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March 15 protest – a beginning or the end?

March 18th, 2016

Commentators disagree on whether the demand that the PM and the President should apologise ‘for the past six years’ will help the teachers’ protest movement turn into a political force or signals the end of it all.

In Népszava, editor Péter Németh does not know if Tueasday’s mass rally in Budapest will kickstart a movement for change, but interprets it as a source of encouragement. He accuses PM Orbán of getting more and more unpredictable, but people like the March 15 protesters may stop him, or at have least have shown that ‘we are not afraid of the wolf’. (A reference to Edward Albee’s play, “Who is afraid of Virginia Woolf”, commonly used in Hungary as a form of self-encouragement.)

On Kettős Mérce, András Jámbor criticises the Prime Minister for saying that he interpreted the exhortation to apologise as a joke. Jámbor says it is not advisable for a Prime Minister to ridicule 50 to 80 thousand people who demonstrate for improvements in education – a respectable cause.  (As usual, there are conflicting estimates on the size of the crowd in front of the Parliament building on Wednesday. Népszabadság put the number at 35 thousand. See BudaPost, March 16.)

On Mandiner, András Stumpf thinks István Pukli, the high school headmaster who announced a one hour wildcat strike unless the two main public officials apologise, made himself ridiculous. He was brandishing power, Stumpf suggests, without knowing the tangible goal which he wants to reach. In practice he refuses to attend the talks on the teachers’ demands, yet would prescribe who should represent the government at those negotiations.

On 444, Péter Uj compares Mr Pukli to a chess player who hurles his only pawn against a queen surrounded by officers. ‘He chose a heroic death’, Uj writes. He believes only Mr Pukli’s ‘blindest’ followers will keep believing ‘for another week or two’ that he can win.


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