Pre-Election Sampler from the Freesheets

Below are scanned images from the final two issues of the free daily newspaper Lokál and the final issue of the free weekly newspaper Lokál Extra published before the April 8 National Assembly election in Hungary.

The 12-page Lokál has a daily circulation of 150,000 copies and is distributed at public-transportation, railway and inter-city bus stations in Budapest. The 24-page Lokál Extra has a circulation of 1,160,000 copies and is delivered to homes and residential buildings in Budapest and 24 other cities in Hungary (source in Hungarian).

The newspapers operate under the ownership of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s chief strategic adviser Árpád Habony and former legal adviser Tibor Győri.

The free newspapers derive a significant proportion of their revenue from publicly financed advertisements for the Orbán government or state-owned companies such as the Hungarian Electrical Works, Hungarian State Railways and lottery company Szerencsejáték.  

Both free newspapers overtly support the Orbán government and the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) governing coalition.

Most of the articles published in Lokál and Lokál Extra just before the April 8 National Assembly election promoted the campaign strategy and platform of the Orbán government and the Fidesz-KDNP alliance, portraying Muslim migration as a grave security, cultural and religious threat to Hungary and depicting Prime Minister Orbán and the parties under his command as the political forces that are willing and able to defend the country from this menace and the opposition parties and their leaders as the pawns of Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist George/György Soros and the local proponents of his alleged pro-migration policies known collectively as the Soros Plan.

Appearing underneath the scanned images of pages from Lokál and Lokál Extra are translations of the main titles and some of the secondary titles from the given page as well as excerpts from the text of some of the attending articles.

Note that Gábor Vona, who is the subject of many of the articles appearing below, is the president of the opposition party Jobbik.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Lokál, April 6, page 1

 Viktor Orbán: “There is going to be a big battle this weekend. Nobody should stay at home.” 

This Sunday Two Times Fidesz

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Lokál, April 5 and April 6, page 2

 Orbán government campaign advertisement showing a stop sign superimposed on a dense column of migrants marching through the countryside somewhere along the Balkan migration route in 2015.

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Lokál, April 5, page 3

Soros’s Candidates SAID NO to the Fence

“They are lying. This summarizes the electoral machinations of the opposition. These political officials are eating from György Soros’s plate and can hardly wait to win on Sunday so they can open the way for migrants to come pouring into Hungary.”

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Lokál, April 6, page 7

 A Migrant Murdered a Women Who Wanted to Help Him

“A Somalian migrant stabbed to death a 22-year-old woman who was helping refugees at the reception camp in Mölndal in southern Sweden.”

Facts About Migration

“There are 186 no-go zones in Sweden, of which 55 are particularly dangerous. Migrants rape one in eight Swedish women. The number of sex crimes has risen 26 percent in Austria and 670 percent in Leipzig because of migrants. People of ‘foreign background’ commit one out of two crimes in Australia. Migrants commit 93 out of every 100 crimes in Germany. The number of crimes has risen 10.4 percent as a result of this. Migrants attacked 1,035 physicians in France last year alone. A total of 70 million people could leave Nigeria for Europe over the next five years.”

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Lokál, April 5, page 6

 A Migrant Murdered Two Women and Lived with Their Corpses for Months

Africans Committed Rape in Prague

An Immigrant Committed a Stabbing While Shouting Allahu Akbar

Orbán: the Fence Protects Budapest as Well

See entire post.

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Orbán Gov’t and Party Campaign Signs

Above are Orange Files photos of the two main 2018 election campaign signs (click to enlarge) of the Viktor Orbán–led government of Hungary and Fidesz political party. They currently appear in large number on billboards, advertising columns and bus-stop shelters throughout Budapest (and presumably all of Hungary).

The sign at left is that of the government of Hungary. It reads:

The UN wants us to continuously receive immigrants.

———HUNGARY DECIDES, NOT THE UN!

The sign at right is that of the Fidesz party. It shows Hungarian-American investor and philanthropist György/George Soros flanked by the four main opposition candidates for prime minister (from left to right: Bernadett Szél of Politics Can Be Different; Ferenc Gyurcsány of the Democratic Coalition; Gábor Vona of Jobbik; and Gergely Karácsony of the Hungarian Socialist Party and Dialogue for Hungary). It reads:

TOGETHER THEY WOULD DISMANTLE THE BORDER BARRIER

The Orbán government sign refers to the proposed “Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” that the United Nations published in February 2018 (see document).

Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó announced on March 1, 2018, that the Orbán government rejects the basic premise of the proposed UN compact, which according to Szijjártó is that “migration is a good thing and unstoppable” (source in English).

In his annual “State of the Nation” address on February 18, 2018, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in reference to the UN compact, specifically to the statement in it that “Migration has been part of the human experience throughout history, and we recognize that it can be a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development in our globalized world” (source in English):

This is obviously utter nonsense. It’s incomprehensible why they would think us to be such raving lunatics as to accept this and then implement it. We must bluntly state that Hungary is not a country of deranged people. We understand that George Soros’s organizations have not only installed themselves in Brussels and Budapest, but also in New York, at the UN. We understand that they are spending incalculable sums of money on pushing through acceptance for migration at a global level.

The Fidesz sign refers to the so-called “Soros Plan” pertaining to the 2015 European migration crisis (see National Consultation on the Soros Plan). According to a post regarding the sign published on the official Fidesz Facebook site (source in Hungarian):

For the opposition leaders, Soros’s will is the most important. They are prepared to implement the Soros Plan: they would dismantle the border barrier and settle immigrants [in Hungary]. Therefore, although they appear to be hopelessly feeble, they are nevertheless dangerous.

In fact, neither George Soros nor any of the four prime ministerial candidates shown on the sign, nor the five parties they represent advocate dismantling Hungary’s southern border barrier (source in Hungarian).

Both signs correspond to the single-theme campaign platform of the Orbán government and Fidesz for the April 8, 2018, general election. Prime Minister Orbán concisely described this platform during a March 1, 2018, television interview (source in Hungarian):

Hungary stands before two paths from which it can choose: either there will be a national government and then we won’t be a country of immigration; or György Soros’s people will form a government and then Hungary will become a country of immigration.

Update: two weeks before the general election, the Orbán government and Fidesz replaced the above campaign signs with those shown below. On the left is the government sign, which displays a stop sign superimposed on a dense column of migrants. On the right is the Fidesz sign, which displays the same five people as the party’s previous sign next to text reading “Let’s Stop Soros’s Candidates!

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Through the Roof

On December 11, 2015, the Medián Public Opinion and Market Research Institute—one of the most reliable polling companies in Hungary—published the results of a November survey in which 51 percent of eligible voters with an established party preference reported that they would vote for ruling party Fidesz, compared to 27 percent for five democratic left-liberal parties, 21 percent for the radical-nationalist Jobbik party and one percent for the Workers’ Party (source in Hungarian). Medián, which began operating at the time of Hungary’s transition from communism to democracy in 1989, noted that no governing party had ever recorded such high support among sure voters in a company poll conducted more than a year and a half after a National Assembly election as Fidesz did in November 2015.

 

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Source: Medián Public Opinion and Market Research Institute poll/Orange File

 

See entire post.

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Viktor’s Anti-Migration Gambit Pays Off

The survey unit of Hungarian research company Tárki recently released polling results showing that support for the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) governing alliance jumped just over ten percentage points among respondents stating a party preference and around five percentage points among all respondents over the past three months (source in Hungarian). Since the issue of the 2015 Migration Crisis has totally dominated politics and the media in Hungary during this period, one must assume that the hardline anti-migration response of the Fidesz-KDNP government Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to the crisis is responsible for the sharp increase in popularity that the governing alliance has recorded in all party-preference surveys conducted this autumn (source in Hungarian).

The Tárki polling results reveal that Fidesz-KDNP generated its rise in support primarily to the detriment of the three main democratic opposition parties—the Hungarian Socialist Party, Politics Can Be Different and the Democratic Coalition—rather than to that of radical-nationalist party Jobbik. Below are bar graphs showing the results of the Tárki party-preference polls taken in the months of April, July and October of 2015.

Red1Good

MSZP = Hungarian Socialist Party; LMP = Politics Can Be Different; DK = Democratic Coalition; Együtt = Together; PM = Dialogue for Hungary.

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The Jobbikization of Fidesz (Act I): Reinstatement of the Death Penalty

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (right):

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (left) speaking at April 28 press conference (photo: MTI).

On April 22, 2015, a 21-year-old clerk was stabbed to death during the robbery of a National Tobacco Shop in the city of Kaposvár (southwestern Hungary, pop. 65,000).

During a press conference on April 28, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in response to a question about the murder (source in Hungarian):

Although we believed that we had settled questions connected to the Hungarian criminal code and criminal prosection when we introduced the three strikes and life imprisonment without parole, the issue of the death penalty must be kept on the agenda in Hungary and we must let it be known that we do not shy away from anything.

The death penalty has not been applied in Hungary since the country’s Constitutional Court declared capital punishment to be unconstitutional in October 1990. Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union furthermore prohibits capital punishment in EU member states, including Hungary.

The Radical nationalist Movement for a Better Hungary, or Jobbik, is the only National Assembly party in Hungary that officially advocates reinstatement of the death penalty. Jobbik has steadily gained support in opinion polls conducted over recent months to become Hungary’s second-most popular party behind the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) alliance (source A and B in Hungarian). Jobbik moreover won its first head-to-head National Assembly election in April in voting for a vacated National Assembly mandate in Veszprém County (source in Hungarian and see Two-Thirds Minus Two: the Jobbik Breakthrough).

Orbán’s suggestion that his government might consider restoring the death penalty provoked criticism from both the democratic opposition as well as his own governing alliance: KDNP Vice-President Bence Rétvári announced that the party rejects the death penalty for religious reasons, while many Fidesz officials also voiced fundamental opposition to capital punishment (source A, B and C in Hungarian).

European Parliament President Martin Schulz (photo: europedecides.eu).

European Parliament President Martin Schulz (photo: europedecides.eu).

European Union leaders also challenged Prime Minister Orbán’s apparent espousal of the death penalty: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said “Mr Orbán must immediately make clear that this is not his intention. If it would be his intention, it would be a fight” (source in English); and European Parliament (EP) deputy Jörg Leichtfried referred to the death penalty as “barbaric and an infringement of European law” (source in English).

On April 30, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and EP political-group leaders asked the body’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs to convene “to address the situation in Hungary as a matter of urgency [regarding] the statement by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán about a possible restoration of the death penalty” (source in English)

Later on this same date, Prime Minister Orbán “assured President Schulz that the Hungarian government has no plans to take any steps to introduce the death penalty. Prime Minister Orban further assured the President that the Hungarian government will respect and honour all European treaties and legislation” (source in English); and Prime Ministry chief János Lázár said during a press conference that, although he personally supports the death penalty, “We will honor the values of the European Union. Democracy and democratic debate represent such fundamental values, thus the EU cannot reject any debate regarding the difficulties and problems of people” (source in Hungarian).

Orbán said later during a subsequent interview on Hungarian Radio that the government would like to promote the introduction of conditions within the European Union that would enable “all nation states to themselves decide on the death penalty” (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Orbán presumably floated the unrealistic prospect of restoring the death penalty in an attempt to stop the recent migration of voters from Fidesz-KDNP to Jobbik through expression of support for one of the central elements of the radical-nationalist party’s political platform. The prime minister and his government will likely continue to pursue this tactic as long as Jobbik presents the greatest challenge to Fidesz-KDNP’s political power. Over the long term, use of this tactic could serve to substantiate the old Hungarian maxim: “That which belongs together grows together” (összenő, ami összetartozik).

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Two-Thirds Minus One

Independent candidate Zoltán Kész celebrates his victory in the February , 2015 Veszprém by-election (photo: Magyar Nemzet).

Zoltán Kész celebrates his victory in the February, 2015 Veszprém by-election (photo: Magyar Nemzet).

On February 22, 2015, opposition-supported independent candidate Zoltán Kész won a by-election held in the city of Veszprém (west-central Hungary, pop. 61,000) and surrounding communities to fill the National Assembly seat that former Minister of Public Administration and Justice Tibor Navracsics vacated following his appointment to the European Commission.   

Kész won the election with 42.6 percent of the vote, defeating his FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) rival, runner-up Lajos Némedi, by nearly 11 percentage points (source in Hungarian). 

The independent candidate’s victory deprived the Fidesz-KDNP alliance of the two-thirds majority it has commanded in the National Assembly since 2010. This supermajority has enabled Fidesz-KDNP to unilaterally transform Hungary’s legal landscape over the past five years through the adoption of a new Fundamental Law to replace the former constitution and the amendment of Cardinal Laws. 

Fidesz-KDNP candidate Némedi received 11,113 votes in the February 2015 by-election, down from the 22,194 votes that Fidesz-KDNP candidate Narvracsics received in the regular election held in April 2014 (source in Hungarian). Fidesz-KDNP therefore lost the active support of about 15 percent of the 73,674 eligible voters in Veszprém County Electoral District No. 1 in the intervening ten and a half months—compared to just under 10 percent of the eligible voters in the district who voted in the April 2014 regular election, but did not participate in the February 2015 by-election.  

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The Fidesz-KDNP National Assembly alliance: end of the two-thirds majority.

This decline has also been reflected in data from Hungary’s four major independent polling companies showing that Fidesz-KDNP’s support has fallen from between 39 and 33 percent of voters in May 2014 to between 27 percent and 21 percent of voters in January and February 2015 (source in Hungarian). 

With the apparent failure of the policy that propelled Fidesz-KDNP to its landslide National Assembly election victories in 2010 and 2014―reorientation of Hungary from Western free-market capitalism and liberal democracy toward Eastern state-controlled capitalism and illiberal democracy―the governing party-alliance is going to have difficulty finding the means of halting the gradual erosion in support that culminated in its decisive electoral defeat in the February 2015 by-election.

With the loss of its two-thirds supermajority, Fidesz-KDNP will no longer be able to amend the Fundamental Law and Cardinal Laws without support from the opposition, nor will the party-alliance be able to unilaterally elect the four Constitutional Court members whose mandates expire over the next 14 months until April 2016 (source in Hungarian).

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stated that Fidesz-KDNP has already approved its entire agenda of laws and appointments that require the support of two-thirds of representatives in the National Assembly and therefore no longer needs the legislative supermajority (source in Hungarian).

While the prime minister’s statement might be an exaggeration intended to soften the blow of losing the long-held two-thirds majority, it supports the premise that the most significant foreseeable task of the Fidesz-KDNP governing alliance does not require this supermajority: the election¹ of Orbán to serve as president of Hungary when the five-year mandate of current head-of-state János Áder expires in mid-2017. 

¹The National Assembly elects presidents directly every five years by a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting and by an absolute majority in the second round of voting if no candidate receives the supermajority of votes in the first round.  

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Taking the Ball

Jobbik President Gábor Vona (Orange Files photo).

          Jobbik President Gábor Vona           (photo: Orange Files).

On January 31, 2015, President Gábor Vona of the radical-nationalist party Jobbik presented his annual “appraisal of the year” (évértékelő) address in Budapest (source in Hungarian). Below is an Orange Files translation of an abridged version of Vona’s speech:

Hungary is in trouble. How often do we hear this on the street, in our everyday lives, on the television, everywhere. For this reason, this phrase has become worn out, often it means almost nothing―it is an empty cliché. I would nevertheless begin my speech with it: Hungary is in trouble. And what’s more, big trouble. . . .

(For the entire translation, see Gábor Vona Appraisal of the Year Speech—January 31, 2015). 

Jobbik President Vona’s address was similar in theme, outlook and tone to those that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has delivered for years, even as Fidesz president before his return to power as head of government in 2010 (see: Proclamation of the Illiberal Hungarian State; Prime Minister Orbán’s Speech to National Assembly – May 10, 2014; Prime Minister Orbán’s Speech to Supporters – May 10, 2014; Vlad Beyond Reproach; and Notable Quotes: Prime Minister Viktor Orbán). The Vona speech shares the following specific attributes with many Orbán speeches: 

—Emphasis on the notion that “Hungary is in trouble” in order to exploit the ingrained political hysteria of Hungarians as a means of garnering political support (see The Phony Realist);

—The claim that “the type of liberal democracy that gained power over Hungary in 1989 is not a functioning system” and that “the system of the past 25 years became exhausted and failed” and “was built upon lies”;

—The allegation that “Brussels currently rests on profit-oriented foundations from which the West can exploit the eastern states and as glass beads offer a little support in exchange”;

—The precedence of the “community” of the Hungarian nation over the individual (“the multitude of people”);

—Reference to God and Christianity forces unifying the Hungarian nation;

—The assertion that “dramatic international transformation” has placed Hungary in a perilous position “at the intersection of global conflict”; 

—Rejection of the “the unilateral world domination of the United States”;

—The insistence that “Hungary must develop and independent Russian policy” and “remain neutral” in the renewed conflict between the West and Russia.

—And the contention that “the fate of a quarter million Hungarians in Ukraine has come into doubt” and criticism of the policies of the latter country toward its Hungarian minority because it has “humiliated and threatened them and circumscribed their rights.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building after taking his oath of office for the new parliamentary cycle beginning in 2014.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaking to supporters outside the Hungarian Parliament Building in May 2014 (photo: Hungarian News Agency).

Both Vona, as the leader of Jobbik, and Orbán, as the leader of Fidesz, have long articulated these common attitudes and positions (see Follow the Evil Twin). However, the speech that Vona delivered on January 31, 2015 lacked the central element that distinguished the Jobbik president’s previous discourse from that of Prime Minister Orbán: expressions of collective antipathy toward Hungarian Jews and Gypsies (see Notable Quotes: Jobbik President Gábor Vona).

Over the past few weeks, Vona has distanced himself from anti-Gypsy and -Semitic racism. On February 9, 2015, he issued a statement condemning “in the most resolute manner possible” the anti-Gypsy Facebook posts of a newly elected Jobbik municipal-council member from Mezőtúr and required him to move into the house of the Gypsy leader of the party’s local chapter in nearby Hajdúszoboszló for a period of three days (source in Hungarian). On February 11, 2015, Vona said during an interview on the opposition television station ATV “Maybe I expressed myself somewhat angularly on certain matters, but I don’t think that I [ever] made any anti-Semitic statements” (source in Hungarian)

Vona has presumably attempted to divest himself and Jobbik of the mantle of racism in order to appropriate in its full material and spiritual form the political program that propelled Fidesz to landslide victories in Hungary’s past two National Assembly elections in 2010 and 2014, but which the Orbán government has been compelled to moderate considerably over the past few months as the result of pressure from the United States and the European Union, specifically Germany (see Back in the Fold?, The Spectacular Fall and Teutonic Shift).

Gábor Vona’s gradual transformation into the leading proponent of many of the Hungarian nationalist tenets and policies that Viktor Orbán skillfully employed to attain an unprecedented degree of power for a head of government in a Western democratic state after 2010 has arguably been one of main factors behind Jobbik’s steady rise to all-time highs in opinion polls since October and Fidesz’s drop to multi-year lows over that same period (source in Hungarian).

The phenomenon of a political leader renouncing his formerly explicit racism in order to consolidate his authority is not without precedent in Hungarian history: in his first speech after becoming prime minister in 1932, the former leader of the anti-Semitic Racial-Defense Party (Fajvédő Párt), Gyula Gömbös, declared “To the Jews I openly and frankly state: I have revised my opinion. I wish to regard those Jews who recognize a community of fate with the nation as brothers and sisters in the same way as I do my Hungarian brothers and sisters” (source in Hungarian).

And indeed, although he did much to incorporate Hungary into the authoritarian political sphere of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, Prime Minister Gömbös initiated no measures that served to directly impair the rights or otherwise harm the interests of Hungarian Jews during his four years in office from 1932 to 1936. 

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The Spectacular Fall

Fidesz caucus Chairman Antal Rogán announces the party's support for mandatory drug-testing.

Antal Rogán announces the Fidesz’s support for mandatory drug-testing (photo: 444.hu) .

On December 8, 2014, Fidesz National Assembly caucus Chairman Antal Rogán announced that “a significant majority” of party representatives supported proposed mandatory annual drug testing for Hungarians between the ages of 12 and 18 as well as political officials and journalists (source in Hungarian).

Rogán’s announcement of support for the proposed drug-testing was presumably an attempt to divert the Hungarian public’s attention from the issues and events that have dominated news headlines in Hungary since the beginning of the autumn: the entry ban that the United States imposed on allegedly corrupt officials from Hungary’s National Tax and Customs Office; the luxurious lifestyles of officials in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s inner circle; highly unpopular legislative initiatives; an unprecedented series of anti-government demonstrations; and disunity within the previously rock-solid Orbán administration, particularly between Fidesz and its allied Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP).

The focus of the media on these issues and events has significantly undermined the popularity of the Orbán government and Fidesz. The four major independent polling companies operating in Hungary reported the following month-on-month declines in the proportion of voters surveyed in November who said that they would vote for Fidesz in an upcoming election (source in Hungarian):

                                                                 Medián     Tárki      Ipsos      Nézőpont

                            November                    26              25             30                 29

                            October                         38              37              35                 32

                            Monthly Loss             -12            -12              -5                  -3

The opposition media has pointed out that Fidesz sustained an unprecedented loss in popularity in November, exceeding even that of the Hungarian Socialist Party immediately following the leak of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s infamous “We fucked up” speech in September 2006 (source in Hungarian).

U.S. Entry Ban

Banned from entering the United States: National Tax and Customs Office President Ildikó Vida (photo: MTI).

Banned from entering the United States: National Tax and Customs Office President Ildikó Vida (photo: MTI).

On October 16, the pro-government business daily Napi Gazdaság reported that the U.S. State Department had prohibited unnamed officials from Hungary’s National Tax and Customs Office (NAV) from entering the United States based on former President George W. Bush’s Proclamation 7750 of January 12, 2004 suspending entry “of persons engaged in or benefiting from corruption” that “has or had serious adverse effects on the national interests of the United States” (source A in Hungarian and B in English). The corruption in question allegedly involved attempts to persuade the Hungarian subsidiary of U.S. agribusiness company Bunge to finance an unnamed pro-government foundation in exchange for NAV’s tacit permission for the company to engage in Value Added Tax fraud (source in Hungarian). The chargé d’affaires at the U.S. embassy in Budapest, André Goodfriend, declined to identify the NAV officials prohibited from entering the United States, though said that the embassy had sent them letters informing them of the ban (source in Hungarian). In a November 5 interview in the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet, NAV President Ildikó Vida admitted that she was among the tax-office officials subjected to the U.S. travel ban (source in Hungarian).     

Embarrassment of Riches

János Lázár wearing his Rolex Bubbleback.

János Lázár (left) wearing his Rolex Bubbleback at the Hungarian Parliament Building.

Most Hungarians regard wealth as evidence of greed, immorality and treasonous cooperation with external powers (see Kuruc vs. Labanc) and feel particular hostility toward political leaders who appear to have used their position to obtain personal fortune. Since the beginning of the fall, the affluence and lavish lifestyles of the following four members of Prime Minister Orbán’s inner circle have been the focus of media attention: Minister in Charge of the Prime Ministry János Lázár; Minister of External Economy and Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó; Prime Ministry State Secretary in Charge of Government Communication András Giró-Szász; and Fidesz Vice President Lajos Kósa.

János Lázár

On December 2, the opposition television station RTL Klub reported that in April Lázár had purchased a house in Budapest under the name of his ten-year-old son at a cost of between 60 million and 70 million forints, or 260 and 300 times the average monthly salary in Hungary of just under 230,000 forints (source in Hungarian).

On November 10, the tabloid Blikk reported that Lázár had cancelled a 75,000-euro, or 23-million-forint, pheasant-hunting trip to the Czech Republic scheduled to take place earlier in the month (source A and B in Hungarian).

On November 25, the opposition website index.hu reported that the Rolex Bubbleback watch that Lázár was seen wearing during a plenary session of the National Assembly the previous month was worth an estimated 1 million forints (source in Hungarian).

Péter Szijjártó

On September 24, RTL Klub reported that Szijjártó had purchased a house in the Budapest suburb of Dunakeszi at a cost of 167 million forints, about 725 times the average monthly salary in Hungary (see Feeling No Shame).

András Giró-Szász

On November 24, index.hu reported that Giró-Szász had recently sold his stake in a media consultancy for 750 million forints (or about 3,265 times the average monthly salary in Hungary) and, according to his newly released asset statement, has 140 million forints in his bank account and owns a yacht worth 25 to 30 million forints (source in Hungarian). On November 25, index.hu reported that Giró-Szász would be the minority owner of a 3-billion-forint hotel being built in the center of Budapest (source in Hungarian).

Lajos Kósa

On October 7, RTL Klub reported that Kósa’s wife had purchased a home worth an estimated 100 million forints, or about 435 times the average monthly salary in Hungary, in the Óbuda district of Budapest (source in Hungarian). On November 22, index.hu reported that Kósa and three travel companions had spent an estimated 1 million forints each on a four-day trip to New Zealand primarily in order to attend a Rolling Stones concert in Auckland (source in Hungarian).

Unpopular Legislation

On October 21, the National Economy Ministry revealed that the government was planning to introduce a 150-forint-per-gigabyte tax on Internet usage (source in Hungarian). Though the proposal stipulated that the tax would be levied on service providers, most Hungarians expected them to build the cost of the tax into customer fees. Prime Minister Orbán revoked the proposed tax following massive demonstrations against it in Budapest, though said his government would revive the proposal in early 2015 (source in Hungarian).

On November 6, Christian Democratic People’s Party National Assembly caucus Chairman Péter Harrach announced that the Orbán government would support the party’s proposed mandatory Sunday closing of shops in Hungary (source in Hungarian). A total of 58 percent of those Hungarians surveyed in a Medián poll conducted in 2007 said that they opposed possible legislation stipulating the mandatory closure of shops on Sunday (source in Hungarian). Orange Files doubts based in empirical evidence that more Hungarians currently support such legislation, which the National Assembly approved on December 16.

Anti-Government Demonstrations

October 28 demonstration in Budapest against the proposed Internet tax (Orange Files photo).

Demonstrators cross the Elisabeth Bridge in Budapest during October 28 protest against the proposed Internet tax (photo: Orange Files).

Several tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations held in Budapest on October 26 and October 28 to protest the proposed Internet tax (source A and B). With an estimated 30,000–40,000 participants, the October 28 demonstration was likely the largest ever against an Orbán-government measure (source in Hungarian). 

Several smaller demonstrations took place in Budapest over the subsequent weeks to protest the proposed internet tax and government corruption in connection to the U.S. travel ban (source A, B and C in Hungarian).

These culminated in the November 17 “Day of Public Outrage” (Közfelháborodás Napja) demonstration ending with a long standoff between protesters and riot cops in front of the Hungarian Parliament Building that was reminiscent of those that occurred regularly during the wave of anti-government demonstrations that took place in Hungary in 2006 and 2007 (source in Hungarian).

Signs of Disunity

There were growing indications of internal discord within the Orbán government beginning in the fall of 2014:

—in early October, Hungary’s ambassador to Norway, Géza Jeszenszky, resigned from his position, officially to write a book, unofficially because he disapproved of the Orbán government’s crackdown on Norwegian-financed NGOs operating in Hungary (source in Hungarian);

—in late October and early November, Peace March organizers András Bencsik and Zsolt Bayer announced that they would organize another such pro-government demonstration, though the Orbán administration rejected this initiative on the grounds that it would create the impression of weakness (source A, B and C);

—immediately after KDNP National Assembly caucus Chairman Harrach’s November 6 announcement that the government would support a bill calling for the mandatory Sunday closure of shops, the National Economy Ministry issued a communiqué stating that the government would first have to discuss the issue with trade unions organizations representing shop owners before it could formally support it (source in Hungarian);

—on November 26, Fidesz oligarch Lajos Simicska, who has been involved in an indirect and unacknowledged conflict with Prime Minister Orbán since the middle of the year, indicated that he might stand as a candidate in the February, 2015 by-election in the city of Veszprém that Fidesz must win in order to preserve its two-thirds super majority in the National Assembly (source in Hungarian);

—in a December 3 open letter to the Orbán government on the website mandiner.hu, Editor-in-Chief Gábor Bencsik of the pro-government monthly Magyar Krónika wrote “Let us clarify something: this is not why we went out to the Peace Marches. . . . This is not why we tried to convince our friends. We did not stand up for you in every forum so that you could enrich yourselves (source in Hungarian);

—and finally, on December 8, National Assembly Justice Affairs Committee Chairman György Rubovszky of the KDNP told the opposition newspaper Népszabadság that the he was against the proposed mandatory drug-testing legislation, which he said “bleeds from a thousand wounds” (source in Hungarian).

End of Infallibility

Not a Bubbleback: Fidesz National Assembly caucus Deputy Chairman Zoltán Pokorni.

Not a Bubbleback: Fidesz National Assembly caucus Deputy Chairman Zoltán Pokorni.

The awkward attempt of Prime Minister Orbán and members of his inner circle to divert public attention from the politically damaging topics that dominated the domestic news in Hungary this fall via the red herring of mandatory drug testing suggests that they are either unwilling or unable to understand the true reasons for rapidly growing public dissatisfaction with their rule and to make the necessary adjustments to their political methods and tactics. This fall marked the end of an eight-year period, beginning when Orbán was still in opposition, during which he and his party radiated an aura of unassailable legitimacy and infallibility. From now on they will be forced to defend their public policies and justify the personal conduct of government and party officials against criticism in a truly competitive political arena. Some members of the Orbán administration have apparently understood this. Speaking on the pro-government television station HírTv on November 29, Fidesz National Assembly caucus Deputy Chairman Zoltán Pokorni said (source in Hungarian):

These bigger and smaller affairs—who wears what kind of watch, who goes where to relax or on summer vacation or whose house is how big—these were obviously known over the past years, but they didn’t interest anybody. They were not connected to charges of corruption. However, since the United Stats entry ban, these many small facts that were previously thought to be minor annoyances have now become rearranged into such a cross-section. The United States struck a chink in our armor, just a small hole, though it is through this hole that the water flows. And we must stop this water. There can’t be such living like a lord, that is, it shouldn’t be done, because a responsible government member or leading political official cannot permit himself to engage in the kind of lordly conduct that he could perhaps get by with before.

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Cleft in the Monolith

Picture 7

State Secretary László L. Simon glares at Hír TV reporter during September 4 press conference.

On September 4, 2014, the following exchange took place between a reporter from the pro-government television station Hír TV and Prime Ministry State Secretary László L. Simon during a press conference held at the second official opening of the Castle Garden Bazaar (Várkert Bazár) in Budapest (source in Hungarian): 

Hír TV reporter: This is the second time you have opened it, despite this visitors still have to stumble over a construction site. When will it really be finished? 

State Secretary L. Simon: (extended pause) . . . I would predict about two- or three-hundred years or so. 

 Hír TV reporter: That is a long-range plan. Who is going to finance it? 

State Secretary L. Simon: The question is rather who is going to oversee it and if Hír TV will be in a position to report about it in two-, three-hundred years. 

Hír TV and the pro-government newspaper Magyar Nemzet, which operate a joint website, reported that State Secretary L. Simon had warned the television station’s journalist in person after the press conference that “If you continue to ask questions like that life will be hard at Hír TV.”

Picture 6

Magyar Nemzet: “They Threatened Hír TV.”

State Secretary L. Simon did not deny making this statement. 

The front page of the print edition of Magyar Nemzet on September 5 featured a menacing photo of State Secretary L. Simon under the headline “They Threatened Hír TV.”  

This confrontation between Prime Minister’s Office State Secretary L. Simon and the Hír TV reporter represents the most explicit public manifestation yet of the greater conflict taking place mostly behind the scenes between the Orbán government and the Lajos Simicska-led Fidesz oligarchy that gained control over the state-affiliated sectors of Hungary’s economy during the 2010–2014 parliamentary cycle. 

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán launched this battle under the direct command of newly appointed National Development Minister Miklós Seszták following the National Assembly election in April 2014 in an attempt to reduce the enormous economic-cum-political power that the Fidesz oligarchs had attained over the previous four years (source in Hungarian).   

First new photograph of Simicska in 12 years.

Businessman Lajos Simicska.

The Orbán government has utilized economic weapons in this struggle, suspending the authority of state-owned companies to conclude new contracts without prior permission from the National Development Ministry (source in Hungarian) and initiating a new tax on advertising revenue and other measures that specifically serve to reduce the profits of Lajos Simicska-owned companies and media, which not incidentally include both Hír TV and Magyar Nemzet (see Lajos Simicska/Közgép).

This is not the first internal conflict that has taken place within Fidesz since the party returned to power in 2010: the establishment of the state monopoly on the retail sale of tobacco and the adoption of the Land Law in June 2013 both entailed instances of high-profile individual dissent from Orbán administration officials (see Cracks in the Monolith); and a large number of National Assembly representatives from the Fidesz-Christian Democratic People’s Party governing alliance defied the Orbán administration’s opposition to a legislative bill introduced in 2012 calling for access to communist-era domestic-intelligence files to be opened all citizens of Hungary (see Communist-Era Domestic Intelligence Files). 

However, it is by far the most serious one. 

The question is: will this conflict grow to significantly undermine the unity and power of Fidesz or will Prime Minister Orbán manage to bring party oligarchs under control, just as President Vladimir Putin did in Russia during the early 2000s? 

Orange Files believes the latter alternative to be much more likely.

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Will the Real Mr. Fidesz Please Stand Up!

Fidesz Rural Development Minister Sándor Fazekas presents Péter Szentmihályi Szabó with a Hungarian Order of Merit state award for his literary and journalistic achievement on March 14, 2013.

Fidesz Rural Development Minister Sándor Fazekas presents Péter Szentmihályi Szabó with a Hungarian Order of Merit state award for his literary and journalistic achievement on March 14, 2013.

On July 20, 2014, news emerged that the Ministry of External Economy and Foreign Affairs had nominated the well-known pro-government author, poet, translator and editorialist Péter Szentmihályi Szabó to serve as Hungary’s new ambassador to Italy (source in Hungarian). 

Szentmihályi Szabó has published several science-fiction and historical novels as well as volumes of poetry and translated Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World into Hungarian, though he is best known for the regular column he writes in the pro-Orbán newspaper Magyar Hírlap in which he castigates the domestic opposition, liberalism, capitalism, the West and the European Union in the vitriolic, name-calling vernacular of Fidesz-friendly journalists (see previous post In Defense of Illiberal Democracy).

The political opposition immediately protested: not only did Szentmihályi Szabó lack previous diplomatic experience and speak no Italian, but he had voiced explicitly anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy viewpoints on several occasions, particularly during the years in which he was a regular contributor to Magyar Fórum, the weekly newspaper of the radical-nationalist Hungarian Party of Justice and Life, or MIÉP (source in Hungarian). 

In a December 2000 article in the Magyar Fórum, for example, Szentmihályi Szabó referred to Jews as “pharisees, hypocrites, agents of Satan” (source in Hungarian). Writing in the same newspaper in September 2002, Szentmihály Szabó declared “We will leave our Hungarian homeland to the Roma, the Romanian, the Austrian, the Jew, the Serb, German and the Slovak, let them fix what they messed up so bad” (source in Hungarian).

Szentmihályi Szabó in fact, ran unsuccessfully for the National Assembly as a representative of the Hungarian Party of Justice and Life in 2002 before gradually drifting between the similarly radical-nationalist Jobbik party and Christian-nationalist Fidesz following MIÉP’s collapse after 2006. 

On October 21, 2007, Szentmihályi Szabó recited a poem in honor of the Jobbik-sponsored Hungarian Guard at the radical-nationalist paramilitary organization’s initiation ceremony on Heroes’ Square in Budapest (source in Hungarian). 

However, Szentmihályi Szabó has not always been an ardent Hungarian nationalist. His 1977 book of poetry Dream of the Mind (Az ész álma) included the following lyrical poem in praise of communism (Orange Files translation, source A and B in Hungarian): 

“Raw Supplication to Communism” 

Where do you tarry, communism,

my happiness, my pure love? 

Our happiness, our pure love. 

The basket of plenty! The table of law! 

Daylight of the spirit! 

Eat, drink, embrace, sleep! 

Weigh yourself against the universe! 

Instead of exclamation points, 

question marks fall upon us. 

I know, it is not urgent. 

As the apocalypse, only to the 

prophets: 

your unfulfilled state 

sorrows not many. 

Where do you tarry, communism? 

The forces of production, the conditions of production,

the machines rumble,

and the consciousness . . . our subconscious

the state does not want to wither. 

Where do you tarry, communism? 

Spring comes upon spring, 

my child’s eye blinks old; 

communism, you, promised one, 

flex all your muscle, 

shake off the parasites. 

Communism, grow my little child. 

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó.

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó.

On July 23, the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini and President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy asking them not to accept the credentials of the “known anti-Semite” Szentmihályi Szabó (source in English).

In a July 25 opinion piece entitled “Intolerance and Anti-Semitism. The Ancient Poison of Prejudice” in the liberal Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera, the newspaper’s former deputy editor Pierluigi Battista asked the Italian government to seriously consider the ADL’s request to reject Szentmihályi Szabó’s appointment as Hungary’s ambassador to Italy (source in Italian).

That same day, the Hungary’s Ministry of External Economy and Foreign Affairs issued the following terse statement (source in Hungarian): 

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó today informed the leadership of the Ministry of External Economy and Foreign Affairs that he does not want to fill any ambassadorial position of any kind and from his perspective regards the issue to be closed.

In a July 26 interview with Corriere della Sera, Szentmihályi Szabó said that “The reason I stood aside was because I did not want to disturb relations between Italy and Hungary.” Szentmihályi Szabó claimed in the interview “I don’t regard myself to be an anti-Semite. All racist and xenophobic sentiments stand very distant from me. If you want to know my opinion, the contention was not directed at me, but against the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán” (source in Hungarian).  

 

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