PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – November 20

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

Michal Chmela’s selection

Last week, we celebrated an anniversary of protests against fascists in 1939 and communists in 1989, both occasions being apparently such hits we decided we need a repeat and got both of the ideologies into the Parliament again in order to give more enterprising students the opportunity to burn to death in protest or get beaten up by the police. Irony of the situation notwithstanding, the so-called “Day of the Fight for Freedom and Democracy” is more or less an empty spectacle based on nostalgia for the days when public opinion supposedly mattered. Everyone waved some flags, washed out ex-politicians provided misty-eyed retrospectives of the nineties, three presidential candidates spoke in public to rack up some brownie points and two did not on account of having showed up unannounced at the last minute and made a scene about it.

November 17th is an odd celebration; everyone just gathers around the nearest reasonably-sized square where they proceed to pat each other on the back and mutually reassure themselves that in spite of all the evidence, things are in fact really good and we shall overcome the attacks on democracy by doing nothing about the attacks on democracy. The few who tried to actually protest and point out actual problems within our society were swiftly labeled extremists and denied media coverage (and lumped together with neo-Nazis in the press) so the majority may keep circle-jerking over 1989 in piece. About the only good thing that came out of political background of this year’s events was the absence of Zeman, who was presumably too busy being stitched together in order not fall apart while visiting his lord and master in Russia. Oh, and the most patriotic of our elected elite – the above-mentioned communists and fascists – wisely decided their public speeches on resistance to communism and fascism are best to be done with as quickly as possible and were shouted down in a fairly short time. No projectiles flung from the crowd, sadly.

They still got off lightly, though: the openly fascist SPD has been mostly facing ridicule so far but they are stepping up their game. Last month, one of their freshly-minted MPs managed to get drunk in the Parliament and started shouting suggestions on what to do with Muslims, Jews and the Romani, namely to gas them. The horror was short-lived but now he is being sued by an activist. Which will most likely result in exactly bugger all, but hey, at least someone tried, so here is a thumbs-up for the man. Good luck tilting at windmills.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Anna Azarova’s selection

Wow…? Lőrinc Mészáros, Hungary’s #1 oligarch just lost a contract tender! The state water management authority announced a huge deal for various water construction contracts, such ad dredging or flood prevention, and apparently, none of the 4 winning companies are owned by him. He even had a partner company tendering for the contract, in vain. On the other hand, the business circle of István Tiborcz, Orbán’s son-in-law, is likely to become in charge of operating all public procurement procedures. János Lázár, the Minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, declared one company to be the exclusive online operator of all procedures, meaning that the men who are already the government’s business advisors on state contracts will be the first to see any and all applications and managing the submitted documents.

Very convenient to have everything so streamlined and efficient. This week, when asked about whether they know at all about the impact of the €€€ they intend to spend on the already pretty well functioning Transylvanian Hungarian kindergarten network, the government decried impact assessments en general as a leftist trick for siphoning money off of the nation while thousands of children and their Hungarianness wither away.

Our partners at Mérce have connected a few recent instances to point to the growing confidence of the Ministry of the Interior in not only surveilling its citizens, and stating it plainly with a quiet smirk; but also threatening its constituent organs. A couple months ago, a firefighter sent an anonymous letter about the “system’s complete failure” to the Ministry of the Interior. Now, the authorities are interrogating the various regional chiefs with a lie detector to find the culprit – one officer who refused has already been fired for his “confession.”

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Featured photo by hettie via Flickr.