Our objective is to provide English speaking readers interested in Hungary with a well balanced view of political activities in Hungary by featuring contents from various printed and online sources together with our own commentaries. We are convinced that Hungary is built on all sorts of different ideas, thoughts and opinions and, despite of the new Media Law, our aim is to provide an alternative and reliable source of information – contrary to the one-sided press of the government – for those who want to hear the voice of a free Hungary.
Published on Friday, 19 June 2015 08:28
In the past few weeks and for the next few weeks, the most important political issue has been and will be the question of immigration. Until very recently, Hungary was a country that didn't know what it was like to have this problem. Now, just as in Western Europe, the political life is focusing on how to look for the best solution to stem the tide of the immigrants. The EU certainly doesn't look as though they were in control since Italy, which receives the biggest portion of the migrants, called on Brussels to not just sit with arms crossed, but do something to ease the tensions. This has not happened so far and the result is that more and more countries will take unilateral decisions in the face of an incompetent Union. We know what is happening in Calais on a daily basis, we saw how the French police turned back the migrants at Ventimiglia and we know that more and more politicians think of getting rid of the Schengen borders. In Hungary, the ruling Fidesz decided to close to southern border of the EU by building a fence and with this step, incurring the wrath of the liberals and other left of centre parties, such as the main leftist opposition MSZP. Members of the socialist party have even gone as far as making such ludicrous statements that the " problem of immigration was created by Fidesz to divert the attention from its political scandals". This one utterly ridiculous statement should be enough to discount MSZP as a serious party, but , as it seems, anything goes when it come to political expediency. György Nógrádi, one of the best known security experts in Hungary, said that when it comes to choosing between moral and politics, a political party will always choose politics. That statement is true, not just for Hungary, but for the entire world. No matter how much people would like to help these people, accomodating immigrants in such numbers is impossible without creating social tensions. So when the Hungarian Left is voicing its concern about the rise of Jobbik, it should have a look how matters look in the refugee camp in Debrecen. When they say that there is no pressure at the southern border, they should go and have a chat with people from Magyarkanizsa in Serbia. They should ask the Bavarian government why they consider bringing back the regular vigilance at their border. Unfortunately, they won't do that. Attacking Fidesz for everything they do, let alone when it is clear that their policy on immigration is very much like that of Western Europe, is morally wrong, and utterly stupid. Because denying that there is no immigrant problem and telling people that the whole issue was invented by Mr Orbán, is either pure ignorance or a big lie, both of which should be enough to disqualify people from taking part in politics.
Published on Tuesday, 02 June 2015 06:03
The Commanding General turns 52 today. I cannot celebrate a mass, but I can thank him in writing as well for having ruined his country. No one since Szálasi and Rákosi [two Hungarian dictators of the 20th century - ed.] has ever caused so much suffering to the Hungarian people.Read more: My Thanksgiving to Viktor Orbán
Published on Wednesday, 06 May 2015 20:13
The chairman of the Democratic Coalition (DK) announced the new political platform of his party. He opens not only to the left but tries to attract the voters of MSZP. And, presumably, also those voters who in 2002 and 2006 believed in MSZP but since then have begun to believe that Jobbik is the best party to stop Hungary's backward slide. When mentioning the latter, he presumably does not seek the true Nazis but only people who need to feel safe.
Some interesting speeches could be heard on May Day. LMP also promised the increased subsistence level as a gesture to the left. As such, DK and LMP may also have some common goals. József Tóbiás of MSZP spoke about almost everything except the world of work. He mentioned Europe, the fight against extremists but the red colour disappeared even from the stage background. Gábor Vona tried to get ahead of Orbán again by initiating a parliamentary debate about the death penalty. Incidentally, the chairman of Jobbik commended LMP, saying that they and Schiffer's party are the two parties of the 21st century. Now, what belongs together tends to grow together.
At any rate, the most unexpected statement came from Gyurcsány. He wants the minimum wage to rise to the level of the minimum subsistence cost of living (as determined by the National Statistical Office - editor). This means that, if someone has a job and works eight hours a day, he shall not get into a situation that, while acting responsibly, he is unable to pay the utility costs and cannot give food to his family. In other words: he, who works should be able to eat.
The second promise is a less detailed one and problems may arise there for him. Gyurcsány suggests that the general manager of a company shall be required to pay all wages due for work performed and he shall be liable for that with his personal assets! In the world of circular debts it occurs frequently that the work performed is not paid at all or is paid only partially. It is not known yet how it can be regulated that the owner of a small enterprise shall be liable for unpaid wages. With his own car, perhaps? However, the intent is understandable - if someone has done work, he must be paid.
And finally, there is the promise of justice in utility costs. Drinking water should be free up to 2 cubic meters and electricity up to 50 kilowatts. This is roughly the quantity which is necessary for drinking, washing, cooking or lighting. This social tariff is an equitable proposal, especially when taking into consideration that the planned progressive system would encumber the average consumer in the same way as currently, while those who have a swimming pool, would pay much more. The proposal lessens the burden on those at the bottom and increases it on those at the top. At least this is the goal. Nobody should have to be hungry or thirsty and nobody should need to sit in the dark where, for example, their child cannot write his homework. The idea will not destroy public utilities and does not make necessary any budget spending either. It requires rich people to subsidize the minimum living conditions of the poorest people.
The chairman of DK spoke about six million forgotten voters, people who have been left out since the change of political system. The package and its proposer will likely be labelled communist but if it is heard by understanding ears, it may give a new topic and new direction to left-wing discourse in Hungary.
The route is risky but the old one was not practicable. If someone wants to govern this country, then he needs to find a way to win the hearts and minds of the four million poor and a further two million who are in fear of falling behind. Orbán' unfair but well-packed utility cost reduction is evidence of that. However, his gunpowder seems to be running out. Jobbik feels this and PM (Dialogue for Hungary party) is also looking into this direction. The latter is, however, only voted for by its own family members; their voice is not even heard in the next village.
Jobbik can only be stopped with authentic social promises. One has to find those who are in fear of losing the safety of living. Gyurcsány is now attempting to do so. The question is how much strength will he have and whether he has sufficient credibility to achieve this goal?
Published on Wednesday, 06 May 2015 13:24
I see many were surprised by the speech of former PM Gyurcsány on 1st May 2015. People expected him to hold a speech berating Orbán as usual. Socialist leader József Tóbiás and even LMP talked about social problems, too. The main point of Gyurcsány's speech was to provide free water and free electricity for the poorest in an amount that is necessary to light, to drink and to have a bath. The costs would be paid by people who fill and warm up their swimming pools. Additionally, work that has been performed must be paid and in the next five years the minimum wage should reach the subsistence wage. It means that everybody who is working should be able to afford to eat and to pay their bills. Is this populism? Isn't it the essence of the political left? I am looking forward to this debate. At last the democratic opposition has a real initiative instead of the permanent fear of Jobbik and of how big a thief and traitor Orbán is. The political left should wake up and see that without the real representation of the poor the left wing wouldn't exist and a change of government could never be achieved. The discussion about left wing policy and a social Hungary appears to have been opened on 1st May.
Published on Tuesday, 05 May 2015 13:51
While the two largest parties of the extreme right (Fidesz and Jobbik) are fighting tooth and nail for votes supporting xenophobia and the death penalty, on the other side a race has started to determine the leading leftist party. On May Day Friday, Ferenc Gyurcsány announced a genuine leftist program, through which he wants to take over the initiative from the moribund MSZP.
According to the Chairman of Democratic Coalition (DK), the 25 years that have passed since the regime change have left two-thirds of the population unsatisfied as the coveted prosperity still hasn't been realized. Gyurcsány said that it is necessary to do these people justice, and therefore he launched "The program for the forgotten 6 million people" which (for now?) consists of three points.
1.) Within the next 5 years, the statutory minimum wage must rise to the level of the minimal living wage.
2.) The employers must pay for the work done, and they are to be held accountable through all of their assets.
3.) The cost of water and electricity should be raised gradually, and within this, the first couple of cubic meters and kilowatts should be free.
Concerning the minimum wage, it is important to know, that currently one million people live below the poverty line in Hungary. This is the number of our fellow citizens who get up every morning to go to work for at least 8 hours, and still earn less money than it is necessary to live a decent life. We agree that this is scandalous and intolerable.
It is also on the positive side that Gyurcsány, unlike the increasingly present neo-communist minimum wage movements, doesn't want to give away free money to those happily living off unemployment benefits but stands on the side of those who actually work for a living.
He is quite aware that the only way Hungary can prosper is through the long-awaited moral and financial recognition of those whose work adds value to the community. And society should look at the working man as an example to be followed, and not as a pathetic loser.
How he will manage to increase the minimum wage by 40% without causing turmoil in the labor market and angering employers remains a question for now. However, it is already obvious that it won't be an easy task and can only be achieved gradually. In any case, it is reassuring that he did not promise to solve the question of the minimum wage within a period of two weeks.
As for gradually increasing utility prices, reported in the press as "free water" and "free electricity": as a pro market economy blog, we believe that social policies should not be exercised through water and electricity, and it is only fair if the cost of goods and services used are paid by everyone equally.
However, attention must always be paid to circumstances and the way that Orbán's government has run amok in the past 5 years, dangerously impoverishing the lowest layers of society, cannot be ignored. In the Hungary of 2015, hundreds of thousands are left to fend for themselves without water and electricity, which are considered to be basic needs in most countries.
Gyurcsány's program entails that the minimum consumption of the poor would be paid for by the wealthy and thus the proposal would not (or only minimally) interfere with the total income of the utility services, and would only restructure those.
The whole program is more of a gesture towards the poor. It sends the message that we are not so well off that we can give money away for cigarettes and booze, but everyone deserves a few cubic meters of water and a few kilowatts of electricity. Western Light (Nyugati Fény) can support this proposal in the spirit of the most elemental humanity.
In any case, this program is more just than the undifferentiated utility cost reduction that saves only a couple of forints for the needy, but lets the more affluent keep tens of thousands. Gyurcsány has long been an advocate of the principle of "where there is more of an opportunity, there is more of a responsibility". The question is whether people can believe of the politician who has fought his way up from poverty to wealth, that he can still remember his roots and genuinely wants to create a more just country.
In any case, it is now clear that Gyurcsány, at the head of a now stronger party (Tárki:11%, Medián:10%, Nézőpont:12%) is ready to become the leader of the political left. Whether he is able to succeed is an equation with many unknown variables. His success depends not only on his competition, but also on his own self.
The impotent leftist competition and the two-faced Fidesz, which only talks about supporting the "hard-working common man" but in reality supports the rich, are both playing into Gyurcsány's hands. The only question that remains is whether "Feri" learned enough from his past mistakes to get it right this time?
Published on Tuesday, 24 March 2015 13:56
In addition to economic and structural reforms, investments are also necessary within the European Union - wrote former Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai in his guest commentary in the German business paper Handelsblatt. In his article titled 'Against populists', Gordon Bajnai explained how the initial hope and later the reality of rapidly catching up to the West led to the "great disillusionment" within the countries of the former Eastern bloc, and how this was followed by the appearance of nationalism and "identity issues", and how the EU was turned from an icon into a scapegoat.
One reason for the disappointment is that the EU is "grappling with and trying to redefine itself", and in this process, technocrats and populists are on opposing sides - wrote Gordon Bajnai.
He added that due to the global financial crisis, millions of people lost their position in the middle class and therefore it is hardly surprising that in almost all of the EU countries, populism has gained momentum, especially "in the form of nationalism."
The question remains: how does this situation affect the "three key topics of European economic policy, namely structural reforms, investments, and fiscal measures" - wrote the former Prime Minister, emphasizing that in order to reduce the national debt, it is necessary to be reasonable and fiscally prudent, but structural reforms are also long overdue in most EU member states.
In order to overcome the crisis, the EU is in need of "some restrictions, and much stronger structural reforms", and even more importantly, investments - opined Gordon Bajnai. He emphasized that believing that the only way to make investments, while lacking resources, is through the increase of debts, is erroneous. Citing a survey, he added that private investors have made investments in infrastructure of a trillion US dollars, which they managed to triple in five years.
The investment potential is available but there aren't enough suitable development projects, and the management capacity necessary for their implementation is lacking - wrote the former Prime Minister.
He stressed that it is necessary to have the "fertile triad of" austerity policies, structural reforms and investments, and also, "good politicians" who organize "public support" necessary for all this. This way, Europe would "finally draw courage and act effectively against populist tendencies" - wrote Gordon Bajnai.
Published on Wednesday, 04 March 2015 13:54
I believe the current political system to be illiberal, where many international and universal norms are violated. Since 2010 a select group of people have monopolized all means of power in an unconstitutional manner through legal, but illegitimate measures.Read more: The restoration of liberal democracy
Published on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 20:02
Lajos has betrayed me.
Friday 30th January 2015
I called the Prime Minister's office this morning, just to see what's going on. I don't spend much time there these days – I leave the running of the country to Janos Lazar, who is doing an excellent job. He's ruined relations between Hungary and the US, Norway, Ukraine and of course the EU. I couldn't have done it better myself.
Published on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 20:10
I do not think that he will fail because of Lajos Simicska's diatribes. Instead, it started with the two-thirds majority brought about by election fraud – to be more precise, this is how things speeded up. Orbán falsified reality.
The nation might have had entrusted him with forming a government once again – here, I wish not to go at length about the problems of the opposition –, but the Hungarian people did not want four more years of autocracy, and especially not the institutionalisation of robbery. Furthermore, if Fidesz-controlled news programmes (disguised as public media) had provided nothing but objective service, many things could have gone different.
The biggest problem of Orbán – apart from his behaviour, which seems to be increasingly perplexed – is his total burnout. He is the old-timer of Hungarian politics, a person who never did anything except politics – besides him, there are such (or similar) people only in the ruling Fidesz party or from its environs: Kövér, Áder, Szájer, Deutsch, Fodor & co. Everyone else either arrived later, or at the same time, but have since retired, effaced themselves, or have been forced to the fringes.
The Leader, who has a great deal of sophistication in the techniques of power, has lost all kinds of control. He knows that no criminal trials will be held against him – friends, pals and already bribed people are everywhere. As regards the others, their dossiers are lying in wait, hence the power of threats. And what Simicska is talking about is, in fact, dictatorship, and it tells everything about Orbán's regime. The one-time dorm roommate, who was the former treasurer of Fidesz, is now saying that he might get killed by a car.
Since they know each other, Simicska must know what he is saying.
Even though Orbán's regime is completely rotten, he could still care about things or could have ideas. But he cares more about the Golden Ball gala than about poverty or the emigration of doctors. He belies national sentiments, and he belies the Hungarian interest. He is only interested in power and money. A burnout man has no ideas. And now, he can no longer blame his bad decisions on anything. There is no 'past-eight-years', no worldwide crisis, still, he will bequeath only ruins to posterity. His name is being cursed in education, health care and in the world of work. He is scolded by youngsters, entrepreneurs, the have-nots and public workers. There is no one anymore who would tell him that what he is doing is bad. The people around him either treat him like a demigod (treasuring his Coke can as a fetish), or are terrified to speak out. Just do not tell me that "but a great mass of people is standing behind him": others also had great masses standing behind them – both before and after 1989. Masses come and go. And the height up to where Orbán struggled himself up by means of political talent, intrigues, villainy and unclean monies, this is the place from whence one might fall big time.
If he launched any kind of structural reform, all of his earlier statements could be turned against him. That is also why he does not make any moves, but instead he is running TV ads telling lies. He has stupid ideas on stickers, Internet tax..., while he is talking rubbish about plebeian politics at the same time as he is drowning in corruption. He is making up unimportant, marginal stories, not to mention that even those stories are unpopular.
The confinement remains; it is an increasingly narrower tunnel. If you take a step back, you might even find this hopeless drifting funny. However, there is unfortunately the danger that the cornered man will do anything. This time, it was his former friend that said plainly what he thought about him [Orbán]. Not that this friend would be any better than him, but the stab went deep indeed, and gave birth to an epic attribute. It will be a painful farewell, and especially for the country. We will have to rebuild everything from very great depths.
Published on Friday, 30 January 2015 10:04
The first days and weeks of the new year are ideal for making promises and explanations, and perhaps also for posing questions of great importance, i.e. strategic questions. This is all the more so in the discourse of leading Western European politicians. On the one hand, the beginning of the new year, and, on the other hand, the tragedies and challenges that happened in the first days of this year have drawn their attention - just as their voters' - to a number of questions. For this very reason, they have been mainly occupied with European issues, while putting their own domestic policy issues onto the back burner.Read more: Gyurcsány: Reckless despair
Published on Sunday, 11 January 2015 18:46
The recent days have shown that civilization and humanity can go backwards. It has shown that the values that we fought two bloody wars for, can be slowly turned back and eradicated. It has shown that even in the European Union, which likes to think of itself as the beacon of democracy and freedom, people die for values which we thought we would never have to die for again. The massacre of an entire crew of a satirical weekly made clear many things. Firstly, that you can die for just expressing your opinion. Secondly, that a lot of people do agree that Charlie Hebdo went too far, and, for this reason, we should capitulate to the dark forces of religious fundamentalim and change our policy on free speech.Read more: Editorial: Europe Must Defend Itself From Itself
Published on Wednesday, 26 November 2014 18:36
When – after three trying campaigns – almost two thousand people get together on a cold Sunday morning in November for a political party's congress, it cheers up the spirits.
Looking around from the bench, and greeting DK's members and sympathisers that got together, small Hungarian and EU flags were waiving in the room. This is how a proud but discontent party held its 4th congress.
The reason for that pride is that the party, which was deemed by some a year ago only as a sect with 1% popular support, now sits in the Hungarian Parliament, in the European Parliament, in the Budapest City Council, in eighty per cent of Budapest's district municipalities and of the county councils, as well as in all but one municipalities of the county seats. The party that became a ten-percent-strong party in only three years will fight even harder from now on for the downfall of Orbán.
Ferenc Gyurcsány summarised DK's claims in 10 points:
1. There is a need for a bloodless regime change and a change in government!
2. By 2016, early elections must be held!
3. A western orientation instead of opening to the east and playing both ends!
4. The Fidesz-regime and its corrupt figures and oligarchs must be called to account!
5. Free establishment of churches once again!
6. A fair judiciary, prosecution and media, which shall be free from political pressure!
7. Free civil society!
8. An independent anti-corruption committee for calling politicians to account!
9. A new Constitution with more democratic rights and more possibilities for holding popular votes!
10. A new social and economic contract for decreasing poverty, and with the involvement of political parties, trade unions and the [professional] Chambers!
This is where we should start from. However, we simply cannot return anymore to the regime change of 1989, which seems to be a historic and wonderful event even today. So refastening a button will not do it, but a new coat is needed; a new coat which is even warmer, safer and easier to button up.
Although we at DK support the civilian protests, DK does not support anarchy and the rejection of political parties. There is no democracy without freedom, but there is no democracy without parties either.
The Democratic Coalition believes that all demonstrations (even if their messages might be divergent) share the same political will: the sinful and nation-destroying Viktor Orbán and his mafia government must go away as soon as possible. This country will simply not survive four more years of what we had in the previous four. So let us act now!
Published on Wednesday, 10 December 2014 15:47
In the past few weeks, more articles appeared in the printed and online press about Hungarian foreign policy than altogether since 2010. The public's long-time indifference towards the subject is one of the reasons of the current crisis of foreign policy, and that is also why the topic demands now – with full force – to make it to the front pages.Read more: Neither Foreign Affairs, Nor Minister – an Article by Nóra Hajdú
Published on Sunday, 21 September 2014 17:11
If former premier Ferenc Gyurcsány would not have been forced to resign back in April 2009, the two-thirds mandate of Viktor Orbán could have been avoided as well as all the things that this country has suffered since then – and it was Klára Dobrev (Gyurcsány's wife, a well known business woman) who declared it in an interview with hvg.hu. Some will obviously claim that she is biased; in my opinion, however, reality validates her stance, as well as that of me and many others who think the same.
Five and a half years ago – when allegedly the whole nation hated the Prime Minister –, a global crisis was ravaging and then-PM Gyurcsány just intended to submit the third package to Parliament, but the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) was not ready to support it. They deemed it more important to get rid of the heritage of the Őszöd speech – which can, in my view, be endorsed even today – and of the reforms that had been thwarted via an unconstitutional referendum as well as of the Prime Minister who had brought back the chance for success five years earlier from a truly desperate situation and who had eventually defeated Viktor Orbán. (Let me note that according to the IMF's expert opinion, Hungary was successful in dealing with the crisis in 2009/2010...)
Nowadays it can be seen that MSZP started to go downhill (leading up to Fidesz's two-thirds majority) not because of Gyurcsány but because of Gyurcsány's departure. If someone looks after the facts, he will see that at the time of Gyurcsány's resignation, the Socialist party still had as much as 1.5 million voters. Back then many viewed this as a bust, and were writing articles – and were making others to write articles – (and all that for money) alleging that if Gyurcsány stays, not only him but the entire left wing will also disappear from politics. Gyurcsány's own party and his own halo got in the character assassination attempt. Some viewed Katalin Szili (!) as the person of the future; others wanted to see new, younger faces.
Where is now that 1.5-million-strong camp of MSZP supporters? It still exists, however, it is scattered and disheartened, suffering from the lack of unity.
If we look at what happened since MSZP had rejected to vote for the third crisis management package – thereby forcing Ferenc Gyurcsány to leave first his office as PM, then the party chairmanship as well –, we can conclude that it paved the way for Fidesz's two-thirds majority. I would also like to note that following his resignation as PM, Gyurcsány was re-elected as party Chairman by a landslide at the subsequent extraordinary party congress, and that none of his successors enjoyed that much support within MSZP. However, as the political and spiritual leader of Hungary's democratic pole stepped down, collapse began. Interim leaders took over the direction of MSZP, and they even declared the temporary nature of their mandate.
For a while, Ildikó Lendvai assumed the party chairmanship; in the fall of 2009, however, the head of the party's election committee and PM candidate Attila Mesterházy took the lead – but not as Chairman. Gordon Bajnai announced in advance that he would assume the responsibility of governing for one year only, which eroded the government's legitimacy even more. Why would I want to entrust the task to Orbán which I think I can do better and more successfully for my country's sake? What would be the logic in doing so? Then Bajnai went on to submit – only with minor modifications – Gyurcsány's third package. This is what created – by 2012, i.e. the year of establishing his new party – the image of the successful head of the crisis-managing government. This image has been reinforced by the fact that MSZP and SZDSZ decided to stop feuding with each other for that year. This came as no surprise, though, given that none of the government MPs wanted to face early elections. Fidesz let them do the dirty job because they saw that power would fall into their hands anyway. As for Bajnai, he only undertook the premiership on the condition that all Socialist and Liberal MPs sign a declaration to support the government's proposals without objection. After all, it is much easier to govern this way than constantly having to navigate through the jungle of consultations and negotiations.
Gordon Bajnai did what he had to do as Prime Minister – just like Ferenc Gyurcsány did –, but the new PM became virtually invisible in the 2010 campaign, while Socialist party leaders and left-liberal journalists were constantly denouncing the past eight years – in a way, their very own past eight years. So we were standing there with an interim government, with a global crisis and with two parties that were ashamed of the way they were governing. In his last speech in Parliament, Bajnai even called Viktor Orbán a Democrat, thereby further paving the way for Fidesz's two-thirds majority. The 'interim' feeling was only reinforced by his later acts.
Had Gyurcsány stayed in office in 2009, Fidesz could not have obtained a two-thirds majority. Fighting for his entire political oeuvre, Gyurcsány would have simply dragged the 1.5 million MSZP voters up to the ballot boxes. Even 1.1 million votes would have been sufficient to prevent absolute majority. A proud – and not shy – campaign would have been enough to avoid Fidesz's two-thirds majority. However, in the one year without Gyurcsány, MSZP lost half a million more voters. But no one was interested in fighting anymore, except for him. Carnations either disappeared from the posters or became tiny (and in some cases, green). As for SZDSZ, it allied itself with MDF that was just as moribund a party, plus led by a Chairman begging pardon for everything they did... But those parties that do not stand up for the results of their term in government are doomed to fail. MSZP began its way downhill, while SZDSZ did not even make it into the Parliament, and has disappeared since then. Everyone was preparing for the new world, for the world after Gyurcsány, saying that Gyurcsány will be responsible for the brutal defeat.
I will write about what happened afterwards in my next blog – sometime in the future...