A conservative’s wish list for Viktor Orbán’s third consecutive government

Milán Constantinovits is a columnist whose work often appears on the conservative Mandiner news site and he is also a linguist and an author. This week, he published a type of “wish list” of areas that he would like the third Orbán government to engage in as a matter of priority. I thought about referring to these as demands. Yet that does not seem appropriate given the fact that Hungarians, including the more politically moderate Fidesz supporters like Mr. Constantinovits, are in no position to demand anything from a ruling party that won a two-thirds majority and one that has shown little appetite for humility. As such, we have a conservative’s wish list and it is instructive in gleaning what those prone to support Fidesz, whilst still being capable of critical reflection, would like to see done differently.

Milán Constantinovits

  1. Addressing corruption. This is the first priority on Mr. Constantinovits’ list. He speaks of public funds being transformed into the private wealth of those close to the levers of power, the creation of an inner circle of self-interest groups, as well as the unregulated and dubious spending of taxpayer funds on cultural and sports projects, and questionable corporate tax breaks.
  2. Education. The quality of education in Hungarian and resources available in this sector have been decreasing, while the system created by Fidesz led to ineffective centralization and a lack of choice in areas such as the publication and distribution of textbooks. One must also mention the overbearing power of the Klebelsberg Centre (KLIK), the national agency that oversees and often controls the life of local schools–even in areas far better determined locally. Mr. Constantinovits also recognizes that leaders and key administrators in the field of education are often selected not based on their professional background, but rather based on the depth of their party loyalty. The Orbán government should address this, while also providing more support and incentives to bilingual schools.
  3. Higher education. Once highly respected universities like ELTE, in Budapest, are falling behind, with reports that departments often don’t even have money to produce photocopies. A young assistant professor earns a miserable 147,000 forints per month (circa C$720). Well-functioning, properly funded higher education would make Hungary more competitive internationally.
  4. Fair wages for those working in the fields of culture and research. Wages for university professors, researchers and those in the arts, humanities and social sciences are truly dismal in Hungary. In Canada, tenured professors in places like Ontario end up on the so-called Sunshine List–they make more than $100,000 per year, and often significantly more. In Hungary, a newly hired bus driver for the Budapest Transport Corporation earns more than an adjunct professor. An average bus driver in Budapest takes home just over 200,000 forints net per month (circa C$1,000). An adjunct professor’s take-home pay, in contrast, is 191,000 forints per month. This is not a new problem–in fact, in stretches back to the Kádár era. Mr. Constantinovits suggests cutting funding for dubious, “wannabe” researchers that are favoured by the government for their party loyalty and instead paying the talented ones fairly.
  5. Health care. Hungary’s public health care system is in crisis. One of the priorities here is to address the catastrophic conditions in Hungarian emergency wards, while also curtailing the so-called “barons.” These include doctors who generate significant, non-taxed, under-the-table income through forced “tips” from patients. In Hungarian, this lurid system is called hálapénz, or gratitude money. It has nothing to do with gratitude. Patients are forced to pay doctors under-the-table in cash, before any procedure is performed, in order to receive medical care. Those who can’t pay find themselves at the bottom of the waiting list. Every medical procedure in Hungary is tied to gratitude money and virtually all doctors are complicit in expecting it. Nationally, an estimated 70 billion forints in gratitude money ends up in the pockets of doctors each year and is never taxed. It is an awful, inhumane system devoid of all compassion for the sick and while it did not start under Fidesz, in eight years the Orbán government has neglected to address it.
  6. Party financing. One can argue about whether the 2018 election involved systemic fraudulent behaviour that helped give Mr. Orbán his two-thirds majority. But there is agreement across the spectrum that the election was poorly managed and was characterized by systemic human errors. In fact, the highest court has already ordered a recount in two voting stations and at least two more will be ordered in the coming days. Where recounts have taken place, human errors always seemed to disadvantage opposition parties. Mr. Constantinovits also refers to the state funding of bogus parties. This is a funding system that Fidesz devised and implemented, as part of electoral reforms aimed at keeping the party in power.
  7. A long-term strategy for the Roma minority. Specific educational programs and investments in public education geared to the needs of the Roma need to be developed. This includes providing teachers that work in schools with large Roma student populations much better professional training. Mr. Constantinovits also speaks about the need to finally end segregation practices and to better integrate the Roma into the digital world.
  8. The financing of Hungarians living abroad. Here, Mr. Constantinovits seems to think that it is a good idea to continue sending lavish Hungarian government funding to Hungarians both in neighbouring countries and in the diaspora. We have demonstrated many times how these funds are often abused, how they are used for questionable projects and how they serve to buy votes for the ruling Fidesz party–and have been most successful in this regard (with 96% of Hungarians abroad who chose to vote casting ballots for Fidesz in 2018).

This is what a young Hungarian Fidesz supporter–one who is clearly articulate–would like to see from the third consecutive and overall the fourth Orbán government. Perhaps the party will heed the words of someone like Mr. Constantinovits who works within the regime, more so than those in the opposition or civil society who are vilified by it.

9 Comments

  1. Bendeguz79 says:

    This young man’s assessment is pretty reasonable. But it is rather reasonable also that jobs bring in the pay according to what they achieve and what responsibility that may demand. Of course, all that is not detemined by the PM himself, but only by the market forces.

    Where there are too many who can teach simple subjects, yet few able persons who can handle buses in heavy city traffics, just who do you think will be able to demand better salaries? May be there is need for more bus-drivers and less college instructors.

    But I just can not see why the opposition in Parliament can never involve in any constructive functions at all. They do not need to dictate, just being able to achieve making deals. May be if they are just a bit more realistic and start dealing with the majority in a more reasonable manner ,they could come to common understandings sometimes. Anything is better than total failures all the time.

  2. The first 6 items on the wish list are priorities for liberals or socialists as well.

    The one item Mr. Constantinovits has failed to address, nay, put at the top of his priority, is the modernization of Hungary’s political culture. It’s Hungary’s archaic political culture, tainted by 200 years of feudal, fascist, communist practice, that stands in the way of justice, the rule of law, and sustainable economic development. If Hungary’s political elite is unable to see outside of the box, how can its defrauded population do otherwise? The Virus Hungaricus has infected not only the liberals, the conservatives, the left, the right, but common, run of the mill, non-ideological criminals like Orbán and his cronies.

    Of the 7 priorities of Mr. Constantinovits, Mr. Orbán will only fulfill the last one. He will avoid all of the others like the plague, and especially the modernization of Hungary’s political culture. He will do so for utterly pragmatic and selfish reasons. His power rests on such avoidance strategy.

  3. My first reaction was to be shocked at the naiveté of young Mr. Constantinovits. Surely any educated person would know that Fidesz’s ruling elite is trapped by its history. They have committed so many crimes that their only hope of staying out of prison is by staying in power.

    They systematically accrue power by seising control of the press, the courts, and the parliament. That slow-speed coup requires wealth. They accrue wealth by corruption and intimidation.

    Surely it is obvious to any critical thinker that the ruling elite has no interest in protecting Hungary from migrants. In their own words they admitted, albeit accidentally, that they have recruited many wealthy muslim migrants into Hungary. But they did it in a way that would enrich themselves.

    They purposefully erode the education system to stay in power. If Hungarians are taught from Fidesz propaganda from an early age and never hear factual news, they will continue to hate and fear all non-Christians and all foreigners. And they will continue to vote for Fidesz — keeping the ruling elite in power.

    If fact, there is no evidence at all that the ruling elite is interested in the well-being of either Hungary or Hungarians.

    While Mr. Constantinovits’ wish list may be the epitome of naiveté, I should not have been shocked by it. After all, almost 50% of Hungarian voters selected a party that has systematically degraded their quality of life, their children’s futures and is slowing taking away what little freedom they have left.

    • “If Hungarians are taught from Fidesz propaganda from an early age and never hear factual news, they will continue to hate and fear all non-Christians and all foreigners.”

      It has nothing to do with hate, it is 100% about ethno-cultural self-preservation. The population of ME-Africa is currently about 2 billion people, which is set to double every 35 years or so, given current trends. They do not have the natural or economic resources to sustain themselves, therefore the volume of migrants they can send over into Europe is practically limitless. This amounts to a colonization event, similar to Europeans in North America. Only real difference is that Europeans enforced it through technological superiority, while the ME-African colonists are settled into Europe by a misguided ideological ethno-cultural suicide cult, which managed to take over most institutions, in the Western world.

      “If fact, there is no evidence at all that the ruling elite is interested in the well-being of either Hungary or Hungarians.”

      If this were true, they would not maintain fiscal discipline meant to heal Hungary’s economy after the FX debt bubble fiasco, which nearly turned Hungary into another Greece. A broken economy cannot deliver on education, health care and other services. A broken economy is what Fidesz inherited in 2010. The past years have been about fixing Hungary’s finances and returning it to a path of healthy growth, without debt bubbles. I expect that health care & education spending will start to increase, but in a responsible way. In other words, not the path that will lead back to the IMF. Latest EC forecast shows Hungary is on a healthy economic path. Would a government that does not care take a broken economy and fix it?

      https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/economy-finance/ecfin_forecast_spring_030518_hu_en.pdf

    • Douglas D
      Spot on, it seems you know Hungarian and use such sources.
      Our Peter troll is repeating his BS again, trying to blow smoke over the Fid hate mongers’ activities, as if Zsolt Bayer and co didn’t exist and didnt pump vile hatred day and night 7/11.

  4. Bendeguz79 says:

    Everybody has a brutal criticism of the failures, or rather the missfortunate attempts of Hungary.

    But unfortunately nobody has been able even to suggest a single creative suggestion to improve the system.
    Just had an election, 23 political parties participated, should say contended for power, but not one has even a single proposal that has not had been utilized in the past with total failure.

    May be they just want to keep their failure records of the past 1,000 years.

    Good luck !
    Just do not even think of attempting anything new or workable.
    That’s their long tradition.
    At least,they can be proud of that.

  5. StrandedinSopron says:

    The fact that Mr Constantinovits has drawn up such a list (regardless of any naivete) is a cause of optimism.

    Education, health and pensions (not included in this list) are the three most crucial issues facing Hungary now.

    Education, like, health has seen an enormous export of talent both to the private sector and outside Hungary itself. To an extent, to pay the kind of wages to stop this flow would be difficult even with the best will in the world, the fact that the Orbanist state refuses to recognise any kinds of problem within the education sector (international surveys highlighting weaknesses are immediately branded as flawed or biased) means we have no chance of even starting on a strategy for improvement.

    The state health sector is a shambles. Apart for one or two hospitals and clinics in Buda, that is the truth across the country. Again, the export of doctors and nurses is inevitable because of wage differentials but even so, there appears to no desire to start on a longer term plan to improve the overall situation. Instead, those who speak out about the level of “care” are victimised and intimidated. There is a mafia (not too strong a term) of older doctors who rule the system more or less to their own benefit. When patients or their families speak out either the older doctors or politicians will protest that everything is rosy.

    Finally, pensions. Look at Hungary’s demographics. Look at the age group of those leaving the Hungary. Look at the low level of savings. This is a timebomb (no pun intended) for which the government is making absolutely no preparation.

  6. Bendeguz79 says:

    The troubled one in Sopron;

    Hungary has no savings. Nor can the working class people afford to save substantial amounts.

    The nation is in debt.
    The government this year alone runs a 4.5 billion Euro debt.
    In case the economy slows a bit, they can not even afford to service the interest on that debt.
    Since energy prices and interest are on the certain rise, the economies will slow.

    As far as the “Tarsadalmi Biztositas” concerned, the monies has been paid by all who worked for about 40 years before retireing.
    The money was suppose to be invested to increase.
    But it was the government that handled all that money and now it is nowhere to be found.
    But, that is the situation with government instituted and managed social pensions around the world.
    You can not trust politicians with money ever.

    Hungary has no resources whatsoever.
    Only the talent and ambition of its population.
    But they want everything rather handed to them, instead of being resourceful and ambitious.

    They were brainwashed to be pecified by the government for half a century.
    You can not break that habit overnight.

  7. StrandedinSopron says:

    “They were brainwashed to be pecified by the government for half a century.
    You can not break that habit overnight.”

    To even start on the process, the government needs to be motivated to break that habit. Do you think Mr Orban and Fidesz are so motivated?

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