An introduction to Hungarian politics

Small country – difficult politics

To write an introduction to Hungarian politics is a very dangerous task, and a very hard task. In some nations politics might be a nice subject to speak about during dinners and in a coffee break at work. In Hungary politics is a dangerous subject which can turn friends, colleagues and lovers against one another. It can also make friends out of enemies if you suddenly find out that your enemy shares your thoughts on Hungarian politics. Still, I will try to give an introduction to the politics in Hungary in this article. The goal is not to influence people in any way, neither is this article meant to be read by Hungarians, but the goal is to help people from outside Hungary to get some more insight in the political life of Hungary, in a simple and short way (if that is possible).

I could go far back in history, but I will start it all on May 1st, 2004. That is the date when Hungary became a member of the European Union, together with nine other nations. In those days Hungary was predicted to become a successful EU nation within few years, and they spoke about getting the Euro already in 2008. That did not succeed, and the Euro has still not come to Hungary. What is the background?

Divided between left and right

Some people have suggested that Hungary would need leaders who are specialists in their field (economy etc…) to set the direction for the country. In other words, professional leaders not influenced by the politics of the Hungarian right or left side. The problem is that politics in Hungary is something you get served on a daily basis from your birth through television, newspapers, teacher and radio. Your parents, your teachers, your neighbor… everyone shares their opinion about politics, and therefore you will it very hard to stand objective if you have lived in the country for a while. You will find yourself under the influence of either the left or the right side. Therefor an objective person in Hungary is hard to find, very hard!

Once I spoke to a Hungarian who said he listened to two different radio channels one morning, and even though both channels spoke of the same matter, they said something completely different. It almost felt as if they were speaking about two different nations. Against this proves the fact that you will find yourself under the influence of what you listen to. In Hungary you can divide the political world to a left side (LMP, MSZP, DK) and to a right side (Fidesz, Jobbik). Here comes one of the first problems. If you read the newspapers and blogs related to the political left side of Hungary you will hear that Jobbik and Fidesz are quite good friends, and that the Hungarian Prime Minister is not at all separating himself enough from the radical extreme party named Jobbik. If you read the newspapers and blog related to the right side you will see that they often write of Jobbik and Fidesz as two total opposites, far away from one another. It is for sure true that Jobbik is a quite extreme and radical right side party, but related and friends of Fidesz or not… it depends on who you talk to!

The economical crisis in Hungary

In 2008 and since then the nation of Hungary has had large problems. Not only the individuals living in the nation, but also on a national scale Hungary has needed to make large adjustments. But who’s fault is this? Read and speak with the people from the left side, and they will blame the right side. They will claim that the country had large problems after the right sided rule between 1998 and 2002, and thus it was a giant work to get things in order. As they started getting things in order and to get the economy back on track, the right side still made things impossible. As the left side wanted to make reforms to get more money to hospitals, education and so on (making people pay small amounts of money to visit their doctors, lay in hospital, study in university), the right side gathered signatures and a voting was on the verge. The voting was the most stupid I have ever heard about in history. It had three questions: Do you want to pay to go to the doctor? Do you want to pay to lie in hospital? Do you want to pay to study? None has ever wanted to pay for anything in history, and thus with a giant win all three reforms were turned down. The left side sais that in this way it was impossible to do anything in the country, and the right side led by Viktor Orban were the ones to be blamed. If you read the newspapers, blogs and TV channels led by right sided people, the story will sound totally different. The communist ideal of everything included once you pay your taxes could be heard often, and also that they did not want the people to pay for the stupid ideas of the leaders back then.

Revolution in 2006

From 2006 (picture from Index)

In 2006 the Hungarians celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the revolution in 1956, where the Hungarians stood up against the communists. Another revolution was also on the rise in the autumn of 2006, the new Hungarian revolution. A recording of a speech made by Ferenc Gyurcsany at a private political meeting, the prime minister in Hungary at that time, was leaked to the press and it had some interesting words and sentences in it. He spoke of how they had lied to the people of Hungary, and how they had not done anything at all (his party had then been leading the nation for the last four years, and had recently won the right to rule for four more years). Not only did he say this, but he cursed and used some really bad words…The people heard the recording and at once they demanded that he should step back from his post as Prime Minister of Hungary. He did not, and this lead to lots of demonstrations, which again lead to riots in the city on October 23rd in 2006 and the days after.

After this event the popularity of the left side sank to the bottom, and during the election of local politicians in the same year, the right side led by Fidesz won in almost all cities and regions of Hungary.

What to think about this?
Both sides reacted to the speech of Ferenc Gyurcsany that was leaked to the press, and the right side claimed that he finally said what is true; the left side did nothing and they lied to the people of Hungary. The left side claimed that what the Prime Minister spoke about was that none ever did anything in Hungary since the fall of communism, and enough was enough. It was time for politicians to stop lying and to start making changes in the country. After this scandal the right side constantly left the Hungarian Parliament during the discussions inside; why listen to a left side and a Prime Minister that is lying? Therefore it was always only a half full Parliament during discussions following this event.

Political situation in present day Hungary

Since 2010 lots of things have changed in Hungary. During the election back then Fidesz led by Viktor Orban won and alone they got 2/3 of all representatives in the Hungarian Parliament. Thus the party can do whatever they want, since 2/3 can do anything, even change, add and remove the laws in the constitution. The other parties are all represented in the Parliament, but they can not really make any difference, as Fidesz alone can control everything. On the left side you can hear radio and TV say that Hungary is the only democratic nation ever to vote for dictatorship to return. On the right side in the political world you can hear about how Fidesz now try to make up for the eight years of destruction made by the left side between 2002-2010, and how the only way to get Hungary out of the financial crisis and the present day troubles was to give one party all power in the nation. In that way they can do all the necessary changes without any one else destroying and interrupting (like the left side claim the right side did some years earlier). Again, it all depends on what newspapers you read, who you speak with and what TV channel you watch.

The current rulers of the country (Fidesz) have changed quite some laws and added and changed things in the constitution since 2010. One important change is that if anyone would like to make changes to the constitution, they will need 2/3 of all votes in the Parliament during one reign (4 year period), and then the law needs to be accepted during the next 4 year period by 2/3 of the Parliament. This is of course only valid for changes happening later, and the changes they have currently made does not need to be accepted by anyone else during the next reign, they are written in stone! They have also made changes to laws about the rights of the employees and the employers, about how the elections in the country are going to be, about the age of judges and lots of other stuff. Maybe these laws are helping Hungary back on track, or maybe it is leading Hungary back into dictatorship? Who knows, but time will show.

In the start of the article I said that my goal was to simply give some insight into the present day political situation in Hungary. I realize that it is an impossible task to do so, but I still hope that if you have managed to read through this entire article, that you have gotten some insight into the situation, and maybe some more understanding of what is going on in the beautiful country of Hungary. If you agree, disagree, have questions or whatever, feel free to write in the comment field.

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