Tag Archives: national consultation

“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

George Soros’s messages and the Hungarian government’s reactions

George Soros, simultaneously with releasing his rebuttal of the Hungarian national consultation on the alleged Soros Plan, gave an interview to Andrew Byrne of The Financial Times, in which he explained his decision to break his silence. He cannot remain quiet any longer because the Hungarian government about a month ago announced its intention to investigate the so-called Soros network. Under these circumstances, he felt he had to “set the record straight in order to defend these groups and individuals who are going to great lengths to defend European values against persecution.” At the same time he urged EU countries to raise their voices against “Orbán’s treatment of civil society and address fears over the rule of law in Hungary.”

“It is a tragedy for Hungary”

It is hard to know for sure whether this interview and rebuttal by George Soros came as a surprise to the Orbán government or not, but I suspect that it did. After all, the campaign against Soros has been going on for almost two years, yet Hungary’s benefactor hasn’t publicly criticized the Orbán government’s treatment of him and hasn’t come out in defense of the NGOs he has been supporting. During these two years he spoke out only once, thanking the 20,000-30,000 people who demonstrated on behalf of the beleaguered Central European University he founded. The devilish idea of a national consultation on the Soros Plan was born months ago, the questionnaires were sent to eight million voters more than a month ago, yet Soros said nothing. So, I assume Orbán believed that Soros would not engage verbally but would simply take all of the abuse showered on him and the employees of the civic organizations that have been the beneficiaries of his largesse.

A relatively new internet news site called Független Hírügynökség collected all the early responses to the rebuttal and the interview from pro-government sources and came to the conclusion that most of these slavish organs of government propaganda needed a few hours to recover from the shock. As is normally the case, these so-called journalists wait for the word from above. Once the government mantra is handed down, the “parrot commando” takes over. This time the magic phrase is “frontal attack.” It was Gergely Gulyás, the new Fidesz parliamentary whip, who got the assignment of sounding the trumpet. We can be assured that from this time on we will encounter the same phrase in all pro-government publications. According to Gulyás, George Soros until now has attacked Hungary and its government only “through organizations he finances, the European Parliament, and his Brussels allies,” but now he has personally joined the fight. He is attacking the government’s nationwide public survey, “making accusations, threats, and slanders.”

Gulyás, who has shed his gentlemanly demeanor since he became the Fidesz whip, wasn’t satisfied with criticizing Soros’s interview. Obviously he was told that he must announce that the investigation of the NGOs George Soros is worried about might be extended to Soros himself. Here is exactly what he said: “Civic organizations function freely in Hungary within a constitutional framework, but if there is an organized attempt at discrediting Hungary from abroad, this activity must be investigated.”

Let’s step back briefly to the Hungarian government’s “investigation” of the partially Soros-funded civic organizations. It was about a month ago that Viktor Orbán called these NGOs a threat to national security. Last week János Lázár announced that the government had asked Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, to report on the possible dangers these civic groups pose to Hungary. This afternoon Pintér was to report to the parliamentary committee on national security about these alleged dangers. Before the hearing took place, Magyar Idők published an editorial which hypothesized that George Soros had timed his attack on Hungary in order “to divert attention from Pintér’s report” and “ahead of time to discredit it.” That sounded like a plausible theory, but to the obvious chagrin of the Orbán government, Pintér was unable to come up with any national security threats these human rights organizations present to Hungary. According to information that reached Index.hu, Pintér sidestepped the question. Obviously, he cannot go against the government’s position, but at the same time professionally he couldn’t find any national security risks stemming from these organizations’ activities. He apparently simply repeated what he had told the media a few days ago: “I don’t know whether George Soros poses any danger, but ideas he promulgates do not conform to the Hungarian conceptions and to Hungarian law. An open society, a society without borders are not accepted at the moment. They are futuristic.”

Yes, Soros stood up and fought, not so much for himself as for the people who as human rights activists are being threatened by the regime. Once he broke his silence he decided to go all the way. When RTL Klub asked for an interview, he sent a video message in Hungarian which the network immediately put up on its own website. It is a very moving video that lasts maybe two minutes. “It is a tragedy for Hungary that its present government is trying to keep itself in power by distorting reality and by misleading the population…. I’m terribly worried about Hungary; I think a lot about Hungary, and I want the Hungarian people to know that I will continue to do everything to support them.” It’s good to know that there are still people like George Soros around. The RTL Klub’s segment on Soros on its news program can be viewed here.

November 21, 2017

George Soros: “Rebuttal of the October 9 National Consultation in Hungary”

November 20, 2017

On October 9, 2017, the Hungarian government mailed a national consultation to all eight million eligible Hungarian voters purporting to solicit their opinions about a so-called “Soros Plan.” The statements in the national consultation contain distortions and outright lies that deliberately mislead Hungarians about George Soros’s views on migrants and refugees. Hungarian government officials also falsely claim that George Soros is somehow controlling the European Union decision-making process. In fact, decisions on how to address the migration crisis are made by EU member states and institutions, including the Hungarian government.

With Hungary’s health care and education systems in distress and corruption rife, the current government has sought to create an outside enemy to distract citizens. The government selected George Soros for this purpose, launching a massive anti-Soros media campaign costing tens of millions of euros in taxpayer money, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, and employing anti-Semitic tropes reminiscent of the 1930s. The national consultation is part of an ongoing propaganda effort that has been underway since May 2015 that included the “Stop Brussels” consultation in the spring of 2017 and the referendum that vilified migrants and refugees in 2016.

George Soros started his giving in Hungary in the 1980s, establishing a foundation there in 1984. Since then, his support for Hungarians has totaled roughly €350 million and has included scholarships, health care services, and humanitarian efforts, including €1 million for reconstruction after the red sludge disaster in 2010. He also funds current efforts to help educate children with learning disabilities, tackle homelessness, and bring public transportation to the Hungarian countryside.

As a concerned citizen, George Soros regularly publishes commentary in newspapers around the world expressing his views and proposing policy approaches on a variety of topics, including the migration crisis. These are all publicly available on his website: www.GeorgeSoros.com.

National Consultation Statement 1:

George Soros wants Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants per year onto European Union territory, including in Hungary.

FALSE

In a 2015 opinion piece, George Soros said that because of the war in Syria, the European Union would have to “accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future. And, to do that, it must share the burden fairly” (“Rebuilding the Asylum System,” Project Syndicate, September 26, 2015). A year later, when circumstances had changed, he suggested that the EU should make a “commitment to admit even a mere 300,000 refugees annually” (“Saving Refugees to Save Europe,” Project Syndicate, September 12, 2016).

National Consultation Statement 2:

Together with officials in Brussels, George Soros is planning to dismantle border fences in EU member states, including in Hungary, to open the borders for immigrants.

FALSE

George Soros has clearly stated his belief that “the EU must regain control of its borders.” He believes that “the EU must build common mechanisms for protecting borders, determining asylum claims, and relocating refugees.” (“Saving Refugees to Save Europe,” Project Syndicate, September 12, 2016).

National Consultation Statement 3:

One part of the Soros Plan is to use Brussels to force the EU-wide distribution of immigrants that have accumulated in Western Europe, with special focus on Eastern European countries. Hungary must also take part in this.

FALSE

In his most recent commentary on the refugee crisis, George Soros endorsed “a voluntary matching mechanism for relocating refugees.” He made clear that “the EU cannot coerce member states to accept refugees they do not want, or refugees to go where they are not wanted.” (“Saving Refugees to Save Europe,” Project Syndicate, September 12, 2016).

National Consultation Statement 4:

Based on the Soros Plan, Brussels should force all EU member states, including Hungary, to pay immigrants HUF 9 million (€28,000) in welfare.

FALSE

George Soros did not say that Hungary should be forced to pay HUF 9 million in welfare to immigrants. He did say, “Adequate financing is critical. The EU should provide €15,000 per asylum-seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs—and to make accepting refugees more appealing to member states.” (“Rebuilding the Asylum System,” Project Syndicate, September 26, 2015). This would clearly be a subsidy from the EU to the Hungarian government. Last year George Soros announced that he would contribute to the financial effort by earmarking €430 million of his personal fortune “for investments that specifically address the needs of migrants, refugees and host communities.” (“Why I’m Investing $500 Million in Migrants,” The Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2016).

National Consultation Statement 5:

Another goal of George Soros is to make sure that migrants receive milder criminal sentences for the crimes they commit.

FALSE

Nowhere has Soros made any such statement. This is a lie.

National Consultation Statement 6:

The goal of the Soros Plan is to push the languages and cultures of Europe into the background so that integration of illegal immigrants happens much more quickly.

FALSE

Nowhere has Soros made any such statement. This is a lie.

National Consultation Statement 7:

It is also part of the Soros Plan to initiate political attacks against those countries which oppose immigration, and to severely punish them.

FALSE

Nowhere has Soros made any such statement. This is a lie.

November 21,2017

The truth about the so-called Soros Plan

While journalists in Hungary are busily trying to find out what led to Botka’s resignation and analysts are coming up with all sorts of theories about the collapse of the Hungarian Socialist Party, I am returning to the Soros Plan. Yesterday and today a vigorous discussion took place on Hungarian Spectrum about the way in which the Orbán government is using and misusing George Soros’s writings and interviews for its own political purposes.

Professor Joseph Forgas, while finding the national consultation “a dishonest, misleading and outrageous party political propaganda campaign,” considers “George Soros’s opinion pieces … unfortunate and ill-judged.” In his opinion, Soros as a private citizen is entitled to air his views, but “his specific advice to the EU about what it should do about the migration crisis was rather ill considered.” In liberal circles “there is a tendency to adopt a stance of moral posturing and high-handed prescriptions that ignore the pragmatic and political realities of the situation.” Soros, he believes, is no exception.

There may be a great deal of truth in that criticism, and perhaps it was ill-advised of Soros to offer his thoughts on the subject. But as we all know, George Soros likes to comment on world affairs, and he certainly has every right to do so. All of us who live in democratic societies can do the same. The difference is that when George Soros offers his thoughts, newspapers all over the world will discuss the pros and cons of his message. For instance, Soros’s opinions on the state of the economy during the financial crisis made headlines for weeks. This is who he is. A kind of missionary, especially when it comes to his cherished concept of the “Open Society.”

The Soros Plan–Don’t let it happen without a word

Although people can criticize his ideas and argue for or against them, what the Orbán government did was to misconstrue and distort his ideas and falsify his texts. I assume readers noted that all the Soros quotations came from his first essay, “Rebuilding the Asylum System,” which appeared in 2015. There was not a word about or from the second essay, in which he espoused some ideas that were very close to those Orbán suggested at the time.

Here are some thoughts, point by point, on the texts.

According to Statement 1, “George Soros wants to persuade Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East onto the territory of the European Union, including Hungary.” This number does appear in the 2015 essay, but Soros didn’t want to persuade or force the EU to take that many immigrants. He simply expected that many to arrive, and he turned out to be correct. A year later, however, when he was discussing regulated immigration, he talked about 300,000 immigrants per year as a number that could still be handled.

According to Statement 2, “George Soros, together with the officials in Brussels, also wants to achieve the dismantlement of the fences and the opening of borders to the migrants.” In the Infobox the Orbán government claims that “as the billionaire put it, ‘the goal of our plan is the protection of the refugees and national borders are barriers’.” Unfortunately, since I am not a “professional service subscriber” to Bloomberg News, I was unable to check in what context this sentence appeared in the article. Yes, Soros does believe that Europe needs the infusion of immigrants to offset the poor demographics of the continent, but it is not true that he wants to weaken border defenses. In fact, the opposite is true. As for taking down Orbán’s fence, this is most likely the figment of the imagination of the compiler of the questionnaire.

According to Statement 3, “One part of the Soros Plan is the compulsory distribution by Brussels of immigrants who conglomerated in Western Europe, especially in respect to the East European countries. Hungary would have to take part in this.” In the Infobox, the questionnaire quotes a sentence from an article written by Soros in July 2015, warning that if the distribution of immigrants does not “become permanent and mandatory features of a common EU asylum system, it will fall apart.” But a month later, in an article titled “Rebuilding the Asylum System,” he says the following: “It is equally important to allow both states and asylum-seekers to express their preferences, using the least possible coercion. Placing refugees where they want to go – and where they are wanted – is a sine qua non of success.” It is easy to cherry pick quotations from Soros over time that can show him in an unfavorable light from the perspective of the xenophobic Hungarian population.

Statement 4 claims that “according to the Soros Plan, Brussels should force all EU Member States, including Hungary, to pay each immigrant HUF 9 million in welfare payments.” This is an outright lie. In fact, Soros in the same article I just quoted in connection with Question 3 says exactly the opposite. “Adequate financing is critical. The EU should provide €15,000 ($16,800) per asylum-seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs—and to make accepting refugees more appealing to member states.” This cannot be clearer. It would be Hungary that would receive this subsidy for every refugee it takes. The information provided in the Infobox about raising taxes on gasoline and tourism is correct, but Soros never said a thing about VAT.

According to Statement 5, “Another goal of George Soros is to make sure that migrants receive milder sentences for crimes they commit.” There is a reference in the Infobox to Amnesty International, which “repeatedly demanded the release of Ahmed H.” You may recall that Ahmed H. received a ten-year jail sentence for throwing a couple of rocks toward the Hungarian police, which likely didn’t do any harm to anyone. As is clear from the statement of the organization, Amnesty International never demanded the release of Ahmed H. but simply argued for a review of the sentence. The organization also never demanded damages from the Hungarian government. TASZ, Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union, another Soros-funded organization, handled his defense. An able Hungarian lawyer argued his appeal, which resulted in the annulment of the lower court’s decision. Ahmed H. is still in jail awaiting trial.

According to Statement 6, “The aim of the Soros Plan is to de-emphasize the languages and cultures of the European countries in order to achieve faster integration of the illegal immigrants.” This sentence simply doesn’t make sense. Why would the weakening of native languages and culture make the integration of newcomers easier? Integration simply means admitting people of different cultural or ethnic backgrounds to equal membership in a society. If we weakened the existing culture, we would also weaken our ability to integrate the newly arrived individuals, which includes learning and using the majority language. Although the questionnaire doesn’t contain the accusation that George Soros actually wants to turn European countries into Islamic enclaves, Fidesz politicians often talk about Soros’s strange penchant for the Islamization of Europe. When asked why it would be in the interest of Soros to purposely change the religious and cultural makeup of the European Union, the answer always is that “this is good business” for him. It makes not the slightest sense, but such things never bother Fidesz spokesmen.

According to Statement 7, “It is also part of the Soros Plan to initiate political attacks against those countries that oppose immigration and to severely punish them.” This statement is closely connected to Statement 6 and makes about the same amount of sense. What follows in the Infobox is unadulterated government propaganda. For example, “Today, George Soros is unable to bring millions of immigrants to Europe because there are governments that raise their voices against it,” or “when the Hungarian government complies with the Schengen Agreement, when it protects the borders and builds a fence, it hampers the implementation of the Soros Plan.” These political contrivances are so primitive as to be beneath contempt.

October 3, 2017

National consultation on the Soros Plan: Questions and infoboxes

On September 27 Magyar Idők, the flagship paper of the vast government media, released the text of the seven questions that will appear on the questionnaire to be distributed, to the tune of 6.5 billion forints, to approximately 8 million Hungarian citizens. The issue to which the Orbán government is seeking reactions is the so-called Soros Plan. The paper explained that this “national consultation” will be different from earlier ones because after each question there will be an “infobox” containing background information.

Source: abouthungary.hu

The background information comes largely from two essays George Soros published in 2015 and 2016 on the subject. The first one, titled “Rebuilding the Asylum System,” appeared in Project Syndicate, and the second, “This is Europe’s last chance to fix its refugee policy,” was published in Foreign Policy. These two sources are readily available. For a full appreciation of the depth of the mendacity committed by the Orbán government when compiling this “national consultation” I highly recommend taking a look at these articles.

Here you can read the complete text of the questionnaire, including the content of the infoboxes. To each point of the alleged Soros Plan the respondent will be asked whether he supports that idea.

Here is the text. The translation is my own. I tried to track down the quotations in the infoboxes, but there were a couple of instances where I couldn’t locate them in their original English version. In these cases I had to resort to translating the text from Hungarian.

  1. George Soros wants to persuade Brussels to resettle at least one million immigrants from Africa and the Middle East onto the territory of the European Union, including Hungary.
  • Infobox: Soros for years has been working to change Europe and European society. He wants to achieve his goal through the resettlement of masses of people from other civilizations. At the time of the introduction of his plan he stated that “the EU has to accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future” (Project Syndicate 2015.09.26). The European Parliament shares the same view. The organization supported resettlement programs and the creation of migration routes (2015/2342 [INI]).
  1. George Soros, together with the officials in Brussels, also wants to achieve the dismantlement of the fences and the opening of borders to the migrants.
  • Infobox: Well-guarded borders provide an effective defense against illegal immigration. It is no coincidence that one of the important goals of the Soros Plan is the dismantlement of the fences. As the billionaire put it, “the goal of our plan is the protection of the refugees and national borders are barriers” (Bloomberg Business 2015.10.30). Certain Brussels officials also attacked the closing of the borders. In June of this year, the Commissioner for Migration stated that “it is not a good solution if EU Member States erect fences at the external borders.”
  1. One part of the Soros Plan is the compulsory distribution by Brussels of immigrants who conglomerated in Western Europe, especially in respect to the East European countries. Hungary would have to take part in this.
  • Infobox: George Soros wrote the following about the distribution of immigrants: “If they do not become permanent and mandatory features of a common EU asylum system, it will fall apart” (Financial Times 2015.07.26). In 2015, a decision was taken in Brussels that, as a first step, Hungary should accept 1,294 immigrants. In 2016, the European Commission proposed the dispersion of an unlimited number of immigrants (IP/16/1620). The EU Asylum and Migration Agency, in line with the proposal of George Soros, has been weakening the national competence on immigration. Once the entry quotas are in place, Hungarians will no longer have a say about whom they will live with in the future.
  1. According to the Soros Plan, Brussels should force all EU Member States, including Hungary, to pay each immigrant HUF 9 million in welfare payments.
  • Infobox: According to Soros, significant amounts should be spent on the immigrants. “The EU should provide €15,000 ($16,800) per asylum seeker for each of the first two years to help cover housing, health care, and education costs—and to make accepting refugees more appealing to member states” (Project Syndicate 2015.09.26). According to the billionaire, this sum should be covered by taking out loans. Soros believes that in order to repay the loans taxes should be raised. The billionaire would raise VAT and taxes on gasoline and tourism. Soros also proposed, while visiting Brussels last year, that the EU should reduce the agricultural and cohesion support for the countries of Central Europe in order to solve the problem of the migration crisis.
  1. Another goal of George Soros is to make sure that migrants receive milder sentences for crimes they commit.
  • Infobox: George Soros is supporting organizations that assist immigration and defend immigrants who commit crimes. One such organization is the Helsinki Commission, which argued that “the use of serious sanctions in the case of illegal border crossing is troubling.” Another Soros organization, Amnesty International, repeatedly demanded the release of Ahmed H., who attacked Hungarian policemen guarding the border and therefore was convicted. Amnesty would want the Hungarian state to pay damages.
  1. The aim of the Soros Plan is to de-emphasize the languages and cultures of the European countries in order to achieve faster integration of the illegal immigrants.
  • Infobox: George Soros, in his book Open Society, wrote that “the decline of the authority of nation states is a welcome development.” Soros has also talked about “not abandoning our conviction that migration is good for Europe.” He called on NGOs and companies to become immigration sponsors. He also said that the continent must finally take active steps toward developing open societies. In some European countries and in multinational companies European and Christian symbols are voluntarily removed nowadays so that they do not harm the sensitivity of immigrants.
  1. It is also part of the Soros Plan to initiate political attacks against those countries that oppose immigration and to severely punish them.
  • Infobox: The main obstacles to the implementation of the Soros Plan are the governments that stand up for national independence and take measures against illegal migrants. Today, George Soros is unable to bring millions of immigrants to Europe because there are some governments that raise their voices against it. When the Hungarian government complies with the Schengen Agreement, when it protects the borders and builds a fence, it hampers the implementation of the Soros Plan. Soros and several Brussels decision-makers are therefore attacking our country. The European Commission proposes that Member States that do not participate in the resettlement program pay a fine of 78 million forints for each immigrant [they refuse] (2016/0133 COD). A Hungarian employee works decades for that amount of money.
October 1, 2017

The “Let’s stop Brussels” questionnaire: Orbán’s silver bullet?

I haven’t analyzed Viktor Orbán’s speeches for some time, but yesterday he delivered a fairly important speech to parliament. So I think it’s time to take a closer look at the Hungarian prime minister’s state of mind.

As usual, he is on a war footing with Brussels. But if I’m correct, his posture, despite his belligerent tone, is more defensive. His position within the European Union has weakened considerably since the Brexit referendum and the French election. More and more voices can be heard within the European Union calling for financial retribution as a form of punishment for countries that refuse to cooperate when it comes to the refugee crisis. For the time being Jean-Claude Juncker would like to avoid such a drastic step, but the announcement of a looming infringement procedure can be expected any day.

Obviously, Orbán has been expecting such a move on the part of the European Commission. Right now the only bullet in his defensive arsenal is “the national consultation,” with which he wants to “stop Brussels.” But not all bullets are equally effective. The “Let’s stop Brussels” campaign and its imbecilic, deceptive questions have annoyed the Commission from the beginning. I very much doubt that the Commission will be impressed by the responses the Hungarian government received arguing against any interference by the European Union in what Viktor Orbán considers purely national affairs.

Before I turn to the actual speech, I would like to say something about the “success” of this particular consultation. The claim is that the “Let’s stop Brussels” questionnaire was returned by a record number of citizens. Indeed, if we take a look at the Wikipedia entry on “Nemzeti konzultáció,” we can see that this year’s questionnaire was returned by a greater number of people than any of the other five campaigns previously staged. However, we must keep in mind that no independent body counts the returned forms. We have only the number the Orbán government provides.

Given the lack of accountability of the government, I have long had my doubts about the government’s figures in connection with these consultations. This time I’m even more suspicious than before. The consultation drive began on April 1, and on April 19 Antal Rogán’s propaganda ministry reported that 140,000 questionnaires had been returned. But then, on April 25, six days later, Csaba Dömötör, undersecretary in the prime minister’s office, announced that 380,000 questionnaires had been received. Quite a jump, I would say. Two weeks after that, the same Dömötör triumphantly announced that “more than 1,130,000” citizens had already returned their questionnaires. In two weeks the numbers had almost tripled. But if the drive was such a success, why was it necessary for Lajos Kósa, as leader of the Fidesz parliamentary caucus, to ask for an extension of the deadline from May 20 to May 31? In any case, Viktor Orbán at the beginning of his speech in parliament yesterday claimed that 1.4 million people are practically unanimously standing behind the government in its fight against Brussels. This number, by the way, by the end of speech became 1.7 million. So, who knows?

Altogether 8.1 million questionnaires were sent out to all citizens over the age of 18, and therefore it doesn’t matter how you slice it: 1.4 or 1.7 million returned questionnaires, take your pick, shouldn’t be hailed as a great victory. But what is really annoying is that Viktor Orbán blithely turned the official government figure(s) of a 17%-21% return rate into a pro-government response rate of greater than 50% when he said that “the majority of Hungarians think that Brussels is going in the wrong direction.”

What do the government and the “majority of Hungarians” want, according to Orbán? They want “a Hungarian Hungary and a European Europe.” A couple of years ago Jobbik’s Gábor Vona announced with great fanfare that “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians,” and it seems that Viktor Orbán now agrees with him. I wonder what he would say if the prime minister of Slovakia or Romania announced that he wants to have an ethnically pure Slovakia or Romania and the Hungarian minority has only two choices: emigrate or assimilate. I assume there would be an incredible outcry, and with good reason. As for the “European Europe,” we all know what Orbán has in mind. A white Europe.

In connection with the ten-year jail sentence for “terrorism” meted out to Ahmed H. for using a megaphone to call for calm during clashes at the Serbian-Hungarian borders, Orbán accused “Brussels” of supporting terrorists at the expense of the security of the Hungarian people. Bernadett Szél (LMP) said in response that Orbán had “misplaced his medication.” George Soros couldn’t be left out of Orbán’s speech to parliament, and indeed the “American speculator” was pictured as someone who is directing the fate of Europe. The European Commission is under his influence. He asked the members of parliament “not to stand by Brussels in Hungary’s disputes with the European Union.” In addition, the parliamentarians “should stand by the Hungarian people in the battle between the Soros mafia and Hungary.”

Orbán announced that Hungary “can’t accept that [its] future is decided in Moscow, Brussels, and Washington.” As for the future, Orbán made some strange comments. Let me quote one of them. “The French election during the past weekend shows that the revolt of the European people has also reached France.” We know that when Orbán in the last couple of years was talking about “the revolt of Europeans” he was not thinking of Macron’s centrist movement. Macron’s victory is not a welcome piece of news for Orbán, which he tries to hide here. He also seems worried about a possible French-German “experiment to transform Europe,” which may take place after the German election. At the moment, “it is not clear whether these developments will help or hinder the realization of Hungary’s national interests.” Odds are, however, that hard times are coming, and therefore the national consultation took place at the best possible moment.

Let me express my very serious doubts that Orbán’s national consultation is the kind of silver bullet that will save the Hungarian government from the consequences of Viktor Orbán’s antagonistic, confrontational behavior and his flaunting of the core values of the European Union. Surely, in his sane moments he must know that those stacks of returned questionnaires are not worth a plug nickel when it comes to negotiations with the important political players of the European Union.

June 13, 2017

National consultation, 2017: “Let’s stop Brussels!”

Here we go again. A new “national consultation” is under way. Eight some million eligible voters will receive a form with six questions, all of which are related to the alleged attempt of “Brussels” to take steps that are injurious to Hungary and its people.

Viktor Orbán came up with the idea of a “national consultation” in 2011 when the government was in the midst of writing a new constitution–without, as it turned out, any input from the opposition parties. No referendum on the final text was allowed. Instead, 12 questions were mailed to every eligible voter. The questions were formulated in such a way that it was inevitable that the majority of answers would seem to endorse the government text. Here is one example: “Should the new constitution bring under its protection common values such as family, labor, home, order, and health?” The citizen’s choice was a simple yes or no. The others were not one whit better.

Four years later, in April 2015, the government sent out a questionnaire about “immigration and terrorism,” which again was a tool of political mobilization concealed as public opinion research. At the time social scientists protested, pointing out that the questionnaire was constructed in total disregard of the methodological canons of public opinion research. They felt “obliged to bring the attention of the public to the unprofessional, manipulative character of the questions.”

Now we have a new manipulative questionnaire which, according to Magyar Nemzet, will cost the taxpayers 1.2 billion forints. And the majority of people who get the questionnaire will probably toss it straight to the garbage. The new propaganda drive is called “Let’s stop Brussels!” Do you remember when Viktor Orbán sent Hungarian-language messages to Brussels and to the refugees on hundreds and hundreds of billboards? Something like that is under way at the moment. Viktor Orbán thinks that if a large enough number of voters return these meaningless questionnaires with supportive answers, he can use them as an argument against certain measures that might be contemplated by the European Commission. Since there will be no independent body checking either the number of returned questionnaires or the results, the Orbán government can come up with any number it likes. The higher the better.

“Let’s stop Brussels!” / National Consultation 2017

Propaganda for the new “Let’s stop Brussels!” drive started about a week ago. The government placed ads in both pro-government and independent publications, despite the fact that it very rarely pays for ads in opposition papers, making sure that they remain at a sizable disadvantage to the richly endowed pro-government papers.

Spokesmen for Fidesz began to call everybody’s attention to this “national consultation.” János Halász, spokesman for Fidesz’s parliamentary delegation, warned Hungarians that “Brussels” wants to make more and more decisions without any consultation with the “people,” and “when Brussels makes a decision, the Hungarians always lose.” If it depends on Brussels, there will be higher utility prices and higher taxes. And the country will be defenseless against the migrants. “A great battle is ahead of us because [Brussels] even attacks the efforts of the Hungarian government that would serve the transparency of the pro-migrant foreign agencies (ügynökszervezetek).” What an ingenious way to interpret the Orbán government’s efforts to make the work of these NGOs impossible.

Bence Tuzson, one of the many spokesmen of the prime minister’s office, also gave a press conference. He emphasized the point about the incarceration of migrants, which the government hopes the population will support because, after all, “can the country allow people about whom we know nothing to loiter freely?” Tuzson also talked about “the paid foreign activist groups that meddle in [Hungary’s] domestic affairs.” These groups’ finances must be made transparent. The description of these NGOs as foreign agents foreshadows the fate that is awaiting them.

Here are the questions to which Hungarians are supposed to respond, along with correct and incorrect answers, where “a” is always the correct choice.

  1. Brussels is planning to take a dangerous step. It wants to force the abolition of utility rate reduction on us. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Defend the utility rate reduction. We should insist that the price of utilities must be determined in Hungary. (b) We should accept the plan of Brussels and trust the large companies with fixing utility prices.
  2. In recent times, terror attack after terror attack has taken place in Europe. Despite this fact, Brussels wants to force Hungary to allow illegal immigrants into the country. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) For the sake of the safety of Hungarians these people should be placed under supervision (felügyelet) while the authorities decide their fate. (b) Allow the illegal immigrants to move freely in Hungary.
  3. By now it has become clear that, in addition to the smugglers, certain international organizations encourage the illegal immigrants to commit illegal acts. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Activities assisting illegal immigration such as human trafficking and the popularization of illegal immigration must be punished. (b) Let us accept that there are international organizations which, without any consequences, urge the circumvention of Hungarian laws.
  4. More and more foreign-supported organizations operate in Hungary with the aim of interfering in the internal affairs of our country in an opaque manner. These organizations could jeopardize our independence. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) Require them to register, revealing the objectives of their activities and the sources of their finances. (b) Allow them to continue their risky activities without any supervision.
  5. In the last few years we have been successful at job creation because we followed our own strategies. But Brussels is attacking our job-creating measures. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We, Hungarians, must continue to make decisions on the future of the Hungarian economy. (b) Brussels should decide what to do in the economic sphere.
  6. Hungary is committed to tax cuts. Brussels is attacking Hungary because of it. What do you think Hungary should do? (a) We should insist that we, Hungarians, decide on tax cuts. (b) We should accept that Brussels dictates the level of taxes.

I consider the two questions that deal with “foreign agents” especially dangerous as far as the political future of Hungary is concerned. In the present situation, these so-called foreign agents–the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, Transparency International, the Hungarian Helsinki Commission, and Amnesty International–are practically the only organizations that can successfully combat the growing autocratic rule of the present political system because the checks and balances that were present earlier have by now been removed.

As for the others, I’m not quite sure what to do with the question about the Orbán government’s handling of the economy. I am unaware of any EU attempt to instruct Budapest to change its economic strategy. The question on lowering taxes is highly misleading. The ignorant public may think that the EU wants to prohibit lowering the personal income tax rate. Actually, what the EU is unhappy about is the Hungarian government’s plans to lower corporate taxes to such an extent that Hungary would become a tax haven within the European Union and thus create unfair competition. The question on utility prices is also misleading. In Hungary, it is the government that sets the utility prices, which currently are higher than they should be due to lower energy prices in general. Brussels’ real concern is not the price of utilities, but the fact that there are different rates for businesses and for individuals. Finally, I have no idea why Viktor Orbán thinks he still has to frighten people with illegal migrants when there are no more than about 300 such individuals in the whole country. Perhaps to keep the hatred alive in case people get too soft when they no longer see pictures of refugees clamoring to get into, or out of, Hungary.

In any case, all this matters not. The questions are moronic, and the answers are totally skewed in favor of the Hungarian government. I know that in Hungary the consensus is that the intellectual level of ordinary citizens is so low that they accept practically anything this government puts in front of them. I personally can’t believe that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians wouldn’t figure out within minutes that this is a scam. They may not grasp the real meaning of the questions, but that there is something very wrong with the answers they can chose from has to penetrate even the thickest of skulls.

April 2, 2017