“The ultimate twenty-first-century dictator”
April 3, 2022 6:14 PM   Subscribe

I have seen alt-right commentary that he "owned the libs." But if I recall correctly didn't the far right and the left join to try to defeat him this time around?
posted by rednikki at 6:23 PM on April 3, 2022

This has been exceedingly difficult for me to pay attention to because Budapest is so close to my heart. Thank you for this post so I can read the links and feel like I’m staying informed without digging myself into a trench of despair. I can only hope that I will feel safe to visit Hungary again in my lifetime, and when I do there will be a diversity of culture and thought still present, having supported each other through this onslaught.
posted by Mizu at 6:26 PM on April 3, 2022 [17 favorites]

Orbán is despicable, and anyone siding with him is also a loathsome, execrable person. I have nothing to add beyond hoping that he dies soon and suddenly, and realizes with his last breath that his life has been worthless. For the people of Hungary, I hope the nightmare ends as soon as possible.
posted by ivanthenotsoterrible at 6:38 PM on April 3, 2022 [37 favorites]

posted by corb at 7:27 PM on April 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Hungarian-American here. Very disappointed. I was hoping against hope that Orban's pro-invasion stance in a country that's been invaded by Russia multiple times would sink him.

Thanks for the post.
posted by mark k at 7:51 PM on April 3, 2022 [14 favorites]


I'm theoretically eligible for dual citizenship. (Or, under current Hungarian law, I am a citizen and would just have to have it affirmed.) But it's hard to want to subject myself to Hungarian law in any way just to cast a vote when the electoral gulf is this large. And I don't think my grandparents would approve under current conditions.

It says something (to me, at least) that Orban's flavor of nationalism and Hungarian exceptionalism is incompatible with taking pride in the achievements of the diaspora. (My grandfather emigrated young, but became a paint chemist nonetheless.) The Soros stuff is so depressing, as is the way it has spread.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:12 PM on April 3, 2022 [10 favorites]

Rednikki - a party that was Orban’s right wing opposition some years back was in the losing opposition coalition today, but only after it moved left. The party that replaced them on the far right entered Parliament today, after running their own non-coalition campaign.
posted by MattD at 8:46 PM on April 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Thanks for this post.

I recently read about the Hungarian far right football fan clubs and remember that in my younger naive days I thought that jingoistic nationalism could be safely shuffled to the realm of sports.

Jedi hugs if you want them, to folks in Hungary and in the diaspora. Following "home country" politics as someone in the (Korean) diaspora is a mix of emotions, insufficient knowledge and spikes of alienation for me.
posted by spamandkimchi at 9:26 PM on April 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

"Ultimate" used to mean 'the last one' rather than 'the greatest one against which all others are measured'. I'm sorry that's not the sense used here -- and in all our fights against injustice there will never be 'the last one' who has to choose not the corrupt path but the straight roads of fairness.

I read a Financial Times longread this weekend* which identified that there are "Strongman Leaders" (all men) gaining from isolationist national-centric 'traditional values' platforms that reinforce default hegemony and demonise people who are different, the sort of stuff that uses 'culture wars' to control what you think is acceptable behaviour. Serbia, Turkey, China, North Korea, Belarus, Russian Federation and Saudi Arabia also listed in the article. I said 'longread' but it was more of a mid-long-read for not having a fix proposed, which would usually come in these opinion pieces from the pre-2008 globalisation playbook (trade liberates). That's on hold at the moment given that the drain of billionnaire wealth from Russia left Putin holding the state economy, and the Schengen Zone and EU membership lets Hungary's citizens work across most of the continent, escaping low-opportunity towns for a better life. It did call out the gap between the rich who have to prop up Orbán and the poor who are exploited for their votes.

If the problem is ambition to be that sole heroic individual who sets the world right (but in their image), I wonder if the solution is the collective, rainbowed and diverse people where you can see collaboration creating better-then-the-sum-of-its-parts?

*: sorry no subscriber link / you'll need a free login Strongman rulers hold the upper hand in Hungary and Serbia
posted by k3ninho at 12:13 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was hoping that this time they won't get the 2/3ds supermajority, but they gerrymandered the districts really well. The election system is biased beyond imagination: Orbán got approximately 53 % of the popular vote which translates into 67% of the seats in parliament.

The opposition is a joke, their only specific promise was that "we are not Orbán" while the government was promising "you'll lose your job if you don't vote for us" among other measures. My facebook feed is showing again the usual rounds of my allegedly well educated, inner city circle blaming the voters, putin, everyone except themselves. They didn't do jack shit in local politics for four years - they simply went to the one opposition television channel, made announcements in the media and that's it.

The ultra-right new party ("Mi Hazánk") went to the countryside to agitate and they did show a surprisingly strong result.

Hadházy, the independent MP who is constantly working on curruption scandals and fighting the government on all legal fronts did get in.

The strongly leftist Jámbor, who campaigned on real issues (housing crisis in Budapest, Fudan university taking away resources from planned student dormitory project) did get in - he even manged to gain previously right-wing voters with an uncompromisingly leftist program, without appeasing the right.

These sporadic wins show that it it possible to win against Fidesz, it's just damn hard, and the opposition did not put in the work.

I could dig up sources for all of the above claims in hungarian, but honestly i'm too tired and bitter right now. At least the german industry can sleep well for 4 years, sure in their moral superiority and sure in their supply of cheap labor.
posted by kmt at 12:20 AM on April 4, 2022 [32 favorites]

This is so sad, even though it was expected.

30 years ago, we hoped that now all of Europe could be free and democratic and enjoy the same quality of life as those of us who were fortunate enough to be born in Western Europe. It wasn't that simple, was it?

Back then, I was generally skeptical, but I had high hopes for Hungary, I wonder what went wrong.
posted by mumimor at 12:35 AM on April 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

One day his time will be done, and Hungary, where my paternal grandparents came from, will be a fucking mess. A destroyed ruin of a country because that's how it always ends with these guys.
I wish Hungary all the best in coping with this and hope one day there will be a better Hungary.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 1:03 AM on April 4, 2022 [11 favorites]

How the Ukraine war saved Orbán - Hungary’s opposition cannot break his conservative machine
Rather than the vulgar 20th-century authoritarianism with which his more excitable critics charge him, Orbán’s dominance of Hungary’s politics is a subtler, more postmodern exercise. A product of George Soros’s attempt to nurture an elite governing class in Central Europe, the disaffected liberal reformer has adopted and inverted the same methods that produce liberal hegemony towards distinctly post-liberal ends. No wonder so many Western conservatives, who cannot translate electoral success to meaningful political power, find Orbán’s Hungary an object of both envy and inspiration. At Gólya, a far-Left cooperative and cultural space in a disused Budapest warehouse bedecked with PKK flags, I met the Marxist journalist and leftwing activist Csaba Tóth, who wryly described Orbán’s Hungary as “Rojava for western conservatives”, an idealised polity onto which they can project their political hopes and dreams.
posted by kmt at 5:03 AM on April 4, 2022 [7 favorites]

Thank you for that higher education story, lalochezia. As well as for the whole post.
posted by doctornemo at 7:18 AM on April 4, 2022

How much does Le Pen have in the way of resources with Russia's finances cut off?
posted by acb at 9:16 AM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Funny you should ask...

Le Pen gets Hungarian bank loan to finance presidential campaign
[Euractiv, 2/2/22]

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen has obtained a €10.6 million loan from a Hungarian bank to finance her presidential election campaign, according to RTL radio on Wednesday. This comes after the presidential candidate for Rassemblement National said she was having trouble obtaining bank loans at home.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:28 AM on April 4, 2022 [7 favorites]

KMT, thank you for the summary and the link. That will be a helpful and informative read.
posted by rednikki at 12:17 PM on April 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think it is shitty to just blame the opposition here when frankly Hungary's election integrity is . . . not great! It is subject to the same bullshit the USA is seeing, like gerrymandering, skewed election rules, and media bias. There is no Perfect Message in any country that is going to result in The Socialist Revolution Of Dreams if swaths of voters have their votes invalidated by warped election districts or denied entirely through corrupt rules. Authoritarianism on the political and cultural level is the name of the game if you're skewing everything towards authoritarianism.
posted by Anonymous at 2:27 PM on April 4, 2022

It seems Fidesz still needed to make sure that the "wrong" votes aren't counted.
posted by hat_eater at 4:04 PM on April 4, 2022

I think it is shitty to just blame the opposition here when frankly Hungary's election integrity is . . . not great! It is subject to the same bullshit the USA is seeing, like gerrymandering, skewed election rules

People who live in Hungary have pointed this out already upthread.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:43 PM on April 4, 2022

I think it is shitty to just blame the opposition

I find your comment disheartening and frankly, offensive.

In the last elections here, in 2018 many of the voting districts didn't even have vote-counters / officials delegated from the opposition parties because they didn't have enough people in their organization - they are just a bunch of career politicians constantly making announcements in the media. Hence the allegiations of direct voting fraud last time.

Since then a non-party aligned organization started to recruit volunteer vote-counter delegates, so that all voting districts would have people not coming from Fidesz, to oversee the process and report any misconduct. I emphasise, non-aligned volunteers are doing what opposition parties should do.

This at least had the side effect of volunteers meeting the poverty of rural Hungary for the first time. They found whole regions separated from the outside world, poor, forgotten, who only get government propaganda in the television and the local papers. No opposition party is working there, there is no contact with the political "elite" - the opposition parties expect them to understand why the current government is bad for the people on their own and vote for the enlightened, european values promoting opposition. The thread acb linked is very good at explaining this:
the HU oppo does not have an intimate knowledge of HU society. As individuals, many politicians, intellectuals & co. do possess bits of this knowledge, but institutionally, politically speaking they/we do NOT. And as I see, this won't change in the foreseeable future.
Hopefully next time civil society will act on this information, because without this work, there won't be regime change here. This is work, and I repeat the mainstream opposition parties are not doing it.

And now the most insulting part: There is no Perfect Message in any country that is going to result in The Socialist Revolution Of Dreams

Yo, I voted in this election for a conservative catholic politician spouting neoliberal drivel, because I hoped that this "united opposition" stands a chance against the Orbánist steamroller. It may not be clear, but this is 100% against my political principles, but I still voted for these idiots, hoping that at lest they can avert the supermajority. I was wrong.

With that in mind, I'll stick to my principles from now on, blame the idiotic opposition "elite" and support the The Socialist Revolution Of Dreams thank you very much.
posted by kmt at 12:51 AM on April 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

Sorry, it wasn't acb's, but -'s link, I wrote this in a haste.
posted by kmt at 1:09 AM on April 5, 2022

He has supposedly been a heavy favourite with Transylvanian voters, where the situation is ... complicated. An article for Google Translate. Here are some figures: 83% of Hungarians in Transylvania would vote for Fidesz, and many have. That would be between 10-15% of total votes for Fidesz.
posted by doggod at 1:30 PM on April 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Frankly, I would shift some of the money that I currently waste on various domestic outfits that never accomplish anything to both the neoliberal shitshow and the Revolution of Dreams (is this a real thing? it sounds like a Gaiman novel I missed ) if it would help move the needle within my lifetime. It would be more impactful, all in all.

But literally no one is talking to the interwar or WWII and later diaspora in the US; or at least that's my experience. I presume it's because we're mostly Jews (plus some '56ers). Orban is precluded from doing so by the anti-Semitism of his coalition, so maybe the some element of the opposition should consider it.

It's hard to shake the sense that neither side particularly misses us, tbh.
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:39 PM on April 7, 2022

(I know the were some unresolved issues with my grandparents and others of their age around recovering lost homes or other WWII reparations that the Hungarian government refused to honor, in their eyes -- I don't think my Dad's generation really cared, and most people in mine aren't even aware.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:48 PM on April 7, 2022

One thing to remember about Orban, which is lost on American readers, is his fanatic connection to football - or soccer as it is known in the US. It is Orban's only extracurricular interest, and to be in his inner circle one needs to share his obsession. He went into law school only after being rejected from playing professional "foci" (too short) and eventually had a football stadium built -literally - in his back yard, complete with a vintage railroad connecting it to the main lines so that, on average, four people a day can get to the stadium.

A friend who watched the younger Orban play football one time told me that she decided then that she could never vote for him. Orban openly cheated, constantly challenged the rules, and played with a egotistic determination that would never pass a ball to team mates. And that is how he runs the nation. Don't like the constitution? Change it! Heck, with a 2/3 supermajority, who can say anything?

And on the international playing field, the Hungarian team always loses.
posted by zaelic at 4:34 AM on April 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

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