Viktor Orbán’s latest war is turning out to be a big mistake

Yesterday I ended my post by saying that, according to the latest public opinion poll conducted by the Publicus Intézet, within a few months the number of Hungarians who think the Orbán government’s foreign policy serves Russia’s interests tripled from 9% to 26%. That is a dramatic change. Given the mood in Budapest, I assume that this trend will continue. B. György Nagy, who reported on Publicus’s findings in Vasárnapi Hírek, titled his article “They made a big mistake with the Russians.” That is, Orbán’s decision, for whatever reason, to court the Russians has backfired badly. The government media’s overtly pro-Russian and anti-Western propaganda, the government’s undisguised admiration for Vladimir Putin, the population’s ambivalent feelings concerning Paks–all these have shaken public confidence in the Orbán government itself. The war on Brussels, on George Soros, on Central European University, and on civic organizations has only compounded these problems.

The events of the last two days have increased pressure on the government. We just learned that a Russian diplomat knew ahead of time about Magomed Dasaev’s planned vigilante act. Former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány announced on Friday that there are credible grounds for Vladimir Putin’s alleged blackmail of Viktor Orbán, and today he held a press conference where he further elaborated on some of the details of the evidence he claims to have. Another demonstration against Russian interference in Hungarian affairs is going on this moment near the Russian Embassy. (The police cordoned off a large area next to the building.) The Party of the Two-tailed Dog staged a hilarious anti-government demonstration, reported on by major media outlets all over the world. On top of it all, the massive propaganda campaign against CEU and the NGOs has not shifted Hungarian public opinion. Where is the political wizardry of Viktor Orbán?

The “Stop Moscow” demonstration / Photo: Népszava / Gergő Tóth

Hungarians are not following the lead of the government when it calls them to wage war against Central European University. Although we often hear commentators claim that most people have no idea what CEU is all about, that’s not the case. According to Publicus Intézet, only 22% of Hungarians sampled hadn’t heard of the university and only 14% support the government’s plan to close it down. A sizable majority (63%) are against the government’s anti-CEU campaign.

Moreover, the overwhelming majority of Hungarians think that in a well-functioning democracy civic groups, representing the interests of the people, must exist. In fact, in the last three months the percentage of people who believe NGOs are important government watchdogs has grown from 68% to 74%. When it comes to foreign-supported NGOs engaged in political activities, the majority (57%) still support the government’s position on the issue, but three months ago their number was higher (60%). In general, 66% of Hungarians disapprove of the government’s shuttering of civic organizations.

The government is not much more successful when it comes to the campaign against George Soros. When in June 2016 people were asked whether Soros wants to topple the government, only 27% of the respondents agreed while 44% disagreed. Despite all the propaganda, Hungarians’ perception of Soros hasn’t changed much. Today 47% percent of the respondents don’t believe that Soros wants to overthrow the Orbán government and 32% thinks otherwise. The same Hungarians believe that Russia poses a greater threat to the country than the American-Hungarian financier. In November only 32% of the voters considered Russia a threat; by now it is 42%. On the other hand, the vast majority (close to 70%) have trust in the United States and the European Union. Somewhere along the way Viktor Orbán has lost his bearings.

Moving on to Brussels, today Michael Ignatieff, president of CEU, had conversations with Frans Timmermans, first deputy president of the European Commission, and Commissioner Carlos Moedas, who is responsible for research, science, and innovation. Tomorrow he will take part in an event organized by the four largest delegations in the European Parliament. On Thursday George Soros will meet with Jean-Claude Juncker and Commissioner Vĕra Jourová, who is in charge of justice, consumers, and gender equality. On Friday Soros will talk with Frans Timmermans and Jyrki Katainen, vice president and commissioner in charge of jobs, growth, investment, and competitiveness.

On Saturday the European People’s Party will hold a meeting to discuss the Hungarian situation. Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP group, warned Viktor Orbán a few days ago that Fidesz’s membership in the EPP caucus shouldn’t be taken for granted. He emphasized that core principles such as freedom of research and teaching are not negotiable.

In addition, there will be a plenary session of the European Parliament devoted to the “CEU” law. Apparently, Orbán is planning to attend. Finally, we mustn’t forget about the serious investigation underway by the European Commission “on the state of democracy” in Hungary, where further sanctions against the Orbán-led country are expected.

I can’t help thinking that this cheap, domestically ineffectual propaganda stunt against Soros, CEU, and the NGOs was one of Viktor Orbán’s greatest mistakes, one that may eventually unravel the whole fabric of his carefully crafted political system. Whether it was inspired by Vladimir Putin, as many people suspect, or it was designed to boost the resolve of Fidesz’s core supporters ahead the election next year doesn’t really matter. It can only be described as a colossal blunder. I suspect that Orbán didn’t expect such a vehement reaction both at home and abroad.

I have no idea what Orbán’s next step will be, but for now the Soros bashing continues unabated in the government media. In fact, if anything, it has intensified. Last week the latest spokesman for Fidesz, Balázs Hidvéghi, claimed that within one year “George Soros pumped 1.2 billion forints [$4,187,172] into his agent organizations in order to build up a new oppositional body to make persistent attacks against the legitimate Hungarian government.” This is more, he added, than the amount of money parties receive from the government annually.

Perhaps there is some inner logic to Orbán’s recent wars, but from the outside they don’t make much sense.

April 24, 2017
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exTor
Guest

https://www.vasarnapihirek.hu/fokusz/az_oroszokkal_toltak_el

Linking to the Vasárnapi Hírek piece, I found a delicious ad from the Orbán government [Nemzeti Konzultáció] suggesting Állítsuk Meg Brüsszelt! There was something pathetically desperate about that ad. Check it out.

The first comment about the article is from a Kertész András, whom I dont know, but whose name sounds familiar. His piece sounded vile, what with terms like ‘zsidóság bolsevik’, so I fired off my own comment saying I agreed with another commenter who characterized KA as ‘elmebeteg’.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

Unless it’s not written in the article, it might be worth mentioning that Hungarian (FIDESZ) EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics who is in charge of education has not been consulted. I can only assume he sidelined himself when failing to act as an EU Commissioner, forgeting (willingly?) to keep a neutral position toward his home country.

Guest
The Fidesz brains must be spinning in overdrive to find something valid against Soros, the EU, democracy, the liberals etc … Maybe they will come up soon with more crazy stuff! I just hope that they continue to show everybody how desperate and lunatic they really are. As long as O and Fidesz stay in power there will be no kind of democracy in Hungary! Btw 1 billion HUF is less than Mészáros and Orbán make on any of their projects, selling and buying valuable objects in Hungary. PS: We had a talk oiutside (nice weather …) and a beer with one of my neighbours – and it seems that some people still (want to …) believe the crap from the top – he said that of course he is against all those bloody illlegal immigrants who want to destroy Hungary – though he’s never seen one in person … My wife just looked at me … Today she said that she already knew that he’s kind of intellectually limited (actually she said something like paraszt, buta mint egy marha or something similar …) and that I can count myself lucky that I don’t understand all the nonsense that he… Read more »
aida
Guest

Wolfi, if you must live in Hungary my advice is to limit your contact and/or conversation with the natives to the educated metropolitan class and beyond that to waiters, shopkeepers and providers of essential services but confine it to the issues of the service and payment terms. In the U.K. I do not talk politics with the Brexshitters.

Ferenc
Guest

WHY?
Why should Wolfi limit himself, best he talks with whoever he likes and wants. And if that means with “believers of the crap from the top”, I think the better that is.
Hopefully some of those “believers” will start questioning themselves some of the crap they are supposed to believe…….
HAJRA Wolfi!!

Guest

That’s not in my power, my Hungarian ain’t good enough anyway and we’re too old for playing these games (having both been born during WW2).
We just try to give a “good example”.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘buta mint a marha’

Hehe that’s classic. Arguably it could be a statement on the govt. But my mother’s command of Ingles could be considered enough with her thinking person’s philosophy that one should never ever be a ‘stooge’. I always thought it good advice. Alas we arguably can see though that ‘stoogeness’ is flourishing lively in all in its glory in the halls of Parliament and even in the EU these days. 😎

Guest
aida, you’re right in a way! Luckily my wife and her family belong to that “educated metropolitan class” – even though she grew up in a small town in Eastern Hungary. PS and rather OT: When we visited an acquaintance (couldn’t call her a friend …) of hers in her house I was kind of shocked by the many Christian symbols there: Crosses, pictures of Mary and so on … After we were home again my wife (who wanted to cut the visit as short as possible …) asked me whether I had seen all that stuff – and then told me that she also had known some Germans/Austrians who had similar “decorations” in their holiday homes here in Hungary. So when she visited me the first time she looked around critically – and was so happy that she didn’t find any “Kitsch” stuff, but a large bookshelf. I told her also that I was a “Green” and when she came to my German home town she still was totally surprised by all those Greens/Liberals/Leftists/Communists she met in my favourite kocsma which really welcomed her – it was a totally different world for her, even better than Budapest, where she… Read more »
aida
Guest

I am so glad we are in agreement.
I am sure I would enjoy life in your German home town. I have always enjoyed visiting your country

Guest

Thanks, aida – I’m sure you’d like it there.
To whet your appetite a few facts https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%BCbingen
In 1995, the German weekly magazine Focus published a national survey according to which Tübingen had the highest quality of life of all cities in Germany. Factors taken into consideration included the infrastructure, the integration of bicycle lanes into the road system, a bus system connecting surrounding hills and valleys, late night services, areas of the town that can be reached on foot, the pedestrianised old town, other amenities and cultural events offered by the university.
Our Green Mayor and his people are working on this to make it even better and what’s more:
Tübingen is the city with the youngest average population in Germany.
The only negative side of this:
Housing has become very expensive – too many people want to move here!

aida
Guest

Thank you for the tempting information

old1956
Guest

I agree, Tuebingen is a jewel, and an important place in the Hungarian history, too.

Many Protestant Hungarian Priests studied there.

I visited the Bebenhausen Castle last month. It is unbelievable.

Istvan
Guest

Chicago tries to copy some of the progressive and admirable things about a town like Tübingen Wolfi is right it’s become a model, like bicycle lanes for example, and promoting green space. It all unravels here though. The bicycle lanes become race ways for hipsters on track bikes without brakes crashing into more moderate bicyclists, and the lanes themselves make car traffic even worse. Since 2000, the number of people commuting to work by bicycle in Chicago has more than doubled, likely reflecting higher fuel prices and greater environmental consciousness over the time period. The Chicago Department of Transportation reports that bike crashes resulting in injury increased 27 percent in just the five years between 2005 and 2010. There were nearly 9,000 accidents resulting in injury between 2005 and 2010, with 32 fatalities.
The green spaces require watering which sort of defeats their ecological purpose. But none the less many road ways are much more attractive than before planting began in the many parkways of highways the city. They are also nice places to layout people who may have been shot in road rage incidents in the City, see http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-expressway-shootings-met-20160520-story.html

wrfree
Guest

Re:’ OT and shocked by Christian symbols

You know contrary to be off topic it is precisely relevant to that pernicious government that resides now in the prehistoric when it comes to the propagation and protection of essential basic rights one being religious freedom.

On the latter in Magyarorszag however it is unfortunate a ‘freedom’ has been co-opted to the extent that the religious beliefs themselves are used to promote an approach and philosopy inimical and contrary to the beliefs themselves. Ironically ‘disciple’ piety is used to have them engage in the ugly and pernicious work themselves in developing state agendas of pure and vitriolic hatred.

Any who can see this abomination occurring in the religious laity has to come to a terrible conclusion and that is Magyarorszag now resides in Satan’s cage. And arguably it is now of all things subsumed into the ‘Evil Empire’. A trip into the hellfires. 😎

yo-yo-yo
Guest
Orban isn’t gonna retreat. Orban’s loyal hardliner pal Laszlo Kövér (the speaker of the Parliament) is simply refusing to designate a committee for a bill introduced by the opposition which would revoke lex-CEU. The debate in a designated committee would be the next step in the procedure in order to have a debate before the entire Parliament (which is controlled by Fidesz so the entire debate would be symbolic) but Kövér is obstructing the process. I think this obstruction is unprecedented but there’s no sanctions attached. Kövér who is a deeply paranoid, mentally unstable person is doing everything he can to prevent anything that may question lex-CEU which is now the single most important issue for Orban (besides Paks 2) . Orban won’t change course. He is challenging the EPP to fire Fidesz. Even then if Fidesz is fired (very unlikely) nobody can push Orban to change his mind. Orban made up his mind. He decided to kill CEU and nobody can stop him. This isn’t about logic. Only liberals think there has to be a rational basis for everything. This is about faith, this is about being on a mission to save the world from liberals. Orban is a… Read more »
Guest

O can’t “kill” CEU – he can drive it away to Vienna and/or Bratislava. Relocating there is not a bad idea imho – it would show the academic world the true a*se (face …) of Hungary.
I feel that anything that makes Hungary faster on its way to the abyss is a good thing now, make it happen as quickly as possible, or as we say in German:

Besser ein Ende mit Schrecken als ein Schrecken ohne Ende!

Then Hungary can try a restart …

Alex
Guest
A reasonable logic. Moreover, there’s a strong indication CEU will keep the campus and maintain some operations, playing the long game. The talk at CEU now is that if forced, we will become a “university in exile.” And also a continuous thorn in Orban’s side. Going quietly into the good night or the genteel suburbs of Vienna are not options. A temporary relocation and plans to return is a credible strategy. It also makes the most sense for CEU. CEU is far more committed to Hungary than might have been apparent before the political mugging we’ve just experienced. All the more so now that we can see the depth of support in Budapest and elsewhere in Hungary. International faculty like me also realize, with our Hungarian colleagues, that this is not about us. It’s about Hungarian democracy. Tens of thousands have stood with CEU and CEU stands with them, and Hungary. This fight isn’t over. If Orban wins, it’s only a battle in a longer war. Being a university in exile won’t be a disaster, and the return will almost certainly occur shortly after this government is voted out. Orban is not a rational actor and that does not bode… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

OT
New video of OV at a sort of fair. He’s offered a ‘palinka’, but doesn’t want to drink it during working hours, because he fears he “beteszik a Népszabadságba” (meaning Népszabadság still exists!). He and all around him start laughing for the “good” joke. DISGUSTING!!
http://www.atv.hu/belfold/20170425-orban-szerint-meg-van-nepszabadsag

Doggo
Guest

“Hungarians sampled hadn’t heard of the university and only 14% support the government’s plan to close it down. ”

This is an absolute lie according to the CEU. According to CEU the “University will not close down and will remain in Budapest” CEU also says there is no chance of the University being closed down. There is no chance of the University being closed down so why lie and say “there is a plan to close it down”?

Guest

Are you saying Orbán does not want to close CEU or what?

webber
Guest

The Hungarian government wants to shut down CEU. There is no denying it. You are the liar.

Alex
Guest

Orban cannot close CEU. He can make certain of its operations impossible in Hungary. If the law does not change or isn’t thrown out, CEU would be forced to move those operations elsewhere and continue what remains in Hungary. You simply don’t understand what is being said, and meant. You can be one hundred percent certain that if forced to operate out of Vienna for some time, CEU-which means the CEU board and administration-will be determined to remain present and visible in Hungary, to make it publicly clear that CEU will return, and to grow and thrive in the process.

Doggo
Guest

Soros alone provides more funding to his employees in Hungary that all of the Hungarian parties get :

“within one year “George Soros pumped 1.2 billion forints [$4,187,172] into his agent organizations in order to build up a new oppositional body to make persistent attacks against the legitimate Hungarian government.” This is more, he added, than the amount of money parties receive from the government annually.

Perhaps there is some inner logic to Orbán’s recent wars, but from the outside they don’t make”

Why is it a war to criticize Soros but not a war to criticize Hungary or the laws of Hungary? Are all of these people in a war against the laws (as passed by Parliament and signed by the President) of Hungary? If it is fair to criticize existing laws in a foreign country why could the foreign country not critique the Soros the Oligarch? Soros is one of the biggest and most impactful oligarchs living in the world today and millions of people criticize him in the United States, Canada and elsewhere.

It is far cry from a war to display a critique against George Soros.

Member

“Why is it a war to criticize Soros but not a war to criticize Hungary or the laws of Hungary?”

It is perfectly legitimate for a government, within a democracy, to criticise whomever it so chooses, including NGOs. In a democracy, the government will give reasons for that criticism and it will be left up to the voter to make up their own mind.

However, the Hungarian government and more speicifically Orban can not tolerate criticism of any kind and is, in fact, terrified, for obvious reasons, of the work of especially the anti-corruption NGOs.

So he is not delivering “critiques”, not presenting logical and rational arguments against the NGOs but attempting instead to chase all such NGOs and the CEU (which is only a damn university when all is said and done) out of the state.

His media and thugs on the street are engaged in a war on a daily basis where intimidation, lies and threats are the tools of operation.

Member

BTW 2 more pro-democracy students were beaten up by pro-Orban thugs for daring to wear CEU badges on Saturday nights.
Is that what you mean by delivering a “critique”?

Doggo
Guest

“thugs on the street are engaged in a war on a daily basis”

I don’t suppose you want to provide a few sources for this “war in the streets” ? Do you think the world media simply missed this street war and the people who died in it?

petofi
Guest

Doggo,

Please get back to your Siberian cell and trouble us no further…

Doggo
Guest

In other words no sources to your claim of “war in the streets” with many people killed in Hungary. I have heard no such thing and I’m starting to suspect it was made up completely.

No sources usually means fake news.

Member

Good morning Moscow or is that Canada?
Where was it claimed “many people killed in Hungary”?
You don`t speak Hungarian?

Guest

Why are you quoting a Fidesz lunatic with his lies again?
Fidesz gets much more money from the state, the MNB etc – we have enough examples of how they have taken over the media and many businesses. Just look at “the plumber” Mészáros – can you tell us how he made all that money?
But you are just a troll anyway – go back to where you came from!

Doggo
Guest

“Why are you quoting a Fidesz lunatic with his lies again?”

I was quoting from the post of Eva Balogh. From the same blog post that you are commenting under. You don’t actually read the posts, that’s why you did not know this before?

aida
Guest
Hungary is, by Western European standards a very poor and backward country. It has not advanced much either economically, socially or politically and this is disappointing. The conduct of the Orban government has not been judged to have made any significant advance along those fronts and it is often criticised for promoting reverse trends. It is not, either in law or in common sense illegal or wrong that individuals or organisations in a society make it their aim to promote economic, social and political advance in their communities even without the approval of the government. It follows therefore that funding for such efforts cannot be regarded as either illegal or giving rise to censure, it is a perfectly acceptable activity. Any criticism of Soros by his opponents is misplaced if its target is his funding efforts to build open societies and to promote those safeguards for fairness and freedom with which in the civilised world we are all so familiar. These movements are not always popular amongst those who see in the backward countries such as Hungary opportunities to gather power the exercise of which would not be properly scrutinised. Also to make money by exploiting the vulnerable. This is… Read more »
Observer
Guest

aida

Just a personal note – i assume you’re female living in the UK probably not working, i.e. journalism, politics is not your daily occupation.
It is even interesting that imhp your understanding of the H situation perfect. Kudos.

Observer
Guest

sorry, hurrying again ….

It is even more interesting that imho your understanding of the H situation is perfect. Kudos.

webber
Guest

Doggo said: “Soros alone provides more funding to his employees in Hungary that all of the Hungarian parties get”
Well, that’s a lie. Fidesz embezzles a hell of a lot more than that.
As if “funding employees” were a crime.
What’s the problem with a private person spending his own money the way he likes if that does not violate a single law or regulation? There is none whatsoever – only sick authoritarians want to control what private people do with their money.

Observer
Guest

Guys,
Don’t feed the troll.

Doggo, please bugger off, we know all what you’re writing already from the local parrot commando.

Observer
Guest

Guys,
Don’t feed the troll.

Doggo, please bugger off, we know all what you’re writing already from the local parrot commando.

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