Hungary politics

Viktor Orbán’s illiberal administration is preparing for a national referendum next Sunday, October 2.

Supposedly, it’s all about the migration crisis: the Hungarian people will be asked, in a confusing and misleading question, whether they agree to the European Union forcing the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarians in Hungary against the will of parliament.

In fact, in legal terms the referendum is a nonsense. Hungary’s new constitution does not allow a national referendum without a legally binding result.

The whole show is nothing but an attempt to milk the emotional fears of a misinformed people. Orbán’s intention is to strengthen his voter base and mobilise Hungarians against our main international allies, the EU and Germany – using taxpayers’ money to do so. Read more

By Balázs Orbán, Századvég Foundation

Hungary’s foreign policy machine is up, running and making waves: in a matter of weeks, it has helped engineer three important meetings.

First, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, hosted Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, in Budapest. Next, he flew to Kiev for talks with Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president. This Tuesday, Orban will welcome Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to the Hungarian capital.

Each of these visits is of major significance for Hungary, a Nato member which shares a common, if relatively short, part of its eastern border with crisis-ridden Ukraine. Read more

Hungarian politics, like the Hungarian language, tends to be a mystery to outsiders at the best of times.

The arrival of the second Fidesz government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban in 2010 added more layers to the ‘paprika curtain’ already there by linguistic default: the rapid-fire PM generally avoids facing the foreign media (certainly en mass) and when travelling overseas invariably speaks in Hungarian – despite his competence in English – to address his real target audience, ie the viewers back home. Read more

Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister now beginning his second successive term in office, named his cabinet on Thursday with seven out of 10 ministers maintained in a government that is expected to emphasise continuity.

“Out of the 10 ministers named today, seven are the same as in the (previous) Orbán government [so] the prime minister has kept his promise: the government will simply continue what they were before the elections,” Tamás Boros, director of Policy Solutions, a Budapest political think tank often critical of the government, told beyondbrics. Read more

By Ferenc Kumin of the Prime Minister’s Office, Budapest

With voting under way in elections to the European Parliament, many are worried that eurosceptic parties will have a big day when the results come in on Sunday, with gains for parties at the fringes of European politics. The ballot once again raises issues that are fundamentally about broadening versus deepening integration; about further centralisation versus challenges from proponents of a “Europe of nations”.

There is a difference, of course, between being fundamentally sceptical of the European project and promoting alternatives to some of its supposed orthodoxies. Some critics have put Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, in with the most ardent of Europe’s detractors, claiming that he is not a true believer in the grand European project.

This is pure nonsense. Read more

While the government in Kiev tries in vain to pacify the pro-Russian military uprising in the eastern regions of Ukraine, new challenges are arising in the far west of the country. The 150,000-strong Hungarian minority of Transcarpathia region is demanding more rights – including greater autonomy and dual citizenship – and Budapest is supporting them against Kiev.

On Friday, Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, said that ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring Ukraine should be given political autonomy. “Ukraine can be neither stable nor democratic if it does not give its minorities, including Hungarians, their due. That is, dual citizenship, collective rights and autonomy,” Orban said. Read more

By Csaba Tóth of the Republikon Institute

Eurosceptic parties will make big gains in this week’s European parliamentary elections but most of their MEPs will not sit in the same political group in Strasbourg. Euroscpetic parties are a diverse bunch. And their division is about more than just the well-known difference between far right and far left.

For example, eurosceptics on the right have trouble reconciling their positions on a host of issues from immigration and treatment of Islam to Putin’s Russia – as exemplified by the frosty relations between France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage. Read more

The Hungarian economic comeback really is underway – or so it would seem, given the release of first quarter preliminary figures from the statistical office, which put economic growth at 3.5 per cent, up from 2.7 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2013.

True, when adjusted for calendar and seasonal effects, the figure is a tad more muted, at 3.2 per cent, and the final figures could be reviewed when released next month. Regardless, the result is “extraordinary”, according to Gergely Gabler, senior analyst with Erste Bank in Budapest. Read more

Will he, won’t he… get it?

That was the question on Magyar political analysts’ lips on Monday – he being Viktor Orban, Hungary’s go-go, rapid-fire prime minister, “it” being the two-thirds parliamentary vote he most definitely covets for a “super-majority” again during his second term in office.

He’s on the brink – it depends on a few thousand votes cast outside the country or in other districts. But regardless of this, the one time anti-communist student firebrand is sure to be at the helm in Budapest for four more years, and still with a commanding parliamentary majority. Read more

Has the Great Magyar Rate-Cutting Cycle come to an end? To many, it looks that way, following the central bank’s decision on Tuesday to snip just 10 basis points off the base rate, to leave it at 2.6 per cent a year.

And even this trim, the smallest made so far in a 20 month long trimming spree, is possibly more symbolic, an effort to keep up the momentum in front of elections, scheduled on April 6, just 12 days hence. Read more

By Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister of Hungary

There is a Hungarian folk tale about a fair, where a trader fools a man into buying a blind horse. The new owner mounts his steed, only for it to gallop straight into a wall. The horse trader stretches wide his arms and explains that the horse isn’t blind, but brave.

Faithful followers of Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, similarly apologise on behalf of their leader when confronted with government policies that have led to multitudes of conflicts – conflicts which typically baffle outsiders. Read more

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s populist prime minister, has promised a continuation of the policies enacted in the past four years if his Fidesz party wins the country’s general elections, set for April 6.

Orban – who is well ahead in opinion polls against a left-liberal coalition cobbled together at the eleventh hour – told the Hungarian chamber of commerce on Wednesday “we’ll [just] continue,” before spelling out a 10 point economic programme that includes pledges to increase the proportion of domestically held government debt, accelerate industrialisation, boost Hungarian ownership in the banking and agricultural sectors and further decrease energy costs to support Hungarian competitiveness. Read more

By Tamás Pesuth, Head of Economic Research, Nézőpont Institute

“Hungary is a small country, but it looms larger on investors’ screens.” So the Financial Times wrote at the beginning of February this year, while calling the governor of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) “a maverick.”

As György Matolcsy marked his first year in office today, a more rounded appraisal of his work is required. The FT article looked mainly at the forint exchange rate and the low base rate in reaching its “maverick” judgement. Read more

By Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton University

Hungary was once the precocious child of post-communist transition, garnering praise for its political and legal institutions. But ever since the Fidesz government of prime minister Viktor Orban came to power in 2010 with a two-thirds parliamentary majority, Hungary has been on a legislative rampage, unsettling the legal order and causing “regulatory uncertainty” through “abundant and unstable new regulation,” as the OECD delicately put it. Read more

By Attila Mesterhazy of the Hungarian Socialist Party

At the WEF in Davos, the renowned economist Kenneth Rogoff had encouraging words for Europe’s leaders: he argued that high levels of education, strong innovative capabilities and the rule of law provide the old continent with a solid, long-term basis for development.

In Hungary, unfortunately, it is these very values and traditions which Prime Minister Viktor Orban has most undermined in his disastrous rule of the past three and a half years. Read more

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, along with his Fidesz government, have been remarkably busy this week. They have been talking up a €10bn loan agreement with Russia, signed on Tuesday, to finance two new nuclear reactors, scheduled for completion as early as 2023.

Hungary is about to seal “the best deal for the past 40 years,” with nuclear power the cheapest option for the country, Janos Lazar, Orban’s right hand man in charge of the prime minister’s office told the media on Thursday. Read more

If Hungarian bankers – already facing another year of heavy losses – thought things could not get worse, they just have.

Only days after Karl Sevelda, chief executive of Raiffeisen Bank International, more than hinted he was prepared to withdraw from some central European countries, including Hungary, due to the unfavorable business climate, the competition office in Budapest on Wednesday announced fines on 11 commercial banks totaling Ft 9.5bn (€32m). Read more

By Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister of Hungary

In a recent radio interview Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, made a surprising confession. While speculating about the nature of the Hungarian electorate, he stated: “Hope is more important to Hungarian voters than fact.”

As he runs for re-election soon, is this his moment of truth? Is the one-time liberal, anti-communist dissident admitting that he is hoping that voters will decide based on hopes, rather than facts? Because the facts – most especially the economic facts – of the past three and a half years are not on Orban’s side. Read more

It’s official! Viktor Orban, the nominally “centre-right” prime minister of Hungary and former anti-communist student dissident, wants to nationalise the energy utilities that were privatised by the “communists” in the mid-1990s.

Orban, or members of his circle have long implied it, but as the prime minister made it clear in his regular interview on state radio on Friday morning. Read more

Wishes come true

Has campaigning already begun for Hungary’s elections in April next year?

News on Monday that the government is to repay in advance the remaining €2.2bn it owes to the IMF from its 2008 loan looks suspiciously like a political rather than an economical move. Read more