National consultation, 2017: “Let’s stop Brussels!”

Here we go again. A new “national consultation” is under way. Eight some million eligible voters will receive a form with six questions, all of which are related to the alleged attempt of “Brussels” to take steps that are injurious to Hungary and its people.

Viktor Orbán came up with the idea of a “national consultation” in 2011 when the government was in the midst of writing a new constitution–without, as it turned out, any input from the opposition parties. No referendum on the final text was allowed. Instead, 12 questions were mailed to every eligible voter. The questions were formulated in such a way that it was inevitable that the majority of answers would seem to endorse the government text. Here is one example: “Should the new constitution bring under its protection common values such as family, labor, home, order, and health?” The citizen’s choice was a simple yes or no. The others were not one whit better.

Four years later, in April 2015, the government sent out a questionnaire about “immigration and terrorism,” which again was a tool of political mobilization concealed as public opinion research. At the time social scientists protested, pointing out that the questionnaire was constructed in total disregard of the methodological canons of public opinion research. They felt “obliged to bring the attention of the public to the unprofessional, manipulative character of the questions.”

Now we have a new manipulative questionnaire which, according to Magyar Nemzet, will cost the taxpayers 1.2 billion forints. And the majority of people who get the questionnaire will probably toss it straight to the garbage. The new propaganda drive is called “Let’s stop Brussels!” Do you remember when Viktor Orbán sent Hungarian-language messages to Brussels and to the refugees on hundreds and hundreds of billboards? Something like that is under way at the moment. Viktor Orbán thinks that if a large enough number of voters return these meaningless questionnaires with supportive answers, he can use them as an argument against certain measures that might be contemplated by the European Commission. Since there will be no independent body checking either the number of returned questionnaires or the results, the Orbán government can come up with any number it likes. The higher the better.

“Let’s stop Brussels!” / National Consultation 2017

Propaganda for the new “Let’s stop Brussels!” drive started about a week ago. The government placed ads in both pro-government and independent publications, despite the fact that it very rarely pays for ads in opposition papers, making sure that they remain at a sizable disadvantage to the richly endowed pro-government papers.

Spokesmen for Fidesz began to call everybody’s attention to this “national consultation.” János Halász, spokesman for Fidesz’s parliamentary delegation, warned Hungarians that “Brussels” wants to make more and more decisions without any consultation with the “people,” and “when Brussels makes a decision, the Hungarians always lose.” If it depends on Brussels, there will be higher utility prices and higher taxes. And the country will be defenseless against the migrants. “A great battle is ahead of us because [Brussels] even attacks the efforts of the Hungarian government that would serve the transparency of the pro-migrant foreign agencies (ügynökszervezetek).” What an ingenious way to interpret the Orbán government’s efforts to make the work of these NGOs impossible.

Bence Tuzson, one of the many spokesmen of the prime minister’s office, also gave a press conference. He emphasized the point about the incarceration of migrants, which the government hopes the population will support because, after all, “can the country allow people about whom we know nothing to loiter freely?” Tuzson also talked about “the paid foreign activist groups that meddle in [Hungary’s] domestic affairs.” These groups’ finances must be made transparent. The description of these NGOs as foreign agents foreshadows the fate that is awaiting them.

Here are the questions to which Hungarians are supposed to respond, along with correct and incorrect answers, where “a” is always the correct choice.

  1. Brussels is planning to take a dangerous step. It wants to force the abolition of utility rate reduction on us. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Defend the utility rate reduction. We should insist that the price of utilities must be determined in Hungary. (b) We should accept the plan of Brussels and trust the large companies with fixing utility prices.
  2. In recent times, terror attack after terror attack has taken place in Europe. Despite this fact, Brussels wants to force Hungary to allow illegal immigrants into the country. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) For the sake of the safety of Hungarians these people should be placed under supervision (felügyelet) while the authorities decide their fate. (b) Allow the illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.
  3. By now it has become clear that, in addition to the smugglers, certain international organizations encourage the illegal immigrants to commit illegal acts. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Activities assisting illegal immigration such as human trafficking and the popularization of illegal immigration must be punished. (b) Let us accept that there are international organizations which, without any consequences, urge the circumvention of Hungarian laws.
  4. More and more foreign-supported organizations operate in Hungary with the aim of interfering in the internal affairs of our country in an opaque manner. These organizations could jeopardize our independence. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Require them to register, revealing the objectives of their activities and the sources of their finances. (b) Allow them to continue their risky activities without any supervision.
  5. In the last few years we have been successful at job creation because we followed our own strategies. But Brussels is attacking our job-creating measures. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We, Hungarians, must continue to make decisions on the future of the Hungarian economy. (b) Brussels should decide what to do in the economic sphere.
  6. Hungary is committed to tax cuts. Brussels is attacking Hungary because of it. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We should insist that we, Hungarians, decide on tax cuts. (b) We should accept that Brussels dictates the level of taxes.

I consider the two questions that deal with “foreign agents” especially dangerous as far as the political future of Hungary is concerned. In the present situation, these so-called foreign agents–the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Transparency International, the Hungarian Helsinki Commission, and Amnesty International–are practically the only organizations that can successfully combat the growing autocratic rule of the present political system because the checks and balances that were present earlier have by now been removed.

As for the others, I’m not quite sure what to do with the question about the Orbán government’s handling of the economy. I am unaware of any EU attempt to instruct Budapest to change its economic strategy. The question on lowering taxes is highly misleading. The ignorant public may think that the EU wants to prohibit lowering the personal income tax rate. Actually, what the EU is unhappy about is the Hungarian government’s plans to lower corporate taxes to such an extent that Hungary would become a tax haven within the European Union and thus create unfair competition. The question on utility prices is also misleading. In Hungary, it is the government that sets the utility prices, which currently are higher than they should be due to lower energy prices in general. Brussels’ real concern is not the price of utilities, but the fact that there are different rates for businesses and for individuals. Finally, I have no idea why Viktor Orbán thinks he still has to frighten people with illegal migrants when there are no more than about 300 such individuals in the whole country. Perhaps to keep the hatred alive in case people get too soft when they no longer see pictures of refugees clamoring to get into, or out of, Hungary.

In any case, all this matters not. The questions are moronic, and the answers are totally skewed in favor of the Hungarian government. I know that in Hungary the consensus is that the intellectual level of ordinary citizens is so low that they accept practically anything this government puts in front of them. I personally can’t believe that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians wouldn’t figure out within minutes that this is a scam. They may not grasp the real meaning of the questions, but that there is something very wrong with the answers they can chose from has to penetrate even the thickest of skulls.

April 2, 2017
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Member

An other excellent piece of writing. Alas I’m not sure about the capability of the hungarians to decod the falsehood of the questions.

Member

”I personally can’t believe that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians wouldn’t figure out within minutes that this is a scam. They may not grasp the real meaning of the questions, but that there is something very wrong with the answers they can chose from has to penetrate even the thickest of skulls.”

Nobody ever went bankrupt underestimating the intelligence of the [insert nationality of choice] people. If I were you, Eva, I wouldn’t be doing any investing right now.

Ferenc
Guest

As I’m now since about half a year (since last year’s bloody blue billboards) following Hungarian matters closely, this is the first ‘National Consultation’ I see/read/watch in detail. Herewith my thoughts:

What can opposition parties do with this, if they don’t agree with the questions/answers/method/etc.?
Well they can ask people to instead of sending to the official return address or tossing in the garbage, sending/giving it to them, with first crossing out all questions/answers and second adding their own opinion under it. And then they (together?) can keep an official count of the questionaries they received/collected (against the government count).

May be such has been tried before and if so don’t know how that worked out (as I said this is my first one). Even then this is the best way to debunk this whole manipulative and therefore anti-democratic ‘National Consultation’, as organized by the in it’s heart anti-democratic government.

PS: rightful transparency is for all (or for none), so selective transparency is against civic rights

Ferenc
Guest

Where online can be found an original ‘National Consultation/Nemzeti Konzultacio’ form (scanned or pdf)?

Ferenc
Guest

Found a scan at index http://index.hu/belfold/2017/03/31/igy_nez_ki_a_legujabb_nemzeti_konzultacio/
keep looking for a better version

pappp
Guest

Opposition usually ignores these “consultations” as does most of the population. Nobody cares about the questions, the consultation papers go straight into the bin.

That said the “consultation” is really just a campaign (complete with billboards) against the EU – in line with Russian directives).

In that regard it is working, it’s part of a propaganda effort to make Hungarians more in tune with Russia’s political interests, against EU, Merkel, more pro-Putin, pro-Russian, more anti-liberal. It’s working. And the EU just doesn’t give a shit about it either.

I’m not sure the opposition should deal with this, opposition should be seen preoccupied with important issues not slippery propaganda (how do you oppose “Stop Brussels”, you can’t really, it’s way too abstract).

Ferenc
Guest

Opposition should organise things to leave OV&Co as much as possible empty handed. In the case of “consultation”, there are basically three options:
1.ignore and throw into the garbage => result against: zero
2.fight the questions (in parliament/court/etc) => will go mainly over the heads of the people, but may debunk the consultation itself
3.give people who don’t agree with the ‘consultation’ (for whatever reason), a possibility to express this by the way I wrote before => result against: highest possible

pappp
Guest

Janos Lazar said the other day that the forthcoming one is gonna be the most vicious political campaign (ie. the 2018 election campaign) ever in Hungary.

He is right, the campaign is already on and Fidesz is more corrupt, more unhinged than ever.

Lajos Kosa just said that CEU is a phantom university – obviously Fidesz is still unrelenting in its push to ban CEU.

But the election campaign will still be deemed “free” by observers – everybody must pretend Hungary is still a democracy. Nope, Hungary is a tyranny, that’s clear.

petofi
Guest

re: the CEU

A Hungarian only feels good when he can hurt or destroy something–gives him a sense of superiority; a balm for an ego that needs constant propping up. Having weakened the national psyche, the people can never get enough of vicarious ‘victories’–they’re salivating at serving the death-blow to the CEU. Orban, the sly gypsy, has got them eating out his hands again.

Can anything be more sick than that?

Guest

Yes, the next phase will be even more sick.

Guest

The ultimate phase may imitate Pol Pot. Chasing all the useless inhabitants of the capital out to do useful work in the fields.

Guest

Many of the “useless inhabitants ” will be gone long before that – the friends of our young ones we find now in DACH, London, the Canary Islands, the Channel Islands, the Netherlands …
Honest and industrious Hungarians are welcome everwhere – Fideszniks need not apply!

And since flights from Budapest outside the season are cheap they even have had the chance to visit them – however because of their child it’s usually just one of them, the other has to stay behind …

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘election ‘free’..

VO appears to understand the following in what is now a ‘lace-curtain’ democracy…

‘It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. For there is a reserve of latent power in the masses which, if it is called into play, the minority can seldom resist’.

–Lord Acton

All the stops will be out for ’18.
The history of Hungary in these past few years and the future I would venture to say would be an example of how democracies walk into a minefield of their own volition. It is a primer in how democracies inexorably leach liberties.
Political scientists need to watch this one very carefully.

Observer
Guest

That’s the word …

pappp
Guest

Just a note.

One of the most shared article at 444.hu about CEU (and 444.hu really reports on this unfolding story faithfully) was the tidbit that Laszlo Nemes Jeles (the Hungarian director of the movie Son of Saul which win the Oscar for best foreign picture in 2016) also participated in the pro-CEU demonstration.

People are apparently curious about celebrities. And celebrities can provide attention when otherwise people pay zero attention to anything. A celebrity endorsement is also a sign that they too (mere mortals) may come out supporting a cause.

CEU needs more celebrities. Intellectuals are great, but celebrities are needed too.

Real Fideszniks will never care about liberal intellectuals signing any petition – but they sure as shit get nervous when otherwise non-political, perhaps not even liberal celebrities support a cause.

Melanie Zuben
Guest

pappp,

Just a thought: how about asking Robert Alfoldi? I remember seeing him on a photo once with a huge birthday cake with a giant d#@k, about 1/2 a meter high (made out of chocolate, I presume) on the top of the cake.
How about writing: “F@#K FIDESZ” across the d@#k and “LIBERALS RULE” on the base of the cake? In my humble opinion, this would really put the anti-conservative message across. 🙂 This could work miracles with the country voters! 🙂

pappp
Guest

Alföldi is well-known but he is known as an anti-Fidesz person not as a neutral person.

Alföldi is also openly gay and an artist, in my view not the best choice for undecided rural voters. Although many urban women like him, many other people (men) just hate him.

Orban knows that sportspeople are the most popular among uneducated rural voters which is the median Hungarian voter (and rural in the sense of living outside Budapest).

Voters in general are conservative and tend to admire sportspeople, champions.

Just being anti-Fidesz doesn’t work because the liberal constituency is a small minority, one has to target the sympathies of uneducated, conservative, rural folks. They are the focus of Orban and they decide the elections.

I would work on that angle if I worked for CEU or maybe look for pop musicians (but current ones not older, political ones like Janos Brody).

So an endorsement – to be relevant – must appeal to the conservative, rural, uneducated folks.

Guest

Your ideas tell us (and your psychoanalyst …) more about you than about Hungary …
Btw Sildenafil works wonders – try it on your partners!

Back to reality:
I never coiuld stop my wife from throwing these “letters from the Big O” which she gets regularly directly into the paper bin – without opening them.
Even the CBA ads are more interesting – but what would latefor know about life in Hungary.

PS:
I’m in Germany right now and wondering:

How can food prices be 20% or even 30% lower than in Hungary – at better quality (so we are told by Fidesz)?

Melanie Zuben
Guest

wolfi,
Wow! I must have hit the nail on the head! 🙂

Guest

“Sildenafil works wonders – try it on your partners!”

Is it a good poison?

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Wolfii/Jean P,
I had to google “Sildenafil” as I wanted to make sure what type of “poison” it is. ( Just in case, one never knows.) I’m shocked!
One must wonder: how come you are so well informed? 🙂

Melanie Zuben
Guest

Just to make you all feel better:
I used to belong to ( I got out of it as from today) a Facebook closed group (Hungarian/Australian site). Today, my post wasn’t accepted, even though I used to contribute to it. (We never ever discussed politics, just sayin’).
Should I blame one of the long reaching hands of the Hungarian Octopus or the woman who runs it?
Maybe she doesn’t like the look of me? The possibilities are endless, as the saying goes. 🙂

Guest

There should be a consultation all over the EU:

Stop Brussels from ging our money to the anti-EU lunatics in Hungary!

Btw those 1.2 billion forints could have been used to buy toilet paper and other essentials for the Hungarian hospitals who need them.

Not too much OT:
German politicians have already started to complain that after Brext Germany might have to add 1 billion € per year to EU financing – they are not in the mood to continue throwing money at the right anti-EU governments in Poland and Hungary. So there might be some reforms in financing, meaning less money transfers from the “bad” EU members (as Fidesz sees them) to the “good” – not what Fidesz expected from Brexsh*t! 🙂

So

Guest

I too hope the EU stops throwing subsidies away to Hungary and other Member-States where the political class embezzles half of the money. I assume the support Orbán gets from EPP will cease at some point because of financial reasons – quite clearly, ethics and good governance have not counted so far.

petofi
Guest

Quite clearly, what the Hungos (and their big brother, Russia) have discovered is…that payoffs trump any notion of political integrity–

petofi
Guest

re: toilet paper

People on this blog continuously avoid the ‘plain-as-your-nose’ fact that the real problem is the norms and values of the average Hungarian. Stealing from hospitals–or anywhere else for that matter–is a given. Toilet paper will always be stolen. More than that, people will tear off the coat hook on the toilet doors.

There is no end to the ill will of the average Hungarian.

HAJRA MAGYAROK!

petofi
Guest

Thus, to conclude, Hungarians have the government they amply deserve…

Thomas
Guest

The question today is the same as at least once before in the history of this country: are Hungarians not intelligente enough to grasp extent the political & moral detour or they simply just choose to fully back Orban in achieving a totalitarian national-fascist pro Putin state …

Member

The opposition parties should do their own national consultation. I particularly see this for Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt. Questions such as:

Viktor Orban has been reported to beat his wife: a) should he be allowed to continue beating his wife. b) should he be required to stop beating his wife.

There is a strong correlation between homophobia and closet homosexuality. a) should László Kövér keep his homosexuality hidden . b) should he be required to come out of the closet.

I am sure many good questions can be devised of this sort and might let the people see the reality of this farce.

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