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Campaign Watch Hungary: A Salvo In The Foot

by DoDo Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 05:16:02 PM EST

In the third-last week before the first round of elections, the Six Weeks of Insanity continues.

In a move designed to weaken old party hierarchies and further strengthen the leadership, ten days ago right-populist opposition party Fidesz named a certain István Mikola their deputy-PM-to-be. But, this may cost them the elections: his speeches since last Sunday offer up damaging quotes in series.

Some are sure to scare voters on the other side and stronger motivate them to vote, others will alienate some key voter bases of Fidesz, and they all sound crazy.

The person and the intrigues

István Mikola is a doctor who started public life in the Patriotic People's Front, which was an organisation for non-Party members but also controlled by the Party during 'communism'. After regime change, he was member of parliament for the Christian Democrats (KDNP), but after the latter shrunk to insignificance, he changed to Fidesz.

Now, the Fidesz leadership's tactic since 1998 has been to gobble up the base of every right-wing party while dismantling their leadership and structure, so that all important decisions are theirs. After losing elections in 2002, they started to do the same to their own party (turning a much older joke about "electing off the party membership" into reality).

In this years' elections, Fidesz is officially in alliance with the remains of KDNP. So naming Mikola as second was another perfect powerplay from the cabal: (1) they kept the lower Fidesz hierarchy from rising to their heights, (2) they also prevented their Christian Democrat 'allies' from gaining any significance once in government, (3) but, given Mikola's Christian Democrat past, chose a candidate appealing to KDNP voters, (4) and a candidate who is without an organised following and thus a powerless puppet in their hands.

20 years' rule

I wrote about the infamous double citizenship referendum, which many people suspected Fidesz only pursued in the hope of widening its voter base with the votes of ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries. Fidesz, if speaking about the issue at all, just denied this.

Now last Sunday, Fidesz held a congress, and Mikola started his amok run by declaring that if Fidesz wins now, they'll grant citizenship to "five million" ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries, and their rule is secured for 20 days...

This sure can be exploited to full power to mobilise voters on the government side. The Fidesz leadership knew it too, and issued strong denials the next day (pointing out that the move would require changing the constitution, which needs 2/3 majority in parliament).

Individual freedoms must be limited!

This is what Mikola said just two days later: "...and yes, the acting  leadership, management, power must limit the individual's borderless longing for freedom." The liberal Free Democrats are hovering around the 5% limit needed to get into parliament, they sure will be happy for this help to mobilise their remaining voters.

If you think this is taking him unfairly out of context, wait for what he told next:

Down with singles, techno & piercing!

You read that right: as example of the excesses of a borderless longing for freedom that must be curtailed, he described "prolonged suicidal" single people with piercings dancing at loud techno music on a street parade!

The fun fact is that young people are on one hand the most apolitical, on the other hand their politicised part is still one of voter segments in which Fidesz has the strongest dominance (rural people another). While I don't like the hedonistic-braindead techno culture any more than Mikola, it is the dominant one here currently, so Mikola threatened a lot of young potential voters directly.

Funnily enough, even the smaller (and more civilised) right-wing opposition party MDF (currently in parliament, now around 4% in polls) saw profit in denouncing Mikola: their base includes many middle-age or older divorced and widows, so they focused on the anti-singles jibe.

  1. After a bizarre press vs. politicians court case, an introduction of parties & history since 1989.
  2. The workings of non-issue-based politics: the tragicomic double referendum on barring hospital privatisations and giving neighbouring countries' ethnic Hungarians double citizenship.
  3. Bush and Hungary: why the nominal centre-left (now governing) is pro-Bush and the nominal centre-right opposition anti-Bush.
  4. Campaign season opens - half a year early.
  5. Further in the campaign, October polls and nonsensical rhetoric (how can you give preferential treatment to both the elites and the poor?)
  6. The juiciest of the many storm-in-the-bathtub scandals: Mata Hari in Budapest
  7. A foray into history (not much to do with recent Hungarian politics, but some further perspective for the debate on Turkey's accession to the EU).
  8. European Dream: where would Hungarians like to live?
  9. Hungarian Orange (no relation to the Ukrainian version): on a clever opposition poster campaign and its contrast with reality.
  10. On another poster campaign by the same party - how to outsource negative campaign, and how it can be made to backfire.
  11. Of Socialists and Presidents.
  12. On the Oscar-winning film director who was The Mephisto Behind Mephisto.
  13. The Inverted Example of Spinning Jobless Statistics: doing the exact opposite of what the Bushites did.
  14. Mephisto And Informants Update.
  15. Non-partisan corruption, meta-corruption.
  16. Another foray into history: March 15, 1848 revolution.
  17. Six Weeks of Insanity: how a national celebration turns political freak show.
  18. Article Deconstruction: how a Western paper (here: DER SPIEGEL) twists facts to fit Western stereotypes.

In other news: there are now Get Out The Vote scandals for both big parties (Fidesz and MSzP=Socialists).

GOTV is illegal in Hungary, because maintaining databases of voters by party preference is illegal. But apparently, one local MSzP office collected the names of those who supported the nomination of their candidates into a database, while a man working for a Fidesz local office compiled an even wider database that included people marked "unsure" and people marked "enemies"(!).

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 05:23:01 PM EST
We should invite this guy to write here: he needs all the platforms he can get to get his views out...
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 05:23:37 PM EST
The domestic proponents of nuclear power (which included most of my physicist teachers BTW) long praised the security record of Hungary's only nuclear power plant at Paks (a four-block installation). Until one day... in April 2003, during chemical cleaning of the fuel rods in block 2, there was a sudden run of overheating, which damaged most of the fuel rods. (It was classified a level 3 accident on the 0-7 accident scale.)

It took one and a half years before the reactor was started again. With the damaged fuel rods left in it. However, ever since, an alliance of environmental groups is trying to get the power plant to release the experts' risk studies which they used to get permission to run again. An attempt stonevalled by the power plant in court with techicalities ever since...

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 05:42:30 PM EST
A major reason why Poland has no nuclear power is that the Party got rid of two thirds of the nuclear power institute back in 1968. One third were fired for being of Jewish origin, another third either resigned in protest or were fired for protesting. That set back the program by a good decade, and by the time they were about to construct a plant, Chernobyl hit, public pressure delayed things and it eventually got abandoned.
by MarekNYC on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 06:20:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder how someone as ridiculous as this guy has stayed in politics for so long. Of course, we have plenty of representatives of this type in Bulgarian politics but they come and go. I can't think of anyone who has survived since communism.

What are Fidesz chances of winning, by the way? You said Mikola's candidature might cost them the election.

As for Mikola's problem with singles, he may want to follow the example of the Bulgarian Communists and introduce a fee for unmarried people. My parents have told me that during communism in Bulgaria if you were still not married after a certain age (I don't remember what exactly), you had to pay a fee to the state.Did you have anything like that?

by ccarc on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 06:06:42 PM EST
I wonder how someone as ridiculous as this guy has stayed in politics for so long.

Well, by not being in the forefront for long :-) Seriously, his positions are not at all unusual for a Catholic conservative, but he proved totally inept at delivering the message in the same veiled way his comrades used to.

What are Fidesz chances of winning, by the way?

So far polls show a cliffhanger situation. Some polls show Fidesz just ahead, others MSzP just ahead, and the same is true on whether SzDSz will make it above 5% as a third party. Now, Hungary has a mixed election system (vote for both party lists and individual election districts), and because of Fidesz's popularity in the countryside, it is a safe bet that they would win some more seats than MSzP even if getting the same number of list votes. So Fidesz could win if say (a) it gets 45%, MSzP gets 43%, SzDSz gets 5.5%, or (b) Fidesz gets 43%, MSzP gets 45%, SzDSz gets 4.5%.

(I should note I don't really like the Socialists and the SzDSz as it is now either, but I feel ever stronger that at least Fidesz could be taught a lesson.)

Did you have anything like that?

Only in Stalinist times (1947-1956 in Hungary). The measure you describe was obviously meant to increase the population, and here in Stalinist times women had to bear a certain number of children. The Romanian dictator had a similar law (4 children!) much later.

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

by DoDo on Thu Mar 23rd, 2006 at 07:21:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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