenc
Guest

The link about Antall Peter’s facebook post should be: http://444.hu/2017/01/18/az-antall-jozsef-tudaskozpontban-mar-kirugassal-fenyegetik-a-dolgozokat-akik-lajkoljak-az-olimpiaellenes-kezdemenyezest
In his facebook post he refers to that they are financed through ME, it could mean that this is the propagande campaign “Magyarorszag Erosodik” (if have noticed this abbreviated to ME in their own adverts).
Anybody knows more background of this ‘Antall József Tudásközpont’?

Ferenc
Guest

ME seems to be MiniszterElnökség (Prime Minister’s Office), see http://budapestbeacon.com/news-in-brief/antall-jozsef-center-employees-warned-criticizing-olympics-on-facebook-could-cost-them-their-jobs/43913
Collected some info on the Antall Jozsef Center:
*(from their own linkedin): Non Profit – Think Tank
*The Antall József Knowledge Centre (AJKC) came into being in the form of a foundation with the Corvinus University of Budapest. The organization was established in 2009, and the work of the Centre officially began in the spring of 2010. The Knowledge Centre is an organisation independent of parties, ideologies and current politics. Its primary objectives are to foster the Antall tradition and promote the spread of knowledge.
Nothing found about it’s real aim and financing on it’s own webpages.

My impression: a GONGO (Government-Organized Non-Government Organization, thanks https://theorangefiles.hu/?s=gongo )

Remains my question: anybody knows more about it’s (real) background and task(s)?

Member

These folks seem to be genuine. If they don’t mind the Orbanites making their lives a living hell for the forseeable future, they might have a chance.

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