- -  Day # 258  + +

EU > Hungary > Budapest

Destination unknown

Budapest, HU (View on map)

Hungarians are fed up with domestic politics. Recent years have shown staggering growth in the Hungarian economy, politicians have fallen over each other and over themselves and none of the political parties has been able to drag Hungary out of the crisis it is currently going through. Prices are up, unemployment is up, the government has fallen apart on several occasions. New elections are on the way, or maybe they are not. And maybe people do no longer really care. Here`s a quick glance at the political news in Hungary:

Zoltan (20):

..has already given up on politics
Beside Hungarian politics, the first page of today`s Magyar Nemzet-newspaper announces the `second return to power` of Silvio Berlusconi in Italy. The brief article does not cast an opinion about the victory. It uses somewhat stronger words in commenting upon the Hungarian parliament`s third consecutive failure to appoint a national ombudsman. `Fatal error in government`, the title reads.

According to Zoltan (20, photo), the indecisiveness about the ombudsman is just another symptom of the political mess in Hungary. `This person they try to appoint will have to protect citizens from unfair treatment by the authorities. Tomas explains me that the government has been going through an almost chronic phase of disintegration `Nothing is happening at the moment`, Tomas explains. `The current government consists of one big party, the socialists, and a small one. The smaller party has withdrawn its support, which means that the socialist party no longer has a majority and can not get anything done. The question is whether they should settle for a minority government or whether new elections should be issued. I think the second option would be the best, but I whatever happens, I am not going to vote. It`s not going to make any difference anyway.`

Anik? (34) has also given up on politics and even on the news coverage about it. `I only watch TV news whenever I happen to switch on the TV at the right moment. I don`t read papers. I prefer to concentrate on my own stuff and on things that do make a difference in my life.` On request, Anik? is still willing to help me read the newspaper. She shows me a graph about rising prices of food and points out: `Cereals are 80% up in price compared to the same period last year. Milk is up 40%, fruits are +60%. The economy is staggering and people have ever less money to spend.`

Janos (28) would be happy if premature elections were held, even though he does not know for which party he will vote. `If elections were held now, the opposition party, conservatives, would take almost 70% of the votes. That means that they at least have a mandate to carry out their plans. I am not sure I would vote for them. Maybe I will still vote for the socialist party who is in government now. It`s a complicated situation. Many people have good plans but a bad personal history. Others have a clean track record, but they have neither plans nor experience. Anyway, first of all: it`s not even sure whether the coalition will officially break up. And secondly, it`s not sure whether we will have elections. It is my gut feeling though, that the government will finally fall apart by the end of May.`

Janos thinks that Hungarian is in need of strong leadership, almost regardless of which ideology will provide the basis to it. `Hungary needs change. We need improvements to the Hungarian economy, the medical and educational system, and the decline in living standards should be halted. Under the current situation, none of that is even close to coming true. Look at the proposed changes to the medical system. It`s ridiculous that we had a referendum about that. Of course, no one will vote in favour of a new rule where people have to pay for each doctor visit. That`s the kind of decision you need to leave to a professional who has a broader view on the situation and knows what is required. Also, who is going to support plans to prevent tax evasion? Not the majority, especially if you consider that only 2 to 3 million people are paying taxes while the working class consists of 6 million people.`

`Looking at the school system, I think it fails to be the societal melting pot that it should be. Children of rich families go to better schools and have access to university. Poor families can hardly climb the ladder. They are forced to send their kids to schools of lower quality, which are unable to properly prepare them for higher education. None of that is really visible, as all schools are supposed to be free of charge. But they do have their hidden selection methods.`

`Concerning negative consequences of Hungary having joined the EU, I think there are none. On the whole, Hungarians are quite positive about the EU. They prefer to blame domestic politics, whose failure is too obvious to ignore.`

Motivation theory
Melina (24) explains me that the conservative party has constructive plans to improve the economy. She draws a scale that ranges from `indifferent` to `motivated` and shows that the Hungarian people are on the lower end of the scale. `They are scared`, she says. `Which is almost on the other end compared to `motivated`. So if anyone shows himself to be very motivated, the gap between those two positions is too big. There is no point to hook on. On the other hand, the socialist party shows to be quite aggressive, which is much closer to `scared` and a step higher on the motivational ladder.`

From Melinda`s explanation, I conclude that she will want to vote for the conservative party, because of their constructive plans. However, she will not. `I will go for the socialists again. They are clever people and I even believe that their quote about having lied and cheated was intentionally leaked to the media. I see it more as a sign of honesty more than anything else.`

Tomas` (20) opinion is the exact opposite. He wants the conservatives to take power to get things arranged. `I not just despise the meager results the socialists have realised in the last couple of years ? I also have more faith in the ideas of the conservative party`, he says.

Although I did not mean to spend much of my time in Hungary talking about politics, it has been a recurrent subject throughout the previous two weeks. Only one element seems to unite the different parties. The notion that Hungary needs change. Unfortunately, none of the parties involved manage to agree on the direction of the change. As a result, the result is that there are no results. Or one: Hungary is sliding deeper down the slope. Time has become yet another enemy of Hungarian hope for a better future.

Enlarge photo | Link to this article