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Two-thirds gone

by DoDo Sun Feb 22nd, 2015 at 04:20:54 PM EST

Here is a short update on politics in Hungary: the right-populist government of Viktor Orbán lost its two-thirds qualified majority in parliament.

Orbán's Fidesz won its first two-thirds majority in 2010 with 52.3% of the vote (thanks to its non-proportionality), then, although its share of the vote dropped to 44.9% in 2014, it retained its power to change any law and the Constitution at will (thanks to changes to the election system making it even less proportional). However, the second two-thirds was secured just barely, and when Orbán's up to then faithful foot-soldier Tibor Navracsics was made European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, his seat was up for grabs.

The by-election was held today, and an independent candidate (who left Fidesz a decade ago) supported by the centre-left and centre-right opposition parties (who got 42.7%) easily defeated the Fidesz candidate (33.6%, against the 47.2% Navracsics carried last year). This is only the second defeat of significance for the Fidesz government, after Orbán was forced to withdraw an internet tax last autumn.


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Before you'd celebrate, in spite of a very heated campaign, the turnout was a dismal 44.8% and the candidate of far-right Jobbik got 14.1% (followed by 4.6% for the candidate of the conservative-Green LMP). But, at least one can conclude that Orbán's newest idea for a smokescreen campaign, anti-refugee xenophobia based on Western European models (on the occasion of the massively boosted influx of asylum applicants from Kosovo), didn't gain (enough) traction.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Feb 22nd, 2015 at 04:26:58 PM EST
does this co-operation show any blueprint for how the opposition will tackle Orban at the next election?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Feb 23rd, 2015 at 08:58:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At a purely tactical level, the interesting thing about the current co-operation is that the party leaders took backstage and gave their support to an independent who made his name in the local anti-internet-tax protests. I actually do think that doing something similar in the parliamentary elections would improve their chances.

Then again, remember the low turnout. There are no exit polls about voter movements, but the numbers could be interpreted as basically all 2014 democratic opposition voters turning out again while a quarter of Jobbik voters and a half of Fidesz voters staying home – in spite of Fidesz's usually successful illegal get-out-the-vote efforts. Meaning, Fidesz lost supporters massively but the opposition didn't gain. That's too little for victory. Fidesz support nosedived four years ago, too, but Orbán could regain enough in time for the election.

Further, the main opposition parties are still staffed by uninspiring people and both them and their media intelligentsia is still stuck in frowning at "unorthodox economic policy" (rather than just at the haphazard and hypocritical way Fidesz applies it), so I'm sceptical about them inspiring people even if people are further outraged by Fidesz. Jobbik has a greater chance at that, if it continues with its wolf-in-sheep's-clothing policy.

Finally, speaking of Jobbik, there is an example of opposition cooperation other than yesterday's election foreshadowing a much uglier scenario: in a small city in the most impoverished north-east, the Jobbik candidate for a mayoral by-election won with over 60% of the vote after the local Socialists chose to not run, reportedly because they preferred a Jobbik victory to the re-election of the incumbent.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 23rd, 2015 at 10:49:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A small news on the Commissioner, a bigger one on the pro-Russia line and another on nuclear power.

Fidesz managed to sink to a new low on election day: the party leader orchestrating those illegal get-out-of-the-vote measures called police upon reporters trying to interview him, citing "harassment". For the international angle, enter European Commissioner Navracsics, who previously tried to fulfil Juncker's expectations with some unspecific criticism of the Orbán government. Now Navracsics undid that by rushing to defend the GOTV tsar, saying "there is nothing wrong with calling police for harassment". This is an apparent reaction to some in Fidesz who made him the culprit for not participating in the campaign.

Meanwhile, there was a long report claiming that, in spite of the recent Putin visit, Orbán is preparing to end his pro-Russia/eastward foreign policy in March. The sources claim that the main motivation wasn't the cold shoulder of the Americans or the meagre financial gains from the sought-for eastern creditors, but the isolation from Central European allies: both Romania and Poland made their displeasure over Orbán's line on Ukraine public, Poland weakened the Visegrád 4 with its medium-power and France-Poland-Germany-trio ambitions, and the Czech Republic and Slowakia joined up with Austria in the new Slavkov Triangle (see an assessment from Poland). (Note though that the article was based on interviews with several Atlanticists recently fired from the foreign ministry, and I for example struggle to believe that Orbán failed to foresee Polish displeasure with his line on Ukraine.)

The biggest result of Orbán's pro-Russia line was an agreement over a €12 billion credit from Russia for the construction of a new nuclear reactor by Rosatom. However, FT reported that both Euratom and the Commission's competition authority might deny approval for the deal. Meanwhile, the former environment minister (who was the last of Orbán's one-time comrades of the first hour to make way for a new crop of Orbán-loyalist yes-man yuppies, for opposing the nuclear deal) pointed out that modifications to fulfil upcoming EU safety requirements will boost the already massively over-priced €12 billion price tag further. Like the ex-minister, I think the plant will never be built.

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

by DoDo on Tue Feb 24th, 2015 at 01:41:20 PM EST
€12 billion for a single reactor?!

OK, after some googling it seems it's "not more than €12.5 billion" or "between €10 and 12 billion" for two reactors with a 1200 MW output each. Seems more reasonable, but it still shows that nuclear power has very considerable capital costs.

Of course, that also means that getting really cheap credit radically improves the competitiveness of nuclear power. I didn't find out what the interest is on the loan (it's supposed to be "highly preferential"), but the terms are pretty sweet: repayment begins when the plant is commissioned, and will last for 21 years. According to another source, it's a 30-year loan.

Read more here and here.

By the way, good news Orban is moving away from Putin, and good that he got this pretty sweet deal despite that. If the plant is ever built, that is.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Wed Feb 25th, 2015 at 04:51:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't find out what the interest is on the loan

It rises from 3.95% to 4.95% during the payment period. Is that supposed to be highly preferential?

OK, after some googling it seems it's "not more than €12.5 billion" or "between €10 and 12 billion" for two reactors with a 1200 MW output each.

To be correct myself, €12.5 billion is the cost of the two-block plant (without the extra safety retrofits), and €10 billion is the size of the credit, and it comes with the additional condition that the remaining 20% be paid up-front, for every sub-contract.

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

by DoDo on Wed Feb 25th, 2015 at 11:30:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EU blocks Hungary-Russia nuclear deal
The EU has blocked Hungary's €12bn nuclear deal with Russia, a decision that is likely to inflame tensions between the Kremlin and Brussels.

Oh well...

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Fri Mar 13th, 2015 at 06:41:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Putting the screws on Orban and Putin. Good.
by IM on Fri Mar 13th, 2015 at 10:45:41 AM EST
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Euratom's objection was based on a comparatively minor issue: the condition that the nuclear fuel be bought from Russia exclusively. This is still something on which Russia might go along on a treaty change. But the EU's competition authority might rule against the exclusiveness clauses for all the other contracts to be awarded on the basis of the credit because public tenders should be competitive.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Mar 13th, 2015 at 04:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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