The state of votes
Carry on, Orbán!
Kaszás Gábor|translated by: Dorottya Böröcz
A last chance for the rule of law
Farkas Zsolt| translated by: Dorottya Böröcz
Kaszás Gábor | translated by: Dorottya Böröcz | 2018. March 07. 13:25
There is no dispute between the government and the opposition in the fact that there is a lot at stake in the 2018 Hungarian elections. This might be their only point of agreement, though. Nowadays, less than two months before the vote that seems to decide Hungary’s fate, printed and online opposition media platforms often publish exaggerated articles that evoke serious pessimism. It is worth examining what can be placed on the other pan of the scale. The achievements of the government give a reason for confidence for Hungary’s future.
The year 2010 was undoubtedly a huge turning point in the history of the Third Hungarian Republic. However, this is the first time when a government is exposed to such an intense, continuous verbal „drumfire” both at home and abroad, as the Orbán government is for the eighth consecutive year. Just to mention a few examples, there was an outburst of panic surrounding the media law, the taxation of banks, and the new Constitution of Hungary. More recently, the new NGO law (regulating foreign-funded organisations) and the protection of Schengen borders has been under attack. Certain powers have been trying to prove at all costs that the rule of law in Hungary had disappeared.
By contrast, it is apparent that even at the end of the Orbán government’s third administration not a single critical oppositional crowd emerged whatsoever. There have been some social groups protesting for their interests, which is in a democratic country absolutely acceptable, but no general movements could have been observed.
It is reasonable to ask the question: Why is this so? To find the answer let´s look into the facts instead of guesswork . The answer is to be found above all in the examination of the keystone that even the most rigorous critics and political competitors can hardly dispute: the Orbán government developed a successful economic policy.
Since 2013, after the initial difficulties, mainly due to the economic and political crisis of 2008-2009, the Hungarian economy has been producing a moderate but gradual development curve and it has reached annual growth rates of 2-4%. This growth is mainly supported by the stable and predictable macroeconomic environment: the gradual reduction of the central bank base rate, the conversion of foreign-currency loans to Hungarian Forints, the restructuring of public debt, the closure of the European Union Excessive Deficit Procedure and the reduction of labour taxes. Moreover, since 2015-2016 the achieved results have been spilling over to micro level. The voters’ quality of life has improved: this is reflected by the record low unemployment rate, the reduction of personal income tax, and the gradual raising of wage levels by 10-15 %.
We cannot deny that the state has proved to be a good and responsible owner of public property overturning the „liberal axiom” (according to said concept the state is incapable of fulfilling this function and the market should take care of this instead), which was especially widespread in the 1990s as a result of the former state-socialist systems. Taking over the strategically important infrastructure networks (e.g. public utilities) into state ownership, clearly has a positive effect on our national self-determination and widens the country's room for manoeuvre. A good example of the effective asset policy serving national interests was buying back the 21% of MOL share package in 2011. Aaccording to the most conservative estimates, it is already worth 100 billion Hungarian Forints more than it was 7 years ago.
The results achieved in this field so far guarantee such a high level of social trust with the government that its political aspects should not be lost after this April.
Nowadays, in European democracies, it is very rare to get the majority needed for a stable and smooth governinment. Lengthy, often unclear coalition negotiations can further erode citizens’ confidence in democracy’s achievements and in the institutional system. Furthermore, it can easily cause protracting domestic crises with spill over economic effects deterring investors. In the last few years, we had the chance to witness several longer (Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany) and some shorter (Great Britain, Greece, Croatia) interregna as well.
In contrast, the Hungarian government received authorization from the public to carry out its program, and they got this chance already twice. The Fidesz-KDNP coalition won the second election already in a one-round election system, for which it received a lot of criticism both domestically and from abroad. At the same time, critics should/take into account that a similar one-roundelection system is used also in Great Britain - in the country which is considered to be the birthplace of modern democracy. In addition to the abovementioned considerations, we need to highlight also the other benefits of a majority government. A government with stable parliamentary support can for example respond with life-saving speed in case of an emergency or an exceptional cross-border economic-humanitarian crisis (e.g. the management of the migration crisis).
Last but not least, we should mention the current condition of the Hungarian political arena’s other actors. The opposition groups are fragmented and almost antagonistic to each other.
The unending, closed-door negotiations, positioning and partial cooperation between the „fragment parties”, which consist of the leftovers of the left-liberal powers governing before 2010 and the groups founded after 2010, have been almost comically incomprehensible to the general public. Therefore, even on a theoretical level, the legitimacy of a multiparty coalition government formed by the current opposition is questionable. These parties’ only meeting point, namely dispatching Viktor Orbán and his government, probably would not be sufficient for the country's salvation.
The achievements made so far are not merely goals, but rather the stages of a larger, comprehensive vision, the lifespan of which is impossible and useless to count in four-year parliamentary cycles. Our changing world and our continent within it can have many demanding challenges in store for us this year that we can only overcome in unity, by moving in one direction. Preserving the country's stability remains a key issue.
Source of diagrams: Eurostat
Farkas Zsolt | translated by: Dorottya Böröcz | 2018. March 07. 13:25
On the 2018 elections, Hungary must decide again: are we able to set aside our personal differences for the sake of change or will we keep on tolerating the limitation of our liberties?
We, Hungarians, have never been in the forefront of politically realist nations. We have never realized when our freedom, our lifestyle or the rights we achieved were close to being destroyed. Thus, the forces wishing to eradicate them could almost always demolish our values and freedoms earned by our blood sweat and tears without any obstacles. In my opinion, the history of Hungary has again come to such an occasion. This small Central European country must decide once again: either it will put aside its petty differences for the time of the elections, will unite and change the conservative Fidesz-government, which is abolishing the rule of law and aspires to build a one-party state, or it will not get past its selfish weakness and will let its few liberties earned since the communist regime change be once again taken away.
To avoid misconceptions, it should be clear that a democratic electoral system does not automatically guarantee the survival of democracy. It is possible to create a one-party state using democratic methods, as currently Viktor Orbán is doing so. The present-day system - as many dictatorial systems in history -, deprives people of their liberties by exploiting the current climate of public opinion which can be characterised by a disillusionment with democracy. Fidesz's methods are based on well-constructed public enemy images and on inciting the population against them. All their words and speeches are phrased against someone, and are never about making a real change. Just look at Fidesz's priorities when using their taxpayers' money. How is it possible that the government's billboard campaign, no matter what happens, no matter how moderate the flow of migrants has become, is still swallowing up billions of Hungarian Forints? At the same time, despite all government propaganda, the quality of Hungarian healthcare and educational system is slowly deteriorating to reach lamentable levels. I know from a personal experience that in the majority of our hospitals and educational institutions even hot water is scarce, not to mention the fulfilment of basic hygiene requirements.
Fidesz, aka the “Federation of Young Democrats” has completely lost its original liberal image that was initially favourable to the middle-class . I find it simply unacceptable that the government communication is not dealing with solutions to real problems. They do not think about the amelioration of the indefensible state of healthcare. But instead, they continuously scare the public with the alleged plans of certain foreign billionaires to annihilate the Hungarians and to flood the country with refugees. The focus of their rhetoric is that everything – including a "heroic" battle with such phantoms -, is happening "in our best interest”.
Furthermore, I find it unacceptable that Fidesz is unwilling to support the future generations to any extent - only the future of our country depends on them, after all. This type of politics, focusing on one social layer only,is also unacceptable in a democracy. The party should at least show a minimal attempt to get the support of other social groups, beside their core voters. This ambition is completely missing from the policy of Viktor Orbán’s party and from the attitudes of its politicians, who despite their party’s name, cannot be considered youthfully politicising individuals themselves.
A popular statement of the government and its supporters is that "there is no better" option. I will say it if no one else will: other alternatives do exist. No matter what anyone thinks about anything, the opposition parties do have the potential to change the government and they can create a better Hungary. From the point of view of political science, I think it is a realistic possibility that the opposition will bring down the Fidesz government in 2018. From my perspective, building a grand coalition of opposition parties has a potential. This new alliance of the right- and left-wing parties would save the rule of law from the kleptocratic politics of Fidesz.
Before anyone calls me naïve, let me note that this is not as far from reality as it may seem. Imagine the situation where Fidesz wouldn´t be able to obtain% of the parliamentary mandates in the 2018 parliamentary elections. In that case, the opposition parties, one-by-one, may not have the same level of support as Fidesz, but by building a coalition, they would be able to replace it and form a new multi-party government.
One could ask, whether this new grand coalition with so many different points of view would be able to govern. In my opinion it would. If the present ineffective ministerial structures were re-established to their pre-2010 state, there would be enough portfolios for all parties in the coalition. With such divided attention, perhaps the institution of the ministries could work better than it does now, when the same minister has to deal with both - healthcare and education.
This is how we come across the original question again: would the country win or lose if it changed the current government? In my opinion, by replacing Fidesz, this country can only win. Even a clumsily governing opposition coalition would be better than a state party, trying to demolish democracy and pluralism, with all its power. Moreover, I am confident that I am not the only one of this opinion.
Kaszás Gábor|translated by: Dorottya Böröcz
Farkas Zsolt| translated by: Dorottya Böröcz
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