Viktor Orbán avoids humiliation at the hands of the International Olympic Committee

It may not be official yet, but Budapest’s bid for the 2024 Olympic Games is dead. It is only a question of time when the proposal will be formally withdrawn.

The resounding success of the Momentum Movement’s referendum drive is widely interpreted as the first sign of the awakening of a depressingly inactive and uncaring public. The time might be ripe for action if there is a political force that can take advantage of the mood of the country. According to the latest poll, of the 1.5 million undecided potential voters only 300,000 would like to perpetuate Viktor Orbán’s political stranglehold on the country. All in all, the number of people who are dissatisfied with the present government far surpasses the 2.2 million core Fidesz voters even without the 1.2 million undecided voters who, given a viable alternative, would be inclined to vote for an opposition force.

Fidesz politicians themselves indirectly admit that what happened was a political defeat. They talk disparagingly about Momentum’s leaders, who used Viktor Orbán’s Olympic “dream” as a vehicle to fulfill their political ambitions. These unpatriotic youngsters made a political issue out of a “national cause,” they argue. There was once absolute unity on the issue, but oppositional forces drove a wedge between people for political reasons. Or, at least this is the story Viktor Orbán wants Hungarians to believe.

This morning in his Friday interview Viktor Orbán expounded on the topic of the Olympic Games and hinted at the real problem with Budapest’s bid. The telling sentence was his very first on the subject: “Look, the referendum is a Hungarian affair but the Olympic Games must be won abroad in an international race in Switzerland, in Lausanne, before the International Olympic Committee.” Indeed, this is the case. Hungary was supposed to convince 88 men and women who determine the venue of the 2024 Olympic Games, and the likelihood of persuading the majority in Hungary’s favor was slim. Perhaps even impossible. That is the truth which most likely Viktor Orbán has known for some time. According to rumor, he learned the sad truth of Hungary’s poor chances in Rio de Janiero. The referendum drive therefore came in handy. He can withdraw from the competition and blame the opposition for it.

In fact, this is exactly what he decided to do after a few days of hesitation. While Orbán was trying to figure out a good story, Fidesz politicians gave interviews with wildly disparate messages, as usually happens when an autocrat rules a country. His minions, lacking instructions, are completely lost. Now that they have the word from above, the parrot commando can begin to work in earnest.

The story is as follows. Cities which in the past held referendums, even if these referendums were successful, were never awarded the privilege of holding an Olympics. Thus, with this referendum drive Hungary’s chances have become practically nil. It is therefore useless to hold the referendum because the whole enterprise has become hopeless. In fact, so hopeless that “it is questionable whether we would be able to garner even one vote.” This would be exceedingly shameful. “One can lose but one shouldn’t be beaten to smithereens.” According to Orbán, “we shouldn’t expose the country to such shame because we deserve better.” Hungary’s proposal was excellent, “we were honest, we really wanted to do it, and after all that, the world downgrades us to zero or just one or two votes while the other two [contenders] receive the trust of the members of the International Olympic Committee. This would be a humiliating defeat.” What these young people did was “a murder of a dream.”

To be the murderers of Viktor Orbán’s dream is no small feat, so from here on we can be certain that Orbán’s propaganda machine will be hard at work trying to discredit the organizers of the referendum drive. In fact, the character assassination has already begun. Orbán compared the group to SZDSZ, and we know what that means for Hungary’s illiberal leader. They are the greatest enemies of everything Orbán has been fighting for. He already sees a repeat scenario of what happened in 1994 when the leadership of the liberal SZDSZ, despite the fact that the socialists won an absolute majority in the national election, decided to join them in a coalition government. Orbán is certain that this young crew, which at the moment claims that their future party will face the electorate alone, will, after all, make peace with MSZP. “We must be ready for that scenario.” I’m sure he has already made plans.

According to those who are in the know, Orbán’s “whole story is nothing but a lie.” Hungary’s chances had been slim from day one. Initially commentators couldn’t understand how Momentum got permission to hold a referendum drive when earlier attempts had failed. I think it is pretty clear why Momentum’s request for a referendum was approved: it gave Orbán a way out. Some people thought that perhaps the approval had been simply an oversight on the part of the government; others argued that Fidesz thought the drive would either never get off the ground or would fail spectacularly. I think today we can safely say that Viktor Orbán is begrudgingly grateful to Momentum for allowing him to avoid a major embarrassment at the hands of the IOC.

As for Orbán’s decision to withdraw the bid, anti-Orbán forces, including the leadership of Momentum, consider it a sign of cowardliness. In general, large segments of the Hungarian public consider Orbán to be a coward, and not without reason. For instance, the last time he agreed to a political debate with his opponent was in 2006, when he cut a pitiful figure in his debate with Ferenc Gyurcsány. That was a lesson he never forgot. And his reticence is not limited to political debates. He consistently refuses to answer questions from reporters and rejects all requests for interviews from any organ that is not part of the government media empire.

It seems that portraying Orbán as a coward is not limited to his antagonists. Just yesterday a forceful article appeared in the right-wing Mandiner accusing Orbán of being afraid to discuss the pros and cons of holding the Olympics in Budapest and refusing to ask the people their opinion on the matter. Even his supporters are coming to the conclusion that their idol’s brave countenance is but a mask. Inside there is a quavering little fellow.

February 24, 2017
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Member

HŐSÖK NEGYEDE

“[Orban] consistently refuses to answer questions from reporters and rejects all requests for interviews from any organ that is not part of the government media empire.”

He’s not alone:

CNN, New York Times, other media barred from White House briefing
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Istvan
Guest
Reality Check
Guest

Major Gorka story at Forward.

Exclusive: Senior Trump Aide Forged Key Ties To Anti-Semitic Groups In Hungary http://forward.com/news/national/364085/sebastian-gorka-trump-aide-forged-key-ties-to-anti-semitic-groups-in-hunga/?attribution=home-article-listing-4-headline

Four points from a related piece in Forward.

“1) Sebastian Gorka launched his own political party with prominent veterans of Jobbik, a far-right faction with a long history of anti-Semitism.
2) Gorka worked as press coordinator and advisor for an anti-government coalition co-led by an activist who called for expelling Jews.
3) He wrote for a well-known anti-Semitic newspaper.
4) He defends the use of symbols adopted by World War II era Hungarian Nazis and collaborationists as still valid symbols of nationalism.”

http://forward.com/news/national/364094/four-things-you-need-to-know-about-trumps-deputy-assistant-and-his-ties-to/

Also covered here:
http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/the-forward-reports-gorka-ties-anti-semitic-groups-hungary

Istvan
Guest

Add to that story this one in The NY Times:
The Islamophobic Huckster in the White House Eva gets big acknowledgement for being on this story so early.

Ferenc
Guest

Regarding referendums, what about this:

a referendum for the obligation of political parties to participate in public debates before elections

If this doesn’t get through the election authorities, debates can also be organised with the information to the invited parties, that in case one doesn’t show up a carton will be put on it’s place. Then during the debate consequently name (and shame) who didn’t want to be present.

Member

Unfortunately, your idea has already been tried.
What happens is: Fidesz says “We do not believe it is worthwhile to debate parties that have 1/3 of our voter base.”
Then the MSZP says, “If Orban doesn’t show up, I’m going to take my toys and go home. I’m NOT debating Gyurcsany!”
Then the DK says “We’re not going to appear on the same stage with Jobbik. That would legitimize their movement.”
In the end, you get Peter Juhasz debating the Munkaspart, with a bunch of cardboard cutouts representing the people who refused to take part. On top of that, no TV station will carry the debate unless Orban shows up.
Your idea is a good one, but Hungarian political culture is not mature enough for this kind of thing.

Ferenc
Guest

No parties showing up at debates in Hungary? Do they really prefer Hungary to be carton democracy?

Member

Imagine a nation of people who buy used cars without taking them for a test drive first. That’s what we’ve got. 🙁

bimbi
Guest

Sometimes a Hungarian Spectrum blog entry simply leaves little more to be said. This is one such.
Orban a liar? Well, the Öszöd speech was exactly about him and the condemnation of the liar then was as good as it is today. [Anyone care to list the (principal) occasions when Orban has lied in a speech?]
Orban a coward? Could be – he does like to hide behind his collection of “spokespersons”.
Orban an opportunist? Certainly. He loves to twist the story to suit his own narrative. But this time, MOMENTUM gave him and his glory-seeking nationalist Olympic Dream line a severe kick in the rear. It couldn’t have happened to a better bloke.
Magyarország Erősődik? Sure, you only have to look at Orban’s waistline and Meszaros’s bank balance to see that.
But the work has only just begun, folks.
The Thief in Chief HAS TO BE OUSTED.

Ferenc
Guest

“(OV) hide behind his collection of “spokespersons”
very good idea for a cartoon:
Orban on the right side speaking to his mouthpieces, in the middle the wired border of Fidesz&Co, lined up before the gate the spokesmen (all of them!!) and one just in the gate speaking to all other media.
This could be a first of a series, the next one could be where OV&Co are encircled by Fidesz wire and in the gate again the one spokesman……..
and then the wired area shrinking and shrinking……….

Eszti
Guest

what do you think of this perspective? http://nepszava.us/bartus-laszlo-miert-engedett-orban/
It’s about how Momentum is dangerous because it falsely tries to de-politicise issues, thus working in Orban’s favour through the elimination of the weak left

Gabor Toka
Guest

It may be pleasing to watch Orban and co licking wounds, and indeed they seem to get ever more vulnerable by the day. Yet the enduring reality on the opposition side is so dismal that – unless Gyurcsany volunteers to retire, which you can wait for ever, or Vona pulls out a miracle, which you probably hope he won’t – they are far closer to winning a 2/3 majority of seats in the next election than they were in 2013

petofi
Guest

Oj vay. What Orban losses?
They’re all feints.
Appearances of a democratic process at work, that’s all.
When the next election rolls around, Fidesz will get a 2/3 majority. I’d bet on it…

Miklós Haraszti
Guest

I agree with Gabor Toka. This is a setback for Orban, far from a preordained show that would even help him to get rid of his hopeless bid. Bu it is a minor setback compared to the overall situation which is still playing for him.

The reason why the Budapest referendum was “allowed” has to do with the fact that its authorization was asked from the CEC at the same time as the nationwide version’s — it would have been politically awkward to reject both. So they had to choose and they rejected the nationwide referendum, hoping nobody will be able to collect the needed signatures in the capital, especially as the initiative was labelled from the onset as “going against the nation”.

pappp
Guest
I love to disagree with experts (such as Gabor Toka or Miklos Haraszti.) In my views this is a very very serious setback for Orban, perhaps the biggest in years (since 2010). As a result it is a net positive for the opposition in general. But it’s not serious because of the overt issue of losing the Olympic dream (which was always just a dream, absolutely unrealistic even if Fideszniks and BOM eventually persuaded themselves that they had a shot). It’s serious because the very first step in the process of toppling Orban is to persuade other, undecided voters that there is a chance of a change. That the tyrant is weaker than he looks. That the silent majority is much stronger, more dissatisfied than what the tyrant wants us to believe. The most important step for any politician now is to persuade people that change is actually possible. Unfortunately here’s still this consensus about the inevitability of Fidesz’ victory in 2018 and this defeat for Orban is an important step toward denying that inevitability. This victory of having been able to collect almost the double of the necessary number of signatures was a very important step in this process… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Before the august commenters on this blog get carried away
with praise of the no-olympic victory over Orban…consider this: Pyutin gave orders to stand down and reduce the focus on things Hungarian.

Perchance to take the focus off Gorka…?

pappp
Guest
“The resounding success of the Momentum Movement’s referendum drive is widely interpreted as the first sign of the awakening of a depressingly inactive and uncaring public.” This is incorrect. The migrant referendum was clearly a loss for Orban and it was a loss as a result of a conscious decision of the public not to vote. A normal general election campaign was said to cost about 3-4bn forints for a major party (in 2014 the left-wing spent much less, but the amount is probably valid for 2002-2010). Compared to that Fidesz spent an absolutely unheard-of 15bn forints on its campaign to persuade the voters and get out the vote. According to polls about 85% of the people supported the government’s position – a very rare consensus among the voters on any issue. Voters also said that the issue (the danger posed by the migrants) was an existential issue, an extremely important one for them. Despite this Orban was unable to arrange a valid referendum and for many days it looked as if the percentage of valid votes would remain below even 40% (only after a few days, I guess when the ethnic Hungarian votes were received, went the figure above… Read more »
pappp
Guest
Sorry, but I just don’t buy that Orban engineered the referendum as a way to get out of the Olympics quagmire. No sane person could’ve believed that (almost) junk rated Hungary, applying to host the Olympics for the first time could prevail. No matter how much money Orban threw on IOC members, they were never gonna support Hungary. It’s way too risky. Moreover, It’s not a real humiliation to apply and then lose out to the rich French or Americans. Hungarians understand that. It’s a loss but not a humiliation. It’s not a defeat and not a sign of Orban’s political weakness. The only thing which I also find interesting is how the Budapest referendum question was approved by Fidesz (whose consent was necessary to get the question approved by the election committee and the courts). This is strange indeed, but I dunno, it could well be an oversight in my view. Even the very possibility of somebody being able to collect 266k signatures is interpreted by the voters as a sign of some strength of the simmering resentment. Did Orban think it was impossible to collect even the requisite 138k signatures and this is why he allowed he question… Read more »
webber
Guest

I agree. A day before Orbán backed out, a friend spoke with a Fidesznik who ALWAYS faithfully spouts the government line, and that Fidesznik argued even then that the Olympics were vital to Hungary, that they would bring great investment, etc., etc.. I have no idea what the guy is saying now and don’t care. This was a defeat for Orban. His propaganda machinery (meaning Fidesznik robots) did not expect him to give up on the Olympics, and are left looking like fools. One day it’s white, the next day it’s black, and even the party faithful can’t keep up anymore.

bimbi
Guest

It just isn’t that complicated. Orban is portrayed here as some kind of Machiavelli on a Mangalica but he saw the writing on the wall and stepped back. Sure he would have loved the financial rip-off from the Olympics but that isn’t the only game in town. There will plenty of opportunities in the next 5 years to swell the coffers of the “Faithful”, himself included. It is called strategy. That easy.

Istvan
Guest

I agree but the news cycle forever moves on. Once you become dependent on Fidesz you are its prisoner, Orban’s survival seems somehow critical to your own survival. Time will tell whether this defeat has a lasting impact on the Fidesz troops and their many relatives.

webber
Guest

We’ve all seen it before, haven’t we? They will vote for Fidesz until and unless Fidesz falls, then most of them will either start talking about how they represented the “reform Fideszniks” – the decent wing of the party – or about how they were never really for it and secretly did a lot of really decent things, or that they actually were destroying it from within.

bimbi
Guest

On Google News there is an article entitled:
“Hungarian PM Orban: Budapest 2024 ‘Olympic Dream Murdered’” by Laura Walden, a person with a long-time interest in staging Olympic Games:

http://www.sportsfeatures.com/olympicsnews/story/52530/hungarian-pm-orban-budapest-2024-olympic-dream-murdered

It regurgitates the Orban/Fidesz “official” story (with a long quote from “Budapest 2024 Bid Chairman”, Balázs Fürjes) without ever a mention of the darker sides of this government’s record, in particular in this case the 500% cost increases in sports facilities that the government is happy to accept – after all, it is Fidesz firms that are profiteering from the cost over-runs – or of the Olympic movements sins, most recently in the forced construction of now-useless facilities in Rio. It is fortunate indeed that we have young and old people in Budapest who can see through the propaganda of greed to the story lurking underneath – THEFT, THEFT and more THEFT.

Guest

We talked with several of our neighbours in the village (surely no Budapest intellectuals …) today and they all said:

We’re glad that the Olympic Games won’t come to Budapest – because we know that they would have meant more corruption and even more “lopás” for the Fidesz mafia!
But their sympathies seem to lie more on the Jobbik side – not on the left. You won’t find many “left liberal” minded people here in the villages in Zala county …

Ferenc
Guest

Really like the answer of Momentum on their facebook to OV’s comparing them to SZDSZ.
https://www.facebook.com/momentum.mozgalom/posts/838993806242436

“That OV speaks about SZDSZ is the best proof, that he lives and does politics in the past. He’s not a man of the future!!” (my translation)

aida
Guest

I have little regard for international sports events on a grand scale. They provide platform for two undesirable events. The first is the corruption that goes with it, to say nothing about the pharmaceutical companies participating in the profits made from drugged competitors. Next they provide opportunities for nationalist grand standing.

If Hungary has had an escape, brilliant. Good for Momentum. But in the real world, surely there was never any chance of the competition being entrusted to Hungary, ever.

We need a change in Hungary and soon. The guy in charge now should give way to someone else, but please not Gyurcsany.