Hungary: “Hey Europe, Sorry About My Prime Minister”

Hungary is ‘enjoying’ an extensive foreign media coverage of the financial and political crisis in the country. Many well-known mainstream media outlets, such as the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times or Al Jazeera have reported on the January 2, 2012, protests against the new constitution, which came into effect on January 1. Hungarian citizens, too, are constantly using blogs and social media to express their criticism of the government's measures and share the news of the country's volatile economy.

Although the rallies are growing more and more frequent, we confine this coverage to the protest that took place last Monday 2 January, presenting some Hungarian citizens’ views on the event.

The purpose of the January 2 rally was to speak up against the new constitution designed by the governing Fidesz and KDNP parties. To celebrate the constitution, the government organized a high-profile event at the Hungarian State Opera. The rally against it took place right outside the Opera.

Non-governmental organizations, civil movements and some opposition parties allied for the time of the protest to demonstrate that opposing the government's politics results in joint forces. The organizers wanted to avoid the influence of party politics on the event, and therefore only the representatives of civil movements and trade unions were the speakers.

A screenshot of the New York Times

Still, the presence of political parties raised doubts in many. Tracey framed this in an article [hu] on LMV community portal and stated he/she wouldn't attend the protest:

[…] My first thought: is democracy in danger? I think it is not.

The current government has buried only one interpretation of democracy, it was the parliamentary democracy, but this was made possible by the previous governing parties since they discredited democracy, its institutions and like in a banana republic they used power to gain profit. The whole political elite of the past 20 years of transition is responsible for what Fidesz is doing, irrespective of [political] colours, so talking about a democratic opposition, ‘offering [the parties in opposition] comradeship’, for the civil movements it's simply a dangerous self-delusion–except for if they want to give some party a leg up. […]

After the protest, Kékpóni drew a different conclusion on Kettős Mérce (Double Standard) [hu]:

Though there were many things I disagreed with concerning the event, I still attended the protest held on Jan. 2, whose message is summarized in the slogan “Still, There Will Be a Republic of Hungary.” I felt that the fight for democracy and association are keywords I can support with the feeling of ease. […]

According to the calculations of Fideszfigyelő blog (Fidesz monitor) [hu] some 32,000 or 50,000 people attended the protest. There were conflicts between the majority and the extreme-right protesters, who were also allowed to hold a ‘small counter-rally’ at the same place (as you can see on this YouTube video). Kettős Mérce reported [hu] that two activists of LMP (Politics Can Be Different party) were beaten by the extremists, one of them was searched by the police.

All in all, KA_Steve, one of the speakers, was happy with the outcome [hu]:

[…] I don't know how to put it but it was somehow uplifiting to see that self-satisfied politicians drunk with power are not able to organize an undisturbed celebration of themselves, even if they like it or not, they are obliged to celebrate the illusion of the System of National Cooperation, moving behind the four lines of police cordon, facing the citizens who are expressing their dissatisfaction loudly. […]

According to some rumours, high profile guests of the constitution's celebration had to use an escape route under the Opera to leave the building, journalists of news site interviewed [hu] the guests leaving through the Opera's back doors.

Kékpóni says the protests are just the tip of the iceberg:

[…] I am frankly happy for the shaping of a new Hungarian resistance, but I feel that the protest and anger focus only on the government measures, while what's being neglected is the fact that the system we are living in has not just got into crisis, this is just a more and more threatening consequence. Democracy will not end because of Orbán, it will end because we have not created it yet and we have not experienced yet the recognition that we have to do something for the creation–if we recognized it, there wouldn't be an Orbán system! […]


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