Society

Hungary youth: 'I stay out of politics but am Facebook friends with Viktor Orbán'

Article published on April 29, 2011
Article published on April 29, 2011
The new controversial constitution, the first to be created on an iPad, was voted into law by the national assembly on 18 April and signed by the president on 25 April. Hungary’s youth remain apolitical, even to a new rule which would violate human rights. cafebabel.com Budapest interviewed fifty young Hungarians

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