Tag Archives: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

A quick look at three recent events in Hungary

Medián’s latest opinion poll on parties and politicians

Today I will again cover several topics, all of which, I believe, deserve attention. I will start with Medián’s latest opinion poll, which shows a slight uptick in Fidesz support while the opposition parties’ positions remain fairly constant. I will not burden you with too many details and will provide figures only for those voters who claim they will certainly vote at the next election. In this group Fidesz leads with 53%, followed by Jobbik at 21%, while MSZP, which looks upon itself as the leading party on the left, currently garners only 12%. DK stands at 6% and LMP at 3%, which means that it wouldn’t meet the 5% threshold for representation in parliament. The smaller parties like Momentum, Együtt, Two-tailed Dog, and MoMa each have a 1% share of the active voters while the Hungarian Liberal Party and Párbeszéd have even less support. As it stands, about 10% of votes would be absolutely wasted if all these parties decided to run on their own. Given the fractured state of the left-of-center opposition, it is not at all surprising that 33% of the likely voters have no idea at the moment for which party they will vote at next year’s election.

Medián also asked people’s opinion of politicians. Hungarians have a very low opinion of politicians in general. Usually, János Áder heads the list, but his rank is due only to his office. People feel they must respect the president of the country. But even Áder’s “popularity” is only 49%. Viktor Orbán trails at 44%. The most popular opposition politician is Gergely Karácsony, mayor of Zugló (District XIV), with 39%. Currently he is Párbeszéd’s candidate for the premiership, which might be responsible for an 8% jump in his popularity in the last two months. On the other hand, MSZP’s László Botka hasn’t captured the imagination of the electorate. On the contrary, between April and June he has lost 8%. His current standing is a mere 26%. There are only two politicians who are less popular than Botka: Lajos Bokros and Ferenc Gyurcsány. Given Botka’s lack of popularity and the stagnating low support for MSZP, the socialist party’s prospects don’t seem too bright. I must say that I’m not surprised.

Egypt and Hungary are political neighbors

At least this is what Viktor Orbán claimed yesterday when Abdel Fattah el-Sisi visited Hungary to confer with the prime ministers of the Visegrád 4 and to have bilateral talks with Viktor Orbán.

El-Sisi arrived in Budapest in secrecy late Sunday night. MTI reported his presence in the Hungarian capital only after his meeting with Viktor Orbán yesterday. The Egyptian press was much more forthcoming. They announced the impending visit to Budapest already on July 1. As 168 Óra said of the strange circumstances of el-Sisi’s arrival, “the Orbán government first wanted to hide the dictator but at the end he was greeted with open arms.” Indeed, just as in the case of Erdoğan, Orbán went out of his way to flatter the dictator. He again came forth with some strange comments. Orbán, who likes to speak in the name of all Hungarians, claimed that when Hungarians look at other countries their first inquiry is “how much they are in love with their own independence.” I’m sure that this odd comment comes as a surprise to most Hungarians. But, the most incredible sentence was: “Egypt is not only a country close by but also politically speaking a neighbor.”

In addition to political matters there was again a lot of talk about the great economic opportunities and the prospects of more intensive trade relations in the future. All the talk about trade with Turkey a couple of days ago and now with Egypt prompted Bálint Ablonczy of Válasz to write an opinion piece titled “Wouldn’t it be time for a western opening?” He rightly pointed out that seven years after the announcement of the Eastern Opening the diversification of Hungarian trade relations hasn’t changed at all. In fact, in 2010 77% percent of Hungarian exports went to the countries of the European Union. Today that figure is 80%. This is so despite bilateral talks with leaders of countries east of Hungary. Meanwhile, Orbán meets European politicians only at EU summits. Perhaps, says Ablonczy, it would be time to turn toward the west. What Ablonczy doesn’t say but I’m sure he knows is that at present there are not too many European politicians who would like to be chummy with Viktor Orbán, friend of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abel Fattah el-Sisi, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Ilham Aliyev, and other unsavory leaders.

Trade schools versus gymnasiums

I once wrote a post with the title “Hungarian politicians and learning: Not a good mix,” in which I listed a few truly harmful people in and around Hungarian education, starting with Rózsa Hoffmann, KDNP undersecretary of education between 2010 and 2014, László Palkovics, her successor, and László Parragh, president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The fact that a businessman might have such an outsize influence on public education might surprise most people, but the fact is that for one reason or another Parragh managed to convince Orbán that his ideas reflect the way Hungarian education should be structured for maximum economic benefit. Unfortunately, his ideas are totally misguided. He sees Hungary as a huge factory floor where blue-color workers toil on assembly lines. In his opinion, these workers don’t need a broad liberal arts education before embarking on a trade or profession. After eight years of general public education, they should be sent to trade schools. Orbán’s educational establishment has begun to promote trade schools over traditional high school education.

But there is one serious problem. Hungarian parents are smarter than László Parragh and want to have their children go through 12 years of academic learning. Interest in gymnasiums is still as high as ever. A furious Parragh blamed the municipalities for not shuttering gymnasiums. So, if the people don’t do something he and his fellow politicians want, the only way to remedy the situation is to force people to obey. A few days ago Magyar Nemzet received a copy of a background study on the subject which advocates “the introduction of an entrance exam to be taken in grade eight” that would determine the future of 14-year-olds. In addition, the authors of the study suggest “a gradual restriction on the number of gymnasiums.” Let’s kill children’s opportunities after a single test. Because once children are forced into these trade schools there is no way they will ever end up in college or university.

Let me include here a couple of recent photos taken in these “szakközépiskolák.”

My favorite is the one below that accompanies Magyar Nemzet’s article on the so-called educators’ plan for ruining a whole generation.

What in the world will these two guys do with what they are allegedly learning here?

July 4, 2017

Viktor Orbán and Péter Szijjártó at the United Nations

Viktor Orbán didn’t skip his Friday morning radio interview despite the fact that it was only a few hours earlier that he stepped off the airplane that brought him back from a trip to New York and Washington. A large part of the interview was a rehash of his well-known opposition to the immigration of people from an alien culture, but the careful listener could detect an admission of failure in convincing the world about the correctness of his position. It turned out that the only European country that supported Orbán’s proposal for worldwide compulsory quotas for the asylum seekers was Malta. It had been clear since the Brussels summit that this idea was dead in the water, and Orbán’s promoting it in New York was a waste of time.

We do know that Viktor Orbán met Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, president of Egypt, who is one of the favorite politicians of the Hungarian prime minister. During el-Sisi’s state visit to Budapest during the summer Orbán praised him as the savior of Egypt and compared him to Admiral Miklós Horthy, also a military man, who saved his country in a time of peril. According to a government press release, Orbán will make an official state visit to Cairo soon. Otherwise, we know that he met Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, and Annette Lantos, widow of the late Congressman Tom Lantos. The meeting with Lauder was scheduled on the very day that in Hungary the two officials responsible for the sale of the Sukoró property on which Lauder and other businessmen were planning to erect a casino and hotel complex received tough jail sentences in a rigged trial. I wonder whether Lauder was aware of the verdict at the time of the conversation.

We know more about Péter Szijjártó’s schedule. He had an opportunity to talk to Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and Jeffrey D. Feltman, under-secretary-general for political affairs. Otherwise he had meetings with assorted foreign ministers of marginally important countries: Gilbert Saboya of Andorra, Taieb Beccouche of Tunisia, Erlan Abdyldaev of Kyrgysztan, and Charles Koffi Diby of the Ivory Coast. In addition, he met with Peter M. Boehm, associate deputy minister of foreign affairs of Canada, who was misidentified by the Hungarian foreign ministry as the foreign minister of the country.

Szijjártó’s conversation with Deputy-Secretary-General Jan Eliasson was, it seems, mostly a comparison of the immigrants currently arriving in Europe and the Hungarians who illegally crossed into Austria and to a lesser extent Yugoslavia. I assume that the comparison was made by Eliasson and was then hotly debated by Péter Szijjártó. As Népszabadság‘s sarcastically commented, “Hungarian immigrants are different from any other immigrants.”

Péter Szijjártó with Deputy-General Secretary Jan Eliasson / MTI/UN/Eskinder Debebe

Péter Szijjártó with Deputy-General Secretary Jan Eliasson / MTI/UN Photo: Eskinder Debebe

Viktor Orbán delivered a short speech at a meeting organized specifically for a discussion of the refugee crisis where, in addition to his suggestion for world quotas, he warned the world against anti-Muslim sentiment. One can only marvel at this man’s brazenness. He has the gall to stand up and utter such words when ever since January he has done nothing but incite his people against the Muslim “invaders” who in his opinion as of this morning “more closely resemble members of an army than asylum seekers.” But he knows no shame.

Péter Szijjártó also delivered a speech in English at the open discussion of the United Nation’s Security Council. The message of his speech was that without Russia no international problems can be solved. He stated that the transatlantic community–the European Union and the United States–must rethink their relations to Russia. The Syrian civil war cannot be solved without Moscow’s participation. In order to further emphasize Hungary’s excellent relations with Russia, Szijjártó began his speech in Russian as a gesture to the Russians who are chairing the Security Council this month. Here we are in the middle of a serious conflict between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama over Putin’s involvement in Syria, and Hungary, a member of NATO, openly sides with Russia.

In earlier posts I talked about the uncivilized manner in which Szijjártó talks to other politicians. The language being used by this young, inexperienced man is unheard of in diplomacy. But he does it at the command of the prime minister. You may recall that as early as 2010 Viktor Orbán told Hungarian diplomats who gathered for “instructions” from the prime minister in Budapest that they will have to counter every time there is any criticism of Hungary. This year he made himself even clearer. The stronger the criticism the harsher the response of Hungarian diplomats must be.

In light of Orbán’s stated policy of lashing out with harsh rebukes at critics of Hungary, the following exchange in today’s interview was, for those of us who have developed a warped sense of humor in order to survive this regime, amusing. The reporter asked Orbán whether his suggestion of worldwide quotas was intended to force the developed countries to reveal their true feelings about accepting refugees. Orbán piously answered: “This would be an impolite formulation, we are not supposed to speak like that at international meetings, we choose a different approach.” But since he was no longer at an international meeting, he immediately launched into a tirade against the prime minister of Croatia.

After giving a false picture of the excellent relationship between Croatia and Hungary during their 800-year common destiny, he admitted that “‘what is happening today” is injurious to both. Until now he hasn’t said anything to the Croatian prime minister, but now he must say something that might not be diplomatic or polite. He has to be forthright because “our own people will pay the price” for what the Croatian prime minister is doing. “We cannot look upon the words of the Croatian prime minister as the voice of the Croatian people. The Croatian prime minister and his party are part of the Socialist Internationale. The parties of the Socialist Internationale support immigration … Their leaders follow the instructions of the Socialist Internationale…. Therefore, I ask Hungarians to keep in mind when they hear the Croatian prime minister that they aren’t hearing the voice of the Croatian people but the emissary of the Socialist Internationale whose job it is to attack Hungary.”

By now neighboring countries’ politicians have been insulted by Szijjártó, and today Orbán joined the fray by hurling insults at the Croatian prime minister. Where will all this lead? Unfortunately, the Hungarian people will pay dearly for Orbán’s irresponsible foreign policy. Even if Orbán disappeared today, it would take years to undo the damage both at home and abroad.

Viktor Orbán’s civilian weaklings versus assertive soldiers: El-Sisi and Horthy

Viktor Orbán, although he tries to act as if all were well, is in a political fix. He desperately wants to regain his lost voters but doesn’t know how. He is still casting about for a viable method.

A couple of months ago he indicated that from here on Fidesz will focus on the hard-working ordinary Joe (a keményen dolgozó kisember) only to change his tune when he decided that, after all, Fidesz wants to return to the original idea of a “bourgeois” Hungary.

Then came the immigrant issue, which looked like a sure-fire thing, but since most Hungarians don’t encounter immigrants from far-away places the initial hate campaign fell flat. But Fidesz strategists think that the issue of immigration still offers great benefits; it just needs re-enforcement. Soon enough huge billboards will be scattered around the country to make sure that Hungarians will be fired up against foreigners in general. As Magyar Narancs aptly put it: “Orbán’s message is ‘hate and be afraid, so I can defend you.'”

Two days ago Viktor Orbán gave an interview to Napi Gazdaság in which there were a few sentences that caught the eye of the Budapest reporters of Reuters, and because so many papers subscribe to this wire service the news appeared in almost all the larger foreign newspapers. Here I give my own translation of the passage.

Multiculturalism is finished, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first to announce. Multiculturalism is the intermingling of different civilizations. It is a different thing when a country is composed of different nationality groups and cultures. That is not multiculturalism. Multiculturalism means the coexistence of people of different cultural backgrounds: Islam, Asian religions, and Christianity. We will do everything for Hungary to avoid this. We welcome investors, artists, and scientists from non-Christian countries, but we don’t want to mix with them on a large scale.

Actually, Orbán’s rather primitive description of multiculturalism is misleading. The United States has taken in an incredible number of immigrants over the years, but by the second or third generation these people are assimilated without the government making any serious efforts in this direction. In fact, bilingual schools had very mixed results and since have been largely abandoned. Assimilation is inevitable unless the central government fosters separation. Orbán seems to be talking about the policies of Germany, which indeed turned out to be a disaster. But, surely, there is a happy medium. Hungary needs immigrants, and the “intermingling” of ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds has enormous benefits in the long run. Hungary’s history is full of such examples.

This interview about the evils of multiculturalism took place two days ago. Today, at a press conference held after his meeting with visiting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Orbán declared that his government believes in cultural diversity and that “the variegation of our cultures is a gift of God.” I guess it would have been impolite to repeat that we don’t want “your kind” in our country.

Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi and Viktor Orbán / Photo Zoltán Máthé ?MTI

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Viktor Orbán / Photo Zoltán Máthé / MTI

Unfortunately that was not the only thing he said. Since he obviously wants to please certain politicians, he praises them and their country lavishly, quite independently of whether such praise is in order or whether it is, diplomatically speaking, proper. To call el-Sisi “the extraordinary leader of an extraordinary country” is over the top. El-Sisi was, in turn, taken with Viktor Orbán and congratulated the Hungarian people who were so wise as to elect such a man to lead the country. A mutual admiration society.

It is apparent from Ahram-Online, an Egyptian paper, that Orbán succeeded in his courting of the visitor. The Egyptians were impressed. They were happy to hear that “Cairo does not have to follow the western version of democracy” despite international concerns over Egypt’s human rights record. El-Sisi, who visited Germany earlier, encountered demonstrations there, and Angela Merkel was critical of the large number of death sentences handed out in Egypt since 2013. “In contrast, Prime Minister Victor Orban, who caused a furor recently by saying the death penalty, banned in the EU, needed to be ‘kept on the agenda’ … said Western ideals were not necessarily suited for everyone.” He stressed that “we are not professors of democracy … [and] we are glad that the Egyptian people are travelling down their own path,” adding that he hoped for their success.

Well, this was bad enough, but Orbán had a little surprise for the Hungarians as well. For some strange reason he felt compelled to make an allusion to el-Sisi’s military past and the military coup that removed the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi. But what he had to say was strange in more than one way. Here is the passage in question: “We are not averse to military men turned political leaders” because, he said, he remembers those times when “assertive soldiers took over power from us, civilian weaklings, in order to save the country.” He expressed his hope that Egypt will have as good an experience with soldiers as Hungary did.

The soldier Orbán had in mind cannot be anyone else but Admiral Miklós Horthy, governor of the autocratic regime during the interwar period. This was his first public admission that he and his regime find Horthy the savior of Hungary. Until now it was only Jobbik that wanted to “rehabilitate” Horthy. Every November 16 Jobbik celebrates the anniversary of Horthy’s entrance into Budapest in 1919. Perhaps from here on it can be Viktor Orbán who leads the white horse, an animal closely associated with the governor, along Béla Bartók Road, which bore the name of Horthy before 1945.

Jobbik scored again. Orbán, it seems, accepted another demand of Jobbik: the rehabilitation of Admiral Horthy.