(Watching the) elections in Hungary

Reply Wed 20 Sep, 2006 05:49 pm
actually the Winnipeg broadcast of the Budapest interviews just started 20 seconds ago
0 Replies
Reply Wed 20 Sep, 2006 06:13 pm
sozobe wrote:
For here or elsewhere? If here, post away!

Elsewhere. I'm at 712 now..
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 08:54 am
The student demonstration tonight has been cancelled, at least formally.

Viktor Orban has called off the big opposition demonstration planned for Saturday, after officials had warned that the organisers of the demonstration would be responsible for any rioting by protestors.

His Fidesz party and its small ally, the Christian Democrats, are however refusing to take part in "five-party" talks of all parliamentary parties that the Socialists have proposed holding about the crisis.

Yahoo! News has a good update on last night:


21 September
Yahoo! News

Police fired tear gas early Thursday to disperse hundreds of youthful demonstrators confronting them at a main downtown intersection, and chased others down side streets. Several youths were injured, one in the neck by a tear gas canister, but no other incidents were reported by early morning.

The protesters were part of a much larger group that had gathered Wednesday evening in a fourth straight day of demonstrations against Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's government.

The demonstrators demanded Gyurcsany's resignation over his admission on a leaked tape that he lied about the dismal state of the economy.

Hungarian media on Thursday reported smaller demonstrations from half a dozen other cities and towns.

Even as the main protest Wednesday grew to 15,000, Gyurcsany stood his ground. "The policy of raw emotions and radicalism are in no way a viable path," he said, adding: "The government doesn't want to change its policy."

Later, the numbers of protesters dwindled to the hundreds and the chaos gripping the capital appeared to be ebbing.

While the crowd at Parliament has numbered in the thousands over the past days, the trouble has come from groups breaking away to seek mischief.

Police were were out in force and officials said the government could consider a curfew in the Hungarian capital.

Still, it appeared to be the most peaceful night since the first violence erupted Tuesday before daybreak.

A total of 140 officers were injured over two days, including 38 on Wednesday, and 137 people were been detained, said Arpad Szabadfi, deputy chief of national police. Dozens of demonstrators also were hurt, officials said.

The WaPo has one of the better articles. Among other things it focuses on how Gyurcsany is trying to play the crisis, and on the rising backlash against the protests that I speculated about yesterday.

It also has a colorful example of the kind of political language that is en vogue here ("sick, lying dilettante"), and an equally funny spot-on observation ("People are faced with a choice between a liar or a guy who burns down the whole city").

Finally, it notes that while the opposition is now crying foul about the government having lied about the state of the economy in order to promise higher spending and lower taxes in the election campaign earlier this year, it had done no different itself.

Protest in Hungary Draws 15,000

Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, September 21

[..] Instead of resigning in shame or apologizing for having lied, Gyurcsany, 45, has tried to spin the scandal to his political benefit. He not only acknowledged making the comments but posted a transcript of the entire recording on his blog. He said his statements showed he was merely being honest about the sorry state of Hungary's public finances, something voters and politicians alike have been loath to accept.

"The government will hold firm on the only track possible, [he vowed]: the policies of reform to ensure development and economic stability." [..]

Student leaders who had planned a major demonstration for Thursday called it off, saying they were afraid of the potential for more riots. But authorities said they expected other protests to continue.

Demonstrators who gathered outside parliament Wednesday waved red, white and green Hungarian national flags. Others carried banners. "We Need Truth For Peace," read one. Props included a mock coffin with Gyurcsany's photo and a black cloth draped over it.

"Like everyone else, I think he should resign," said Nikolett Boncz, a 24-year-old university student [..]. "It was obvious that he's been lying all along."

With municipal elections scheduled for Oct. 1, Hungarian opposition parties were quick to take advantage of the truth-telling scandal. Viktor Orban, head of the center-right Fidesz party and the prime minister's chief rival, called Gyurcsany "a sick, lying dilettante."

Few people, however, were predicting that Gyurcsany would yield to the pressure and step down. Political analysts and lawmakers from several parties said most Hungarians were disgusted with the prime minister's admission that he had lied to win reelection but were equally upset by the outbreak of violence, which they blamed on his political opponents.

"This has been shocking for Hungarian society, because for the last 16 years we've never had anything like this, never any violent actions," said Krisztian Szabados, managing director of Political Capital, an independent political research and consulting firm in Budapest. "People are faced with a choice between a liar or a guy who burns down the whole city."

Attila Gosze, 23, a Budapest schoolteacher, said he was upset not only by Gyurcsany's duplicity but by the numerous obscenities in his tape-recorded remarks. But he said he could live with the lies and the foul language as long as the prime minister and his party prove able to fix Hungary's ailing economy.

"Perhaps he made a mistake, but he shouldn't resign," Gosze said. "That's his character, and we have to accept him for the way he is. If he does his job right, we'll stand by him."

Campaigning before April's national elections, Gyurcsany and his Socialist Party colleagues promised tax cuts and higher spending on social programs -- a popular platform with voters who had resisted calls to trim a long pattern of deficit spending in Hungary.

A few weeks after winning reelection, however, Gyurcsany told party allies in a closed meeting that the whole campaign had been a charade.

"I almost died, because I had to pretend for 18 months that we were governing," he said [..]. "We kept the secret, while we knew and you did, too, that if the election victory comes, we will have to seriously settle down to work [..]."

Instead of cutting taxes, Gyurcsany and his coalition partners have moved to raise them. They have also laid off public-sector workers and tried to trim spending.

Although opposition parties have pummeled the Socialists in recent months for their unpopular economic policies, they also campaigned last spring on a platform of cutting taxes and raising spending. Analysts and other lawmakers say that if nothing else, Gyurcsany's unvarnished comments will make it more difficult for all Hungarian politicians to make promises they know they cannot keep.

"It's unfortunately true that both big parties have been lying to the Hungarian people," said Matyas Eorsi, a lawmaker with the Liberals, a free-market party. "Now, the time of truth has finally come for Hungary. The rules of the market economy are also the rules for Hungary. We cannot ignore the rules anymore."

The headline in this one from last night is already overtaken by developments, but it has other interesting things:

Hungarian protesters vow to keep up pressure on PM

Wed Sep 20, 2006 9:40pm ET

[..] More than 200 people have been injured and 137 arrested in the two nights of clashes that police said involved soccer hooligans who had hijacked peaceful anti-government protests.

An estimated 15,000 gathered at the neo-Gothic parliament on Wednesday with only minor incidents between riot police and a couple of hundred who broke off from the main demonstration.

Officials followed through on promises to crack down hard on what they have called a small group of hooligans who have fought pitched battles [..].

A Gallup poll conducted on Tuesday showed 43 percent of respondents believed he should resign, while 38 pct said he does not need to step down.

The take of the Hungarian press:

Press split over Hungary turmoil

Tuesday, 19 September
BBC News

Hungary's leading newspapers are sharply divided over Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's admission that his Socialist Party lied in order to secure victory in April's general election.

"Drama and catharsis" says the headline in the left-leaning Nepszava [..]. The paper accuses the centre-right Fidesz opposition of deliberately organising the demonstrations for political gain.

"Fidesz is determined to provoke political chaos to force the government to resign," it says.

The country's best-selling newspaper, the centre-left [former communist - nimh] Nepszabadsag, says most Hungarians already knew they had been misled by the Socialists on economic policy, and argues that the prime minister was simply coming clean.

"What we have learnt," the paper says, "is that Ferenc Gyurcsany was honest".

His government, it adds, should now "have the guts" to pursue the reform plans it originally lied about, or resign. [..]

Other leading papers believe it is just a matter of time before Mr Gyurcsany resigns.

What he really meant by his admission, says the conservative Magyar Nemzet, is that Hungarians should now "forget what they think about democracy".

For this reason, the paper insists, "not much remains for the left to do other than to sack him". [..]

The liberal Magyar Hirlap [says] "It is impossible [..] to predict how the political elite will survive this scandal".

The Guardian yesterday quoted "Attila Kert, a senior producer who confronted the rioters who stormed TV headquarters on Monday night":

"Their demands were a joke - something like: Gyurcsany out, new elections, glory to Greater Hungary and promotion for their favourite football club .. They were a drunken, disorganised mess - nothing but a set of hooligans."
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 09:18 am
oh boy. i haven't seen any news for 5 weeks. seems the world didn't stop out of courtesy, and i'll have some catching up to do... what the...?!
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 10:32 am
dagmaraka wrote:
oh boy. i haven't seen any news for 5 weeks. seems the world didn't stop out of courtesy, and i'll have some catching up to do... what the...?!

You can start (in this thread) from here onward
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 01:02 pm
I should add this one as update:

<blinks> Did that really say, "collective ruffianism", there?
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 07:47 pm
nimh wrote:
Though its still also actually true, what you say. I mean, 95% of the Budapest population just did the same as what they normally do, tonight (and last night and the night before). The cafes were full, the streets too. Writing about all this, I was probably more occupied with it than 9 out of 10 other Budapesters - definitely more than anyone else in the cafe just now.

Although, by ways of addendum, I gotta add - I was in the same cafe as last night tonight - where they warned us at midnight to go out one direction because the rioters were toward the other.

(As it happened the rioters had by then moved up from Oktogon to Nyugati Station so they had been sending us right into the troubles - but I only found that out afterward, because I had of course headed straight to Oktogon to go look. But apart from some groups of football hooligan types crossing over there was nothing; the baddest thing they did was cross a red light.)

In any case, although last night was already a relatively quiet night, the only clashes that did happen, later, were right there, in that neighbourhood, even in the street of the cafe. And tonight it was reeaally quiet there. Just the ten of us or so, never seen so few people there. The waiter waved, well, yeah. And mentioned that they might have to stay inside tonight, on guard, so the windows wouldnt smashed in or the like.

I'm sure they went home early though; there dont seem to have been any clashes at all tonight. In fact - incredibly after the last few nights - the Magyar Nemzet (which admittedly sympathises with the protestors and has run breathless minute-by-minute accounts of the riots in previous nights) now has the unexpectedly comforting headline, "They are throwing flowers at the police on Kossuth Square".

I was at Parliament Square for a quick look earlier myself and it was indeed somehow a more mellow crowd. Still waving their Hungarian flags and chanting, but relatively far fewer Arpad flags, for example. Perhaps because originally there would have been this student demonstration tonight, a long-planned one against the introduction of tuition fees. It was cancelled, but it looked like many students had come to mingle in with the regular demonstrators anyway. The by now regular mood of the Kossuth Square rallies was still well represented as well though, as Magyar Nemzet amusingly recounts:

The correspondent of our paper was ear-witness to the following conversation: "How much for half a litre mineral water? Answer: 400 forints. You are not Hungarian" "Why, are you Hungarian, because you have a flag?"

This is a paradox I still cant easily, as outsider, integrate, by the way. Like I mentioned before, in Holland I can pretty much guess roughly what side people are on - the rightwing liberals, the Christian-Democrats, the Fortuynists - Labour and Socialist folk, GreenLefters - they all appeal, on the whole, to strikingly culturally marked demographics. At least the core supporters tend to be each of a different style, sensitivity, culturally and outwardly as well. So here I'm adapting because it keeps coming at a surprise to me who turns out to be leftwing, who rightwing.

The regular demonstrators, whose flags and t-shirts (with maps of Greater Hungary, the Hungarian crown, etc) betray that they are of varying degrees of nationalist bend, to me look like a totally average people; nice people. And today's demonstrators could have been at the Dutch protest against the Iraq war as well.

(This raises interesting questions, actually. There are a lot of twenty-somethings at the rallies. The rioters are largely teens. The MySpace page of a young Hungarian girl who added me, and those of her friends, show up that they see this as a kind of freedom fight, rebelling against the brutal cops, the state - teenage rebel heroism. Of course the Socialists have been in government here for eight of the last twelve years. For teens in the West, being leftist still kinda comes with the cool & rebellious thing (or it long did, anyway) - is it the right here, that has the image? Does the counterculture lean right? Plenty of alternative types at the rallies, that goth girl..

This, however, is where you all tell me to stop reading way too much into things I have really too little knowledge of to be able to assess them in any meaningful way.)
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 08:57 pm
nimh wrote:
And tonight it was reeaally quiet there. Just the ten of us or so, never seen so few people there. The waiter waved, well, yeah. And mentioned that they might have to stay inside tonight, on guard, so the windows wouldnt smashed in or the like.

Which reminds me. I finally met someone, 'in the wild' I mean, who actually sympathised with the whole events of this week. A good thing too, cause I'd been getting really curious - the people I know seem to be uniformly on the other side.

This morning in the coffeeshop, for example. Zs, the barrista who owns the place (and who is my age), told me how the fights had been closeby last night, and gesturing, described how the police had really clamped down hard this time. "And there was this one guy, who came out and just challenged them, and they, bang, they were all over him" - which is where I expected, habitually, the "those pigs" bit - but instead, with a finishing flourish, she concluded: "and I think that's good!"

Similarly, at the news that the Saturday demonstration was going to be cancelled, one of the charming regulars muttered "a good thing too", adding an atypical "f*ck that".

Twice today I fell in the "and what do you think, as foreigner, when you look at this" trap. Zs was the first to ask. I admitted that I could imagine that people were angry, I mean, with the actual Prime Minister saying that he'd lied to them morning, evening and night, for years - "but they all lie!", she interrupted, in Gyurscany's defence. Yeah, but I mean, he just comes out and straight tells everybody so, I offer. She: and thats what I like! At least he tells the truth about it."

That mix of resignation (they all lie, anyway) and pride (at least he just told everybody so) constituted a logic that, turning the man who admitted to lying day and night into a hero of truth, I couldnt possibly argue with. So I left it at that. Until I was asked again tonight, by The Guy I Finally Met Who Actually Supported The Actions: "but you, as outsider, what do you think? Can we win this?"

There, too, I had to find myself an awkward way out; I had no desire to get him down.

I found him in an unexpected place too. The last thing I'd anticipated, after all, was encountering a gay Fidesz supporter.

"So what do you think about all this, then", I had asked, with a vague wave. "Oh I think its great!," he cheerily responded. I doublechecked, making sure we were talking about the same thing: the demonstrations and everything? Yeah, I think its a good thing!

The waiter - for it was he, the same guy who thought he might have to stay in for the night to help guard the place against the rioters; he's a cool guy, he's always very nice - was kindly adamant and slightly idealistic. Yes, after work he'd gone demonstrating. Yes, they'd keep doing it until Gyurcsany would resign. "We have time!". He also followed the Fidesz line on why the Saturday demonstration had been cancelled: some leftists had threatened them, had told them, if you go ahead, we'll plant a bomb somewhere, so they'd had to cancel it. But it's OK, he smiled again - "we have time".

He said "revolution", several times, and name-dropped the inevitable year: "This is not '56 - but it's coming (or: can come) to '56". All somewhat sotto voce; when I asked the obvious (Fidesz doesnt like gays), he said - yes, all my colleagues tell me - we're liberal, you should be liberal! But yes - so the liberals are for gays - but it's just, just words! What good does it do me? Can I go to the bank and say, I'm gay, can I get money?

Couldnt argue with that, either. The government, he said, was bad. Had I heard, about the lying? They were all corrupt. He looked for the word "to cheat". Why do people do that? They cheat, and we pay taxes every month.. A new government needed to come. Set things right. But doesnt everybody lie, I borrowed Zs's line? Do you really think Fidesz would be any better, if they get in power? Yes, he did. I'm Fidesz, he smiled apologetically.

Interestingly, he was tactfully ambiguous about the rioting. On the one hand he waved, well, hooligans - you have these football fans who also come, they come in to do their own thing - kinda seeming to answer, though not entirely explicitly, that he hadnt himself joined in in any of that. On the other, he added, but well, thats what happens in revolutions! That kind of thing happens in revolutions.

And right then was one of the moments he had to excuse himself to go fold up the terrace and close the windows - the news was, they were coming down the boulevard, just two blocks down, again.
0 Replies
Reply Thu 21 Sep, 2006 09:14 pm
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 02:09 am
"Far-right radicals threatened to use violence to oust Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany last night, as Budapest witnessed the largest demonstration in a week of protests aimed at forcing out the socialist leader, who has admitted lying to the nation."

From today's The Obsever: Far-right 'hijacking' Hungary protests
0 Replies
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 08:08 am
Thanks, and
0 Replies
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 06:16 pm
More news re yesterday below - I havent checked up on today yet really, but from a first glance I gather there were again 10,000 demonstrators at the Parliament, and again things have remained peaceful so far.

Since I was playing Risk with Cs' friends out in Central-Hungary this weekend I'm glad the revolution didnt happen - it would have been a pretty silly reason to miss it. I had fun though ;-).

- Saturday's protests turned out largely peaceful, making it the third day/night in a row that things remained peaceful. (In fact, Fidesz called on protestors to wear something white as a sign that they rejected the rioting and violence. I saw a muscled, tattooed man in the supermarket wearing a white ribbon on his chest.)

- With Fidesz cancelling its big Saturday rally, it runs the risks of getting stuck between two fires. The 'silent majority' (doubtlessly larger still in Budapest) appears to blame it for having encouraged the violence - see below. But the far right can now profile itself as the only force that's really fully supporting the demonstators.

- A new organisation has apparently also been founded along with the protests, called the National Forum. With the 1956 flag (the Hungarian flag with the hole cut out in the middle) as logo.

There's some polls out; unfortunately the two I saw mentioned in Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hirlap (may have been one and the same with the two newspapers taking different things from it), I cant find back.

Far as I remember though, one result was that those who think Gyurcsany should resign and those who dont think so are reasonably in balance, both 40-something percent, but with those who dont think he has to resign getting the plurality. But another one was that a large majority does think Gyurscany has not done enough to clear the issue up / excuse himself.

A third one was that the liberal long-ruling candidate for mayor of Budapest, Gabor Demszky, who is also supported by the Socialists, and his challenger Istvan Tarlos, an independent candidate who is supported by Fidesz and the far right, are running roughly head-to-head.

Here's another set of (contradictory) poll results though, taken from this article:

A poll by private pollster Szonda Ipsos showed 51 percent believed Orban had contributed to the riots while 57 percent said all politicians lied and therefore Gyurcsany's comments on the tape did not cause the crisis.

The government's popularity has dropped to 22 percent of the overall population from around 40 percent at the April election, according to Szonda, and to 34 percent among people who would definitely vote in the local elections.

Fidesz has 34 percent support in the overall population, the poll showed, and 54 percent among those would definitely vote in the local elections.

The news on yesterday, with a particularly harsh stand by Laszlo Tokes (see last three paragraphs):

Hungarians continue to pressure leader

[..] At least 20,000 people flocked to the square in front of Hungary's parliament Saturday night, the biggest gathering since protests began a week ago.

Gyurcsany remained defiant. In an interview published Sunday he said that he still planned to seek his party's chairmanship next year and that the results of next Sunday's municipal elections would not affect his plans.

"Neither the government's actions nor what happens in the party depend on the final outcome" of the municipal elections, Gyurcsany told the newspaper Vasarnap Reggel. "I'm going to fight for these policies and part of it is the modernization of the Socialist Party."

Separately, he linked the center-right opposition to rioting earlier this week that left hundreds of people injured and caused damages costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This is not only the tragedy of the Hungarian right but also of Hungarian democracy," Gyurcsany told reporters.

Unlike previous protests, no violent incidents were reported Saturday night. Police said they detained six people for minor infractions during the rally.

In other parts of the country, one Socialist Party office was vandalized and another set on fire, but there were no reports of injuries.

Protesters vowed to continue demonstrating even after the municipal elections.

"Our protest will not cease until the Cabinet resigns," said Tamas Molnar, one of the organizers. "We want to bring down the current post-communist government."

Molnar also said they were planning to launch a "peaceful, friendly and creative" civic resistance campaign, without providing more details.

Saturday night's big turnout had been expected. The protest included people who had planned to join a separate political rally by Fidesz, the main opposition party, before it was postponed due to security concerns.

One speaker Saturday, Laszlo Toekes, the ethnic Hungarian Protestant bishop whose protest when he was a young priest in Romania sparked the 1989 anti-communist revolution in that nation, suggested Gyurcsany was a greater criminal than the demonstrators who rioted early Tuesday and Wednesday.

"Who is really guilty? He who sets a car on fire, or he who destroys a whole nation?" asked Toekes, whose following is mostly among right-wing nationalists.

A masked man introduced himself as Gyoergy Budahazi, who is being sought by police for damage to a monument commemorating the Soviet liberation of Budapest from the Nazis. He received prolonged applause before disappearing into the crowd. [..]
0 Replies
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 06:59 pm
That's my boys


"We've tried every bastard government

Now we govern ourselves"


The other side of the coin

The take of the cartoonist at HVG:


- "There's a slight misunderstanding here, kids. In '56 we defended the streets, and the Soviet tanks did the ravaging."


A Socialist's point of view

I met an ardent supporter of the Socialists (MSzP) in Zs's coffeeshop Friday morning. I could tell she was ardent because, first, she said so (I asked, what do you think about all this, and she answered, well, I'm for the MSzP, so for me it's not a question); and second, because she followed the talking points. Including the one about how Gyurcsany, on the notorious tape, had been talking about all the past fifteen years when he talked about how "we lied morning, noon and night" - as in, we, the political class - and as opposed to the common interpretation that he had been specifically talking about we, the MSzP, I personally as PM, this last one-two years.

"The media only ever repeat the same two lines, but if you look at what he said, that's what he was saying," she insisted. (Blithely disregarding that one look at the transcript shows the opposite). What he meant to say, she expounded, was how bad a state the economy was in, after all those years; that big reforms were needed, serious cuts.

But still, I suggested, shouldn't he have said that in the election campaign already then? But they knew, she protested, everybody knew what state the economy was in - or they could have known. He warned about it too, about the difficult steps that would have to be taken. But they didnt listen to that part, they didnt believe it. They chose to believe what they wanted to hear.

(I didnt press on about how the myriad MSzP election posters had primarily boasted about with how much % the pensions had gone up under its government, how wages X had gone up and costs Y had gone down.)

Her loyalty also showed in how she deflected questions about what she thought of Gyurcsany herself, then, or about his admission that he'd lied. "We can deal with that later, now is not the time". First we have to deal with the economy, the reforms that are needed. Such things can be dealt with later. In any case, she and Zs agreed, there was no alternative - there was noone else in the Socialist Party who would be able to take over, and push through the reforms.

Asked about those, she weighed in sternly. The problem with the people, with the Hungarians - she complained to me, the Westerner - is that they dont realise what they need to do. That they have to work themselves for things to happen. The problem is - they are used to just sitting and waiting. To hold out their hand. Like, tuition fees - they expect everything to be free. But there is not a country in Europe, she insisted (wrongly), where you dont have to pay tuition fees. Thats the problem - they just expect things to be arranged for them. But they have to get up and realise that that's not how it works.

So spoke the ardent supporter of the Socialist Party.

Hungarian politics is complicated.
0 Replies
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 08:03 pm
Even the readers of the conservative Magyar Nemzet appear to be losing hope on the protests though; in a poll on its site about what will happen now, 43% says, nothing: "the demonstrators will tire, Gyurcsany stays"; and another 29% says that Gyurcsany will go but the government will stay. Just 12% voted that the demonstrators will reach their goal.
0 Replies
Reply Sun 24 Sep, 2006 08:04 pm
(this afternoon..)

It's four o'clock "és meg mindig süt a nap," and the sun is still shining, a cheerful female voice announces on the radio in the flower shop, open on this Sunday afternoon.

Down the street at the Burger King, a young man hangs out of the order window on the street side, up to his chest. He calls out "yes, OK!", to one group of customers, and eagerly looks around with almost Truman Show devotion, yelling, "anyone else, who else?".

An open-roofed tourist bus passes, and three, four sightseeers lean out to photograph Keleti Station.

Outside the Madach Theatre, ladies and gentlemen crowd on the sidewalk, waiting to be let in or just coming out, dressed in the showy kind of chic that appears to be de rigueur here when going to opera and operetta or the like - much shiny black, and impressive cleavages.

A grandmother walks along with a stroller, tiny baby inside, little Hungarian flag tucked behind the frame.

A couple of bikers come racing down with much sound & fury, revving up as they pass by, on back wheels only.

A hooting taxi cab follows soon after, large Hungarian flags held out from the windows.

A strong-built, clean-cut young guy and a fit girl in bare-riff t-shirt stroll down the Nagykorut, the big boulevard, proudly showing off each other.

Apart from the waitress in the cukraszda, everybody in Budapest appears to be perfectly happy, this unexpectedly warm late September afternoon.
0 Replies
Reply Mon 25 Sep, 2006 06:26 pm
Press sympathy for Gyurcsany

BBC News
Sunday, 24 September 2006

Hungary's embattled Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany receives a sympathetic hearing in some of the country's newspapers.

The Sunday Vasarnapi Hirek praises Mr Gyurcsany for telling the truth about the country's economic situation rather than sweeping it under the carpet.

"He decided to tell the truth, which of course hurts, rather than continuing to lie, which does not.

"It would be a moral crisis if he had told the truth hitherto and were now to start lying," the paper concludes.

Comment in another Sunday paper, Vasarnap Reggel, says "the government is legitimate and will remain so, as will the prime minister".

However, it says that Mr Gyurcsany is under attack from forces within his own socialist party as well as the opposition over his proposed austerity package, and with local elections looming, "he can't expect much good".


A commentator in the pro-socialist Nepszabadsag saves its ire for Viktor Orban, the former prime minister and current leader of the main opposition party, Fidesz.

It accuses him of playing a double game, of seeking to be at the forefront of system change while fretting that democracy in Hungary is in danger.

"He is aiming his words disguised as criticism of the system at one person: Ferenc."

In contrast, a leading article in the pro-Fidesz Magyar Nemzet praises the protesters for personifying "honour, solidarity, democracy, freedom of speech, and uncensored opinions.

"Some people must have had a huge fright at the overwhelming force of the genie let out of the bottle," it concludes.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 26 Sep, 2006 03:24 pm
George Schöpflin is a respected scholar of modern Central European history. But he is also, nowadays, a member of the European parliament for Fidesz, Hungary's rightwing opposition party. As a result, an article he wrote in openDemocracy has both a number of interesting, insightful points to make, and a clear partisan slant that makes it less than a reliable resource:

Hungary: country without consequences

George Schöpflin
22 - 9 - 2006

The political furore in Hungary over the prime minister's admission of lying to citizens is payback for problems unresolved after the communist era, says George Schöpflin.

I should add that the partisan slant of the article lies solely in selection and omission. What he writes is all or almost all true. His criticism of the Socialist government is correct.

The slant is in the absence of a similar critical take on the role and political culture of the opposition - its own, prime responsibility in fanning polarisation and the politicisation of all aspects of society, up to where, back in the 2002 election campaign, it called on all its supporters to wear a Hungarian flag on their lapel to show who were the true patriots.

Lacking, too, is a critical take on the years that Fidesz itself had been in government, when the politicisation of state insitutions and cronyism in appointments that he criticises in the current Socialist government went apace no less swiftly, and corruption, though perhaps less endemic than it's been under the Socialists, was hardly absent either.

Still, as I said, a number of insightful points; for example:

The crisis in Hungary over the recorded comments of the prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány to a party meeting and the explosion of protest they provoked is far from resolved. Moreover, there are deeper structural factors that make that resolution extremely difficult. At first glance Hungary looks like a fairly normal democratic country with a left wing and a right wing, but closer scrutiny shows three serious flaws in democratic practice.

First, in a way it is not unfair to regard Hungarian democracy - and this applies to quite a few of the former communist states - as an incomplete democracy. Democratic legitimation is in place and is secured through elections, so that power is exercised with the consent of the people. But in the absence of democratic values like accountability, transparency, self-limitation and responsibility for decision-making, the outcome is rather less than democratic.

[..] The polarisation centres on various issues, among them perhaps most importantly the problem of Hungarian nationhood itself [..]. The left [..] demonises the right as fascist, anti-semitic, and xenophobic. The right counterattacks by calling the left traitors and anti-national. [..] In Hungary's deeply divided political culture, almost everything is perceived as a function of party politics (in Budapest this goes as far as identifiably leftwing and rightwing restaurants). [..]

The polarisation has other anti-democratic consequences - if all developments are interpreted in partisan terms, there can be no autonomous public sphere and public opinion is itself politicised, with the result that the principled democratic critique of power is marginalised and ignored. Some Hungarian commentators have described the Ferenc Gyurcsány government as the "so-what government" and Hungary as the "country without consequences".

Parallel with this absence of criticism has been a decline in transparency and accountability, together with a rise in corruption (noted by Transparency International). So, for example, tendering for government contracts is opaque, and more than once companies with ties to the coalition have received contracts in a very unclear fashion. The ministry of finance has repeatedly resorted to creative accounting in its reporting of a deteriorating economic performance. [..]

Autonomous institutions have one by one come under pressure to do the government's bidding - among them the Hungarian national bank, the Hungarian central statistical office, the chief procurator, and the financial supervisory authority. [..]

The deeper consequences of this crisis remain unclear, though various scenarios can be sketched:

  • the left coalition and Gyurcsány will successfully ride out the crisis and restore order

  • the wing of the socialists that is quite likely to have leaked the tape may successfully persuade the Hungarian Socialist Party to dump Gyurcsány (although there is at present no plausible candidate to succeed him)

  • the violence escalates, the government responds with needless counterforce, and this triggers off a wave of protests producing a potentially revolutionary situation [now no longer seems likely - nimh]

  • Gyurcsány's self-confidence collapses suddenly and he resigns, leaving a vacuum at the centre of power

  • Gyurcsány accepts the opposition's proposal to set up a government of experts (unlikely)

  • the socialists ask for external political support as a way of establishing Hungarian society's quiescence, on the grounds that "Europe" has higher credibility
    [Seems more like an additional strategy to the first scenario than a separate one. So far the EU has refrained from all but the most terse of comments, but it has certainly not lent any support to the protestors either - nimh]

  • the opposition directly challenges the government's legitimacy, using the argument that the government is in power only because it has lied
    [This is what it has been doing from the start, but that just begs the question what it will yield. Personally I think that if they had protested the outrage of Gyurcsany's lies and called for his resignation, but had not gone on to retrospectively reject the legitimacy of the past elections, making it seem like they were attacking the democratic state itself, it would have had a better chance of mobilising people beyond its own immediate camp - nimh]
The key to all these scenarios is the self-legitimation - the self-confidence - of the left; the extent to which it can persist in its belief that even with a serious and growing upheaval on its hands it can hold onto power; and at what point, if at all, this self-belief will collapse.
0 Replies
Reply Tue 26 Sep, 2006 04:27 pm
This story has fallen from favour locally - our big Hungarian story is the number of Hungarian immigrants who arrived just about 50 years ago - and how they impacted life in Toronto - and Canadian immigration policies.
0 Replies
Reply Wed 27 Sep, 2006 05:56 pm
I didnt know that Fidesz MP Maria Wittner last week actually said that the events were being "a revolution."

Didnt happen, though, and in any case, the EU is not having any of it:

EU backs Hungary's budget plans

BBC News
Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Hungary's programme of austerity measures to try and gets its economy back on track has been backed by the European Commission.

With Ferenc Gyurcsany's struggling government planning to raise taxes and cut social spending, Brussels said it wanted a "rigorous implementation". [..]
0 Replies
Reply Thu 28 Sep, 2006 01:41 pm
There's no more policemen fencing off Freedom Square... I think thats the first day they're gone.

And the Free Democrats of Budapest mayor Demszky, who are the Socialist's junior partner in the national government, have election posters up for the local elections this weekend that say: "Peace" (or "calmness" or "quiet") "for Budapest. It's not the street, but your vote that will decide."
0 Replies

Related Topics

Copyright © 2023 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.05 seconds on 12/01/2023 at 08:52:43