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Weeklies on Hungary’s looming crisis

November 7th, 2022

Five opposition-leaning weeklies ponder the possible political consequences of soaring inflation and the government’s conflicts with the western mainstream. But they doubt whether the opposition parties will be able to take advantage of the crisis. The two pro-government weeklies believe that the government is ‘on the right side of history’ in its international conflicts.

In his front-page Élet és Irodalom editorial, János Széky describes galloping inflation and the resulting loss in real incomes as potentially dangerous for the government. Meanwhile, he believes that Hungary’s leaders are morally guilty because, as he sees it, they stand for Russian interests in the war in Ukraine, although without ‘burning all their bridges’ (with the West). He interprets the national consultation on sanctions (See BudaPost September 24) as a means to avert the consequences of these two factors. He deems the government’s efforts at least partly successful, as 52% of the population do not support sanctions on Russia, according to a recent poll.

In his Jelen column, Róbert Friss laments the lack of a revolutionary mood in Hungary, despite all negative developments. However, the veteran left-wing commentator continues, ‘the idea is already there in the minds of…the people’. He sees the country as too divided and the opposition as still too hapless for discontent to find a powerful political expression. What’s more, a real political shift must first be prepared intellectually, ‘by a revolution in the mind’, he suggests – and he blames Hungarian intellectuals for failing to be up to that mission.

In his Magyar Hang editorial, Szabolcs Szerető thinks that Hungary is ‘on the wrong side’ in the Ukraine conflict. Meanwhile, he sees a crisis in living standards unfolding, which in theory might ‘open the opposition a road to government’. He condemns the Democratic Coalition for having set up its own shadow government, and thus threatening to divide the united opposition. The government in his view offers merely propaganda, instead of any positive perspective, but for the time being, he cannot see a viable alternative.

Magyar Narancs sees Hungary on the brink of an ‘economic, social and political catastrophe’ and blames this on the lack of opposition to the Prime Minister’s policies within his own party. The liberal weekly accuses Mr Orbán of ‘flirting with Putin, nurturing the international far-right and engaging in increasingly chilling tinkering in the Balkans’. By doing so, Hungary is becoming ‘dramatically isolated from her natural allies’, Magyar Narancs writes.

In his usually vitriolic weekly column in Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta pokes fun at the government’s position, urging an immediate peace in Ukraine. Any such peace now, he argues, would mean the loss of four regions to the aggressor. In a sarcastic comment, he asks why the government doesn’t also declare peace immediately in its conflict with the European Union, take down its posters against EU sanctions, call back the Central European University, give four hours daily on national public television to the opposition and place four western Hungarian regions under European Parliament control.

In Demokrata, Gábor Lass finds it disheartening that ‘at least half’ the amount the opposition spent on its campaign before last April’s parliamentary election came from a US foundation. According to his calculations, the campaign cost the opposition 3.5 billion forints, out of which over 2 billion was ‘mostly’ covered by the Action for Democracy foundation. He suspects that in exchange, the opposition was asked to embark on ‘pro-war rhetoric’, which, he claims would have been converted into deeds, had the opposition won the election.

In Mandiner, Gergely Szilvay denies accusations that the Hungarian government is following anti-Western policies. On the contrary, he argues, those Hungarians who work on building an international right-wing coalition started developing intense relationships with US Republicans. Consequently, he continues, ‘we have someone to root for’ in the mid-term elections in the United States. Many Republican candidates for the Senate, the House as well as many seeking posts as governors in various states belong to the Trump camp. ‘We hope they win and that both houses of Congress will be run by Republican majorities after 8 November’, the pro-government commentator concludes.

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