Tag Archives: Ágoston Sámuel Mráz

Who is the real winner of the Austrian election? Perhaps not Viktor Orbán, after all

On October 16, 2017, Hungarian government propaganda papers were ecstatic. It looked almost certain that the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP), led by the young Sebastian Kurz, would emerge as the strongest party after the national election. The Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) finished second, only slightly ahead of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), but most people expected Kurz to turn to Heinz-Christian Strache’s FPÖ to form a government. And indeed, four days later, coalition talks began between ÖVP and FPÖ.

The pro-government Origo exclaimed, as soon as Kurz’s victory seemed assured, that “Viktor Orbán also won in the Austrian election.” The paper quoted Russia Today, which predicted an even deeper division within the European Union with Kurz’s victory. The position of Berlin and Paris, it said, will be weakened when Austria joins the Visegrád 4 countries in opposition to open borders, which in turn will lessen the likelihood of a federalist solution in the near future.

Right-wing analysts like Ágoston Sámuel Mráz echoed Russia Today, adding that, although Austria is unlikely to join the Visegrád 4, with Kurz’s election “the Central European concept will be strengthened.” As he put it, in Austria “Sebastian Kurz was victorious, but it was Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who won.”

After the announcement of the conclusion of successful coalition negotiations on December 18, there was general optimism concerning closer relations between Austria and Hungary under the leadership of a government without the socialists. Austrian pundits made all sorts of predictions about cooperation, especially on matters of immigration. Hungarian government experts emphasized with satisfaction that ÖVP, as far as the refugees are concerned, had adopted FPÖ’s more radical approach. They noted, however, most likely with some regret, that the coalition agreement contains a reference to Austria as an integral part of the European Union. 888.hu was especially happy about the large presence of FPÖ in the coalition and published an article on Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl (FPÖ), who considers Viktor Orbán a prophet and a model for Austrian politicians to emulate.

It is not at all clear at the moment how close a relationship Sebastian Kurz wants to maintain with the Visegrád 4, especially after he warned against “overinterpreting things.” As he put it, “there are measures and initiatives where we have goodwill in western European countries … [and] there are others where we will perhaps get applause from the Visegrad countries, and still others where we agree with all other 27 EU member states.” Híradó, the official Hungarian government news outlet, put it even more bluntly when it reported that “Sebastian Kurz rejected speculation that Austria would draw closer to the V4 countries as opposed to its Western European allies.” Kurz announced that he is planning to visit Paris and Berlin in the coming weeks, stressing that Germany is Austria’s biggest neighbor and most important economic partner. In brief, it is unlikely that Viktor Orbán can rely on Kurz in his anti-Merkel moves.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache at the cabinet meeting in Seggau / Source: Der Standard

I found the comments that the new Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, made a couple of days ago amusing. He announced that the Visegrád 4 countries must convince Brussels that the refugee quotas are senseless, and he “has a clear plan how to fight against the quotas and find new allies.” In the next few weeks he is planning to visit the Bulgarian prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker. He is also going to Davos, where he will meet the Austrian chancellor. That is his plan. If the neophyte Czech prime minister thinks that a couple of private chats will change the solid opposition to the Polish, Czech, and Hungarian refusal to abide by EU rules, he still has much to learn.

I don’t think that Viktor Orbán ever seriously believed that Austria would be part of the Visegrád 4 any time in the future, but I suspect that he didn’t anticipate a potential source of friction between the two governments only a few days after the formation of Kurz’s government. After the first cabinet meeting, Kurz and Strache announced that the Austrian government will reduce the amount of child support for children of “guest workers” whose families remain behind. In 2016, the Austrian government paid 273 million euros for 132,000 children living outside of the country. Hungary and Slovakia received the largest amounts of money: Hungary 80 million and Slovakia 63 million.

This move is part of a broader Austrian government agenda that includes cutting taxes, reducing benefits for refugees, and restricting new immigrants’ access to many social services for five years. Or, as Péter Techet wrote in a thought-provoking article on Austria, this government wants to end the Austrian welfare state as it currently exists.

Discriminating between EU citizens is illegal according to the EU Constitution. Yet Kurz seems confident that his government won’t violate EU laws by reducing family allowances. At least this is the opinion of the party’s expert, who argued that the size of the benefit should be determined by the purchasing power of the country of the child’s residence. It is ridiculous, he said, that a Romanian family with two children receives €300, which is the equivalent of an average salary in Romania. However, it may not be as simple as the Austrian labor lawyer thinks. Jean Claude Juncker’s deputy chief spokeswoman already issued a warning that the European Commission is closely monitoring the situation, and I wouldn’t be too sanguine about Austrian success in this matter. Earlier such attempts by Germany to discriminate against so-called foreigners were squashed.

In an ironic twist, Orbán, who fights so valiantly for the rights of Hungarians in the United Kingdom, may have to turn to the hated Brussels for protection against the Austrian government he greeted with such enthusiasm.

January 8, 2018

Viktor Orbán and Charles De Gaulle: The dwarf and the giant

Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, a “political scientist” known for his unwavering loyalty to Viktor Orbán, published an analysis of the prime minister’s speech in Tasnádfürdő/Băile Tușnad. Most commentators found Orbán’s performance there of little interest because this time he was very careful not to repeat the kind of mistake he made a year earlier when international reaction to his “illiberal” speech was extremely negative. Mráz, on the other hand, discovered great, not-so-hidden meanings in Orbán’s latest speech. According to Mráz, Orbán’s speech offers “a right-wing alternative” to the current ideas of the left concerning the future of Europe. Surely, after this speech no one can accuse the Hungarian prime minister of being anti-European Union. By calling for vigorous defense of “European culture” and “European nations,” he outlined the essence of a future European policy: “A strong Union” and the “defense of national sovereignty.” This policy, Mráz added, bears a strong resemblance to Charles De Gaulle’s vision of Europe. “De Gaulle is the model,” “Orbán is the new De Gaulle.”

To read all this into the speech is an exercise in fantasy because, although it is true that Orbán made a fleeting reference to Gaullism when he said that “looking at our continent from this perspective, we Hungarians are Europe’s Gaullists,” it is far-fetched to assume that Orbán was offering “a right-wing alternative” in any shape or form to current thinking on the future of the Union. Most of this, I’m afraid, is only in Mráz’s imagination.

Every time that Fidesz loyalists compare their idol to a politician who is considered to be a truly important historical figure, as Charles De Gaulle certainly was, critics have a field day. Even the more moderate right, Ákos Balogh of Mandiner for example, found the comparison “a strong and tasteless exaggeration.” A more detailed analysis by Péter Techet accused Mráz of misunderstanding Gaullism and suggested a better comparison: Napoleon III, who “relying on the majority destroyed the parliamentary republic in order to introduce a plebeian dictatorship.” Or a comparison to Mussolini, whose”vision” was limited to holding on to power at any cost, would have been more apt.

It wasn’t only Mráz who noticed the sentence in which Viktor Orbán uttered De Gaulle’s name. Attila Seres, a journalist who wrote an op/ed piece in Népszabadság a few days after the speech was delivered, was also struck by the phrase, but his reaction was very different from that of Mráz. Seres noted that in Orbán’s speeches the turn of phrase “we Hungarians” usually means “I, Viktor Orbán,” and therefore the comparison is really between himself and Charles De Gaulle. The first thought that popped into Seres’s head was a comparison between a mouse and an elephant. De Gaulle was certainly a French nationalist with a huge ego who at times made the other members of the European Union miserable, but he had great faith in a “Europe from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ural Mountains which will determine the future of the world.” Compare that, said Seres, to Viktor Orbán’s description of Europe. De Gaulle also kept equal distance from the United States and the Soviet Union. Compare that to Orbán’s foreign policy toward Russia.

mouse and elephant

Tibor Várkonyi, the grand old man of Hungarian journalism and a lover of everything French, was naturally outraged at the very idea of comparing Orbán, “a political manipulator,” to De Gaulle, the creator of the Fifth Republic. Viktor Orbán is only trying to appropriate sole responsibility for the Hungarian Third Republic. De Gaulle was the real creator of a new order. The title of his piece is “Őrmester úr” (Monsieur le caporal), who is being compared by Mráz to the general.

Ildikó Lendvai, former chairman of MSZP and nowadays a witty commentator on the political scene, in addition to the usual objections to a comparison between the two men, also called attention to the fact that “De Gaulle during his political career did not increase his wealth…. After his resignation he didn’t accept benefits he was entitled to as president and as general. He lived modestly and the family eventually was forced to sell his estate where no football stations or train tracks were built.”

The funny thing is that it looks as if most people seem to have forgotten that this is not the first time that Viktor Orbán was compared to Charles De Gaulle in the media. It was in April 2013 that Yves-Michel Riols, a highly respected French journalist, wrote an article in Le Monde titled “La posture gaullienne de Viktor Orban.” According to Riols, “all the ingredients of Gaullism are present [in Orbán’s career], including resistance to occupiers, triumphant return to power, and ambition to break with the discredited old order.”

This admiring article was not left unanswered. A few days later an article appeared in Causeur titled “Viktor Orbán, un nouveau De Gaulle? Un nain face à un géant.” Not nice: a dwarf facing a giant in a moral sense, according to the author. In his opinion, De Gaulle must be turning over in his grave. The obviously left-leaning anonymous author lists a host of Orbán’s sins, from the rehabilitation of Admiral Horthy to the introduction of a flat tax that is hard on the poorer strata of society. Orbán, unlike De Gaulle, does not respect the rule of law. In brief, the comparison is outrageous.

Soon enough letters to the editor written by outraged readers appeared in Le Monde itself. There were letters in which Orbán was compared to Ceausescu. Others simply called him an autocrat. One letter described him as a right-wing Chavez in the middle of Europe. A Frenchman who wrote from Hungary, where he had been living for years, said that “as a Frenchman I’m ashamed of this article.”

Hungarian commentators were not really surprised about the appearance of Riols’ article. After all, Orbán called De Gaulle his model already in 2012 in Brussels after a session of the European Parliament that dealt with the Hungarian situation. So, I suspect that the original source of the comparison is Viktor Orbán himself. We have always known that he is a very humble man. After all, he himself told us so.

MSZP’s campaign kickoff: Mesterházy in the limelight

As promised, I am returning to the large socialist gathering in the László Papp Sport Arena where, according to those who were present, all seats were filled. What you have to keep in mind is that most of the attendees are the core of the MSZP activists. Their job is to organize the campaign on the local level. My friends who attended the gathering were duly impressed by MSZP’s ability to mobilize so many people. They were struck by the enthusiasm and determination that seemed to have gripped these activists.

The people who reported to me about their impressions are not MSZP activists. They are members of a small group of outsiders who were invited because of their political roles in earlier times. Therefore, their  enthusiasm reflects a genuine satisfaction with Attila Mesterházy’s performance and MSZP’s organizational ability. They considered the event “professional.” From what I saw of it on video, I detected a lot of American influence. Although some reporters made fun of the “log cabin” video introducing Attila Mesterházy, I thought that it was well done and most likely effective. After all, people know relatively little about him.

According to one of my eyewitnesses, the introductory speeches covered practically all the topics. He was worried that Mesterházy would not be able to add much to them. He didn’t have to fear. Although Mesterházy’s speech was a little too long, it was well structured. First, he gave a succinct assessment of the last four years in which he covered all the major topics dealing with the workings of the mafia state. Second, he outlined his ideas about the future after the election. It was practically an outline of a government program which first and foremost will concentrate on strengthening the trust of foreign politicians and investors in the new Hungarian government. He promised to stop the kind of legislative practice that was introduced by the Orbán government. He pledged a more just social policy, a better quality of life, strengthening the middle classes, and greater mobility. The basis on which all of that can be achieved is a sound educational policy. Last but not least he talked about the need for the restoration of the rule of law. He added that some people don’t seem to realize the importance of a democratic state, but without a strong democratic structure there cannot be real freedom and real prosperity.

Source: news.yahoo.com

Source: news.yahoo.com

Mesterházy promised to take strong action against extremists and extremism, and he insisted that all the illegal and shady affairs of the Orbán government will be investigated and persons found guilty will be punished.

At the end of the speech Mesterházy walked over to Gordon Bajnai, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gábor Fodor and shook hands with them. At this point came a standing ovation which showed, in my opinion, that it wasn’t only DK supporters who demanded joint action on October 23 but MSZP followers as well. Another sign of satisfaction with the new unity was the enthusiastic reception Gábor Kuncze received. All in all, it seems that supporters have no problem with the new coalition.

But now let’s look at how some reporters saw the event. András Pethő of Origo noted that until now only Fidesz called the MSZP politicians communists, but now MSZP leaders are returning the favor. For example, Mesterházy referred to Viktor Orbán as Bolseviktor. Actually, the communist label fits Fidesz better than it does the socialists. Hungarian socialists are not the ones who nationalize everything in sight. He also noticed that in Mesterházy’s MSZP there are entirely new faces and the great old ones were no longer sitting in the front row. On the other hand, Origo’s reporter found Mesterházy’s speech old-fashioned and far too long. Index‘s reporter was still preoccupied with Gyurcsány’s role in the campaign. He kept asking the participants to guess how many votes he will bring and how many people he will deter. Otherwise, the reporter for some strange reason decided that “Mesterházy’s weapon against Orbán will be Paks.”

The relatively new Internet site, 444.hu, was its usual flippant self. It started its coverage with: “Someone should think twice before voting for Attila Mesterházy because if he becomes the prime minister, his ‘state of the country’ speeches will be very long. This is the most important message of MSZP’s meeting Saturday.” And what follows was no better. The whole article is depressing with its supercilious and, let’s face it, stupid remarks. And then some people are surprised that the Hungarian public is full of cynical characters for whom nothing is important or sacred.

The assessment I enjoyed most was that of Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, director of Nézőpont Institute, which is an indirectly Fidesz financed think tank and polling company. He tried to be “scientific” and talked about Mesterházy’s “tactical mistakes.” One of them was that he invited Zoran Milanović, the social democratic prime minister of Croatia, to attend and to speak at the meeting. After all, Croatia has its differences with Zsolt Hernádi, CEO of MOL, who is being sought by Croatian prosecutors on bribery charges. According to Mráz, Hungarian public opinion is solidly behind Hernádi and therefore inviting Milanović was a mistake.

According to Mráz, Mesterházy should be more cautious and shouldn’t talk so openly about himself as the next prime minister of Hungary. He should be more modest because, if he loses the election, he will be responsible for the defeat. Mráz finds Mesterházy’s claim that the socialist government’s economic affairs were in order in the spring of 2010 “incomprehensible.” With this statement Mesterházy “included himself among the failed left-wing politicians.”

While one of my sources specifically mentioned all the friendly gestures Mesterházy made toward Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gábor Fodor, Mráz, following some of the reporters’ mistaken information, claims that Mesterházy never mentioned Gyurcsány’s name and “looked through him.” Clearly, these media servants of Fidesz are trying to sow dissent in the newly unified opposition, but I don’t think that they will succeed. Only yesterday Ferenc Gyurcsány advised his fellow politicians not to react to every accusation Fidesz comes up with. The best thing is ignore them. Mráz closed his analysis with these words: “Mesterházy with the campaign opening that was designed for him risked a lot. His predecessors, who may well be his successors, acknowledged all that with visibly mixed feelings.”

A friend of mine told me that he thinks most people underestimate Mesterházy’s political acumen. Let’s hope he is right.

The growing influence of the Catholic Church in Hungary

A few days ago I wrote about Ágoston Sámuel Mráz’s Nézőpont Intézet which, among other things,  tries to refute foreign newspapers’ descriptions of Hungary under Viktor Orbán. I mentioned that Nézőpont really takes offense if someone accuses the Hungarian government of trying to rehabilitate the Horthy regime. Well, I wonder what will happen if one of these antagonistic foreign journalists finds out what Sándor Lezsák, one of the deputy speakers of the House, had to say in Kenderes on the twentieth anniversary of the reburial of Miklós Horthy. Lezsák expressed his wish that a new research institute be established in Kenderes in which all the documentation relating to the Horthy family would be gathered and where young historians could become acquainted with the true history of the Horthy regime.

The rehabilitation of the Horthy regime goes on in practically all facets of life. For example, what’s going on in the field of education is also reminiscent of the pre-1945-46 period when the overwhelming majority of schools, especially gymnasiums, were in the hands of the churches. There were some Hungarian Reformed and Lutheran schools but not too many for the simple reason that these churches were not as rich as the Hungarian Catholic Church. It could easily happen that even in a larger provincial city children wanting to attend gymnasium had to enroll in the Catholic school because there was no public school in town. It seems that, if it depended on Rózsa Hoffmann, very soon a similar situation will occur in “Christian” Hungary.

Rózsa Hoffmann wasn’t always that devoted to the service of God and the Catholic Church, but sometime after the regime change she saw the light. Nowadays she acts as the instrument of the Hungarian Catholic Church, her goal being “to educate more and  more children in the Christian faith.” Therefore we shouldn’t be surprised that the pious undersecretary for public education gave one of her many speeches marking the beginning of the new school year in the Basilica of Eger. I wouldn’t be surprised if soon enough all public school children were herded into one of the nearby Catholic churches for Veni Sancte as I was in grade one. Quite an experience for someone who hadn’t seen the inside of a church, any church, until then.

medieval school

Hoffmann is working assiduously to achieve this goal. She was rapturous over the growing number of parochial schools and expressed her hope that soon enough Christian education will begin in kindergarten. It’s never too early to start, and since all children from here on must attend kindergarten from the age of three we can be sure that if the government decides on universal Christian education it will be done. After all, the school system is totally centralized. In fact, terribly overcentralized. While she was at it, Hoffmann proudly announced that 52% of first graders opted for religion over ethics. It is now compulsory to take one or the other.

Many Hungarians are a great deal less enthusiastic about this transformation of secular public education, especially since Hoffmann’s missionary work is being paid for by the Hungarian taxpayers who are not necessarily Christians, or even believers. Because one cannot emphasize enough that this expansion of the parochial school system is financed exclusively by the central budget. At least in the Horthy regime the Catholic Church and parents footed the bill.  A somewhat radical critique of the Orbán government’s support of the Catholic Church can be found on one of the well known Hungarian blogs, Gépnarancs, whose name is a take-off on Fidesz’s official color, orange, and Lajos Simicska’s Közgép, considered to be the financial lynch pin of the Orbán system.

It is not only the Catholic Church that has been acquiring schools. Just lately I read about three schools that had been taken over by Kolping International, a lay organization whose members allegedly “participate in a socially just transformation of society.” The organization is named after a nineteenth-century German Catholic priest Adolph Kolping. Kolping International has over 400,000 members. One these new Kolping schools is an elementary school in Pócspetri. Another is opening in Szászberek where even the school’s new name gives it away. It is called Szászbereki Kolping Katolikus Általános Iskola.  And naturally Rózsa Hoffmann was on hand in Csurgó where the Kolping Foundation will run a high school for 600 students. I guess it was time to open a Catholic school in Csurgó because there is already a Hungarian Reformed high school in town. Here Hoffmann lectured about the “morality” that had been cast aside. She promised that the new Hungarian school system will make sure that Hungarian children will return to the world of morality because “one must not live without values.” I agree in principle, but what kinds of values is Hoffmann talking about?

After Hoffmann visited several Catholic parochial schools it was time to go to a Hungarian Reformed school, the famous Debreceni Református Kollégium established in 1538. After all, Hoffmann’s boss, Zoltán Balog, is a Hungarian Reformed minister whose son happens to be a student there. Given the government’s political grip on education, it was not amusing to hear Balog ask the teachers not to allow politics to infiltrate the schools. It was also somewhat ironic to hear within the walls of a parochial school that “the government believes in public education.” But I guess if parochial schools are being funded by the public, they by default become public schools.

Rózsa Hoffmann spent most of her time defending the complete reorganization of the Hungarian school system. I was astonished to hear that this school year is the 1018th in the history of the nation. It seems that Ms. Hoffmann believes that the first “school” in Hungary was established in 995. A brave assumption. What I know is that it was in this year that Saint Adalbert of Prague arrived in Hungary to begin his missionary work. Otherwise, Hoffmann praised her own accomplishments, including personally appointing all new school principals. Such an arrangement “symbolizes greater respect for the principals than before.” Hoffmann also announced that it is “wise love (okos szeretet) [that] distinguishes [the Orbán government’s] pedagogical philosophy from others in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” “Wise love” will be taught in religion and ethics classes.

Of course, I have no idea what “wise love” is. I trust it is not “tough love.” What these kids will learn in religion or ethics classes I have no idea. I just hope more than we learned during compulsory religion classes before the communist takeover. Then it was tough love all right. The minister who taught us didn’t spare the rod; boys who misbehaved were caned.

Fact checking the foreign press in Hungary

A Hungarian friend called my attention to a relatively new Internet site, factcheck.hu, surely inspired by the American factcheck. org. But what a difference. While factcheck.org has headlines like “Obama overpromises premiums” or “Obama care by the numbers,” factcheck.hu targets the foreign press: “Baseless allegations by the Czech daily, SME,” “The article in Die Presse is not supported by facts,” Huffington Post is wrong when it claims that  “Fidesz rehabilitates the Horthy regime,” “The article of The Guardian is based on misinformation.”

The publisher of this vehemently pro-government site is the Nézőpont Intézet. I think I wrote about this think tank before, but it is worth repeating that nobody takes Nézőpont seriously. To say that Nézőpont (which by the way means “viewpont” in Hungarian) has a pro-Fidesz slant is a major understatement. Their monthly polls on the population’s political attitudes deviate so radically from the other four or five, including the pro-Fidesz Századvég, that they are derided by serious followers of Hungarian politics.

Naturally, the Orbán government is quite satisfied with the work of Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, the CEO of the Institute, and government orders have been pouring into Mráz’s  companies. Yes, plural because Nézőpont established a couple of separate companies, one of which is called Médianéző (Media Observer). Médianéző received a government contract for three years (from January 2012 to December 31, 2014) to provide the government with digests of domestic and foreign newspapers. The government will pay 30.3 million forints a month for these services–more than a billion forints in three years.

Ágoston Sámuel Mráz established another company called Kutatóközpont Kft. (Research Center), which received a contract to do market research for the state-owned Szerencsejáték Zrt. (Gambling/Lottery). In 2011 and in 2012 the state lottery paid out more than about 340 million forints for services rendered. Details on Mráz’s dealings with the government and the state-owned lottery can be read in 168 Óra and HVG.

Personally, I would question the wisdom of relying on the services of a company whose owner and employees are so committed to one side of the political spectrum. Will the morning summaries of the news items that reach all important government officials accurately reflect the contents of the original? Will the selection be impartial? Perhaps this doesn’t really matter because government officials pay no attention to Nézőpont’s news summaries anyway. The contract is most likely payment for the lopsided polls Nézőpont puts out month after month.

Even though these polls bear no resemblance to reality, every Hungarian newspaper reports on what Nézőpont has to say, so they serve some propagandistic purpose. Only yesterday “Fabius,” a well known blogger, recalled the time when all other polls reported that Fidesz had lost 1.5 million voters between April 2010 and January 2012 whereas Nézőpont claimed that  Fidesz had actually lost only 200,000 voters while the opposition parties lost 450,000!

Meme (Fideszfigyelő). On the left János Lázár, Fidesz politician and on the left two independent political scientists. Far right is Ágoston Sámuel Mráz. The audience came from one of the civic cells

Meme (Fideszfigyelő). On the left János Lázár, Fidesz politician, and on the right two “independent” political scientists of Nézőpont, including Ágoston Sámuel Mráz on the far right. The audience is made up of members of a civic cell.

But let’s go back to Mráz’s latest venture, factcheck.hu. On the webpage we are told that since Nézőpont has the job of serving as media providers for the government, they decided to start a site where they would point out to Hungarian speakers all the lies and distortions of the foreign press. This venture began in June. If the Hungarian government supports their efforts I must say they don’t get much for their money. In June I found eight instances where corrections were “needed” and in July again eight short articles appeared. So far in August there is a huge void, although I could certainly come up with several important English, French, and German opinion pieces and articles about Hungary during that period.

One article they highlight is John Feffer’s piece in The Huffington Post entitled “Hungary: The Cancer in the Middle of Europe?” Since I read the article when it came out in early June 2013, I was curious what Mráz and his fellow analysts found objectionable in it. The piece is not overly long, about the length of one of the posts on Hungarian Spectrum. Interestingly enough, they found only two objectionable sentences “[Fidesz] has begun rehabilitating the dictatorial regime of Admiral Horthy (whose signed picture Adolf Hitler kept on his desk as inspiration). The social agenda of Fidesz veers rightward as well, with its attempt to declare homelessness illegal.”

Here I will deal with only with the first sentence about the Horthy regime’s rehabilitation. So, let’s see how the sharp minds at Nézőpont tackle that horrible attack on the Orbán government. Here is the lead sentence: “The first assertion of the article is misleading because Fidesz never showed any manifestation of extremist tendencies.” Did Feffer say anything about Fidesz’s extremism? Did he even say that Horthy’s regime was extremist and therefore its rehabilitation leads to extremism? No, nothing of the sort. He simply said that the Orbán government began the rehabilitation of the dictatorial regime of Miklós Horthy. I would say that this assertion is correct. First, the rehabilitation efforts are obvious; just think of all the street name changes. And second, Hungary between the two world wars was no democracy; the electoral law that included open voting in the countryside ensured that “the government party” always won the elections. The kind of dictatorial setup Viktor Orbán himself advocated in his September 2009 speech in Kötcse about a “central power,” a regime without any serious opposition, as his ideal.

So, once the “political analysts”of Nézőpont started off on the wrong foot there was no way for them to prove that Feffer was mistaken. Instead, they talked about the Memorial Day for the Victims of the Holocaust that the first Orbán government introduced. They went on about all the wonderful pieces of legislation that ensure the safety of minorities. And naturally, Nézőpont mentioned the speech Viktor Orbán delivered at the World Jewish Congress in Budapest (which the readers of this blog know was not received with enthusiasm because it contained only generalities and didn’t outline any practical steps the government would take to stem the tide of growing antisemitism in the country). What does all this have to do with Feffer’s assertion about the rehabilitation of the Horthy regime? Clearly, nothing.

This was just one sentence that appeared in one publication. Can you imagine if one actually cataloged all the “refutations” Mráz and his friends would have to come up with? But perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult after all, because they seem to have pat answers that are copied from refutation to refutation. Here is, for example, the answer to an opinion piece in the French Libération which looks at the popularity of Le Front national. The author, Bernard Guetta, calls “the [French] situation just as grave as in Hungary” (la situation est tout aussi grave qu’en Hongrie).  What is Mráz’s answer? Practically the same as to Feffer’s article in the Huffington Post. “The Hungarian government never showed any extremist tendencies. On the contrary, it always actively stood up against extremism,” and here they repeat practically word for word what they wrote in “analyzing” the Feffer article. There was the World Jewish Congress, the Memorial Day for the Victims of the Holocaust, etc.

I should mention that Ágoston Sámuel Mráz was Tibor Navracsics’s political science student. It was Navracsics who called attention to this talented young man. What does this say about Tibor Navracsics or about Hungarian political scientists? At any event, I’m glad that the Orbán government and Fidesz are satisfied with Mráz’s job. And I’m sure Mráz is satisfied with his employers: they don’t demand much and they pay well.