“National Consultation” at closer quarters

At last someone got the bright idea that instead of just joking about the results of the Orbán government’s notorious “national consultations,” it would be time for the opposition to insist on transparency. In the last ten years five “national consultations” have taken place, including the one currently underway. In all cases, the citizenry had to rely on the government’s reports on the number of valid questionnaires it received. Of course, if the Orbán government had wanted to communicate the truth, it would have invited observers from other parties or would at least have gathered a group of independent witnesses. The mystery numbers announced after each of these consultations were the butt of jokes, but no opposition party ever entertained the idea of challenging the government’s most likely fraudulent figures or insisting on opening the warehouses where these questionnaires were kept.

This time, however, Bernadett Szél and Ákos Hadházy, co-chairs of LMP, decided to do more than poke fun at these ridiculous “national consultations.” The fact that it took them a whole month to get permission to see the premises says a lot about the government’s true intentions. These consultations are propaganda tools designed in such a way that the final result is determined by the will of the government.

The Szél-Hadházy team eventually ascertained that returned questionnaires travel to three government venues. From the central post office on Orczy tér they are moved to warehouses of the Nemzeti Infokommunikációs Szolgáltató Zrt. (NISZ), first to one in District VIII and then to one in Zugló. In the former the envelopes are x-rayed for explosives. In the latter the contents of envelopes are separated because in some cases the senders filled out an extra data sheet indicating that they are ready to receive government “information” in the future. Once all the questionnaires have been x-rayed and sorted, they are then sent to one of the offices of Kopint Datorg in District VIII, where the answers are “analyzed” with the help of special software.

Antal Rogán’s personal approval was required for the two members of parliament to be allowed inside of these facilities, though with serious restrictions. Their “appointment” was set for 5:30 p.m.–that is, after regular business hours. Altogether they were allowed to spend 1.5 hours including travel time, which was considerable given rush hour traffic and the distances between District VIII and Zugló. By the third stop, Hadházy was ten minutes late and was worried that he wouldn’t be allowed to enter. But the powers-that-be were lenient.

In all three places the LMP politicians were told that employees do not keep daily records of the number of questionnaires that arrive. In one of the warehouses the man in charge simply didn’t know what to do when he was asked how many questionnaires they had received thus far. First, he said that he wasn’t allowed to share that information, but “when we became somewhat agitated because of this information, he changed his story and said that there is no such record at all.” The story was the same at Kopint Datorg.

Hadházy was pretty certain that the government’s latest figure of 1.7 million was a fake. Based on the number of boxes he saw, he figured that the government had managed to get back about 900,000 questionnaires. There is a good possibility that Hadházy is more or less correct because, while the two LMP politicians were rushing from one venue to the next, the spokesman for Fidesz’s parliamentary delegation announced that they will ask the government to extend the deadline for the return of the questionnaires. The official deadline was yesterday.

Although the government is outraged and is ready to sue Hadházy, who according to them is lying, I have the feeling that Rogán’s propaganda ministry will have a difficult time proving that their own numbers are correct. It seems that the Szél-Hadházy team’s smart phone was busily recording some of their conversations with the officials on the spot. The staff of Hír TV’s “Célpont” (Target) published two of the conversations. Here is the important one. Note that the post office sends envelopes on to NISZ only once a week, on Mondays.

–These arrived on 20th. 250,000.
–How many arrived on the 13th?
–I don’t know that by heart but about 200,000.
–Less than 200,000?
–Less.
–And what about the 6th?
–About 180,000.
–Well then, how on earth do you get one million out of this?

So, by November 14, less than 400,000 questionnaires had arrived, but Csaba Dömötör, one of the undersecretaries of the propaganda ministry, on that very day claimed that one million questionnaires had already been received.

Although journalists were not allowed to accompany Szél and Hadházy, the government sent its own photo journalist to the scene, who took a photo of the two politicians in front of a whole wall of boxes. The caption read: “In the background boxes filled with 500 questionnaires each. Yet the chairman of LMP claimed that the whole consultation is a hoax because no records are kept.” Nice try, but Hadházy was specifically told that those boxes were empty, waiting to be filled.

Bernadett Szél, Ákos Hadházy, and the empty boxes

The exact number of questionnaires returned could easily be ascertained if an independent watch-dog group could find out how many envelopes were processed in the central Hungarian postal service. Since the postage on these returned envelopes is paid by the Hungarian government, the postal service must keep accurate records. Their reimbursement depends on careful record keeping. The problem is that there is no independent supervisory body, so the government can conjure up any figure it finds useful for purposes of propaganda. The higher the better.

The government currently claims that up to date the post office has received 1,754,128 envelopes. So far NISZ has managed to x-ray 599,500 (which would pretty closely match the figures NISZ reported to Szél and Hadházy) and Kopint-Datorg has processed 489,265. These numbers, it is critical to note, should not be cumulative: each response is first x-rayed and then processed. The government also claims that 155,330 people sent their answers back via the Internet. And so, if I understand the system correctly, as of November 20 754,830 responses have either reached NISZ or been submitted electronically. That means that 999,298 envelopes must still be sitting in the central post office on Orczy tér. The government claims, however, that as of Friday over 500,000 envelopes had been registered but were still at the post office. Well, I guess 999,298 is over 500,000.

In addition, I should note that there is something very suspicious about the high number of online responses because in the past very few people opted to fill out the questionnaire online.  It is possible that Fidesz activists took advantage of a software glitch, if it was a glitch and not intentional. People could fill out as many questionnaires as their hearts desired. Hír TV’s “Célpont” demonstrates how it can be done here.

Is the government correct in saying that Ákos Hadházy is a fool who mixed up the total number of returned questionnaires that reached the central post office with the ones that had gone through the proper “treatment” of x-raying, sorting, and analysis? I doubt it. It seems to me that it is the government that is playing fast and loose with the figures, most likely adding the number of responses processed to the number of envelopes that the government reported as having been x-rayed. Assuming that all envelopes are x-rayed, this number plus the online responses and the envelopes still at the post office is the total number of questionnaires received.

Of course, we have no idea how many envelopes the post office will send on to NISZ this coming Monday. Will it be the usual 200,000 or so, over 500,000, or close to a million? No independent body will ever know. We can only speculate. But I highly doubt it will bring the total to 1,754,128.

November 25, 2017
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David North
Guest

The latest “consultation” has been a poorly organised affair in our area. We got a form through the mailbox well after the first deadline had passed. I tore it up and binned it. Apart from the loaded questions, the main flaw is the frequency of these propaganda exercises which inevitably devalues them, even in the eyes of Fidesz supporters, I suspect.

Ferenc
Guest

Current National Consultation: 7 LIES
‘Official’ numbers from HU government: More LIES

So to all, who despite the above still have any trust/respect in/for the current HU government, I like to quote from two songs by one band:

“are you so blind, that you can not see?”
“the numbers are different, the crime is still the same”

–from “Free Nelson Mandela” and “War Crimes” by The Special(s) AKA (1982/84)

Guest
Thanks for this! I had already thought about sending back those envelopes. I’ve got several of them from my wife and friends/neighbours who wanted to throw away the crap immediately after they got it – but I saved them … I would have put some nonsene in there – but now I realised that the people working on them would surely just throw that away – so what’s the use? Checking those slim enevelopes for explosives is kind of silly – anthrax was used in a casein the USA if I remember correctly – but of course thar wouldn’t reach any of the people responsible for this total waste of money. My wife is so angry about the whole idiocy! The questionnaires however I’ll take to Germany to show my friends there what kind of idiocies happen in Orbanistan, the haven of the illiberal idiots. Totally OT: Still there are some people who make enough money or profit from the whole shenanigans – when we went into our favourite restaurant for lunch today the parking was filled with nice BMWs, Lexus and SUVs – all with Hungarian licence plates. And the restaurant was full – they had to turn two… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

Slowly, but surely, the Orbán-led semi-feudal mafia regime of systemic corruption is beginning to capitalize a thin layer of new “nobility” (“kisnemes” and “középnemes” class) in Hungary. Meantime the mafia capos, the boyars and the rent seeking oligarchs of the system continue to rapidly capitalize at enormously accelerating rates from stolen EU funds. These two reasons perfectly explain the presence of those SUV, BMW and Lexus vehicles with the Hungarian license plates in the parking lot of that restaurant. The creation of a capital-rich class of Hungarians is of course one of the principal and openly acknowledged objectives of Matolcsy’s “oonortodox” system economic of economic “management,” otherwise known a common looting. Incidentally, Hungarians have a great tradition of trying to advance themselves economically by looting each other blind. It goes without saying that stolen EU funds, stolen government revenues and fake figures in economic reports are the essence of this system of economic “management.” At the same time the rest of the Hungarian population is marching virtually in lockstep back to the Horthy era in terms of living standards and public services.

Istvan
Guest
To focus on the illegitimate use of EU funds as a point of profit for the pro-Orban oligarchs is to look at the issue far too narrowly. Numerous western companies operating in Hungary use subcontractors that pay very low wages, those entities are registered businesses subject to regulations, but exempted in many situations by ties the owners have to the Fidesz empire. According to the CEO of Audi, while hourly labor costs in Germany range from €40-€52, the costs decrease to €13 per hour in Hungary, and to below €5 per hour in Romania and Bulgaria. Even more interesting are the Hungarian car parts companies which also are low wage firms. 15 of the 20 Tier 1 firms in the world Automotive industry are represented in Hungary. The 5 largest of them (BOSCH, Denso, Knorr-Bremse, Hankook Tire, Continental) work with 5,700 small and medium Hungarian businesses as their subcontractors or suppliers. The Oligarchs make plenty of money from exploitation of low wages for western companies too and the EU cohesion funds are far from their primary source of profitability. These are considered by many Hungarians to be legitimate businesses, that are in fact innovative. But the primary source of innovation… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘At the same time the rest of the Hungarian population is marching virtually in lockstep back to the Horthy era in terms of living standards and public services’

Perhaps not only in the material sense but psychologically as well. The air really has been ‘Horthyized’. The powers that be know that ‘tweaks’ subtly harkening back to prejudices of that nostalgic time will provide many dividends to further holds on power and deter
contemporary thought from exploring ways from escaping the downside of resentments unquieted hatreds and losing what once was theirs and getting ‘nothing’ from it. All the more Fidesz views its fiefdom as the ‘fightin’ nation’ now on the global stage.

Farkas
Guest
@Istvan November 26, 2017 12:08 pm Two points: 1. The looting of EU cohesion funds is of course only one of the dimensions of the capitalization of the new “nobility” in Hungary. I should have made this clear. But it is a key dimension, and symptomatic of all the other dimensions of systemic looting that goes on in the Hungarian economy. And we are not talking about mere “illegitimate use of EU funds,” but deliberate and systemic theft as a chronic, cancerous sickness that pervades the entire Hungarian economy. Under normally functioning capitalist market conditions – which are not to be confused with either robber capitalism, crony capitalism, oligarch capitalism or monopoly capitalism – capitalizing occurs through value adding entrepreneurial activity and the force of attraction exerted by the offerings and products of that enterprise. In Hungary, on the other hand, they are capitalizing a thin layer of new “nobility” through systemic corruption and looting, which show uncanny similarities to the customary ways of doing “bidniss” in the darkest Balkans or across the Adriatic, in the mafia badlands of Calabria or Sicily. 2. When I alluded to the “great tradition” in Hungary, I was in fact referring to something far… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

The big question for the low wage subcontractor economy not just in Hungary, but in the whole of Central Europe is automation and AI. In order to keep the game going the Central European nations will have to allow other perks besides low wages, like cheap power subsidized by taxpayers, like significantly higher levels of industrial pollution than would be acceptable in the core EU nation states.

The EU will end the cohesion funds at some point to all Central European nations, post communism will be just a memory, and Hungary will likely stay in the EU because there is no real downside to membership as there is no real rule enforcement.

The US will be bringing back the clothing industry to the USA by the use of robots from Asia gradually. See https://www.apparelnews.net/news/2017/apr/20/fashions-robotic-future/ The real question will be the size of the employed workforce to consume these products in the future in all advanced societies?

Guest

There are many wealthy people in Hungary, some just well off, some very rich. In which proportion? I have no idea. My wife and I, sometimes with the children, go to resorts which, by Hungarian standards, are quite expensive; for us, not so much. It’s worth noticing that while we usually spend a week or so in such hotels, the Hungarian guests (from what’s left of the middle class I assume) only stay for a much more limited time (2-3 days), and they don’t order drinks at dinner, or the less expensive stuff like soda + a pitcher of water. Our most disturbing encounter was in Egerszalók, where we saw Lőrinz Mészarós who had book an entire large room for himself and his family and friends. While we thought he was there to buy the entire hotel and spa, it turned out it finally went to Rahél Orbán. Same thing, you might say… The funny thing is that in Hungary, rich people are not always the most educated and even though they might have a lot of money, they still have the reflex to spend little on certain things while showing off with others.

Guest

many wealthy people in Hungary, some just well off, some very rich. In which proportion?
Who are these people? Professionals like doctors or?
These are very interesting questions – though I wonder whether we’ll ever get an answer.
Cars and restaurants/hotel/spa visits are just one indicator which tells us that the class system is alive and well in Hungary.
We have to accept that there probably will always be income differences – but a certain minimum should be available to everybody – the Existenzminimum we call it in German.
And when we take our regular walk through our village (which is comparatively rich – I shudder to think of Eastern Hungary …) we see that this is not the case!
Too many houses that look like ruins – no repairs or modernization since WW2, old people burning not only wood but all kinds of stinking crap to get their rooms warm (not always successful …)

Marty
Guest
Most Hungarian people who go to Egerszalók and similar spa hotels pay with so-called “Erzsébet” vouchers which is a kind of perk many employees get on top of their salaries. It’s basically a limited use domestic cash which has a preferable tax treatment so companies and public employees have an incentive to offer to their employees. It’s basically free money with the provisio that one can use it only for items on a limited list of goods and services like restaurants and hotels. So employees get it (usually some tens of thousands of forints annually so an average couple my get 300 euro worth vouchers) and they can’t spend it elsewhere (although they usually spend it for lunches in canteens) and so they go to a spa hotel for two or three days. Since vouchers are treated as free money (on top of your salary which is the important compensation item) which anyway can’t be spent elsewhere the spa hotels charge inordinate amounts for a night like 70,000 forints for a double room (over 200 euros – in a rural spa hotel). But the customers who pay with these vouchers don’t really have much money otherwise and lack the habit… Read more »
Guest

You described this voucher system very well – at least it’s better than nothing for those hard working Hungarians, my neighbour (who works in construction, his wife works for the mayor) also uses it for short holidays.
But I have to disgree with your last sentences a bit: We’ve been to Sarvar and Harkany for short holidays too and saw many foreigners (Czech, Slovaks, Russians too) in the spa hotels – which were quite nice btw, we really enjoyed our GAFIA:
Getting away from it all … 🙂
Of course some people go to “expensive” countries for holidays – some of them even make their money by working hard!

wrfree
Guest

Those boxes above kind of reminded me of those old ‘DP’ departments where there were mounds of them containing thousands and thousands of pages of computer printouts. Today the setup is simply just another way of indicating how relentless ‘Data Poisoning’ is ruining the country.

Member
“So I’m wondering who belongs to the upper or upper middle class who can afford a big car and an expensive restaurant” Back in 1993, when I was a newly minted English teacher fresh off the plane, I decided to do what I could to share my skills with struggling Hungarian families. (That’s what US liberal-arts colleges encourage you to do.) So I started offering private English classes for HUF 400 an hour when the going rate was HUF 1,000. One of my students was an 11-year-old girl who lived in a crowded three-room flat with her parents, grandparents and sister. Her mother worked in a büfé for HUF 14,000/month after tax. I truly respected the sacrifice she was making for her daughter’s future. One day when I arrived for the lesson, the mother beckoned me into her bedroom, which served as the living room during the day. “Alex, check out my new stereo!” she beamed. It was state-of-the-art Bang & Olufsen sound system. “Wow!” said I, flabbergasted. “If you don’t mind me asking, how much did that cost?” “Ohhh… about as much as a new car!” she said with satisfaction. Suddenly, I was no longer experiencing conscience pricks about… Read more »
Guest

Nice story, Alex!
Any ideas how they made this “extra money”?
A relative of my wife had a great idea:
After the fall of the old regime many old farms were given back to the former owners – and you could buy farmland cheap from them or their children who didn’t want that land back. So he used all his savings to buy land – and rented it out …
Over the years that grew into a kind of second income – he’s a landowner again!

petofi
Guest

Poor Alex…she invited you into her bedroom and you had not an inkling of how she made her money? How British of you.

Guest
Not too much OT – illustrating the degree of hysteria re refugees in Hungary now: My wife just read it on the ‘net. A small bus with about a dozen young Hungarian water polo players on board coming from Bp was stopped near Pécs by police and they asked for IDs. Now some of them had forgotten their IDs and since they had “darker skin” (maybe of Serbian or Croatian descent – thsee countries have produced many good players) the police seem to have thought they found a smuggler of “illegal immigrants” … my wife started to laugh hysterically about the stupidity of her compatriots – she’s a big fan of water polo btw, maybe might have recognised even some of the young players … Maybe someone here finds a link to this? Edit: It was on “168 óra”. PS: Of course as a German I know similar things happen at home. There was a big scandal maybe a year ago re the railway police which regularly checks the IDs of travelers. One young man (born in Germany to black parents, has German citizenship) got so angry about him being regularly chosen for checking that once he “played dumb”. He… Read more »
Ferenc
Guest

Here’s the 168ora story:
http://168ora.hu/itthon/menekultnek-neztek-a-pecsi-vizilabdas-fiukat-azonnal-rajuk-is-hivtak-rendorseget-13109 (including team picture)
And this is the original source of it:
https://www.pecsistop.hu/tartalom/cikk/491154_migransnak_neztek_a_pecsi_vizilabdazokat
… unimaginable hysteria – but reality in OV’s Hungary…

Ferenc
Guest
In the meantime (the working days of the week), the HU government has ‘officially stated’ given new numbers: 2.2 million and is seriously in getting Hadhazy in court for spreading false information (or something like that, don’t remember the exact wording). Well this whole consultation seems to be running out of common sense (there wasn’t any sense in it anyway…). What I consider possible: *HU government had prepared itself to once get a serious question for checking the consultation system by others *HU government ordered printing of more forms than needed, and had/has let the extra part filled in somewhere (in HU or abroad, automatically or by hand) *so HU government has indeed ca.2.2 million filled-in forms, only maximum half of it through the official way *LMP and Hadhazy stepped into the trap, was deliberately shown only a part of the system (the official part) I hope that some of the polling organizations have done research around the consultation (estimated filled-in returns), and LMP have these figures. So Hadhazy can always (and safely) demand an independent checking of the numbers including random checking of the supposed senders of the filled-in forms. The whole game is about TRUSTABILITY of info spread… Read more »