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Hungarian Press Roundup: Weeklies’ New Year Editorials

Hungary Today 2020.01.06.

In their first issues of 2020, the weeklies try to make sense of what happened in 2019 and assess what Hungary may expect in the New Year.

Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu

In Mandiner (print), editor Zoltán Szalai reminds his readers of the approaching centenary of the post First World War peace treaty which dismembered the Kingdom of Hungary – an event that largely determined Hungary’s 20th century history. The conditions imposed on Hungary by the victors at the Petit Trianon Palace in Versailles, he explains, ‘pushed Hungary into Germany’s sphere of interest’. As a result, whole social strata which were formerly strong pillars of Hungarian society virtually disappeared during and after the Second World War, including most of Hungary’s Jews, Germans, the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the social democratic movement. The lesson Szalai draws from the past is that foreign rule has never brought ‘likeable’ forces to power in Hungary. A hundred years after Trianon, he concludes, Hungarians are now ‘in the last resort, within the general international framework’, masters of their own destiny.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető believes that although Fidesz is still by far the largest political force in Hungary, its plan to strike the opposition a final blow in 2019 didn’t materialise. Moreover, the autumn local elections, in which the opposition won in 11 cities, destroyed the myth of Fidesz invincibility. Large swathes of the population proved themselves surprisingly united in supporting joint opposition candidates, although the opposition parties are still divided on many issues. The one issue that binds them together is their wish to get rid of the incumbent government. Szerető warns that they will need much more than that if they want to win the parliamentary elections in two years’ time. Among other things, he writes, the opposition should produce new and attractive leaders to be a match for Fidesz in 2022.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Zoltán Lakner warns the opposition that Fidesz is bracing itself for a sweeping propaganda campaign after the shock it suffered in the autumn. Árpád Habony, its successful campaign strategist, has been ‘ordered back’ from London (where he runs a news agency and a PR agency) which itself is a harbinger of a new propaganda campaign, he believes. Lakner urges the opposition to start to discuss and agree on what they would do ‘in a post-Orbán world’. He disagrees with the ‘mounting feeling’ that discussing future political projects would only exacerbate existing divisions within the opposition. Lakner is convinced that the opposition would become more attractive if voters were given an idea of what they could expect once they vote PM Orbán out of office.

In Élet és Irodalom, mathematician and welfare expert András Simonovits argues that the government’s efforts to boost the birth rate are ineffective because they only target the middle and upper classes. The total income tax waiver for women with at least four children, significant incremental income tax rebates after each child in the family, as well as extremely advantageous housing credits with up to 50 per cent of payments taken over by the state for families with several children, are unique Hungarian inventions, he acknowledges. However, he remarks, the poorest strata, who pay hardly any taxes because their incomes are low or who live largely on welfare, are automatically left outside the scheme. At the same time, he lambasts those on the left-liberal side who oppose any government interference with family matters and imagine that the void created by low fertility rates can be filled by immigrants. Simonovits, himself a liberal, reproaches them for ignoring the economic impact of population ageing and the hostility of the population towards mass immigration.