– The government of Hungary’s decision to modify its labor law (deemed the “slave law” by protesters and the opposition) and to establish a new administrative court in Hungary, which was voted through on December 12th 2018 (read more about these events in our last “What’s up Hungary?”), might have affected Hungarians’ views on politics. According to the latest public opinion poll, ruling party Fidesz has lost 4 percent of their voters since December, while the main opposition party, Jobbik, gained the same amount. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who are certain to vote decreased from 55 percent to 48 percent.
– On January 11th, the Hungarian Free Press reported that star American-Hungarian basketball players Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley had gotten married in December 2018. Both women are well-known in Hungary and have played for Hungary in several tournaments. Still, their union was not mentioned or congratulated by any Hungarian sport official. The Hungarian constitution stipulates that marriage can only be between a woman and a man, thus it prohibits same sex couples from getting married.
On a similar note, a program on the “serious and important research” on the curability of homosexuality was aired on Hungarian public service broadcaster MTV’s M5 channel on January 16th. The alleged reason for airing the program was a conference on how to cure homosexuality through therapy, which was held in Budapest last year. One of the ideas presented in the program was that, with the right therapy, people can be guided back to a phase in their psychological development when they were still free of same-sex attraction. According to the Hungarian Spectrum, the program was condemned by several political parties and organisations after its airing.
– As Deputy State Secretary for Higher Education Zita Horváth was about to give a speech at the Educatio exhibit in Budapest on January 12th, a group of Hungarian students connected to the Student Union disrupted her speech and the event by chanting in chorus: “Good morning Madam Deputy Secretary of State. We are Hungarian youth and really we have had enough of the fact that you are constantly fucking with us. We have had enough that while Viktor Orbán is being fed in the Castle, there are hundreds of millions of forints in cutbacks in several ELTE departments.”
The students then went on to condemn recent political moves to close the Central European University and to prohibit gender studies. The exhibit organizers tried to drown out the students’ voices by turning up the music. The Union to which the students were affiliated later explained: “Madam Deputy Secretary of State wanted to give a presentation on quality higher education. The tables were turned and we gave her a presentation on question pertaining to higher education.”
– In response to the implementation of the “slave law”, the Democratic Union of Teachers formed a strike committee in mid-January, demanding that overtime hours be paid out and that “required work hours and conditions around substitute teaching be in accordance with the public education law currently in force.” A representative of the Union, László Kordás stated that “pressure is building under the lid” but that the Union still lack the support needed to declare strike. Hoping to resolve the conflict through dialogue, the Union has submitted a petition concerning the slave law to the government.
Eighteen-year-old Blanka Nagy had her reputation trashed by Fidesz affiliated media outlets after she gave an anti-Orbán speech in December. Source: Civilhetes
– On January 15th, a war of words broke out as Ripost, a news site affiliated with the ruling Fidesz party, published an anonymous article trashing Blanka Nagy, an eighteen-year-old high school student, who had given an anti-Orban speech in of December. The article claimed that Nagy was doing poorly in school and failing several classes. Furthermore, it claimed that Nagy had a “mysterious and erotic smile” on her face while speaking about politics. As reported by Hungarian Free Press, the story was then reposted by Figyelö, Lokál, and Origo, media outlets that are all part of a pro-Fidesz foundation. The character assassination of Nagy continued to the broadcasting studio, when Zsolt Bayer, Fidesz co-founder and tv-personality, went after Nagy on Echo TV, stating that “If she is a high school student, she is no older than eighteen and she is already a real cretin–a beastly animal.”
In response to the events, Nagy said: “It was strange to wake up one day and see my face all over the internet, but it hasn’t affected me negatively. A lot of people have stopped me in the street to offer their support.” In an article in The Guardian, Péter Krekó, a political analyst from Budapest, told a reporter that the whole situation “[…] expresses an increasing frustration. The biggest fear of authoritarian politicians is being ridiculed, and they can’t handle it”.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet Israel’s Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in February. Source: Haaretz
– On January 29th, the Visegrád Group (V4), that is Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, announced that their next meeting will be in Jerusalem on February 18-19th. It is the first time that a V4 summit will be held outside of the Europe. The announcement sparked outcries in Israel. Opponents to the Israeli Prime Minister criticised Benjamin Netanyahu for courting Europe’s most right-wing politicians, many of whom have been accused of being anti-semitic. According to reporting by the Hungarian Free Press, Netanyahu sees a closer relationship with the V4 leaders as an opportunity to change EU policies from within. He has previously complained that the EU is “crazy” about their support for Palestinian human rights.
It is worth noting that the current Hungarian regime is not only anti-semitic, it has also refused acknowledge Hungary’s responsibility for the events that led to the murder of 600 000 Hungarian Jews in the 20th century.
– On January 30th, the Hungarian government appointed armed forces general and former head of the civilian intelligence service István Pásztor to the post of Consul General in New York. Because of his status as a former spy, little is known about Pásztor, but from a parliamentary hearing, it has become known that his agency collected massive amounts of personal information about individuals connected to economic and energy security. According to the Hungarian Free Press, it is an unusual move by the Hungarian regime to appoint a former spy to a top diplomat position, and it seems to indicate that the Orbán regime is getting paranoid, seeing George Soros-like enemies everywhere.
Amanda Sonesson holds a BA in Economic History at Stockholm University and has previously lived, studied and worked in Russia and Kyrgyzstan. Currently she is studying in the CEERES program hosted by University of Glasgow, Scotland, focusing on gender issues, democracy, politics and society in Russia and Central Asia. Additionally she owns a secret collection of Putin memorabilia and loves everything (post) Soviet.