PM Orbán’s Useless Train Line, Hungarian Conspiracy Theories and Budapest Gay Pride

Hungary, 05 Jun - 02 Jul 2016
PM Orbán spends €2m of EU funding for connecting his two hometowns by nostalgia train ++ Is Hungary secretly under the control of foreign powers? Survey results about conspiracy theories of Hungarians ++ More than 10,000 participants at Budapest Pride – no right-wingers causing trouble. by Robert Talo
PM Orbán spends €2m of EU funding on connecting his two hometowns by nostalgia train

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz party) invested over 2 million euros of EU funding for connecting the two villages Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút, where he grew up, with a vintage train line. The development of Felcsút is a pet project of Orbán. During his tenure as PM, several building projects were initiated in the village. Now, the PM is facing heavy accusations. His government maintained that 2,500 to 7,500 people would use the train line daily but only 30 passengers have been using it in the first month of operation. The European Union funded 80 per cent of the project and is going to investigate after Benedek Jávor, member of the Hungarian opposition party Dialogue for Hungary (PM), has reported the case to the anti-corruption division of the EU.

The Prime Minister refused objections to the railway project. Nevertheless, his critics are claiming that he is abusing state funding to build a ‘private kingdom’ in in Fejér County, the area of his childhood origin, through which the nostalgia train runs. Many of his own properties and business chums are based there. At one end of the train line, there’s a Habsburg estate which was purchased by Orbán’s father just one year after his son became Prime Minister. At the other end of the vintage rail, in Felcsút, there’s a football stadium with a capacity of 3,500 spectators in a village with only 1,700 inhabitants. The sports arena is very close to the football-loving Mr. Orbán’s weekend house and was financed partly with a corporate tax which has been introduced by his government of Fidesz party and Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP).

For some observers his stadium building obsession remains to vanities similar to Nicolae Ceaușescu, a former Romanian despot. The oppositional party Együtt (Together) already estimated Viktor Orbán to be the richest resident of Hungary. Viktor Szegvári, the leader of Együtt, pointed out: “Just like Vladimir Putin is known to be the richest Russian alive, we believe Mr. Orbán is Hungary’s richest man, but is using straw men to distribute his wealth”.

Is Hungary secretly under the control of foreign powers? Survey results about conspiracy theories of Hungarians

According to the results of a representative survey about conspiracy theories, conducted by Publicus Institute in June with the participation of 1,000 respondents, about 35 per cent of Hungarians believe that the country is not led by its government. When it comes to the question of who controls the country then behind the scenes, 16 per cent of the participants answered that it's under the personal control of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz party). The second and third most popular beliefs are that it is international financial circles (13 per cent) and domestic economic groups (11 per cent) that run Hungary. The European Union (6 per cent), the USA (4 per cent) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (1 per cent) got much less influence attributed according to the study.

As for the ongoing debate about migrants, more than the half of the interviewed persons suspects American interest groups behind the migration crisis. Still along the lines of foreign influence in Hungary, George Soros, an American-Hungarian business-magnate, has long been a scapegoat according to Hungary’s national conservative government's public communication. However, only three out of ten people believe that he is working deliberately against the government. Furthermore, two third think that such accuses are only rhetoric tricks by the government. Further, every fourth respondent believes that certain substances are released in the air from airplanes to affect the population in various ways, which is known as the chemtrail conspiracy in several countries around the world. As much as 62 per cent of the interviewees think that the whole world is controlled by a small, elite circle of influential persons.

In general, the theory of Hungary not being under the control of its own government is mostly favoured by people with lower education. The elderly and voters of the governing Fidesz party and the far right party Jobbik disagree the most. On the other hand, the belief that parliamentary elections do not reflect reality and are influenced by third parties is strongest among the voters of opposition parties and the undecided, and weakest among supporters of the government.

More than 10,000 participants at Budapest Pride – no right-wingers causing trouble

On Saturday, 2nd July, the annual event Budapest Pride took place. It was the first gay pride parade in recent years without any incidents caused by the far right. More than 10,000 participants marched from the Heroes' Square in Hungary’s capital city to the House of Parliament. Not only citizens, but many corporations like Google, Microsoft and Vodafone took part. Members of leftist and liberal opposition parties also attended the LGBTQ happening, one of the biggest of its kind in Eastern Europe. The US Ambassador of Hungary has also been there to support the event. The parade has been secured by a large police posse.

The motto of the pride movement was ‘We complete it!’. Participants as well as vehicles were decorated with rainbow flags and balloons. Hungary is one of the few countries in Eastern Europe with legal partnership for gays and lesbians. Even the national conservative government of Fidesz and Christian Democratic People’s Party of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán haven’t changed the law. However, they changed the possibility of true equality by defining the institution of marriage as something that is possible only between a male and a female. The reason for the surprising slightly openness for civic partnerships within conservative parties is explained by some analysts with the fact that many people even in that circle have family members, who are already openly gay.

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