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Protest in a one-party state

by DoDo Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 03:34:00 AM EST

A new constitution created by Hungary's right-wing government of PM Viktor Orbán's right-populist Fidesz party took effect on 1 January 2012. It is the culmination of a legal coup that de facto abolished the separation of powers, replaced the republic with a state based on blood-and-earth nationalism and clericalism, cemented a crazy mix of economic policies, and effectively created a one-party state; but the only part that elicited significant protest abroad was the elimination of central bank independence.

On 2 January, the government held a lavish celebration of the new constitution in Budapest's Opera House – while a mass protest supported by all anti-government NGOs and non-far-right opposition parties was held outside (also attended by yours truly).

Europe and its public discourse are in the grip of austerity, but the events in Hungary don't easily fit into its narratives. Perhaps "what comes after austerity" is the best connection: the cycle of austerity started here well before the Global Financial Crisis, and the current powers-that-be rode popular discontent with a Socialist government toeing the IMF line. Fidesz's focus however is not on the economy but on total power, and their programme of takeover started over a decade ago. This is the same phase as the era of the Kaczyński twins in Poland, except Orbán won't lose power easily.

Below the fold, a summary of the situation and a protest report.



The government

Fidesz started out in 1988 as a left-liberal youth party, established by a clique of college hot-shots (who remained in control ever since as the party's inner cabal). Sometime in the last months of Hungary's first elected (and center-right) government they decided that they want power more than ideals, and saw a gap opening on the right – thus they decided to give Fidesz a right-wing makeover.

Fidesz won the 1998 elections. Already in the time of the first Orbán government, Fidesz tried to occupy every lever of power (leaving behind quite partisan soldiers in positions like chief prosecutor or the public radio and television media boards) and attempted to absorb all other right-wing parties and movements, most notably the far-right forces. That attempt ultimately failed, but enough anti-semites and chauvinists remained in Fidesz to conserve Fidesz's lack of cordon sanitaire indefinitely.

Fidesz lost the next two elections, but tried to thwart the Socialist-led governments every way possible, again most notably by making use of the far-right. But the governing 'Left' was just no match, they disintegrated under the weight of corruption scandals, the choice of inept leaders and damaging policies, and the misery caused by austerity measures. In fact Fidesz could even employ leftist populism borrowed from the altermondialists and Latin America – of course in a nationalist framing replacing the socialist one.

True to the eternally popular self-delusions of false dichotomy and "it can't get worse than this", in 2010, an absolute majority of voters chose Fidesz (and another 17% chose a fascist party Fidesz failed to absorb, Jobbik). Due to Hungary's mixed but non-proportional election system, this majority resulted in a two-thirds majority for Fidesz (and its potemkin Christian Democrat coalition partner) in the unicameral parliament. Two-thirds, the qualified majority needed to change key laws and the constitution itself.


The legal coup

In the past year and half, Fidesz's parliamentary majority enacted literally hundreds of laws to re-shape the state in its image. These are tailor-made laws like we know from Berslusconi, except Berlusconi never had the super-majority to cement everything in a way that no future government can change it (if it manages to defeat Fidesz in an election at all). Let me give a short summary (well not so short but the list could be much longer) of some key points:

  • "Streamlining" lawmaking: laws were rushed through parliament with next to no debate, with wide-reaching last-minute amendments. The most significant changes, among them modifications of the not yet effective new constitution, were voted through in marathon parliamentary sessions timed for when the population has the least time for politics: 23 and 30 December. In fact a new change of parliamentary law allowed for the last batch of votes with zero debate.

  • Castration of the Constitutional Court: the Constitutional Court was Hungary's main check on lawmakers, tossing out many an obscene law. Fidesz changed the way members are chosen, stuffed the court with loyalists, greatly limited when and who can make an appeal, and turned some laws thrown out by the court into constitutional amendments (which contradict the rest of the constitution). To top it off, all on-going procedures were quashed at the end of last year.

  • Elimination of the independence of the judiciary: the wife of a Fidesz leader was appointed to the newly created position of the Chief of the National Judicial Office, which has the sole power to name, promote or demote, and move judges; without any checks or balances. In addition, the top judge was removed with a legal trick, and several senior judges by a temporary lowering of the age limit by eight years.

  • Demolishing the main opposition party via the courts: already during its previous reign, Fidesz turned the office of the Chief Prosecutor into a most potent weapon: its 2000-2006 holder, Péter Polt, could prevent Fidesz's own corruption and other scandals from reaching the courts and advance cases with the weakest footing against political opponents. Right after taking power in 2010, Fidesz began to seek data it can use to try top Socialists (I saw a confidential email to my company bosses myself) and brought Polt back as Chief Prosecutor. So far, however, they had little success. The pettiest case that they managed to start is against former public funds state secretary László Keller, for improper data handling – in acquiring the list of Polt's hunting partners, which included persons under investigation, back in 2004. (BTW, back then Keller lost his state secretary post over the case: some oligarchs on the list were on good terms with Socialist leaders, too.) So now the next move was to declare the former communist Party a criminal organisation (equating it with the Nazis) and the current Socialists their legally culpable successors. This opens the way for new trials, and one Fidesz MP already called for the banning of the Socialists.

  • Elections you can't lose: gerrymandering election districts in a way that would have given Fidesz a majority in all of the last four elections was just one step. The previously independent Election Commission (which controls both the candidate process and the vote count) was also replaced by a body stuffed with political loyalists.

  • Perpetuation of power even if elections are lost: Fidesz didn't just change laws that require two-thirds majority, but changed a lot of previously simple-majority laws into two-thirds majority ones. The hurdles for changing the constitution are even higher. A lot of the new strong positions staffed with political appointees got very long terms in office, some of them getting an automatic second term unless a replacement gets two-thirds majority, thus some could stay in power for 18(!) years. And if all else fails against a post-Fidesz government, there is the new Budget Commission: nominally to protect the new constitutional requirement of a balanced budget, it can kill annual budget drafts, forcing new elections.

  • Cementing an insane economic policy: foreign criticism focuses on the elimination of central bank independence, achieved via the appointment of new deputies and the creation of an umbrella authority above the central bank and the banking oversight authority. This is not a leftist policy to regain initiative in economic policy for the elected government, but a power grab, as can be seen from the cementing of economic policy in other fields: the balanced budget requirement and the Budget Office was mentioned already, they also put the ultraliberal policy of the flat tax into the constitution. The flat tax is a present to oligarchs and Fidesz's idea of kick-starting the economy, which didn't work, because it was in combination with capital-scaring measures more in line with their nationalist-repainted pseudo-socialist populism: special taxes on banks and multinationals. The government's most significant economic intervention, the nationalisation of private pension funds, was again not a leftist policy to dry out the funds available to financial speculators and give pensions a stable footing: the intention was very short-term, the funds were raided to plug budget gaps. Of course, Fidesz's aberrations of leftist policies will serve as wonderful examples for the international There Is No Alternative party.

  • Atavistic nationalism: the name of the state changed from Republic of Hungary to just Hungary, and its constituents changed from its citizens to ethnic-Hungarians across the world. This turns members of other ethnics tolerated guests in the country of their own, their parents' and their grandparents' birth; and constitutes the declaration of extraterritorial sovereignty for neighbouring countries with large ethnic-Hungarian minorities, and thus an implicit threat of border change. The new constitution contains a reference to the "Holy Crown", that is the crown of the kings of the one-time Kingdom of Hungary, which got a crude cult nearly a century ago as a basis to claim back territories Hungary lost after WWI. 'Patriotism' was made a duty, school history teachers are required to teach with the aim of instilling feelings of national pride. The new constitution also restores some names of institutions dating back to a century ago: back to the past.

  • Clericalism: Hungary is not Poland, there is no Catholic-fundie mass base. Peddling to the clergy, however, is part of the Fidesz leadership cabal's attempt to sell themselves to conservatives. Thus the dwarf Christian Democrats were allowed to run on Fidesz lists and then form their own separate parliamentary faction, one of these zealots was made state secretary of education, God entered the constitution, a marriage is between a man and a woman, and the state reduced the number of officially recognised churches to a dozen mostly historical churches.

  • Controlling the media: Fidesz made "balanced reporting" a requirement and established a new media board to oversee it. Opposition media also face economic repercussions, and the last opposition-aligned FM news radio lost its Budapest-area frequency. The takeover of state media is almost traditional for the region; but the lengths the new propagandists take to distort news and tar political opponents is extraordinary. At the European level, I mentioned the campaign against EP Greens leader and Orbán nemesis Daniel Cohn-Bendit. They also cynically mis-reported the protest I'm about to write about. And late last year, they blurred out the face of a government-critical judge in the background of an interviewee, finally prompting some public TV journalists to go on hunger strike against their bosses (I reported). The strikers were harassed in various ways (including floodlights at night and the playing of the same two Christmas songs for days) then fired for a nonsense reason.

  • New labour relations: union rights and the right to strike was cut back drastically. The arbitrage body that previously had unions, employers and the government as three sides was expanded with faux "independent" members under a new name. Work was made a duty under the constitution, making not working a crime. Homelessness was criminalised, too; those sleeping outdoors rather than in a shelter (insufficient number of beds notwidthstanding) face prison. Forced labour was de-facto re-introduced for long-term unemployed on social benefits (this measure is implicitly aimed at Gipsies resp. aimed at pleasing Gipsy-haters).


The opposition movements

Parliamentary opposition parties (the non-far-right ones) didn't exactly shine over the past one and half years. This is also reflected in the fact that although Fidesz lost half of its support in opinion polls, most of those went over to those not intent on voting or unable to choose.

The Socialists first engaged in internecine warfare, then the faction of former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány (a communist youth leader turned entrepreneur turned bank boss turned political adventurer seen by Socialists as their counter-Orbán turned wannabe neolib reformist turned loser head of a disintegrating government making way for an "expert" cabinet; but still seen by Orbán as his most potent enemy) split and formed the new party called Democratic Coalition. IMHO Gyurcsány was a disaster, learnt nothing since, and tries to position himself a bit too obviously to get to the top in a post-Orbán world.

The new Green party, LMP (short for Lehet Más Politika = "Another Politics is Possible", a play on the altermondialist slogan) long thought that their role is to re-establish politeness and a civic culture in politics, keeping an equal distance form other parties. This stupidity even included overtures to work together in opposition with the far-right Jobbik (which views them as the new Devil Incarnate after the fall of the old liberal party). They finally came to their senses only in the last stages of Fidesz's legal coup, but then launched extra-parliamentary action. Most notably during the 23 December vote, when they tried to block the arrival of Fidesz MPs by chaining themselves to the entry to parliament's garage. When police began to take them away, Socialists and Gyurcsány's group came too (to share the limelight; international media duly concentrated on Gyurcsány's detainment).

The most serious opposition didn't came from parties: it came from unions and NGOs. While in opposition, Fidesz played social populist and instrumentalised unions, once in power, it backstabbed them. Protests were organised, and those of a police union in particular were surprisingly loud, forcing Fidesz to temporarily back off. Diverse left-wing, anti-racist, LGBT NGOs started actions, too, with shifting coalitions and competing umbrella organisations (the protest I attended was the first uniting all the diverse forces). Twice over the last year, they put together mass protests. Supporters now range from altermondialists and social democrats who reject both Fidesz and the prior governments' neoliberalism through the old liberal intelligentsia to – well – the most doctrinaire neoliberals (including The Moustache of Reform).


The protest against the patchwork constitution

Budapest's Opera House is on Andrássy Boulevard, which is Budapest's pomp boulevard, still with Christmas lights. The protest was announced along its length. The protesters estimated 100,000 attendants, I estimated 30,000, some news reports had the same number. This is a good start at best, you'd need more like ten times that to shake the government in this country of ten million; though hopefully this crowd was the basis for something to grow.

Here is another look at the crowd, with the "4K" group on the left (the name is short for 4th Republic, which will have to be established by a constitutional assembly; this is a leftist group rejecting both neoliberalism and Fidesz and aiming to develop into a new leftist party, but calling for a tactical cooperation left of Fidesz). Right and behind it, a red-white-striped "Árpád-stripes flag" of far-right counter-protesters (more on them later).

This was the first time all movements protested together, but the parties had to accept that no party-politician will be a speaker. (Only one voiced dissent: Gyurcsány... but even his group accepted the condition.) When the names of the 45 supporting groups were read, the biggest cheers were for a pensioners' group, the Socialists, LMP, an LGBT group (mixed with mocking jeers towards the far-right counter-protesters) and an anti-racist group. Next to the main stage, the banner says: "Republic of Hungary – 1989-2011". On the screen of the main stage itself: "There will be a Republic of Hungary again!". The EU flag also has significance: the Fidesz-installed figurehead President of the Republic (now a misnomer!) held his traditional New Year's Day speech with only the Hungarian flag behind him. Solemn, but the protest was more on the angry side, with boos and jeers and whistling.

One of the first speakers was Péter Kónya, the boss of the police union I mentioned, who was also instrumental in setting up an umbrella group based on Poland's Solidarność (together with its flag):

The speech that I felt had most power over the crowd was one by painter Miklós Szűcs. Here I must mention that I grew up in a society with the tradition of artists being at the forefront of political fights and revolutions (also see the recently deceased Václav Havel), and was rather taken aback at Western (and above all American) notions of artists as mere entertainers. Szűcs said that in 1989, he, too, thought that now comes a time when he "doesn't have to know the name of the economy minister"; but now he realised that it is not so.

Fitting Szűcs's words, on multiple occasions between the speeches, actor Balázs Galkó recited poems (grim and fiery poems fit for the occasion).

The next speaker, pastor Gábor Iványi, is a leader of the small Methodist church, one of the hundreds that now lost official church status. He is an interesting figure on two counts: one, he was an MP for the liberals after the 1990 eletions; two, Orbán (whose parents are Calvinists but he didn't even have a church wedding before) started his right-wing makeover by having his second child baptized by Iványi, before moving to the historical churches (his later children were then baptized by Catholic priests).

The next speaker was legal expert László Majtényi. He entered public life as data protection ombudsman, who was later removed by the first Fidesz government. In 2008, he was made head of the radio and television media authority, a post he resigned from just a year later when the Socialists and Fidesz colluded in a special-interests re-distribution of FM radio frequencies (the corrupt idiots among the Socialists thought that they can make good business with the moneybaggers of Fidesz). At the protest, the professor of law Majtényi was the most radical, visioning a violent overthrow of the government:

Originally, several groups announced protests near the Opera House, but when they realised that police will only permit one, all withdrew and two organisers submitted a new request as private persons. They were the last speakers: Attila "Steve" Kopiás, leader of a pro-homeless movement named "Habitation Instead of Prison"; and Tamás Székely, co-leader of the Hungarian Solidarity Movement (the Hungarian Solidarność). On the screen behind them, the names of the supporting organisations rolled down again.

At the end, organisers requested protesters to leave away from the Opera House and peacefully. I however made my way towards the far-right counter-protesters. I didn't mention that at the beginning, the Magyar Fokhagyma Front (Hungarian Garlic Front), a parody of both Jobbik and its now-banned but still present paramilitary Hungarian Guard, had a performance on stage. One of them also positioned himself for the cameras next to the Árpád-stripes flag-waving idiots:

Didn't I say that police was supposed to allow only one protest in one place? Well, the far-right counter-protesters (all two dozen of them) were allowed to stay. What's more, with not much control. When I was there, there was a police line only on one side of them (some asked police why not the other side, they answered because "Hungarian people don't follow orders"), and no action upon anti-semitic insults and threats of violence (both punishable under Hungarian law). Earlier reportedly the separation was even lighter and there were also tussles, most notably when some Socialist politicians passed near the fascists (I sensed this a hundred metres away when suddenly the entire crowd began chanting "Nazis go home!!!"). LMP reported that two supporters were beaten up, and all the police did was to check the IDs of the victims. At any rate, police inaction was not for lack of manpower: the inactive police squad below stood ten metres from the idiots.

Suddenly I heard louder jeers from the direction of the Opera House. Going back, I found that a few thousand ignored the calls of the organisers and tried their best to make enough noise to be heard inside the Opera House. (The powers-that-be were concerned enough to enter and leave via the back door or an old underground passage restored for the occasion.) There was a guy who tried to convince others to storm the Opera House, but this wasn't that kind of crowd: although it was diverse, from college boys and girls to pensioners of all social classes, a key element for revolutions: working-class youth wasn't present much. (Also, for a legitimate revolution I'd like to see a much bigger crowd, not the few thousands just like during the 2006 far-right riots but tens to hundreds of thousands like in 1956.)

Slogans included "Orbán get lost!", "Come out!", "Junk, junk!" (referring to the rating agency downgrades of Hungarian government bonds) and (personal favourite) "Viktator!". The biggest cheers were for two LMP activists who climbed the scaffolding around the National Ballet Institution opposite the Opera House with a banner. (The text says "Viktor, you can go back hopping around in the ballet!". This is a quote from the East Bloc eighties animated hit Cat City, in which a group of ex-ballet-dancer rats are told to return to their boring old profession upon their failure as assassins.)

I didn't wait for the end of it. While walking back to the station, I saw that the far-right counter-protesters disappeared.

Display:
Would you be interested to read something more in-depth about the legal coup in English, after his own column Depression and Democracy, Paul Krugman now published successive guest posts on his NYT blog by his Princeton colleague Kim Lane Scheppele:



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 11:43:31 AM EST
I went through the diary again to eliminate typos and such; and added a sentence about the significance of the EU flag (second photo in the protest section).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:59:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The public TV news first reported the protest as an aside, spun the Hungarian Galric Front performance as if it weren't a satire, and showed an empty street as backdrop for a report. The last bit of spin was a bit too much, so they announced that it was an 'honest mistake': their camera team, which followed Orbán around town, supposedly arrived late at the site of the protest and couldn't find a place close enough to set up shop. Except that doesn't explain why the camera was positioned so that even the back of the main stage wasn't visible, why the reporter didn't point out the circumstance for viewers, and how they managed to find takes of the crowds for the morning news show.

(Top screengrab: public TV news, bottom screengrab: one of the commercial TVs)

In the meantime, the public holding behind the public TV asked a web host to remove a site spoofing the public TV news, and the web host complied... YouTube still has one of their videos.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 05:52:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm reading that there was another minor protest on Tuesday, which the far-right wanted to thwart, too. The protest was held at a statue of a national symbol (a bird) outside a gallery exhibiting paintings made to illustrate the new constitution (another silly propaganda measure; Orbán and the public TV news crew were there before the Opera House event). The fascists failed to properly read the announcement, however, and rushed off to a different bird statue miles away...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:59:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The news of the day from Hungary is an emergency meeting of the PM, the economic minister, the leader of the talks with the IMF, and the boss of the central bank; with no details released to the public. (Also, Fitch followed th other two ratings agencies in its junk rating.)

The more interesting news of the day is that the crackdown on opponents continues unabated: using the new labour laws, under which union leaders cannot deal with union matters full-time (in fact they can only ue 10% of their time) and employees can be moved at will, the leader of the firefighter union that participated in the protests over the past year was moved to a job in a city far from his home. He didn't accept, and was fired – and obviously the union lost him.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 12:12:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That would be Arok Kornel, a member of Szolidaritas?
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep. I didn't mention him and his union in the diary because that police union was louder and always took the initiative, but Kornél Árok's union reportedly managed to 'beat' in numbers all other unions in the alliance during the union protests in 2011. [Language note on a mistake of your source: Hungarian is similar to Chinese and Japanese in having the family name first, but in Western languages names are flipped; Árok is the family name, the given name Kornél is the Hungarian version of the Latin Cornelius.]

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:16:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to the Italian source he is not the leader of Szolidaritàs but a prominent figurehead. What's your take on prospects of the union going anywhere?

Orban is certainly moving faster than the Poles. It took them six years to fire Lech Walesa.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:35:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't say he is the leader of Szolidaritás, he is the leader of the firefighter union, which is one of the unions that joined the Magyar Szolidaritás Mozgalom (Hungarian Solidarity Movement) umbrella group. Checking, however, I find that Szolidaritás has no single leader: Sándor Székely (boss of a truckers' union; shown in the diary as speaker at the protest), Péter Kónya (boss of the much-mentioned police union; also shown as speaker), Kornél Árok, and a fourth guy (head of the chemical industry workers' union) are all co-heads.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:57:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fidesz that is near impossible to convey due to the language barrier is the contempt and arroagance shown in their public communication. But just during the Friday press conference, Orbán did something that may come across just from his facial expressions in the 15-second video clip below.

Orbán is asked whether he thinks he has personal responsibility for the deteriorating exchange rates of national currency Forint. He answers as if the question had been the central bank chief's personal responsibility. The reporter insists that the question is  about him, he repeats the same trick. The third time he answers for himself, then smiles as if he made a jood joke.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 08:50:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears that the government planned the confrontation with the Commission and the IMF, but wasn't prepared for how it would turn out. According to the source of a business paper, back in December:

Itthon: ,,Orbán szólt, hogy készüljünk fel a legrosszabbakra" - HVG.huDomestic affairs: "Orbán told us to prepare for the worst" - HVG.hu
,,Megmondtuk előre, hogy minden eszközt használni fogunk, ami csak egy nemzeti kormány rendelkezésére áll. Mivel ilyet nemhogy Magyarországon nem csináltak még, de az EU-ban sem jellemző, csak úgy tudjuk, hogy mik a korlátaink, ha elmegyünk a falig, ez pedig nem megy ütközés nélkül" - jellemezte az Orbán-kabinet attitűdjét az IMF-fel és az Európai Bizottsággal szemben egy kormányzati forrásunk."We told in advance that we will use every means at the disposal of a national government. Since it's not just that such a thing wasn't done in Hungary before, but it isn't typical in the EU either, the only way to learn our limits is to run against the wall, and this cannot be done without a collision" - this is how one of our government sources characterizedthe attitude of the Orbán cabinet against the IMF and the European Commission.

The source was critical of Hungarian diplomacy for not preparing the ground (though that also means that the source ws naive, not realising what is going on in the Eurozone).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 02:42:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where's this going? What's the worst realistic case here?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:24:22 PM EST
It starts with either disenfrnachisement and dispossession of ethnic minorities within Hungary, or cross-border conflicts involving Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:33:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well "cross-border conflicts involving Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries" would be a joke having in mind number of Hungarians and their weak military if it is JUST about this , but...
Haven't we already seen same scenario (all tho with real military power Germany prior to WWII)...This shit will grow in the end involving big powers and woala we can end up having WWIII (starting once again in Europe).
Practically any time when borders were changed in Europe it involved wars and a lot of blood. It will not be different this time. As EU still has (but not for long) power to intervene and it is silent what is reasonable conclusion? Conspiracy theories aside and just making deep look to European history make you think that either there is scenario there or we are approaching time of total chaos on this planet. I want to believe that there is scenario...all tho both options give me creeps...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:50:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you assume incompetence instead of malice, then "we are approaching time of total chaos on this planet".

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 04:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting that you think of the Gleiwitz incident, rather than the Log Revolution, the Pakrac clash, and later the Fall of Vukovar, as the model of how things would start going to hell.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 07:00:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well those things were not the same but nevertheless there are millions ways for things to go to hell (and we in ex YU have seen quite a few of them).
If there will be war it's easy to think of something that will provoke it and even easier to do it.
Question is if there will be war planed and who has interest to start it (and decide who good guys are and who are bad). All tho things sometimes do not go according to plan...sooner or later...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:26:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well those things were not the same

That was the point. It's not all-out war between regular armies with heavy weaponry (as the Third Reich assault following the Gleiwitz incident) which I'm concerned about in my worst-case scenarios when it comes to conflict with Slovakia and Romania, more the triggering of skirmishes to civil wars to civil wars with regular army intervention. (Note that I didn't link to the Siege of Vukovar itself, but to its fall, where paramilitaries played a strong role.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 01:32:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah...you are right. It would be more like ex YU scenario. But who is going to "play" Serbs? Is Hungary going to be "bad guy" and Romanians, Slovaks (and Serbs with Hungarian minority in Vojvodina) good guys? I am not sure...depending of why this silence from EU is so "loud"...
And sooner or later after skirmishes we'll have big powers involved.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:31:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Who're the goodies and who're the baddies will be decided retroactively when the great powers decide which faction to support.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:32:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read somewhere toay ( I think it was Mediapart ) that the reason the EU is so quiet is that Germany and Austria have huge outstanding loans to Hungary. Anyone know if this is true?

Hey, Grandma Moses started late!
by LEP on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 05:53:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, especially the Austrian banking system has already been bailed out once and is failing again under the weight of its exposure to its Eastern neighbours.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:03:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
German banks have little exposure in Hungary, Austrian banks do. That didn't keep the EU form being not at all quiet on the economic front: see the central bank.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:51:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the EU, the Hungarian Central Bank and economic imbalances.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:13:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW I tried to find a source on the composition of the foreign holders of both public and private credits, but failed. I only know that the main problem on the private front is Swiss francs; and that 10% of the entite public debt (that is about a sixth to fifth of the foreign public debt) is held by a single American investment fund since late last year.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:40:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that one of those vulture funds specialised in buying distressed assets?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:51:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I guess:

Franklin Templeton Investments - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

...The firm specializes in conservatively managed mutual funds. It offers products under the Franklin, Templeton, Mutual Series and Fiduciary brand names. Like other large investment companies, the firm offers a wide variety of funds but is traditionally best known for bond funds under the Franklin brand, international funds under the Templeton brand, and value funds under the Mutual Series brand.

...In 2004, Franklin Templeton paid fines to the State of California, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle issues regarding questionable practices including market timing. The plan for distribution of settlement monies was completed in September 2006, and all distributions have been completed as of December 2008.

Some analysts reportedly said [sorry source in Hungarian] that maybe Franklin Templeton continued its purchases to avoid a loss of value of its existing holdings of Hungarian government debt, that is by preventing a market crash (which is said to previously have been a practice of the now nationalised private pension funds in Hungary).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:09:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, those people?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:54:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They-re just a regular mutual fund manager. Not particularly "locust". In fact, they got in trouble in the last decade for engaging in "market timing", which is a pretty reasonable thing to do except that some pension funds argued it was contrary to their interests as clients.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 04:03:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Don't they have those loans to Greece? And Italy?
And they sorted it out (?) easily...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:18:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have no clue.
  • Maybe Fidesz will manage to prevent a(nother) economic meltdown (is that realistic?) and then continue with a Putin-style managed democracy (within or without the EU).
  • Maybe Fidesz will turn to even more nationalism upon economic meltdown and establish a darker semi-dictatorship, exit the EU, and maybe get into armed conflicts with Slovakia and Romania.
  • Maybe the disenchanted will flock to Jobbik and Jobbik will use the powers Fidesz made for itself to establish a fascist dictatorship, which will definitely come in armed conflict with neighbouring countries. (Most opposition people in Hungary I tell this reject that it is a realistic possibility, assuming that Jobbik can't get much above its present 20% figures; but based on the impressions I gained in discussions with Fidesz supporters, I wasn't convinced.)
  • Maybe left-of-Fidesz forces manage to win the next elections, but will lose power soon in snap elections just as Fidesz planned, then back to square one.
  • Maybe the liberal intelligentsia will manage to prop up Gyurcsány or another neoliberal as saviour at least atracting urbanite voters and re-establish the old Republic, repeating Poland's recent history but with greater upheavals.
  • Maybe a real leftist alternative can grow on the union/NGO protest movement, but they will be too naive and the IMF et al will again play them for a fool. After they fall, again back to square one.
  • Maybe a real leftist alternative can not only dispose of Fideszistan but face off the IMF et al.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:58:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the disenchanted will flock to Jobbik and Jobbik will use the powers Fidesz made for itself to establish a fascist dictatorship, which will definitely come in armed conflict with neighbouring countries. (Most opposition people in Hungary I tell this reject that it is a realistic possibility, assuming that Jobbik can't get much above its present 20% figures; but based on the impressions I gained in discussions with Fidesz supporters, I wasn't convinced.)

How can Jobbik get through the safeguards Fidesz set up for itself? Do you envision Jobbik getting a 2/3 supermajority, too?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:01:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, and absorbing Fidesz "loyalists" who jump ship. (That is, I think it is more likely for a spineless Fidesz loyalist today to jump ship towards Jobbik than to jump ship towards the left.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:05:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can they achieve that in one election cycle, or would there be a priod of Fidesz government with a Jobbik blocking minority? How stable can that situation be?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:07:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is Central Europe, majorities can shift pretty fast within an election cycle. In polls Fidesz already lost half of its supporters, while Jobbik regained minor losses over the past year. Some numbers from the last poll by the pollster I see as most independent:

  • certain voters: 40% (record low)
  • unable to choose a party to support: 40% (near record high)
  • Fidesz, total adult population (certain voters): 26% (43%) (record low since election; the highs were 50% (72%) in June 2010)
  • Socialists: 14% (23%)
  • Jobbik: 11% (20%)
  • LMP: 4% (8%)
  • Gyurcsány's Democratic Coalition: 2% (5%)
  • all others: 2% (1%)

Note that even the most popular politician (by the question "would you like to see X in an important role in the future?"), the figurehead President of the Republic (sic!), has only 33% support.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:31:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I can imagine a military coup at some point. If Hungary continues on this line it could be temporarily suspended from the EU but I suspect economic meltdown will bring civil strife long before. EU sanctions may be in fast order but of little effect. I can't imagine the EU moving quickly to suspend Hungary from the EU.

The spector of Yugoslavia looms but hardly seems possible with EU sovereign states on its borders. On the contrary the handling of Yugoslavia should be a lesson for the NATO and the EU heavies, notably Germany and France.

The best approach may be to let Fidesz do its best to destroy Hungary to the point that the military step in. It worked in Poland.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:34:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Hungarian military is extremely weak, the police would have more infrastructure for a coup (only they are always loyal dogs). But agreed on the EU angles. In Poland, which military intervention are you thinking of?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:46:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jaruzelski. Thanks for info on Hungarian military. If they're extremely weak, we can discount unrest with neighboring states.

NATO will have to find the appropriate candidate if Hungary is judged essential to European harmony. Otherwise I guess we're in for another Belarus, a slant for such an ingenious people.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:54:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If they're extremely weak, we can discount unrest with neighboring states.

Nope, to kick off that, a few dozen fanatics are enough. Like the ones in the incidents I reported in The Slovakian-Hungarian Football War, just better armed and organised. And if serious confrontation comes, the military can be boosted.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 07:02:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Jaruzelski

I don't get the parallel. Do you think the Soviet Union let Poland's commmunist party to do its best to destroy Poland to the point that the military step in? At any rate, Jaruzelski wasn't just the military, he was already PM and party secretary by the time he declared martial law, so that wasn't really a military coup.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 07:07:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I indulged in a logical leap. I'm sure there's an appropriate Greek rhetorical term. Left to its own device tyranny runs the state into the ground, through ineptitude, hubris, paranoia, etc.

The importance was a novel solution in a critical stalemate situation. By  declaring martial law, Jaruzelski was perceived- and perceived himself- as dampening a potentially dangerous situation. His actions saved face in Moscow, Washington, Bruxelles and the Danzig docks.This wrench-in-the-works strategy postponed negotiations to a more amenable setting.

I suppose there is a major problem of negotiating nation building along the Balkans and the Central European fault line that was put on hold during the Cold War. Fidesz is the latest blight.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 07:42:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The importance was a novel solution in a critical stalemate situation. By  declaring martial law, Jaruzelski was perceived- and perceived himself- as dampening a potentially dangerous situation. His actions saved face in Moscow, Washington, Bruxelles and the Danzig docks.This wrench-in-the-works strategy postponed negotiations to a more amenable setting.

Ah, I get it. The trouble is, declaring martial law is something for the powers-that-be, and in Hungary today that's Fidesz.

If we want to discuss the (emphatically hypothetical) military angles, I think the spectre of Yugoslavia you mention warrants more words. Except for the short bigger campaigns by the JNA after Croatia's independence and by Croatia when it reconquered (and cleansed) the Krajinas, AFAIK most of the conflicts were fought with small arms, and often with irregular forces, especially at the start. So in the worst case I can imagine, things would start to go downhill when governments both sides of the border would escalate diplomatic conflicts and fail to hold back extremists on their side, and armed conflict would emerge after the launch of 'self-defense' paramilitaries among ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania, upon inspiration from Hungary. This may seem pretty far-fetched at present, though it must be noted that a re-run of Bosnia in Transsylvania was a proclaimed fear of Romanian politicians in the nineties.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 09:12:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The independence of a central bank is the new separation of powers, the only one that matters.

The EU doesn't even have the shreds of a respectable facade with this going on in its midst.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:28:35 PM EST
I wonder what will happen at the EU level when the Socialist opposition gets banned.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:34:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably a medal from Merkozy.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:37:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Martin Schulz will make some noise but the EPP will retort using Fidesz's anti-communist slogans of the day. Well unless the powers That Be decide that abolishing central bank independence is a cardinal enough sin to exploit even that.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The saving grace is Viviane Reding, who as European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship at least objected to the abolition of the independence of the judiciary.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:02:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't notice any "Maybe the EU will <xxx>" entries in Dodo's list above of potential outcomes.
by asdf on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 03:02:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some reactions are implied in the first two alternatives ("within or without the EU" and "exit the EU" would be reactions to EU measures). The most serious action the EU could take is the application of Article 7 of the Treaty On European Union (consolidated version), with the suspension of Hungary's voting rights in the EU Council as the one explicit possible measure. There are strong hurdles for such action, however.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:13:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Come to think of it, French foreign minister Alain Juppé was hinting at just that:

Hongrie : Alain Juppé en appelle à la Commission européenne - LeMonde.frHungary: Alain Juppé's call on the European Commission - LeMonde.fr
Il appartient à la Commission européenne de vérifier que ces nouveaux textes constitutionnels respectent ce qui fait le bien commun de tous les pays de l'Union européenne, c'est-à-dire l'Etat de droit et le respect des grandes valeurs démocratiques...It is on the European Commission to check that these new constitutional texts respect what constitutes the common good of all countries of the European Union, that is to say the rule of law and respect for democratic core values...
Il y a problème aujourd'hui et nous appelons la Commission européenne à prendre les initiatives nécessaires pour que ses principes fondamentaux soient respectés partout, y compris en Hongrie...There is a problem today and we call on the European Commission to take the necessary steps to ensure that these fundamental principles are respected everywhere, including in Hungary...

The Hungarian foreign ministry already protested that Juppé's words violate the friendly relationship between the two countries, and contend that Hungary was in constant communication with European institutions over its new constitution and new laws (well if rejecting and protesting all suggestions can be called communication).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:42:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The EU tried that on Austria when Haider's party joined the government.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 06:45:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In France, Le Moonde and Libération, the left leaning dailies, have written about it (Le Monde had their front page editorial on that yesterday, as well as a cartoon, see below, Libération has their main headline and top story today on Hungary, calling the EU (and EPP) silence massively shameful.

Daniel Cohn-Dendit is one of the few making noise, and he underlines that the EP has been more vocal than others.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 05:54:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That cartoon now makes the rounds in Hungarian blogs, and they say it was perinted alongside the Le Monde editorial (though I don't find it next to the on-line version). The focus of the editorial is on EU (in)action,

I don't like the first paragraph, though:

Comme pour sortir d'un horrible cauchemar, les Hongrois, enfin, se réveillent. Le spectacle de dizaines de milliers de citoyens défilant, lundi 2 janvier, dans les rues de Budapest pour protester contre l'entrée en vigueur d'une Constitution qu'ils jugent antidémocratique constitue un sérieux coup de semonce pour le premier ministre, Viktor Orban. Jamais, jusqu'à lundi, l'opposition n'avait réussi à s'unir suffisamment pour être audible. C'est fait.Like exiting a horrible nightmare, Hungarians finally wake up. The sight of tens of thousands of defiant citizens marching, in the streets of Budapest on Monday, 2 January, to protest against the entry into force of a constitution that they deem undemocratic, is a serious wake-up call for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Until Monday, the opposition never had managed to unite enough to be audible. It's done.

I sense a touch of paternalism, I wonder whether the "audability" of this protest in the ears of Le Monde's editorial board has more to do with the EU outrage in connection with the central bank than the unity or numbers of protesters. This wasn't the first protest, and maybe it wasn't even the largest. Last year there were protests estimated at 10,000 or above on 14 January, 15 March (day of the 1848 Revolution; this protest called for by a Facebook group was probably just as big as Monday's at 20-30,000), 16 April, 16 June (this one was the "Clown Revolution", organised by that police union when Orbán said that he will only send his 'clown affairs state secretary' to talk with the unions; 20,000 counted by paper), 1 October 2011, 23 October (day of the 1956 Revolution; probably bigger than Monday's at 40-50,000) and 3 December. So I doubt that there have been many in the crowd on Monday who 'finally waked up' only now. Many of these were reported at least in German media, so audibility is relative. On the other hand, Le Monde is speaking collectively about "the Hungarians" – well most citizens could be counted as apathetic; that is, many have woken up to the fact that Fidesz is no saviour either, but not to the fact that this system must end even if you are disgusted with all other politicians too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 08:09:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Like exiting a horrible nightmare, Le Monde finally wake up.

But they can't start like that...

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 08:28:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The focus of the editorial is on EU (in)action,

...suggests the application of Article 7 of the Treaty On European Union (see downthread), and notes the EU's failue in its attempt to deal with Austria (also noted by Migeru downthread). (They also endorse lack of EU and IMF financial support in the economic crisis, but without a critical evaluation of EU/IMF terms, sigh.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 08:56:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU silence is indicative as silence usually means agreeing...
I am afraid in 5-10 years you may (or you may not have a chance to) write same diary about EU as a whole. This gives me a creeps and my hair goes up.


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:16:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Of potential interest: EUROPEAN COMMISSION FOR DEMOCRACY THROUGH LAW
(VENICE COMMISSION) OPINION ON THE NEW CONSTITUTION OF HUNGARY
[PDF, 29 pages] Adopted by the Venice Commission at its 87th Plenary Session (Venice, 17-18 June 2011)

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 12:52:31 PM EST
Yes. This wasn't the first time the Venice Commission made recommendations, but Fidesz ignored all of their suggestionsduring the drafting process, both when the constitution itself was drafted and when the 23 and 30 December omnibus packages were prepared.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:38:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Recommendations bla bla bla...
Didn't they give "recommendations" to Hitler?
Hungary as we learned is not military power of any significance nor they are of any great importance for EU (no oil, gas or any kind of industry that matters) so EU does not have any real reason not to react (long time ago) and stop this madness. Look how they reacted in Greece and Italy and overnight changed governments and put who ever they wanted in charge. It is that simple and even more simple with bankrupted Hungary. THEY WANT THIS TO HAPPEN IN HUNGARY (maybe as a rehearsal for what is coming EU wide). And as we learned fascism will spread as epidemic all over the EU as it did before. Bloody scary stuff...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:27:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What can be more indicative of looming fascism than Citizen's United, the American Supreme Court ruling that corporations have the right of fee speech, with no transparency about how much they spend, or to what ends?

We're way ahead of you. The corporations will elect Romney, and the slide into fascism will continue.

We'll win the race, and we'll find it necessary to use our military to enforce global corporatism.

Anyone who read sociological science fiction knows how this works.

Align culture with our nature.

by ormondotvos (ormond no spam lmi net no spam) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading science fiction is such a great qualification for understanding the world.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:25:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What happens if and when Fidesz fails to win a 2/3 supermajority and an opposition blocking minority of maybe 2/5 arises? Will the single-party regime find its own unchangeable rules too much of a straitjacket?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:02:58 PM EST
Why would they? They would remain in control of all the levers of power, including the ones that would legally declare the instance of a violation of an unchangeable rule by the government. They would only become unable to implement more straitjacket laws. (And that's assuming that the 2/5 doesn't include Jobbik, because Jobbik can be won to lend support as they did support many a Fidesz legislation over the past year and half.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jan 3rd, 2012 at 01:44:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They are positioning themselves to be ONE AND ONLY PARTY in Hungary. They will not going to need to be bothered with majority shit in future...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:30:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently the markets have reacted, with an exit of funds, higher swaps prices, etc. According to some German financial press (no link now) this will have a serious effect on Hungary's financial status. no matter what the EU does.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 08:28:33 AM EST
thanks for a thorough analysis dodo. best of luck to you in hungary.

Paul Gipe
by pgipe (pgipe(at)igc.org) on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 10:36:04 AM EST
I suppose it's a lame hope, but it occurs to me that this is an opportunity for the EU to proclaim its relevance in a time of fatuous hand-wringing over its own self-induced financial collapse. Not everything has to be about preserving the wealth of the anointed. Maybe this is an opportunity for it to find its better self and put some heat on the bone-heads. And I wonder if its out of place for NATO to offer a little wake-up regarding proposals for cross-border excursions.
I know preserving the peace and illuminating European brotherhood can't compete with concentrating wealth as moral goal ALL the time, but hey - maybe just this once they can do the right thing (without it involving killing folks in Africa and Asia).
by Andhakari on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 10:38:42 AM EST
..the elimination of central bank independence..

The only positive thing that happens in Hungary, is the only thing neoliberal pundits criticise..

by kjr63 on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 12:41:49 PM EST
What use is gaining a new weapon if they don't know how to use it, and only provoke an attack by a squad of master swordsmen?

It would be positive thing, would they have any workable plans to ward off the revenge of the markets. Which, as Crazy Horse's comment implies, is on-going; the national currency again dropped about 3% vs. the Euro this week. But, in addition to the flat tax idiocy, this bunch couldn't anticipate the first market attack over the past autumn (when they sought to stop the markets by arguing that the fundamentals are correct, just like the Socialists after the 2008 market attack); andnever seriously attempted to solve the core problem of credits denominated in foreign currencies (their 'solution' is a present to the domestic rich: credits can be repaid in one sum at a fixed low exchange rate, which may hurt banks but benefits only those who do have the money to pay it back in one sum). I also heard that several medium-sized entrepreneurs are thinking about taking their capital abroad before an expected collapse, which again totally negates the government's expectation of the economically most active people (the benefactors of the flat tax and the single sum credit repayment, as well as the loosened labour laws) reinvesting their money at home.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 04:14:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The government stopped the further fall of the Forint vs. the Euro today (at least for now) by declaring that an agreement with the IMF is their definite intention. So much for defying the markets...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 07:08:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What use is gaining a new weapon if they don't know how to use it,

Indeed. It's a waste. But still this only positive reform will be killed by EU. Hungary will get the worst from both worlds.

..and only provoke an attack by a squad of master swordsmen?

This has not provoked attack in USA, Japan, Sweden etc..

by kjr63 on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:36:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dodo this is a great diary giving us complete picture of the catastrophe and mess in Hungary. Thank you for that.
On the other hand it gave me a shivers...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 4th, 2012 at 11:37:37 PM EST
What does Fidesz think about this?



tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 02:19:25 PM EST
LOL, all because they forgot to break up Yugoslavia... And what do the red lights symbolize? Certainly not the capitals...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 02:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No official reaction from Fidesz yet, but some blogger expressed concern about a future US President intent on bombing Belgrade again...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 02:38:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Belgrade is full of western banks , supermarkets and shopping centres as well as a lot of western companies (including American)...meaning their "interest" is already there. They are not going to bomb because there is no reason for that any more. As for Kosovo Americans are leaving soon. There is a joke in Serbia that goes:
There are two news, one good one bad. Good news is Americans are leaving Kosovo. Bad news is Turks are coming to Kosovo again.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:55:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Work was made a duty under the constitution, making not working a crime.

Travail, famille, patrie!

Re the EU flag at the protest, the square shape and white border mean that it's an EU member state border sign (with the name of the country in the middle of the circle of stars). I happened to read on SkyscraperCity that the Magyar Köztársaság signs at border crossings have been replaced with Magyarország signs, in line with the change in the name of the state.

by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 03:34:13 PM EST
Can the European Court of Human Rights squash any of this?
by IdiotSavant on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:55:33 PM EST
Doubtful - the Council of Europe is a consultative organization.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:09:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From Wikipedia: Procedure and decisions of the ECHR
The Court has thus far held that the Convention does not provide it with the power to repeal offending domestic laws or administrative practices.


tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:13:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure.  But at the same time, states listen to the ECHR, and repeal those laws or practices themselves after an adverse finding.  

So, could the ECHR be used as a safeguard, or would the new Hungarian regime simply walk away?

by IdiotSavant on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 07:32:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We'll see how that goes. If Hungary ignores a recommendation by the ECHR it might allow the EU to withdraw Hungary's voting rights at the Council (per Article 7).

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 07:54:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
do so many Hungarians vote for Fidesz (and Jobbik) and why do so few protest these changes?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 06:36:12 PM EST
The population is made of humans under stress.

Align culture with our nature.
by ormondotvos (ormond no spam lmi net no spam) on Thu Jan 5th, 2012 at 08:27:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is very easy to manipulate humans and especially humans under stress...in any given direction...let alone to hate and xenophobia. Just point your finger to whomever you want them to blame for their situation. Almost anyone can do it let alone lunatics with passion to hate and greediness to grub power and money.

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:21:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I still don't get it. Fidesz have won absolute landslide victories.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 02:07:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's the plural?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 02:32:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry for bad spelling. Landslide victory then, even if they seem to have had pretty solid support previously as well. Still. Sure, a strange extreme party can get a 15 % landslide. Even a 25 % landslide. But a 50 % one? I don't get it. They seem to have a very solid support among the Hungarian people, especially when you add 20 % Jobbik. I mean, this should mean something.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:23:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And now present tense rather than past tense?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:52:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The hegemonic party of the left imploded under Gyurcsany. I'm not sure what Fidesz has done was foreseeable, as a 2/3 majority in parliament probably wasn't either.

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 05:33:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 05:59:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even if voters deserted the Socialists, was such a rout foreseeable that would result in a 2/3 supermajority for Fidesz? Would people have voted differently out of fear of what Fidesz would do with such a majority? Even given Fidesz' nationalistic catholic rhetoric, was such a reform of the constitution in the cards?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:02:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
was such a rout foreseeable that would result in a 2/3 supermajority for Fidesz?

Yes. Fidesz won that supermajority with 52.73% of list votes, although they consistently polled more than that, in fact most of the time above 60%, from April 2007. That supermajority could have been even bigger, also because LMP rose above the 5% limit at the last moment. In fact I dug up an old poll from January 2010 (three months before the elections) asking about people's attitudes towards Fidesz's expected two-thirds majority, and a relative majority thought that it would be a good thing because at last one party could implement its policies instead of gridlock...

Even given Fidesz' nationalistic catholic rhetoric, was such a reform of the constitution in the cards?

Yes. Fidesz had this attitude towards rules and institutions from 1998, and did as they pleased in every field where they managed to get majority – parliament, parliamentary commissions, public media boards. They sabotaged a significant justice system reform. The majority ignored or forgot this, and when the Socialists warned against it during their campaign, they did so with zero credibility.

The complete replacement of the 1949 constitution itself with a new coherent text was something put on hold in 1989 with a sense that it should happen sooner or later (the preable added in 1989 explicity says that the amended old constitution is transitionary). However, during successive legislature periods there ws always too much acrymony between the political sides for initiatives not to falter for lack of cross-party support. There is a little sub-story here: the 1994 Socialist-liberal government had a two-thirds majority, too, but they thought that as a government with an ex-communist main partner they should demonstrate a lack of hegemonic aspirations and adopted a two-thirds law that a new constitution needs a four-fifths hiper-majority. One of the first things Fidesz did was to squash this law. Although at the protest, speakers made a point about Fidesz not having made a constitutional change a campaign theme in 2010, I did remember them speaking about it, and with a little search found that Orbán railed againste the untenable 'Stalinist' constitution that is a 'technocratic jumble of laws' in November 2009.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:49:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding those high poll numbers for Fidesz, turnout effects are worth to emphasize. Although Fidesz did win over voters from the then government, those gains are less impressive in absolute numbers (the story was more of the government losing voters than Fidesz gaining): when they won last time they got 2,706,292 list votes, against 2,272,979 when they lost in 2006, a gain of about 0.43 million; while the Socialists alone lost about 1.35 million voters (nearly 60%). Overall first-round turnout only fell from 67.8% to 64.2% (the lowest after 1998), but that was also offset by the mobilisation of 2006 non-voters by Jobbik and LMP.

Before the election, pollsters and pundits said that only a high turnout could endanger Fidesz's two-thirds majority, and there was some of that, as reflected by a slightly higher than expected turnout and Fidesz's lower than predicted share of the vote (the average of seven pollsters was 60.6%, about 8 percentage points above the actual result; and Fidesz got 263 seats in parliament, while three pollsters gave them 267 to 284 in their last projection).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 04:53:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
private central banking dictating austerity economic policy to a democracy is a horrible idea and a right wing populist party took advantage of anger over it because socialist supported this stupidity.

She's trying to distract you with real issues! Dameocrat Blog
by Dameocrat on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure what you want to know in addition to the answers to those questions in the diary and the comments, but I'll sum those up again, and for more detail link my pre-election diary Delayed Warsaw Express arriving in Budapest.

On why Fidesz and Jobbik got so many votes in 2010 (and the 2009 European elections if that counts): First, the previous government parties eliminated themselves. Above all, with austerity measures that hurt a lot of people and created a general negative outlook at the future (I can add that the hardest austerity package prior to the 2006-2010 ones was also implemented by a Socialist-liberal government in 1995, while Fidesz's 1998-2002 reign was a more tranquil period), which Fidesz opposed with social populism. The Socialists and the liberals were also mired in an undending series of corruption and trustworthyness scandals (both genuine and ones made up by the Fidesz media), internal conflicts, and general ineptness both at governing and at confronting Fidesz's tactics in opposition. (I'll add one more point in a separate comment.) Then for many people, the choice was binary between the two major parties, and there was a feeling that it can't get worse than this – these votes went for Fidesz. The diary doesn't say much about the reasons for Jobbik's rise; they could be summed up as a combination of the use of the internet, the successful nurturing of Gypsy-hate, and the establishment of a local presence in villages with their paramilitary (for more details again see here).

Why so few protest: most of those who didn't vote in 2010 or got disillusioned with Fidesz since (altogether some 60% of the population) are in a state of apathy, (at least subjectively) experiencing that their economic situation gets worse with each successive government, and don't see a point. Also, Fidesz controls most of the media, and timed their worst legal reforms to just before Christmas and just before New Year, when people are least attentive to politics. Perhaps I can add that there is a widespread notion of people seeing themselves as the "little man", a powerless subject who is content if he is only allowed to get by and doesn't want to interfere in the greater schemes of powerful people (a common notion with origins in the times of Austria-Hungary), so there isn't a sense that all these laws and high institutions are relevant to your daily life.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 02:59:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another issue related to Fidesz's rise is the interpretation of the events of the Hot Autumn of 2006: the leak of a taped speech of then PM Gyurcsány to his fellow Socialists at a closed-door meeting and the subsequent rioting and police violence.

  • In Fidesz's version (which even LMP supports in large parts), in the tapes Gyurcsány cynically admitted to winning an election with lies, and then had police brutally crack down on peaceful protesters.

  • In Gyurcsány's version (which is also shared by Socialists and liberals disliking Gyurcsány, who make up a minority of public opinion significant less in numbers than community of views), the lies spoken of in the leaked speech were those of the entire political class from 1990 and Gyurcsány was only boldly attempting to finally break with that tradition, and the street violence was a far-right mob confronted by justified police action.

  • In my view, both of the above are gross spin. First, the 2006 elections saw a bizarre competition of totally unrealistic spending promises from all parties, while it was already obvious to anyone reading the news that clouds are gathering and there is a budget crisis brewing. IMHO what Gyurcsány attempted in the leaked speech was an application of the Shock Doctrine: far from an admission of a past betrayal of voters, he wanted to scare his party into supporting a future betrayal of voters by approving a 'reform' package he prepared (or else there is a collapse). As for the riots, the truth was (and I reported this on ET extensively) that both a rioting far-right mob and a police that was first caught with pants down and then tried to take its revenge attacked bystanders, journalists and simultaneous peaceful protesters.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:17:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding apathy and disillusion since 2010, perhaps the abysmal approval rates of politicians say more than those of parties (see comment upthread). The 33% for the number one (in this December poll), the figurehead President of the Republic(sic!) would make any US President a loser, and would have been the figure for one of the least popular politicians even in Hungary back in the nineties. Already over the past decade, approval rates above 50% were few and between, then an indication of strong left/right divisions. This 33%, too (and the 31% for Orbán himself) is little more than the 26% Fidesz supporters in the total population, and less than Fidesz and Jobbik supporters combined (that would be 37%).

At 26% resp. 25%, the leaders of both LMP (András Schiffer) and Jobbik (Gábor Vona) have approval rates way above that of their parties in the total population (4% resp. 11%). I would guess that the extra support for part for the former and most for the latter comes from Fidesz supporters (hence the fear I voiced upthread that Jobbik still has potential to win votes from Fidesz in the future).

The last three on the list are also interesting:

  • Ferenc Gyurcsány (the former Socialist PM) 17% (this was the first poll in a long time he wasn1t last)
  • György Matolcsy ('national economy minister') 16%
  • Rózsa Hoffmann (the Christian Democrat and Catholic zealot education state secretary mentioned in the diary) 14%

IMHO the numbers for the before-last and last (both of whom lost a statistically significant 3 percentage points since November) indicate what policies even the remaining Fidesz faithful were displeased with by last month.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 05:00:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At some point in the future Fidesz will loose their majority but likely (barring 2/3 majority against them) hang on to lots of other levers of power. Then what?

Probably a constitutional crisis if the new majority tries to force them out, and Fidesz uses their levers of power to declare that forcing unconstitutional. Then it boils down to which side state agencies with guns chooses, which is not a good way to settle disputes.

Not looking good. What amazes me a bit is the shortsightedness of it all - grab power so hard that you can only be seperated from it with violence and that is suddenly a likely outcome.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 09:01:54 AM EST
No, if Fidesz's calculation works out, the new majority will be tied up to the extent that it will lose popularity fast, and even if it doesn't collapse itself, the Budget Commission can force new elections for Fidesz to return to power. This of course assumes that (1) the men left behind in high positions won't look for new masters, (2) there won't be a rival to Fidesz in opposition when the new government loses popularity.

A non-violent alternative is to precede the purge of Fidesz's ticking bombs in high offices with a call for a constitutional assembly to replace the constitution with one with more legitimacy than Fidesz's (note that they didn't dare to put it out on a referendum even when they still had an absolute majority of active voter public opinion behind them). Many in the opposition movement advocate just that, though it would be a question whether (non-far-right) opposition parties would be bold (and sane) enough to follow suit if the case arises.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 04:39:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was thinking what a new majority would do to cement its position before its support is drained.

I am glad that facts on the ground points in another direction then guns rule. A constitutional assembly sounds like a good way to go.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 06:03:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is resort to popular initiatives, a referendum, not possible to abrogate the constitution?
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 07:11:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was such an initiative last year, right after parliament adopted the new constitution. However, referendum proposals have to go through a check by the Election Commission, which was taken over by Fidesz. The referendum proposal was rejected with a twisted legal argument, interpreting the new Constitution as an amendment. The issue went on to the Constitutional Court (now also Fidesz-controlled), which did nothing until December, then (as written in the diary) all on-going procedures were quashed. (There have been several other referendum initiatives against new laws, most of them were also rejected by the Election Commission.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 09:42:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks! No checks and balances. Berlusconi tried to stack courts and institutions but the safeguards make it practically impossible. He would pass laws to either increase or reduce members within an institutional body or increase the number of members in that body selected by parliament. There's simply no way to stack a majority in key institutions short of a coup d'etat.

There is also the problem that the person appointed to a prestigious independant position may actually take seriously his institutional responsabilities and no longer obey the master, which I hope may happen with some of those Orban appointees.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 11th, 2012 at 10:28:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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