Orban humiliated: Hungary's crypto-fascist Fidesz party suffers string of municipal election defeats

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2019/10/14/see-you-in-2022.html


As a child of a Hungarian refugee who came to America in '56, I have been quite horrified at Orban’s rise to power and the popularity of Fidesz. So I am especially glad to hear about this, and hope that they are finally on their way out nationally as well.


I kind of wonder how much diasporic support Orban has, especially from Hungarian Americans who fled in the wake of the uprising in 56. I’d hope that many of them would, like yourself, oppose him. Seems like there are those (not just Hungarians, but refugees from the Eastern Bloc) who opposed totalitarianism, whatever it’s form, and those who embrace it in the form of nationalism. It’s kind of depressing…


I don’t want to get my hopes up, but news like this gives me some small hope that right-wing populism’s steady crawl from beneath history’s paving stones may be slowed.


The odd thing about this result is that in order to break the stranglehold that Fidesz have legislated for themselves over Hungarian politics, all the other parties have come together to oppose it, including the openly fascist Jobbik party.

Of course, the current attacks on democracy in Hungary and Poland are something that the EU should be doing something about- but the bloc has been paralysed into inaction by certain other events.


Imagine if the opposition also had the support of an American administration that came out firmly on the side of an independent judiciary, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and transparent and accountable elections.


It is depressing. I haven’t hung out with other Hungarian Americans for a while, but I would hope they - and especially the refugees of '56 and their descendents - would be against that stuff by a large majority.


I’d hope so, too and I’m sure it’s not just you who oppose Orban. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who view oppression of others (non-Hungarians in this case) as acceptable, as long as they’re on top… nationalism can be a hell of a drug.


For a significant portion of the Hungarian diaspora, being anti-Communist is more important than being anti-authoritarian. Hungarian Jews don’t subscribe to that view, for obvious reasons.


I was speaking to a friend born in Poland but raised in the US about the similar hard right shift Poland went through a few years back. And the subsequent reversals. His take on the subject was that on entering the EU, a critical mass of young Poles off booted into Europe for work and schooling. And for various reasons stopped keeping up with Polish politics and voting reliably. Leaving Poland with low turnout and a very old electorate. Which drove far right parties in taking control of the government. At a certain point (and he called out controversial anti- LGBT laws as the breaking point), there was a big activist movement among those young Poles out in Europe to move back, or at least travel back or make sure to vote. Which drove things back the other direction a bit.

The time line is similar in Hungary, they joined the EU in 2004. And I was dating a Hungarian woman in NY in the late 00’s. Everyone she knew from back home was some where in the US, Asia or Europe. When her visa expired she was pretty active about trying to get a new one to come back here and looking for jobs around Europe. To the point where she was in touch with some of my cousins in Ireland about job there.

Until these guys took over. She dropped looking for a visa, bought a house outside Budapest and got real involved with protest movements. Most of the Hungarians in NY she’d introduced me to moved back around that time as well.

Its very similar to the demographic sorting we talk about in the US. With younger folks packing into urban areas, leaving less central areas with smaller older electorates. There are concerns that this sort of thing might have impacted the Brexit vote and there was some really similar dynamics around the Gay Marriage and Abortion votes in Ireland.

So I wonder if we’re seeing that in Hungary. Sort of thing seems to leave a really active block of engaged young voters in its wake. Problem being it also leaves behind embedded fascist parties.


In my experience the local refugees of 56 and their descendants primarily define themselves through a specifically anti-communist lens and are generally pretty supportive of Orban. Now that may be because the people I know who fit that definition are old white dudes from the rust belt so make of that what you will.


Sadly, not enough:


That’s why we were talking about it. Very back and forth. Its also why the embedded fascists are an issue. Just because an opposition develops doesn’t mean the people who put them in power are suddenly gone or change their minds. And the thing about the right is they love to change the rules to embed themselves.

He was pretty hopeful. I wasn’t. And at the momement it looks more like I called it. But seeing a similar dynamic play out in other areas sort of stuck in my head.

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Yes, it would absolutely make a difference.

Obama’s last ambassador to Hungary, Colleen Bell, was very public with her criticism of our prime minister around the time Orbán was attacking civil society organizations, and the PR was pretty bad for him.

The Hungarian government laid off these groups for a while, and Bell suddenly stopped criticizing Orbán publicly. I have no direct proof of it, but my personal theory is that the ambassador made a secret deal with Orbán: you lay off these groups, and I’ll stop embarrassing you in public.

But then… Trump was elected. Right after the election, Orbán resumed his unlawful attacks against pro-democracy forces, knowing that Bell was on the way out and Trump’s goons wouldn’t care. Unfortunately he’s been right about this.

so yes, having a better American administration that put pressure on Hungary wouldn’t change everything, but it could make a difference in some areas. Especially since the EU hasn’t done jackshit to stop the backsliding of democracy here in Hungary.


Yup, those emigrés tend to be quite nationalistic and are typically huge Fidesz supporters. Remember that Orbán gave citizenship to all ethnic Hungarians outside of the borders and that group loves him for it, plus it gives Orbán a huge block of extra voters whose votes can be manipulated if necessary.


Me, too. But then, there was Poland this week. Weakened, which is a good sign, but still won.

ETA others may have also spotted the Polish similarities before me.


Weird, I knew I had seen him somewhere before. Uncanny.



It also is confusing because Orban actually was one of the heroes of the 1989 revolution – that’s how he got his start in politics.

Not really. The two most famous Hungarian Jews were Edward Teller (developer of the American hydrogen bomb and proponent of Reagan’s “Star Wars”) and John Von Neumann (a game theorist and computer scientist who wanted to nuke Russia and a possible model for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove). You can’t understand their perspective without understanding how deeply they hated the Soviet Union for its occupation of their homeland.


This is what is happening in the UK: all the centre parties have been getting together to field one candidate so they are not split six ways and lose to the unrepresentative parties on either side.

Perhaps this is the way voting should go. You should be able to vote for all the parties you like, and shun all those you hate.