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Hungarian report Hungarian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-08-19 11:46:56
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Hungarians oppose Orban’s planned electoral changes

An overwhelming majority of Hungarians oppose changes proposed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban to the way voters are registered for elections, a survey conducted by pollster Nezopont Intezet showed. Late last month, Mr. Orban presented plans to change the electoral system, under which voters would be required to register well in advance of elections to be able to cast their vote. At present, they don’t need to register before voting.

The changes — seen as bolstering Mr. Orban’s chances of re-election in 2014, should they be passed by parliament — brought criticism from opposition parties and watchdogs at the time. Of the eligible voters polled, 70% said that everybody should be allowed to cast a vote, irrespective of whether they had registered or not. Only 25% supported the prime minister’s plans.

Hungary’s parliament is set to debate the plans in September, should the government formally propose the changes. Whether this will happen is questionable, though, as Mr. Orban has been known to reject plans after confronting a negative public reaction. In the end, however, Mr. Orban may not need the added support that the changes would supposedly yield. Nezopont’s survey showed that 35% of voters expect the governing Fidesz party to win the 2014 elections. This is more than double the 14% that sees radical far-right Jobbik – the runner-up in the pollster’s survey — gaining the most seats in parliament.


Hungary ministry to promote EU may offset leader’s scepticism

Hungary’s Foreign Affairs Ministry will launch an advertisement campaign targeted at households to promote the European Union, under the theme “Costs of non-Europe.” Hungary, a member of the European Union since 2004, has profited enormously from the bloc membership, having received 15.5 billion Euros of subsidies for the EU’s less affluent members by 2010, latest EU data shows, while paying just 5.2 billion Euros into the EU’s budget. Hungary, a small economy, is heavily dependent on exports to fellow EU members in the western part of the continent, mainly Germany.

The euro-zone crisis, however, has taken its toll on the relationship between Budapest and Brussels, with the parties criticizing each other. The EU has frowned upon the Hungarian government’s methods of sticking to the country’s budget deficit target, while Prime Minister Viktor Orban in turn spoke of “the fall of the West” and “the emergence of the East,” describing what he saw as central European countries’ new role after the crisis as boosters of the European economy. Hungary’s foreign ministry told The Wall Street Journal the timing of the marketing campaign resulted from a technical issue and not the prime minister’s comments on the EU.

“It fits into the annual schedule of the Management Partnership programs, approved in the first half of the summer,” the ministry said. Despite receiving from the EU more than the nation paid in, the majority of Hungarians think the EU has been bad for them, a July poll by Szonda Ipsos shows. In the poll, 56% of Hungarians said the European Union membership brought more disadvantages, and some 34% said they considered the membership advantageous. This is somewhat worse than the 61%-26% ratio in April but is an improvement versus 60%-30% in January, the pollster said. The advertisement campaign will be financed from EU resources and has a budget of 125,000 Euros ($154,000). The campaign is part of regular cooperation between the ministry and the European Commission, but it’s not an EU-wide project, the ministry said.


Csanad Szegedi, poster boy of Hungary's fascist right, quits after Jewish roots revealed

His vociferous anti-Semitism made Csanad Szegedi a popular politician in Hungary's notorious far-right Jobbik party – until he discovered that he has Jewish roots and his grandmother was a survivor of the Nazi Holocaust. Now, a repentant Mr Szegedi has announced that he is to pay a visit to the site of the infamous Auschwitz death camp where his relative was imprisoned and several other family members may have been murdered. Mr Szegedi, who disclosed his Jewish background in June, informed the Hungarian Rabbi Schlomo Koves about his Auschwitz plans. "He wants to pay his respects to the Holocaust martyrs," Rabbi Koves told the Jewish news service JTA. The 30-year-old politician is also reported to have apologised profusely to the Hungarian Jewish community.

Just six months ago, Mr Szegedi was a star Hungarian far-right politician and Jobbik was proud to have him represent the party as an MP in the European parliament. As a leading member of the anti-Semitic party, he appeared at political rallies where he accused Jews of "buying up" Hungary and desecrating national symbols. Mr Szegdi had plenty of far right credentials to join Jobbik. In 2007, he founded the neo-fascist Hungarian Guard. Its members paraded in black uniforms aping the pro-Nazi Arrow Cross party, which ruled Hungary at the end of the Second World War and was responsible for the deaths of many of the 550,000 Hungarian Jews killed in the Holocaust. The courts banned the Hungarian Guard in 2009. But since owning up to his roots, the former anti-Semitic agitator has been forced to give up all his positions and resign from Jobbik. Its leadership, which claims his exclusion from the party has nothing to do with his Jewish background, has also demanded that he give up his seat as a MEP. Mr Szegedi says he wants to keep the post. Rumours of Mr Szegedi's Jewish origins emerged in 2010 during a secretly taped meeting between the politician and an ex-convict called Zoltan Ambrus, who confronted him with evidence of his Jewish roots. In the recording, Mr Szegedi sounds surprised and then appears to offer Mr Ambrus cash and favours to keep quiet.

Jobbik has since claimed that this was why it decided to expel Mr Szegedi from the party. Mr Szegedi has denied the claim and said the tape was deliberately doctored. He said that after his meeting with Mr Ambrus he had a long conversation with his grandmother who spoke at length about the family's past and orthodox Jews. "It was then that it dawned on me that my grandmother really is Jewish," he said in a recent Hungarian television interview. "I asked her how the deportations happened. She was in Auschwitz and Dachau and she was the only survivor of an extended family," he added. His experience is far from unique. During Hungary's decades of communist rule the Holocaust was virtually taboo. Many survivors chose not to talk about their ordeal for fear of further repression. Mr Szegedi was brought up as a Presbyterian. But Rabbi Koves said his maternal grandparents were both Holocaust survivors who had an Orthodox Jewish wedding after the war. "They decided to keep it all a secret from their children and grandchildren and they succeeded for more than six decades," he said. "Their descendants have only recently discovered their Jewish roots," he added.

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