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Opposition primaries reloaded
With a delay of two days, opposition primaries restarted on Monday with a turnout of 67,000 people on the first day, and more than 73,000 on the second.
Most voters cast their ballots in person, as the online system was still working very slowly and was clearly designed for a lesser interest.
Organizers of the primaries said that if there was a turnout of 400,000 in a week, it would be considered a success. If interest doesn’t plummet suddenly in the next few days, then this level of turnout could be easily achieved.
The deadline of the first opposition primaries ever held in Hungary, which aim to challenge Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has been extended by two days, until September 28, after a blackout led to the suspension of the ballot.
The opposition denounced a cyberattack organized by the government, and started a probe, but the allegations were far from being proven as of yet.
Despite the technical problems and the controversy surrounding the process, the opposition primaries are by far the most serious political achievement of the political world outside Fidesz in more than a decade.
Opposition rivalry would be normal in a liberal democracy, but in Hungary, it is a necessary, albeit insufficient means by itself, to bring the change of government in the realm of the possible.
Opposition parties have been claiming that Hungary was not a normal democracy since 2018, but failed to come to the conclusion: without extraordinary efforts, they have no chance at all.
Besides agreeing to a joint start, opposition parties asked and required the involvement of NGOs in the primaries, in order to invent a counting system, and to promote the primaries, as well as fill up the tents by volunteers during the vote.
The whole organization required a lot of volunteers, activists, who sacrificed a lot of their free time to make the primaries happen. It has been a very long time since we have seen so many people working together for a well defined political goal in Hungary.
The primaries not only matter because of the selection of the best common candidates. They are also creating a series of events lasting many weeks, which can be joined by a great many people at different levels.
The experience of commitment and participation is fundamental to a good election result, and the primaries can give the experience of “doing something” to many people at once.
Finally, the primaries give a real stake to 2022 elections. It provides an opportunity to modestly compensate the opposition for the financial, legal and administrative disadvantages it has to endure from the government.
Turbulent start at the Parliament’s autumn session
The first day of the autumn session of the Parliament brought a duel, harsh words and threats.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the first speaker on the first day of the autumn session of the Parliament. The prime minister praised the government’s summer performance, and of course found that everything was great. As he said, the country has been prepared for the fourth wave of the coronavirus, which is likely to reach Hungary as well. He stressed that only the vaccine was effective against the infection, encouraging everyone to get the jab, even if it happens to be the third dose.
The government also submitted its motion to extend the state of emergency and the emergency until the end of the year.
According to the Prime Minister, the Hungarian economy is booming: as he said, economic growth has already exceeded the pre-pandemic level. Orbán stressed that since the economy was able to grow by 5.5 percent, personal income tax would be refunded to parents with children. Thus, a total of six hundred billion would be paid back.
Of course, Orbán reiterated the cornerstones of Fidesz communication: namely Gyurcsány, Soros and Brussels - he called the latter as being the force in control of the Hungarian opposition.
The line of opposition speakers was opened by Ferenc Gyurcsány, who said the government was fighting its own demons and was unable to unite the nation, hence it had to go. He was followed by Tímea Szabó from Párbeszéd: according to her, Orbán had built an underworld instead of a livable world in the past eleven years
Then came Peter Jakab. According to the president of Jobbik, the miscarried policy of the government was well illustrated by the fact that the Romanian minimum wage surpassed the Hungarian minimum payable salary. However, Jakab’s strongest moment was when he said his hands would not tremble when handcuffing Orbán.
Gergely Arató from the DK spoke mostly about the Basic Law, that was worthless according to him, its sole purpose being to ensure the unlimited power of the current government.
“Even the Basic Law states that no one's activities may be aimed at the forcible acquisition, exercise or exclusive possession of power,” he underlined.
He stressed that the Budget Council, the Media Council and the Constitutional Court were examples of bodies created with the sole objective of protecting the power of the government, hence they were all unconstitutional in their current form.
More and more complaints show homophobic law being applied
Local press reported a clearly increasing number of complaints for the breaching the so-called pedophile law passed by the government in the summer, a law full of homophobic elements.
An association in Pécs organized the first Gay Pride outside of the capital Budapest.
Referring to the law, far-right political party Mi Hazánk (Our country) is now reporting the organizers to authorities, because “they saw children at the event.”
The law lies on the principle that the sexual upbringing of children belongs exclusively to the parents, but it seems that Mi Hazánk knows better where a parent can take his child..
This complaint is the third major one in recent days. Last week, the LGBTQ book Meseország Mindenki (Fairytales are for Everyone) was removed from the library of a small town close to Vác, north of Budapest.
Local newspaper Vác Online quoted the mayor of the town, who said users of the library had filed a complaint with the Government Office, and when he learned of this, “he went over to the library in person.”
According to the mayor, the action was needed because the library was close to the school, and the law prohibited books of this type, which “he believed to be harmful himself, to be on a free shelf.”
In fact, there is no such law in Hungary, the homophobic piece of legislation does not include libraries under its scope of action, only bookstores.
The book was found in the children’s section of the library under “You don’t know how to tell it? We help! ” on a shelf where books dealing with childhood illness, death, and family tragedies were found.
The next example of the ill-famed effect of the controversial law concerns the film industry.
"The day before the screening, the Hungarian film entitled The Story of My Mothers, which deals with the story of a lesbian couple preparing for adoption, was removed from the program of the Ars Sacra Christian Art Festival," local news portal Telex reported.
The Hungarian documentary on the adoption of same-sex couples would have been screened at the Tabán Art Cinema on Saturday afternoon, but the screening was eventually cancelled and was not replaced.
The organizers of the festival did not give explanations, but there was a post on the film's Facebook page informing the filmmakers a day earlier that the film would not be released because several people had reported it to authorities and a petition was launched in order to prevent the screening.
“It is truly depressing to see that the government’s homophobic law and the propaganda surrounding it breeds self-censorship and aggression, preventing people from building bridges and any kind of real dialogue,” the authors said.
New daily COVID-19 infections on the rise
Thursday morning, 526 new daily cases were reported by authorities, a level unseen since four months ago.
Official figures also show that the fourth wave is getting stronger. An average of 400 new infections have been reported in the last seven days.
Compared to the number of new infections, the number of victims has been particularly high in the recent period. Last Wednesday, for example, 12 deaths were reported, whereas only 2 deaths were reported Thursday morning, well below the average of the last seven days.
There are currently 5,869,259 people vaccinated. It will take 50 days from the current weekly average to reach at least the threshold of 6 million.
And that is just the six million limit that Viktor Orbán planned to reach by the middle of May. And seven million by the end of May.
The number of second vaccinations was pushed up by the school program yesterday, as students are now receiving the second dose of their Pfizer jabs.
The third vaccine was given to 20,000 people Tuesday, bringing the total to 646,000.
This number shows without any doubt that people can find vaccination spots, except for those who have never gotten their first jab.