The son of Hungary’s first democratically elected prime minister has written the following warning on Facebook to his employees at the research institute named after his father.
I call your attention to the fact that our financing comes from ME! (Prime Minster’s Office – ed.) I don’t want to see posts, likes, from our colleagues attacking the olympics. I think it’s important! Everyone can have an opinion, but I’m asking you not to make it public, because it can hurt the institute. I want to send the message to anyone, who wants to become independent politically, expose himself in other directions, that it is not obligatory to work here. I don’t want to stand in the way of anyone’s career, I sign the release form of anyone. We don’t take sides in daily political disputes! Greetings, P
(Translation my own, I did not replicate the weird punctuation and poor grammar.)
- No one is really surprised
The József Antall Knowledge Center is publicly funded – meaning that it is at Fidesz’ mercy. This guy’s father (József Antall, Prime Minister between 1990-1993) used to be an actual conservative – so his reputation comes handy to Fidesz, a once liberal, then conservative, but today nationalist-populist party. And support from Fidesz is a favour you can lose with or without giving an excuse. It is simply not in your power.
- They can fall out of favour if they cannot control their own employees.
Which they do without being asked since that is the logic of the system. Before you tell me that surely, Orbán didn’t do it himself – so it’s fine, let me remind you that it doesn’t have to come from Orbán himself to be real and damaging. Sending a message in this system is more important than the patronage of some useless little knowledge center.
The economic water is shallow. There is no job that has not been politicized somehow. When the regime took over in 2010, they replaced every bureaucrat in ministries down to the receptionists. That sends a message. Teachers became a political tool, but even grocery store clerks have been bounced around by politics. In a poor country there is no middle water where you can swim around blissfully, and not “take part in politics”.
- The Olympic games in Budapest in 2024 would be a monumental corruption opportunity for Fidesz.
Around 40% of GDP spent on grandeur, to be precise.
Also, Orbán is a huge sports fan. Nothing in the universe matters as much as sports, particularly football. Definitely not roads, infrastructure, hospitals or leaving some money in the economy in case someone wants to spend it themselves.
- This letter is NOT an outlier.
- Referendum questions are a touchy subject to Orbán.
He had built his biggest political victories on the back of populist referendums.
- The challenge is enormous.
The newly organised political movement, Momentum, has got its referendum question approved by some miracle. If the required number of signatures are collected, there would be a referendum in Budapest on the withdrawal of the application of the 2024 Olympic mages.
The number of signatures required is ridiculously high and the movement is young and crowdfunded (aka. poor). And on the top of that people are afraid to even like or share their posts on Facebook.
- Péter Antall is by no means the only boss with this attitude.
Much of the economy is directly or indirectly state sector, and these bosses do control their employee’s political behaviour preemptively. They want to stay in business. They want to keep their financing. They want to avoid a tax audit. They want to keep winning tenders.
So keep your opinions to yourself, folks. It might hurt your employer. And if you feel uncomfortable, just call it “staying out of daily politics”. That is totally possible and not at all a political act in itself.
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