In Hungary, a ‘one million for the liberty of the press’ facebook group, formed against the media law, announced a ‘Pac-Man protest’ on voting day targeted at under-35s. As the new constitution was formed, people dressed in the orange colours of the ruling right-wing Fidesz party and formed the shape of a ‘Pac-Man’. The act was to ‘eat’ a section mark (formed by people dressed in white), which represented the state under the rule of law.
Whilst five hundred were expected, only 100 showed up. ‘We have seen a lot of youngsters and have many young fans on facebook,’ persists organiser Róbert Fölkel. ‘This Pac-Manisation was intended to show the government that even this age-group dares to speak its mind, to say that something is not right. This was a spectacular event. We wanted the videos or photos taken of it to go around the world.’ One of eight people cafebabel.com Budapest spoke to participated in the demonstration. ‘Of the last decade it was now that I felt the most that I would go out on the streets and speak about this wrong direction we are heading towards,’ says Axel, 23 - but the future economist did not have time to attend the protest.
Ask and I will (not) answer
The Hungarian government sent every voter a personal letter for opinions about several articles of the constitution, but six out of eight interviewees agree that the constitution process did not involve social dialogue. ‘The government’s attitude is ‘we have decided, we will push it through even if we die of it’,’ criticises Axel. ‘I am a white-collar worker but I did not understand the questions,’ complains Eva, 32, who has Slovakian origins. ‘Orbán and his crew have a scandal every week,’ says advertiser Nelli, 25. ‘I am tired of keeping up with it. I was wondering what will happen later, but as long as I am not concerned directly, I don’t really care.’
‘I am happy that something is finally happening in this country’
On the whole young people welcome the fact that Hungary will have a new constitution. Klári, 24, stays out of politics but is friends with prime minister Viktor Orbán on facebook. ‘I am happy that something is finally happening in this country,’ she says. Political scientist David, 27, says: ‘It feels like having an octroyed constitution, like the one we got from the Habsburgs in 1849 after the fall of the Hungarian revolution. The good government communication and PR and the butter-fingered opposition could have led to a constitution that might have been a sweet dream for some power maniacs who wanted to leave their fingerprints in history. This could (and should) have been a real triumph of the whole country.’ Journalist Bori, 26, agrees with the fingerprint metaphor. ‘There is still a crisis. We should not deal with the constitution now. It’s rushed pseudo-politics. The government is trying to get into the history books.’
God bless the Hungarians
‘I couldn’t really find the constitution online,’ says Rita, 29, who works at a communication agency and is studying to be a Spanish-Hungarian translator. She is one of the under seven million (only 900, 000 of eight million responded) who must have thrown the letter out, preferring to vote in a referendum. The details that worry her the most were found in Hungarian forums such as the linguistics section of the Hungarian academy of sciences. Terminology can lead to false interpretation because punctuation marks are mistakenly placed in the text thanks to the special syntactical features of legal jargon. For example the quote from the Hungarian national anthem was not placed between quotation marks; ‘God, bless the Hungarians’ can thus be seen as a legal demand.
Rita also explains that the first translation of the constitution was missing parts that could have led to questions in the European union. For example the article about the prospect of actual life imprisonment without parole ('LWOP') was not translated, neither was the so-called national creed preamble that declares Hungary a christian state - the very part citizens like Eva is so furious about. ‘The new Hungarian constitution begins with the alteration of history,’ she adds. ‘But 100, 000 Jews live in Hungary. It’s the biggest central eastern European jewish community.’ Organisations such as Amnesty International are still voicing their fears about whether the constitution will correspond with European fundamental values; it takes effect in January 2012.
Image: (cc) y daweiding/ Dawei DING/ Flickr