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Weeklies on student demonstrators

May 29th, 2023

Opposition-leaning columnists vituperate against the government, whom they accuse of ruining the system of public education while lavishing praise on the few hundred students who have staged demonstrations to express their dissatisfaction. A pro-government analyst finds it shameful for the opposition ‘to send students to the frontline’ to provoke the police.

In its first-page editorial, Magyar Narancs ridicules the impromptu press conference convened by the police after the latest student demonstration to show the objects demonstrators used to attack the police, including plastic bottles, beer cans, a flagpole, a fishing rod, a bolt, and a nut. The liberal weekly doesn’t accept the official explanation, whereby the police refrained from using teargas against a group of demonstrators who wanted to penetrate the empty offices of the governing party late at night. They quote participants who accuse the police of beating them with truncheons and using electric tasers in several cases. The editors hope that students will not be intimidated and will continue to demonstrate against the government.

In Magyar Hang, István Dévényi mentions that while in Romania almost two thirds of teachers were involved in a national strike to demand wage hikes, in Hungary, teachers and their supporters confine their protest to demonstrations. And since the several thousand strong protest last month didn’t yield any result, he understands that some frustrated young people chose to clash with the police. He finds it disheartening that only 1.2% of young people who applied for universities this year marked teachers’ courses as their first choice. Meanwhile, he complains that according to a recent opinion poll, 55% of Fidesz voters declared they were satisfied with the government’s performance in public education.

In his regular Heti Világgazdaság column, Arpád W. Tóta finds it scandalous that a mere three students among those applying for universities put biology and chemistry, whereas only a single one marked physics as their first choice. He dismisses the government’s explanation that teachers’ wages are not being raised to the desired extent because the European Union is holding back funds due to Hungary. He argues that the crisis is too deep to be explained away by putting the blame at the doorstep of the European Commission. In a sarcastic remark, he accuses the police of taking it upon themselves to ‘educate’ children with their truncheons. Nevertheless, he welcomes the choice of the lonely student who wants to study physics as proof that that young person at least is confident that ‘all this will end within the next five years’.

Demokrata’s Gábor Bencsik believes that the opposition set a trap for the police by inciting students to try and penetrate the empty Fidesz headquarters. The police in fact could not allow a Hungarian version of the storming of Capitol Hill in Washington in 2021, and therefore had no choice but to repel the demonstrators. As a result, photographers could capture pictures that could be used as propaganda tools in Hungary and abroad. However, 80% of the electorate doesn’t buy that story and realises that those kids were sent against the police by adults, he continues. It is no surprise that in eight local by-elections out of ten, the electorate chose Fidesz candidates, he concludes.

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