Following up on yesterday’s post I got in touch with Bálint Magyar, Hungary’s minister of education between 1996 and 1998 and again between 2002 and 2006. He sent me some very useful material on the educational reforms that were undertaken under his guidance as well as a short description and critique of the measures introduced by the second Orbán government in its 2011 Law on Education. Because there seems to be some confusion about the existing situation in Hungarian public education, I thought it might be useful to publish his … Read the rest
Viktor Orbán’s interviews, scheduled for every second Friday, usually portend some important announcements. The one held on February 4 began with this sentence by the reporter: “Let’s start with a domestic issue, specifically with the hottest one, education.” Indeed, it is an issue that might have far-reaching consequences for Fidesz’s long-term political future. Since that conversation took place, Mrs. Judit Czunyi, undersecretary responsible for public education, has been removed from her position, and all attempts at appeasing the restless teachers who have had enough of the humiliation they suffer at … Read the rest
At the moment the Orbán government has two serious challenges. One is its absolute determination to introduce an amendment to the constitution that would authorize the government to unilaterally declare a “state of terror threat” that would lead to draconian limitations of the basic rights of citizens for sixty days and that could be extended indefinitely. Since the governing party, Fidesz-KDNP, doesn’t have the requisite two-thirds majority in parliament to pass a constitutional amendment, it would need the cooperation of the opposition parties. Most are, however, suspicious of the real … Read the rest
Yesterday I wrote briefly about the changes the government is planning to introduce in the structure of the government bureaucracy by either eliminating or amalgamating 73 ancillary institutions that have served the ministries. I suspect that in this case the real reason for streamlining is not so much saving money or making the system more efficient but rather depriving these think tanks of their independence.
There has, however, been talk lately about large-scale dismissals of government employees. At the end of January Nándor Csepreghy, deputy to János Lázár in the … Read the rest
If Zoltán Balog, minister in charge of education, thought that the teachers, who have had enough of Viktor Orbán’s educational experiments, would be appeased by promises to lift some of the administrative burdens that make the lives of both teachers and students a living hell, he was sorely mistaken. The government is now groping in the dark for some kind of solution. I have the feeling that they still haven’t realized that the government will have to offer substantial concessions to avoid a major confrontation.
The administration is promising to … Read the rest
It’s time to turn our attention to the right-radical Jobbik party, the bogeyman of some naïve West European observers who are convinced that it is the real threat to Hungarian democracy and not Viktor Orbán’s government. Some of us who are more familiar with the workings of Fidesz know better. While Fidesz was rapidly moving to the right, Jobbik, in order to distinguish itself from the government party, moved toward the center. This change of strategy, however, hasn’t paid off. Jobbik, which in March 2015 had almost caught up with … Read the rest
It was more than five years ago that one of the worst natural disasters occurred in Hungary, at the Magyar Aluminum Zrt. in Ajka. The storage facilities gave way and toxic red sludge covered three villages nearby, killing 10 people. The international media was full of the case, and I myself spent days discussing the Orbán government’s handling of the disaster. As usual, in no time the tragedy became a political football. Viktor Orbán and his undersecretary for the environment declared that the owners of the company were guilty even … Read the rest