Thu Mar 15th, 2007 at 04:58:45 PM EST
Today is the anniversary of the most popular of Hungary's many revolutions, the 1848 one. But there may be not much of celebration on this national day.
The Hungarian government is currently conducting an austerity programme, and that, except for tax cuts, out of the neoliberal handbook: 'reforms' and social cutbacks. Currently the attack point is healthcare, with insane policies of hospital closures and push towards partial social security privatisation. My company (state railways) also suffered cutbacks, what hurts most is that while highways are built like before, two weeks ago 14 branchlines were switched from trains to buses. (And my middle boss also found ways to spare: he decreed that when you're on on-track tests, you are paid for a normal 8-hour workday -- during the last test I was on 11 hours were the minimum actually worked...)
But the political class finds ways to employ themselves and the media with a different circus. You remember last autumn's riots, which recently began to have consequences. Now the fear is that the far-right will use 15 March for a new round of rioting. Update [2007-3-15 16:58:45 by DoDo]: And not without ground: see update on the day's events (and DoDo's in-person odyssey across it) in the comments.
This is perfect occasion for the governing 'Socialists' and 'liberals' to push police state measures in advance. There has been discussion of a general permit to police to use rubber bullets. More alarmingly, as a bizarre 'solution' to the police 'mistakes' of last year that non-protesters were beaten up and arrested too, passers-by have been 'warned' in advance that they are subject to police action.
The figurehead President of the Republic produced another flap: he will be in Transsylvania today, so he won't be present at the official ceremony -- which led to a wild debate over who should be there in his stead. The default would be the speaker of the Parliament, but she is also a Socialist like the PM, enough for a little overblown controversy.
Back to the austerity measures, the right-populist opposition could yet facilitate the blocking of a lot of it: they promote a series of referenda on specific measures. On one hand, this is highly cynical: I haven't heard any proposal from them regarding how to reduce the budget deficit differently, and it is long forgotten that in the 2006 election campaign, they promised 14th-month pensions and tax cuts -- so, based on prior policies, had they been back in power a year ago, I think they would have done most of the same while deflecting blame to the prior government.
On the other hand, before voting, I have to decide whether the opportunity of stopping the neolib measures balances the risk of lifting another power-hungry mob in power that won't separate from the local fascists.