Tag Archives: Csaba Lukács

Demokratikus Koalíció moves into a “new phase” of its electoral campaign

Ferenc Gyurcsány, president of the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), announced a “new phase” in the party’s 2018 election campaign. DK activists will collect signatures of people who agree with DK’s resolute opposition to the right of dual citizens who have never lived in Hungary to vote in Hungarian national elections. DK has been relentless in its opposition to the 2011 law, which it opposes on the grounds that only those people should vote who will directly bear the consequences of their decision.

Let’s make clear at the very beginning that no DK politician seriously thinks that this signature drive can have any impact on the current law. Instead, it was designed to serve political purposes. First, the signature drive allows the party to be visible. It will certainly give the party more exposure than the party’s forums, where a hundred or so people gather, most of whom are already DK sympathizers. Second, a signature drive will add tens of thousands of signatures and addresses to the party’s database. And third, it distinguishes DK from the other left-of-center parties that all believe that opposing the voting rights of non-resident Hungarian citizens is far too risky. It would alienate those Hungarians who live in Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine. And the government parties will call them traitors to the national unification efforts launched by Fidesz in 2010.

Surely, Gyurcsány must have known the kind of abuse he would get from abroad as well as from Fidesz and, to some extent, from Jobbik. Yet he decided that the advantages of such a signature drive far outweigh its disadvantages. In 2014, 95% of votes from the neighboring countries were cast in favor of Fidesz and perhaps 2% for the left-of-center parties, which in the eyes of the very conservative Hungarian voters in the neighboring countries are already considered to be traitors to the national cause. On the other hand, DK might endear itself to the overwhelming majority of Hungarian voters who strongly oppose voting rights for dual Hungarian citizens.

In August of this year Publicus Intézet published a comprehensive poll on the attitudes of resident Hungarian citizens toward the rights of Hungarians living outside the current borders of Hungary. The results cannot be clearer. While 68% of Hungarians think there is nothing wrong with granting citizenship to members of the Hungarian minorities, they have grave objections to granting them voting rights. When it was pointed out to the respondents that these people don’t pay taxes yet they are allowed to vote, only 18% of the population was in favor of granting voting rights to them. Of course, Fidesz voters were more enthusiastic than those of the other parties, including Jobbik, but still 50% of them objected to what they consider a “free ride.” Thus, gathering signatures will probably not be very difficult.

Some analysts consider the signature drive a very clever political move. Among them are Dániel Mikecz of the Republikon Intézet and, to my great surprise, Zoltán Ceglédi, a political scientist who is normally highly critical of Gyurcsány. The former is certain that this “radical” move will mobilize not only DK voters but sympathizers of MSZP as well. Gyurcsány will be fiercely attacked by Fidesz, but he is already hardened on that score. The issue can distinguish DK from the other left-of-center parties with an easily recognizable and strong political profile. It may allow DK to call attention to the real danger of a two-thirds majority with the help of votes coming from abroad. In 2014, 130,000 foreign votes gave the one extra seat in parliament that was necessary for Fidesz to achieve the much desired two-thirds majority. At that time, only half a million new citizens had been added to the voter rolls, but by now the number is close to one million. So, it can easily happen that the Fidesz parliamentary faction will gain two or three extra seast as a result of the vote coming mainly from mostly Transylvania.

Voting in Transylvania / MTI / Photo: Nándor Veres

The government is doing its best to make sure that the foreign vote will be large. A special commissioner was appointed whose single task is the organization of the election abroad. This is in addition to another commissioner who makes sure that as many individuals ask for citizenship as possible. Mikecz reminds his readers of the infamous speech of István Mikola in 2006 when he was Fidesz’s candidate to become deputy prime minster. He said that “if we can win now for four years, then we will give citizenship to five million Hungarians, and when they can vote, we will be set for twenty years.” And since, according to many analysts, the best the left-of-center opposition can achieve in 2018 is to prevent a huge, supermajority Fidesz win, a campaign against the voting rights of dual citizens can keep the issue alive.

Zoltán Ceglédi is no friend of Ferenc Gyurcsány, but now he defends him because the other seven parties came forth under the banner of Márton Gulyás’s Közös Ország (Common Country) with a proposed electoral law that would give extra two mandates to the dual citizens outright, regardless of the number of votes. Momentum and Együtt went so far as to propose the creation of two extra districts, which would allow the voters in the neighboring countries to vote not only for party lists but also for local candidates. Given the strength of Fidesz domestically, the prospect of two or three seats coming from abroad should be truly frightening to the opposition.

Zsolt Semjén, whose chief job is to gather new citizens and new voters, is working assiduously. Viktor Orbán has already sent off a letter to all new dual citizens. An incredible amount of money is being spent abroad, for which the Hungarian government “is asking for and getting votes.” According to Ceglédi, “one mustn’t be mum about this.” Ceglédi believes that the opposition is doing Orbán a favor when it supports this idea under the false notion of “a common country” with people who have never set foot in Hungary and who “just mail their votes for Viktor Orbán.”

On the other side, Csaba Lukács, a journalist for Magyar Nemzet and a native of the Szekler district in Transylvania, is certain that Gyurcsány’s campaign is good only for Fidesz. He is sure that Hungarians living in the neighboring countries will be even more determined to vote after DK’s campaign. In his opinion, Gyurcsány is discrediting the entire left. His only goal is get a few more votes in order to squeeze his party into parliament. In Lukács’s opinion, the votes coming from abroad are neither here nor there. First of all, these people have only “half a vote” because they can vote only for the party list, not having districts of their own. And one seat out of 199 is nothing to make a fuss about. What Lukács forgets to mention is that “this one measly seat” gave Fidesz a two-thirds majority in 2014.

Another Transylvanian, Miklós Gáspár Tamás, TGM as he is known in Hungary, is convinced that Gyurcsány is a “bad politician,” as he has proved again and again. He admits that “it is somewhat unusual that people who have never lived in a country and have no intention of moving there and pay no taxes” can vote, but just because something is unusual does not necessarily make it incorrect, unreasonable, or illegal. “To reject these compatriots of ours just because they are partial to one particular Hungarian party is selfish and petty.” Gyurcsány “foments hatred … ignores or belittles the Hungarian nationalities in the successor states, which is intolerable. His madness and provocations are distasteful.”

So, that’s where we stand. We will see whether Gyurcsány is “a genius,” as the political scientist Gábor Török called him a few days ago, or a really bad politician whose latest move was most likely celebrated in Fidesz circles, as Csaba Lukács and TGM claim.

November 3, 2017

The tragedy in France and Viktor Orbán’s political agenda against immigration

In August 2014 Viktor Orbán was still riding high on the wave of his infamous speech about the superiority of an illiberal state. Hungarian ambassadors had gathered in Budapest, as they do every year in late summer, to listen to a speech by the prime minister in which he outlined the main objectives of Hungarian foreign policy. To a question on the Hungarian attitude toward immigration, Orbán repeated parts of an earlier speech he delivered in Ypres, Belgium, at the European Union prime ministers’ summit. On immigration, he said, Hungary has “hard and fast policies.” It is a topic on which the difference between liberal and illiberal states is clear-cut. Hungary in no way supports immigration, and he himself does not believe in the value of a multicultural society. On the contrary, he is in favor of an ethnically homogeneous nation-state.

In Ypres he wanted to include in the EU leaders’ joint statement a sentence to the effect that immigration is wrong and that Europe’s aim is to stop immigration. In this he didn’t succeed, but at least he can make sure that “Hungary remains a nation-state speaking the same language and having Christianity as its religious cornerstone.” Later in November during his visit to Korea he returned to the subject when he again expressed his opposition to immigration, lashing out at “political correctness” and calling the issue “a forbidden topic.”

In light of Viktor Orbán’s attitude toward ethnic and religious diversity, it was not hard to predict what the prime minister’s reaction would be to the tragedy in Paris. In his Friday morning “interview” the topic naturally came up. That his anti-immigration sentiments would surface no one doubted, but what enraged some people was that he felt compelled to include a not too subtle reference to his anti-immigration stance while the search for the terrorists was still under way. He couched his message in these terms: “For the time being it is not worth speaking in the voice of reason, it is still time for mourning,” as Hungary Today reportedWhat the official propaganda site did not mention was that during the course of the interview Orbán announced that “Hungary must be defended against an influx of immigrants.” Well, this is a position that will resonate well with the majority of Hungarians who are, as is well known, the most xenophobic people in Europe.

Viktor Orbán will undoubtedly do his best to influence EU policy on immigration, but I somehow doubt that he will succeed in convincing Brussels to send refugees coming from Africa and the Middle East back home.

immigrants

Hungarian journalists whose colleagues were murdered in France are split on the issue. Right-wingers and some religious leaders seem to lay the blame on the journalists at Charlie Hebdo who “provoked” the followers of Islam. They would like to see a European response that takes into consideration Islamic sensitivities. On the liberal side, commentators consider the attack on the editorial offices of the satirical weekly an attack on the freedom of the press. They consider the right’s point of view “appeasement,” which would only lead to further demands by the Islamic terrorists.

Of the two right-wing dailies, only Magyar Nemzet decided to write editorials on the French terror attack. Csaba Lukács, who closely follows the lead of Viktor Orbán, wrote the first. Yes, it was an unacceptable, barbaric act. But once we recover from the shock it is necessary to talk about “the question of immigration.” Because of mass immigration, “we [Europeans] are no longer the same, we have fewer and fewer values in common…. There are unbridgeable differences between religions and cultures which we must recognize.” Lukács seems to think that terrorism is somehow tied to a different religious experience. While a secularized Christian just shrugs his shoulders when he encounters an anti-religious cartoon, “a radical Islamist picks up his Kalashnikov.” The staff of Charlie Hebdo “provoked” these people. Nobody should be surprised at what happened because, after all, “for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”

Lukács’s colleague, Zsuzsanna Körmendy, goes even further. She would like to see some statistics about how many family members of the assailants “have been killed by the democracy express of one of the western great powers going back all the way to 2001.” In plain English, all murders by Islamic terrorists from 9/11 on are the fault of the “democracy express.” Although she “feels sorry for the colleagues,” she finds it interesting that four of them were “decidedly old (68, 73, 76, and 80) who may have tasted the honey of ’68.” That is, they were ultra liberals. So, I guess, they deserved it.

The mention of 2001 is no coincidence. It was after 9/11 that István Csurka, chairman of MIÉP, an openly anti-Semitic party, and a member of parliament, rose in the House and delivered a speech in which he blamed the United States for what happened at the World Trade Center in September 2001. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was in the chamber and said nothing. George W. Bush never forgave his silence, and Orbán has been persona non grata in the White House ever since.

Heti Válasz‘s Szilárd Szőnyi is of the opinion that “we should not publish cartoons which are repugnant not only to these beasts but to all decent men.” Another commentator thinks that Arabs and black Africans have an entirely different temperament from Europeans. They are aggressive, they don’t value human life, they are primitive. They live in a tribal society whose “laws are strict.” I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that they murder a few people in cold blood, presumably acting in accordance with strict tribal laws.

Finally, let me quote a university professor, György Nógrádi, who is always introduced as a “national security expert.” I consider him a buffoon. His take on immigration: “It is absolutely ridiculous. They come here when we don’t need them. They come here on ships whose crew escaped. The boat floats until we save them. But it occurs to no one to take them back where they came from. If they come from a country where there is civil war that is something else. But most of them come from Africa to escape hunger.” No comment.

I was happy to hear that according to János Hajdú, head of TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ) and formerly Viktor Orbán’s personal bodyguard, there is no terror threat in Hungary. However, I’m sure that the Orbán government will reap great political benefits from the tragedy in France. The propaganda against immigration has already begun. The Hungarian prime minister did not even wait for the burial of the victims.

Magyar Nemzet and the Orbán government: A falling out?

While we were analyzing the relevant sentences in Viktor Orbán’s speech of July 26 in Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tuşnad an interesting exchange was taking place between Magyar Nemzet and the very government which this newspaper until now at least loyally served. The first spat between former friends occurred when the government contemplated levying extra taxes on companies which had received the bulk of government orders paid with funds from the European Union. Magyar Nemzet also expressed its disapproval of advertisement taxes on the media. In order to understand the reason for these indignant editorials one must understand that the company behind Magyar Nemzet is part of a complicated labyrinth of firms belonging to Lajos Simicska and his close business partner, Zsolt Nyerges.

These rumblings in Magyar Nemzet have only intensified since Orbán’s infamous speech. The editors of the paper, most likely encouraged by the owners, seem to have had enough of the boorish and aggressive behavior of people surrounding Viktor Orbán. Csaba Lukács received the job of writing an article about Viktor Orbán’s speech which created such turmoil all over the world. Of course, Lukács’s article was duly appreciative of the great thoughts of the prime minister. And he suggested that the opposition’s fierce attack on the speech was unwarranted because, after all, Orbán “only dared to state that the liberal organization of the state administration had failed and instead one must find something else.” As we know, he said more than that, but one can’t expect a journalist of Magyar Nemzet to expose the truly dark side of the speech.

At the end of the article, however, Lukács added a paragraph that had nothing to do with the weighty political matters discussed in Tusnádfürdő. Lukács, a Transylvanian native who moved to Hungary shortly after the regime change, noted with dismay that “the number of people around  the prime minister who are quite servile toward him but who show stupid aggressiveness toward everybody else has multiplied at a frightening speed lately. A typical example of the type is the press secretary of the prime minister who physically attacked our cameraman while he should help the work of the journalists. We would like to note: neither boorishness and aggressiveness, nor even panting servility, is a civic [polgári], Christian conservative virtue.” Well, that is a daring act in today’s Hungary.

Press Secretary Bertalan Havasi didn’t leave this paragraph unanswered. He accused the journalist of Magyar Nemzet of lying, pure and simple. He claimed that he was standing with his back to the cameramen and therefore couldn’t possibly have attacked them physically. In fact, he was the one who received verbal abuse from them.

Magyar Nemzet didn’t back down; instead, it provided the gory details of the encounter. In the newspaper’s version Havasi punched the cameraman of Magyar Nemzet in the stomach. As a result he lost his balance and fell on another cameraman, who also lost his balance with his own camera hitting him on the head. When the cameraman told Havasi that “you shouldn’t do that,” Havasi asked: “And then what will happen?” At which point the cameraman told him off by using an obscene word. I might add that Magyar Nemzet’s cameraman ended up in the hospital.

Bertalan Havasi is a constant companion of Viktor Orbán / Photo MTI

Bertalan Havasi is a constant companion of Viktor Orbán / Photo MTI

Opposition papers had great fun watching this exchange of words between the normally servile Magyar Nemzet and the almighty Bertalan Havasi. I’m sure that they were sorry that the cameraman didn’t hit the press secretary, as he threatened, because this is not the first time that Havasi has behaved in an unacceptable manner. In fact, the pro-government publication Válasz also noted that “Bertalan Havasi has gotten into altercations with several members of the press corps before.” Válasz seconded the opinion of Csaba Lukács that Havasi is “aggressive and arrogant and his behavior is unworthy of a public servant.”

Of course, Válasz is quite right, but Havasi’s reaction  “And then what will happen?” is typical not only of  him but of the whole regime. And the reaction is understandable, even justified, since there are no limits to the power of the prime minister and the people serving him.

I have already written about the troubles Orbán’s only new minister, Miklós Seszták, is encountering. The media discovered that as a lawyer Seszták was involved in some highly questionable business transactions. Since that post in Hungarian Spectrum some more dirty business dealings were unearthed, of which perhaps the most serious is a 30 million forint EU grant for Seszták’s car dealership. Of course, he himself did not apply for the money; an old high school friend came to the rescue. He spent the 30 million adding new offices to the already existing building of the dealership. In addition, Seszták seems to own some businesses registered in Cyprus, considered in Hungary to be offshore since Cyprus is a favorite haven for Hungarian tax evaders.

Enter Magyar Nemzet again. This time one of the three deputy editors-in-chief, Péter Csermely, wrote an editorial (vezércikk) with the title: “The minister should step aside.” Csermely didn’t mince words; he said that Seszták is unfit for the job of minister of national development. Or for any kind of high political position. After the appearance of this editorial, cink.hu quipped that “Magyar Nemzet became the printed version of the RTL Klub” which since the introduction of the advertisement levy makes sure that their news broadcast always contains some less than savory affair of either Viktor Orbán or some of his close associates.

And what was the reaction to Magyar Nemzet’s demand for Seszták’s resignation? Exactly the same as Havasi’s was in Tusnádfürdő: “And then what?” Nothing! Seszták has no intention of resigning because he obviously can count on Viktor Orbán’s support. And that is enough in Hungary not to worry about any repercussions of illegal activities.

For one reason or other Seszták seems to be a pivotal man in the new administration. So far he has focused on cleaning house, getting rid of about 200 employees in the ministry. What course the newly staffed ministry of national development will take is unclear, but Orbán obviously decided that the old guard had to go.

Since it is extremely difficult to get any information about Viktor Orbán’s inner circle, Hungarian journalists are just guessing about the reasons for Magyar Nemzet‘s new tone. One of the most commonly held views is that there has been a falling out between Viktor Orbán and Lajos Simicska, the paper’s owner. The prime minister wants to curb Simicska’s influence in the Hungarian economy and through it on Hungarian politics. Something is certainly afoot, but I guess it will take some time before we can uncover the real reasons for the exchange of words between Magyar Nemzet and the Orbán government.