Referendum Homestretch on Hungarian Television

Below are screenshots taken from programs broadcast on the M1 news channel of state-run Hungarian Television from 3:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. on October 2, 2016—that is, until half an hour before the closing of polls in Hungary’s referendum on European Union migrant-resettlement quotas (see Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas and The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail).

Aside from intermittent weather bulletins and a report on the new leadership of the U.K. Labour Party, newscasts and programs broadcast on M1 during this three-and-a-half-hour period dealt with just two issues—the referendum results and migration.

The screenshots are from the various reports on migration. Note that in 2013, the National Assembly approved an amendment to Hungary’s electoral laws that eliminated campaign silence (source in Hungarian).

Click on any screenshot to see gallery view.

Sources: screenshots 1 and 2 (00:25 and 7:31, respectively); screenshots 3, 4 and 5 (0:11, 21:40 and 25:59, respectively); screenshot 6 (0:09); screenshots 7 and 8 (0:08 and 13:54, respectively); screenshots 9,10 and 11 (0:09, 9:05 and 9:38, respectively); screenshots 12 and 13 (5:53 and 10:24, respectively); screenshots 14, 15 and 16 (17:58, 21:46 and 25:14, respectively).

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The Referendum That Couldn’t Fail

In February 2016, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán initiated a referendum in Hungary asking voters to respond to the following question (source in Hungarian):

Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the approval of the [Hungarian] National Assembly?

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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán speaks to supporters following the referendum on the European Union migrant-resettlement quota (photo: index.hu).

This question refers specifically to the resettlement of 1,294 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees from Italy and Greece to Hungary as part of a European Union plan adopted in September 2015 (see 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas).

The result of the referendum in terms of approval or rejection of the European Union migrant-resettlement quota for Hungary was never in doubt: opinion polls consistently showed that the number of voters who rejected the quota was many times larger than the number of voters who accepted it (see “Opinion Polls” section of the relevant Wikipedia article).

The only question was: would voter turnout exceed the 50-percent threshold required for the referendum to be considered legally valid?

This combination of factors impelled most voters who opposed the Orbán government’s initiative, regardless of whether they supported the European Union resettlement quota or not, to either boycott the referendum or to cast invalid ballots in the hope of preventing turnout from reaching the required 50-percent validity threshold.

However, the boycott/invalid-ballot strategy entailed the drawback of ensuring that referendum would produce a landslide victory for the “no” votes rejecting the resettlement quota.

The Orbán government was clearly prepared to emphasize the aspects of the referendum results that best served its political interests—the voting outcome, the turnout, or both—and to take legislative action of some kind to prevent the European Union from resettling migrants in Hungary regardless of the specific result.

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“Let’s Not Take a Risk! Vote No! October 2”: Orbán government anti-quota referendum sign in Budapest (photo: Orange Files).

On September 22, Prime Minister Orbán said in an interview: “If it [the referendum] is successful and of convincing strength, then it will produce steps of a different nature than if it is turns out to be scrawnier. This is why it isn’t worth speculating now. Although naturally the referendum will have consequences in terms of public law” (source in Hungarian).

The final results of the October 2 “Referendum against Compulsory Resettlement” permitted the Orbán government to emphasis only the outcome: 98.3 percent of those who cast valid ballots in the plebiscite voted “no” to the EU migrant-resettlement quota, while only 1.7 percent voted “yes.” The Orbán government referred only indirectly to the fact that voter turnout for the referendum was only 40.4 percent, nearly 10 percentage points below the validity threshold (source in Hungarian).

Thus the Orbán government’s intensive, seventh-month propaganda campaign, which included ubiquitous billboard signs, electronic- and print-media advertisements and brochures exhorting the electorate to vote “no” in the referendum—a campaign that the opposition website Átlászó.hu estimated cost 15 billion forints (48.7 million euros)—had no apparent effect on the outcome of the referendum, serving only to further elevate political tension in Hungary to nearly hysterical heights (see The Phony Realist).

And the referendum itself, in practical terms, was virtually meaningless: the speech that Prime Minister Orbán delivered in Budapest following the close of polls on October 2 could have been written six months ago as one of just two possible versions—that emphasizing the overwhelming majority of “no votes” and avoiding any reference to voter turnout and legal validity.

Below is an Orange Files translation of Prime Minister Orbán’s post-referendum speech (see video of speech in Hungarian).

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

[. . .]

Thirteen years after we decided in a referendum by a large majority to join the European Union, tonight we Hungarians again made our voices heard with regard to a European issue. We achieved a magnificent outcome, because we surpassed the result of the referendum on joining [the European Union]. A total of 3,056,000 voted to join in the referendum on joining [the European Union] and now we’re at 3,204,000 and we still don’t know most of the votes from Hungarians beyond the borders. And perhaps I should say here as well that some 15 percent more people took part now than during the most recent European parliament election. Thus the weapon will be pretty strong in Brussels as well. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

First I would like to congratulate everyone and express my recognition to those who, feeling the gravity of the issue, participated in the referendum. They came and contributed to the fact that this enormous agreement of more than three million could come about. With regard to the participants, today nine of ten people voted on the side of Hungary, on the side of Hungary’s right to make independent decisions. I feel that we can be proud that as the first and until now only European Union member state [to do so], the Hungarians were able to directly express their opinion regarding the question of immigration. This was the proper, even honorable thing to do. This question was not yet on the agenda during the 2014 parliamentary election. Therefore, citizens were not able to take a stand on this and could not formulate their opinion. However, esteemed ladies and gentlemen, this is perhaps one of the more important questions of the years ahead of us, one that is about the future of Hungary and the future of our children and grandchildren. Who we live together with, what will become of our culture, what will become of our way of living until now, our economic system that we restored with great difficulty, what will become of our Christian roots. 

Esteemed ladies and gentlemen! 

A modern migration of peoples is taking place in the world. The waves of this have spectacularly and painfully reached Europe. The question now is, how will the European Union respond to this? The proposal of the union is that we let the migrants in and distribute them with obligatory force among the member states. And that Brussels decide about this distribution. Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, we Hungarians have today considered this proposal and rejected it. The Hungarians decided that only we, we Hungarians, can decide who we want to live together with. Brussels or Budapest, this was the question, and we decided that this right to decide lies exclusively with Budapest. Today we started down a path. And it will be a very long path. We took the first and most important step. Serious battles and difficult engagements await us on this long path. Now, following the celebration, we must do two things in order to assert our will. First we must invest the decision of the people with the force of public law. For this reason, I will place a proposed constitutional amendment on the National Assembly’s desk over the coming days. I believe that we must convey the will of the people expressed today. And we must place this in our Fundamental Law as well. The other urgent thing is to enforce the decision we made today in Brussels as well. 

My dear friends! 

Brussels stands before an important decision. Now it is the one that stands before an important decision. The European Union is a democratic community. Today in a member state 92 percent of the participants in a referendum declared that they do not agree with the intention of Brussels. The question is simple: can Brussels do this? Can the democratic community of European states force its will upon a member state, where 92 percent of participants are against it? I promise you, I promise all citizens of Hungary, that we will do everything under our power so that this does not happen. . . . 

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Hungary’s 2016 Referendum on European Union Migrant Resettlement Quotas

Official name: Referendum against Compulsory Resettlemen(Népszavazás a kényszerbetelepítés ellen).

Date: October 2, 2016.

Question: Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the approval of the [Hungarian] National Assembly? (Akarja-e, hogy az Európai Unió az Országgyűlés hozzájárulása nélkül is előírhassa nem magyar állampolgárok Magyarországra történő kötelező betelepítésé?)

Issue: The resettlement of 1,294 Syrian, Iraqi and Eritrean refugees from Italy (306 refugees) and Greece (988 refugees) to Hungary as part of a European Union plan adopted in September 2015 to transfer 120,000 such refugees from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over the subsequent two years (source in English).

Orbán government position: Rejects mandatory resettlement quotas.

Prime Minister Orbán on resettlement quotas:

“Only we can make the decision about who we want to live with. They can’t say this in Brussels and Brussels cannot settle people here whom we don’t want to live with.” December 4, 2015 (source in Hungarian).

“Letting the migrants in is hardly a correctable mistake. Moreover, [there exists] this question of principle: can somebody from outside Hungary tell us ‘you Hungarians must live with people you don’t want to live with.’ This doesn’t depend on whether this means ten, one hundred or one million people. Here we are defending our national sovereignty. If the Hungarian parliament decides to do so, then we will accept refugees, though we will never under any circumstances allow Brussels to force a quota system upon us.” December 24, 2015 (source in Hungarian).

Required voter participation for referendum to be valid: More than 50 percent of all eligible voters.

Required percentage of “no” votes for referendum to pass: More than 50 percent of all votes cast, not counting invalid ballots.

Consequences of valid referendum vote against resettlement quotas: No legal consequences. The purpose of the referendum, presuming that the “no” vote wins, is to provide the Orbán government with greater authority to resist the previously adopted and possible future European Union resettlement quotas (source in Hungarian). On September 23, 2016, Prime Ministry chief János Lázár said during his weekly press conference that “if the referendum is valid and successful, the government could propose amendment of the Fundamental Law” (source in Hungarian).

Legal foundation for EU resettlement quotas: Article 78 of the European Union Treaty of Lisbon: “In the event of one or more Member States being confronted with an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries, the [European] Council, on a proposal from the [European] Commission, may adopt provisional measures for the benefit of the member State(s) concerned. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament” (source in Hungarian).

In December 2015, the governments of both Hungary and Slovakia submitted challenges to the European Court of Justice claiming that the European Union migrant resettlement quota adopted in September 2015 infringe EU law  (source A and B in English).

Other EU members that reject the September 2015 resettlement quota: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania (source A and B in English).

Potential EU fines on member states that  refuse to participate in resettlement plan: On May 4, 2016, the European Commission proposed offering EU member states that chose “to temporarily not take part in the reallocation” the option of paying a 250,000-euro “solidarity contribution” per each refugee not accepted under the resettlement plan (source in English). Under this proposal, the Orbán government would be compelled to pay a “solidarity contribution” of 323.5 million euros if it refused to accept Hungary’s quota of refugees in accordance with the resettlement plan.

Orbán government referendum campaign: In May 2016, the Orbán government launched an “informational campaign regarding the Referendum against Compulsory Resettlement.” The government’s referendum campaign has been divided into three phases:

first, the display of billboard signs throughout Hungary bearing the following text (see sign):

Let’s Send Word to Brussels so that Even They Understand It! (Üzenjük Brüsszelnek, hogy ők is megértsék!);

second, the display of billboard signs throughout the country with the following six texts (see gallery):

Did You Know?: More Than 300 People Have Died in Terrorist Attacks since the Beginning of the Immigration Crisis. (Tudta?: A bevándorlási válság kezdete óta Európában több mint 300-an haltak meg terrortámadásban);

Did You Know?: Immigrants Committed the Paris Attacks. (Tudta?: A párizsi merényletet bevándorlók követték el);

Did You Know?: Harassment of Women Has Increased Sharply Since the Beginning of the Immigration Crisis. (Tudta?: A bevándorlási válság kezdete óta ugrásszerűen emelkedik a nők elleni zaklatások száma Európában);

Did You Know?: Last Year One and a Half Million Illegal Immigrants Arrived to Europe. (Tudta?: Tavaly másfél míllió illegális bevándorló érkezett Európába);

Did You Know?: More Than One Million Immigrants Want to Come to Europe from Libya Alone. (Tudta?: Csak Líbiából közel egymillió bevándorló akar Európába jönni);

Did You Know?: Brussels Wants to Settle a City’s Worth of Illegal Immigrants in Hungary.¹ (Tudta?: Brüsszel egy városnyi illegális bevándorlót akar Magyarországra telepíteni);

and third, the mailing of 20-page brochures entitled “Information about the Referendum” (see gallery) to all 4.1 million households in Hungary and the display of and a new billboard sign (see sign), this one in Hungary’s red, white and green national colors, bearing the text “Let’s Not Take a Risk! Vote No! October 2 (Ne kockáztassunk! Szavazzunk nemmel! Október 2).

Cost of Government Campaign: The Prime Ministerial Cabinet Office spent 3.9 billion forints (12.6 million euros) on signs and television advertising broadcasting the same messages as those displayed on the signs (source in Hungarian). The brochures cost at least 100 million forints (324,000 euros) to print and mail (source in Hungarian). Thus the total cost of the government’s referendum campaign is at least 4 billion forints (12.9 million euros).

Position of National Assembly parties toward referendum:

Fidesz: no;

Christian Democratic People’s Party: no;

Jobbik: no;

Hungarian Socialist Party: boycott;²

Dialogue for Hungary: boycott;

Together—Party for a New Era: boycott;

Democratic Coalition: boycott;

Hungarian Liberal Party: yes;

Politics Can Be Different: neutral.

Two-Tailed Dog Party anti-referendum campaign: On August 15, 2016, the Two-Tailed Dog Party (Kétfarkú Kutya Párt), an extra-parliamentary opposition joke-party, began collecting donations via its website in order to finance an anti-referendum sign campaign. By August 28, the Two-Tailed Dog Party had collected around 27 million forints (87,000 euros), which the party said would pay for 450 large signs, 500 medium-sized signs, 200,000 small posters and 100,000 stickers urging voters to cast invalid ballots in the referendum (source in Hungarian).

The Two-Tailed Dog Party signs referring in ironic and absurd terms to those that the Orbán government had posted earlier in the summer began to appear on the streets of Budapest in late August (see gallery).

Likely outcome of referendum: According to a Závecz Research poll conducted for the opposition website index.hu during the last week of July, 53.9 percent of respondents reported that they intended to vote in the referendum, while 18.6 percent reported that they intended not to vote. A total of 40.3 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” while 4.2 percent reported that they would vote “yes” (source in Hungarian).

According to another Závecz Research poll in late August, 54 percent of respondents reported that they intended to vote in the referendum, an increase of 0.1 percentage points compared to late July, while 18.8 percent reported that they intended not to vote, an increase of 0.2 percentage points compared to late July.  A total of 36.8 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” a decrease of 3.5 percentage points compared to late July, while 5 percent reported that they would vote “yes,” an increase of 0.8 percentage points from late July. Only 0.9 percent of respondents reported that they intended to cast invalid ballots (source in Hungarian).

According to yet another Závecz Research poll conducted for index.hu in late September, 51.8 of respondents reported that they intended to vote in in referendum, down 2.2 percentage points compared to late August, while 24.4 percent reported that they intended not to vote, an increase of 5.6 percentage points compared to late August.  A total of 43.7 percent of respondents reported that they would vote “no,” an increase of 6.9 percentage points from late August, while 2 percent reported that they would vote “yes,” a decrease of 3 percentage points from late August. A total of 1.6 percent of respondents reported that they intended to cast invalid ballots, up 0.7 percentage points compared to late August. (source in Hungarian).

¹On August 29, 2016, the Curia (Hungary’s supreme court) rejected Hungarian Socialist Party Vice President András Nemény’s claim that this sign was misleading because the phrase “a city’s worth” implied that more than the actual 1,294 migrants would be resettled in Hungary according to the European Union plan and that referring to them as “illegal immigrants” obscured the fact that they were determined to be genuine refugees. The Curia based its decision on the premise that the “government’s statements voiced as part of the campaign at most orient [voters], though do not inform [them]” (source A and B in Hungarian).

²Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP) President Gyula Molnár stated on September 1, 2016 that “the HSP is prepared to support the government in the effort against the obligatory quota in the event that the European Union indeed is planning such steps” (source in Hungarian).

See: gallery of Orbán government referendum signs; gallery of Orbán government referendum brochure; gallery of Two-Tailed Dog Party referendum signs.

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Röszke—One Year Later

Migrants travel along defunct railway in northern Serbia on September 15, 2015 (photo: Orange Files).

Migrants enter Hungary via defunct railway in September 2015 (photo: Orange Files).

Tens of thousands of migrants passed along the defunct railway from Serbia into Hungary near the village of Röszke on their way to Western Europe during the summer and early fall of 2015 before the Orbán government closed this final gap in the border on September 15 (see The Fields Are Speaking Pashto and The Curtain Falls Again).

Now, in early September 2016: vegetation has engulfed the rails and the thick trail of discarded belongings and refuse that the migrants left behind them. There is no visible evidence of the mass movement of people that took place along these tracks just one year ago.

Same location in September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

Same location in September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

In March 2016, the governments of the former Yugoslav republics through which the Orbán government’s construction of a fence along Hungary’s southern border diverted the Western Balkan migration route closed their frontiers to migrants (source A and B in English). On March 9, European Council President Donald Tusk announced that “irregular flows of migrants along Western Balkans route have come to an end” (source in English).

As a result: during the five-month period from the beginning of April to the end of August 2016, just 11,662 migrants crossed the Aegean Sea from Turkey into Greece in order to travel the West Balkan route northward, compared to 225,505 migrants during the same period in 2015 (source in Hungarian).

Afghan migrants in Horgos (photo: Orange Files).

Afghan migrants in Horgos (photo: Orange Files).

One encounters some of the few migrants who are still attempting to travel the officially closed West Balkan route in the small Hungarian-inhabited town of Horgos (Horgoš) in northern Serbia about two kilometers from the sealed border. About 100 young men, Afghans and a few sub-Saharan Africans (and no Arabs), sitting around in groups near a small grocery store in the center of town.

They have no money. And unlike the migrants of 2015, they are ragged and weary. Some of them  have gauze bandages wrapped around festering wounds. Most say they have been waiting at the border for over two months in order to gain admission to the transit zone in Hungary, where they will be officially registered as asylum-seekers. A group of French-speaking Africans say that Hungarian authorities are permitting 15 migrants to enter the transit zone each day—14 who are part of family groups and only one person traveling without immediate family members.

End of the line (photo: Orange Files).

End of the line (photo: Orange Files).

In the meantime, these migrants are sleeping rough and living on Red Cross humanitarian aid. And they have become camera-shy: only a single group of Afghans consents to be photographed.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, there were a total of between 250 and 350 migrants waiting in northern Serbia at the end of August to be admitted to transit zones in Hungary near Röszke and about 40 kilometers to the west near the village of Tompa  (source A and B in English).

In 2015, Hungarian police registered over 7,700 migrants entering Hungary via the defunct railway near Röszke during the final three days of August alone (source in Hungarian).

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September 2016 (photo: Orange Files).

The last gap in the fence: railway track at the Hungarian-Serbian border.

September 2015 (photo: Orange Files).

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From the Archives: The Phony Realist

Published April 27, 2014.

The author: István Bibó.

The author.

Hungarian lawyer and political scientist István Bibó published a book in 1946 entitled The Misery of Small Eastern European States (A kelet-európai kisállamok nyomorúsága) in which he employed psychoanalytical precepts to determine the cause of “the adulteration and corruption of democracy in its most diverse forms” in the states of central and eastern Europe, specifically Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Bibó’s diagnosis: political hysteria stemming from unresolved historical traumas—in the case of Poland partition of the country by Russia, Prussia and Austria beginning in 1772; in the case of Czechoslovakia the German-Hungarian partition of the country in 1938–39; and in the case of Hungary defeat at the hands of the Austrians and Russians in the 1848–49 revolution and partition of the country’s Dual Monarchy-era territory via the 1920 Treaty of Trianon.

Bibó determined in The Misery of Small Eastern European States that Hungary’s defeat in the 1848–1849 revolution against Habsburg rule had had two primary effects: first, it prompted Hungarians to conclude that “Europe had abandoned Hungary in its fight for independence”; and second, it initiated “the developmental path that distanced Hungary from democratic ideals, because following the 1848–49 catastrophe the fear took root in Hungarians that assumption of all the consequences of democracy will lead to the secession of nationality-inhabited regions [of the country].”

With regard to the Treaty of Trianon, Bibó asserted that the “Hungarian political perspective attributed the partition of Hungary to mere brute force and the hypocrisy of the victors and was unable to distinguish between the detachment of non-Hungarian-language territories that were ready for separation and the groundless and unjustified detachment of Hungarian-language territories. As a consequence, it [the Hungarian political perspective] could not abandon the illusion of historical greater Hungary and became increasingly convinced that Europe owes it for a great injustice.”

Bibó maintained that the partitions of Poland and Czechoslovakia had engendered the same attitude of skepticism toward Europe and democracy among the Polish and Czechs and Slovaks and prompted the leaders of those countries to conduct the forced expulsion of Germans and Hungarians following the Second World War.

Existential Fear for the Survival of the Community 

Bibó wrote in The Misery of Small Eastern European States that these historical traumas had produced existential fear for the survival of the national community in Hungary and other states of the region:

This situation gives rise to the most characteristic trait of the imbalanced central and eastern European mentality: existential fear for the survival of the community. . . . For a western European, the talk of statesmen from any small, eastern European nation referring to the “death of the nation” or the “destruction of the nation” represents empty phraseology: a western European can imagine extermination, subjugation or slow assimilation, though the notion of total political “destruction” is for them nothing more than a bombastic image, whereas for eastern European nations it is a palpable reality.  

Anti-Democratic Nationalism 

Bibó believed that existential fear for the survival of the community inhibited the development of democracy in the countries of east-central Europe:

Existential fear for the survival of the community was the decisive factor that rendered the status of democracy and democratic development unstable in these countries. . . . these nations experienced historical situations which appeared to confirm that the collapse of the oppressive political and social powers of the past and the adoption of democracy along with its ultimate consequences expose the national community to heavy risks, even catastrophe. This shock gives birth to the most hideous monster of modern European political development: anti-democratic nationalism. 

Distortion of Democracy 

In addition to inciting anti-democratic nationalism, Bibó contended in The Misery of Small Eastern European States that existential fear for the survival of the community inhibited and distorted democratic development in the following ways:

It is not possible to take advantage of the benefits of democracy in this state of convulsive fear which believes that the advance of freedom threatens the national cause. To become a democrat above all entails the absence of fear: fear of other opinions, of other languages, of other races, of revolution, of conspiracy, of the unknown evil intentions of the adversary, of enemy propaganda, of contempt and all other imaginary dangers that become real dangers if we fear them. . . . In the midst of this fear and continual feeling of threat, that which in true democracies gains recognition only in the hour of true danger, becomes standard procedure: the restriction of liberties, censorship, the search for enemy “stooges” and “traitors,” the imposition of order or the appearance of order and national unity to the detriment of liberty. The distortion and corruption of democracy has appeared in diverse forms through the use of methods varying from the most subtle and often unconscious to the most crude: the manipulation of universal suffrage against democratic development, the system of coalitions and compromises founded on unhealthy and ambiguous terms, electoral systems or abuses serving to either inhibit or distort the healthy formation of collective will, putsches and transitory dictatorships.

The Phony Realist 

Bibó concluded that this syndrome of trauma, fear and hysteria generated a unique type of national leader in the states of central and eastern Europe:

In the course of this development, political figures of a unique type became characteristic of political life in central and eastern Europe: the phony realist. This type of political figure, which either descended into politics from an aristocratic environment or rose into it on the wings of representative government and democratic forces, was characterized by both unquestionable talent as well as a certain cunning and a certain aggression that made him perfectly suitable to become the administrator and repository of the distortion of democracy, of anti-democratic government flowing within the boundaries of democratic form or of some other kind of aggressive political forgery.

Revival of Political Hysteria 

The prototype: Viktor Orbán.

The prototype.

Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary suffered the further historical trauma of communist dictatorship and Soviet military-intervention in the four decades following István Bibó’s publication of The Misery of Small Eastern European States. These countries, Czechoslovakia in the form of post-dissolution Czech Republic and Slovakia, all began the process of healing their historical wounds through integration with western Europe and adoption of liberal democracy following the collapse of communism in 1989.

Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia continue to travel down this uneven road toward political, social and economic integration with western Europe, whereas in Hungary a highly competent political leader—one who conforms perfectly to Bibó’s “phony realist” prototype—has either consciously or instinctively revived Hungarian historical trauma and its attendant political hysteria in order to regain and consolidate his personal power within a hybrid authoritarian-democratic state modeled on Putin’s Russia and Chávez’s Venezuela.

Orange Files has translated all quotes from the work published in this post. 

Note 2: since the publication of this article in April 2014, the Law and Justice–party government of Poland has begun to build a hybrid authoritarian-democratic régime in the country just as in Hungary.

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From the Archives: Journalist Zsolt Bayer

BayerGoodZsolt Bayer is an influential pro-Fidesz newspaper editorialist and television talk-show host widely known in Hungary for his outspoken criticism of Fidesz’s political opposition and for the anti-Gypsyanti-Semitic and anti-migrant attitudes expressed in some of his published writings.    

Bayer has been one of the main organizers of the pro-government Peace March demonstrations that have taken place in Budapest since January 2012.

On August 18, 2016, Prime Ministry chief János Lázár presented Bayer with one of the most prestigious state awards in Hungary—the Hungarian Order of Merit Knight’s Cross (Magyar Érdemrend lovagkeresztje)—during a ceremony held at the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest (source in Hungarian).

Biography

Grew up and completed high school in Budapest. Attended Hungarian history department at the Eötvös Loránd University Teacher’s Training College in Budapest. 

One of the 37 founding members of Fidesz in March 1988. Was the party’s press secretary from 1990 to 1993.

Began career as journalist in Budapest in the early 1990s, working for several newspapers including the tabloid Kurír and the liberal-left daily Népszabadság.

Served as chief advisor to the Millenium Government Commissioner’s Office during the first two years of the first Orbán government, 1998 to 2000.

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (left) presents Zsolt Bayer with a state award in August 2016 (photo: MTI).

Prime Ministry chief János Lázár (right) presents a Hungarian Order of Merit Knight’s Cross award to Zsolt Bayer in August 2016 (photo: MTI).

Editorialist at the pro-Fidesz newspaper Magyar Nemzet from 2002 to 2007. Worked at state-owned Hungarian Television and Duna Television and the pro-Fidesz commercial television station Hír TV between 2000 and 2007. 

Joined the Gábor Széles-owned newspaper Magyar Hírlap as editorialist and television station Echo TV as political talk-show host in 2007.

Turns 53 in 2016. 

See the following Orange Files translations of editorials that Bayer has published in the pro-Fidesz Magyar Hírlap since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán returned to power in 2010:

“The Same Stench” (Ugyanaz a bűz);

“Who Should Not Be?” (Ki ne legyen?);

“Can/May” (Hat/Het);

“Letter to Vladimir Putin” (Levél Vlagyimir Putyinnak);

“Unavoidable?” (Elkerülhetetlen?).

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From the archives: Follow the Evil Twin

Fidesz President Viktor Orbán.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Published November 17, 2013.

The Orbán government likes to pretend, primarily for external consumption, that it has thoroughly distanced itself from the radical-nationalist opposition party Jobbik

“If we want to protect democracy, we must take a firm stand against Jobbik,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told the Israeli daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in May 2013 (source in English). 

National Assembly Speaker László Kövér, Orbán’s right-hand man, told the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hírlap in July 2013 that “Jobbik, the HSP [Hungarian Socialist Party] and the liberals are striking a single chord in terms of their conception of the rule of law and their political morals. They proclaim as one: the worse it is, the better!” (source in Hungarian). 

The really extreme Hungarian nationalist.

Jobbik President Gábor Vona.

The Orbán government does not acknowledge that since coming to power three and a half years ago it has carried out the Jobbik political program almost to the letter. 

Before the first round of the 2010 National Assembly election, Jobbik published a party platform entitled “The Jobbik Government’s First 10 Measures.” 

The FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party-controlled government and National Assembly have implemented eight of the ten measures stipulated in the document, though specifically cited none of these in the party alliance’s 2010 electoral program (source in Hungarian).

Below is an Orange Files translation of the March 2010 Jobbik platform with notes regarding the Orbán government’s subsequent implementation of each of the specified initiatives (see original Hungarian version of the Jobbik program). 

Jobbik English Good

1. Parliamentary immunityThe Orbán government has not conducted a wholesale repeal of parliamentary immunity.

2. Tax and contribution cutsThe Orbán government has implemented tax and contribution cuts. 

3. Conversion of foreign-currency-denominated loans into forints: The Orbán government has passed legislation making it possible to convert foreign-currency-denominated loans into forints, first announcing their consideration of this measure in March, 2013,  three years after Jobbik proposed it in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian). 

Imposition of bank tax: The Orbán government has introduced a tax on banks operating in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán first announced this tax as part of his government’s Economic Action Plan on June 8, 2010, three months after Jobbik proposed such a tax in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian). 

4. Utility-fee cuts: The Orbán government has conducted two centrally mandated cuts in utility fees. The government announced the first round of utility-fee cuts in December 2012, two years and nine months after Jobbik proposed such cuts in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian). 

5. Taxation of multinational companies: The Orbán government has imposed extraordinary taxes on companies operating in the energy, telecommunications and retail sectors. Prime Minister Orbán initially announced these taxes as part of his government’s Second Economic Action Plan on October 13, 2010, seven months after Jobbik proposed such taxes in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).  

6. Reducing the Pensions of former high-ranking communist-party officials: The Orbán government has withdrawn the pension supplement from those “whose actions before 1990 were incompatible with the democratic system of values.” The government first made reduction of pensions for former communist officials possible in the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law adopted on December 30, 2011, one year and nine months after Jobbik proposed such taxes in the party’s election program. The National Assembly approved the law stipulating such a reduction in pensions on July 2, 2012, two years and four months after Jobbik published its 2010 election platform (source in Hungarian).

7. Tying social assistance to public work: The Orbán government has tied receiving social assistance to public work. The National Assembly approved a law requiring those who receive secondary unemployment benefits or social support to accept public work if offered or lose these benefits in July 2011, one year and four months after Jobbik suggested linking social assistance to public work in the party’s election program (see The Fluorescent Army). 

8. Amendment of the Land Law to prevent foreigners from buying arable land: The Orbán government has adopted a new Land Law, which Prime Minister Orbán said following the passage of the law in June 2013 would serve to ensure that agricultural land in Hungary “remains in the hands of Hungarians” (source in Hungarian). The government began talking about the need for such a law in June 2012, two years and three months after Jobbik advocated the adoption of a new Land Law in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian). 

9. Reconstitution of the gendarmarie: The Orbán government has not reconstituted the Hungarian gendarmarie (csendőrség) abolished in 1945 as the result of the force’s role in the deportation of Jews from Hungary the previous year. 

10. Guaranteeing Hungarian citizenship for Hungarian minorities: The Orbán government has passed legislation expediting the process of obtaining Hungarian citizenship for Hungarian minorities living in the countries surrounding Hungary. The government first announced this measure on May 3, 2010, about six weeks after Jobbik proposed the measure in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian). 

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