Interview

“We will challenge the whole political establishment”

“Individual freedom and responsibility, combined with solidarity within a framework of a service-oriented government that respects the rule of law: that is our goal.”

Interview with Ádám Bartha, founding member of Momentum, Hungary’s youngest and hottest political movement aiming to shake up politics and end Orbánism

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Ádám Bartha, founding member of Momentum

What is Momentum? Who are these people and where do they come from?

Ádám Bartha: Momentum is a political movement unlike any other. We grew up in an era when most reasonable people with political affinity were dissatisfied with the whole political spectrum. We were truly political orphans, so we decided to take control of our fate and start acting, as we saw that nobody else will accomplish the difficult task that lays ahead: finishing the era of Orbánism without returning to the previous incompetent governance pre-2010. I think we have a unique opportunity to achieve that, thanks to our incredibly diverse members and supporters. Unlike newly established political parties in previous years we have many local communities of supporters throughout the whole country. From tiny north-eastern villages, to the large cities of Hungary, we are able to offer an alternative for everyone who desires a fresh start.

How did you get involved?

AB: András [András Fekete-Győr, leader of Momentum – ed.] is an old friend of mine and we started brainstorming in the summer of 2015 on how we can change the political culture in Hungary. It was obvious that the opposition parties were incompetent at best, so we had no choice but to start our own political movement if we wanted to see the changes that we were hoping for being realised. Initially there were nine of us who sat down. We decided from the first moment onwards that we have to create a political party and run at elections in order to realise our goals. In a well-functioning liberal democracy civil society can have a great impact on governance, but Hungary is unfortunately in a different situation, so a political party is really our only option.

“In a well-functioning liberal democracy civil society can have a great impact on governance, but Hungary is unfortunately in a different situation, so a political party is really our only option.”

Can you help us to put a political label on Momentum?

AB: Putting a label on us is a truly difficult task. The ideologies that shaped the 20th century are constantly changing and are slowly becoming irrelevant, so I would not want to categorize ourselves within those parameters. Individual freedom and responsibility, combined with solidarity within a framework of a service-oriented government that respects the rule of law: that is our goal.

How does Momentum relate to current political parties in Hungary?

AB: Very sceptically. In Hungary we have the governing Fidesz and Jobbik on one side, with ever smaller differences between them, and we have the micro-parties on the other side. Some of them actually want to achieve change, but lack resources and popular support. Others are only there to make a living and aren’t interested in truly challenging the government. In such a political climate the only reasonable choice is to follow our own path, while remaining open-minded towards the supporters of other parties. We are bound to live together within one political community so the exclusion of the supporters of any party from the political dialogue is not the way forwards. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean cooperation between parties, instead it is simply cooperation and dialogue with people of any kind.

“We are bound to live together within one political community so the exclusion of the supporters of any party from the political dialogue is not the way forwards.”

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Momentum launched a successful campaign for a referendum on whether Budapest should withdraw its application to host the 2024 Olympics. After their surprise success the government dropped the Olympic bid without a referendum.

How did people react to your campaign?

AB: I heard many encouraging stories about the collection of signatures throughout the whole of Budapest. Even though there were some incidents of aggressive people that regrettably led to violence in certain cases, overall the hope and positivity of the population was great to feel. People not only gave us their signatures, but started to collect signatures themselves. I know about many, usually apolitical people who always had a signature sheet with them, wherever they went in town, so they can ask their extended circle of friends to provide support. This self-organising nature of the campaign was truly beautiful to see.

Are you a traitor or the enemy of the nation? Do you hate sports? That’s what you were accused of by supporters of the Olympics.

AB: It’s funny to see how Orbán became what he was fighting against 30 years ago. I’m sure that the communist functionaries used the same kind of rhetoric against 20-years-old Orbán that he is using against us now. But it didn’t work back then – and it’s not going to work now. People see that we wanted to achieve what’s best for the country: avoiding an incredible waste of taxpayers’ money that could have bankrupted the whole country, pushing our generation into further indebtedness.

“People see that we wanted to achieve what’s best for the country”

Media wrote that your HQ during the campaign “looked like a class reunion of Toldy”, an elite secondary school in Budapest. Are you the elite kids?

AB: The membership of Momentum is incredibly diverse. There are many who studied at the best universities of the world and worked for major international companies, but there are also a lot of people who grew up in small villages in the more underdeveloped areas of the country. Political representatives should be a part of the community that they are trying to help. We are not trying to send people from Budapest to tell small towns throughout the country how they should improve their lives. It needs to work exactly the other way around; we need to find the best and brightest in the local communities who voice the concerns of the locals and give communities the tools to improve themselves. The over-centralisation of the country has miserably failed and the best way out of it is to start improving Hungary as a whole, to start solving problems locally. And you don’t need to be the governing force in order to do that.

András Fekete-Győr, leader of Momentum, is the hot topic in the media. Can you tell more about him?

AB: András is pretty perplexed about the media attention on his personality, as we are trying to avoid the same kind of personality cult that Orbán and [former PM] Gyurcsány try to cultivate. Momentum is far from being a one man show, András is a great guy and a talented community builder, but there are many others with similar capabilities and same goals in mind within our group.

“The over-centralisation of the country has miserably failed and the best way of is the start improving Hungary as a whole is to start solving problems locally.”

What’s next for Momentum?

AB: 19 counties and 45 days ahead of us to gather information about the top problems of local communities. After that, we will start assisting in solving some of those problems by trying to divert some of our resources to places where they are lacking. The crowdfunding campaign against the Olympics has proven that people are willing to help if they see that there is a reasonable chance of success. Actions speak louder than words, so actions will follow.

“…people are willing to help if they see … a reasonable chance of success”

Does Momentum challenge Orbán in 2018?

AB: Yes! But not only Orbán, but the whole political establishment. We need to finally put an end to the decade long writhing of this country by offering a real alternative.

Read about Momentum’s campaign here

Read our analysis here

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