By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News reporting from Budapest, Hungary
(Worthy News) – Hungary’s government is going the extra mile to spread its propaganda ahead of elections next year: It’s forcing students to watch a government-friendly film about a former prime minister who lied and still plays a vital role in the opposition.
Fast-moving scenes include young freedom fighters facing a brutal police force. This isn’t an action movie. Hungarian youngsters aren’t streaming it on Netflix; they’re being made to watch it in school.
In at least one town, some students refusing to attend the screening received an unexcused absence which could lead to sanctions.
Critics say the Karcag municipality, run by Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, covered the screening costs and even bus transportation for students, charges denied by the mayor.
The movie’s title, using an expletive, loosely translates in broadcastable English as ‘We screwed up.’ The film is shown throughout the country ahead of parliamentary elections expected in April next year.
It centers around a leaked speech of former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who still plays a role in the opposition.
In 2006, then Prime Minister Gyurcsány told his party faithful that he and others had lied day and night about the status of the economy in Hungary. “There is not much choice. There is not because we have screwed up. Not just a little, but big-time,” he told his party.
“No country in Europe has screwed up as much as we have. It can be explained. We have obviously lied for the past one and a half, two years. It was obvious that what we were saying was not the truth,” Gyurcsány conceded.
“We are beyond the country’s possibilities to such an extent that we could not conceive earlier that a joint government program of the Socialists and the liberals would ever do. And in the meantime, we did not actually do anything for four years. Nothing, “ he added.
“You cannot mention any significant government measures that we can be proud of.”
His recording wasn’t without consequences. At least tens of thousands of people recently marched through Budapest, where Gyurcsány’s words sparked protests, riots, and police brutality fifteen years ago.
They gathered on the 65th anniversary of the bloodstained Hungarian Revolution against Soviet Union domination and communism, which Soviet soldiers crushed in 1956.
Some 200,000 Hungarians fled, and thousands died during and after the battles for freedom.
Fast forward, Gyurcsány isn’t running to become prime minister again.
However, Prime Minister Orbán claims his rival is a former communist who plays a vital role in the united six-party opposition alliance that seeks to oust him.
In his speech, Orbán suggested that more than 30 years after Hungary’s democratic transition, former Soviet-style communists of the opposition want to return.
However, this time, he claims, they will blindly serve the interests of the EU and liberal U.S. billionaire and boogey-man of the New Right George Soros.
Orbán even compared his political rivals to the late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev who viewed any threat to socialist rule in Soviet bloc nations as justifying military intervention.
“Today, Brussels directs words and actions at the Poles and us that are like those usually reserved for enemies. We have a feeling of déjà vu, as, throughout Europe, we hear echoes of the Brezhnev Doctrine…” Orbán stressed.
“Those who oversaw the indiscriminate shooting of people fifteen years ago are today preparing to take the stage once more. Now occupiers are not seeking to impose their commissars on us but seeking to get them elected,” he claimed.
“Now they are not using firearms, but Facebook. I think they misunderstood us: our invitation was to liberate us from Soviet occupation, not to interfere in our democracy,”
Orbán told the crowd.
Not everyone agrees.
In Budapest, people also rally around Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition’s official candidate for prime minister.
The opposition leader views Prime Minister Orbán as a close ally of Russia’s autocratic President Vladimir Putin, who is himself a former officer of the Soviet secret service KGB in East Germany. “Well, I don’t know who is making deals with Putin right now. I have to guess. It’s probably Orbán.”
Orbán, Marki Zay suggests, is hardly a freedom fighter. Asked what would be his priority if elected prime minister, Márki-Zay pledged to end “the government crackdown” on critical, independent media.
And he wants to make Hungary join the European Prosecutors Office, also known as EPP, to tackle massive corruption. “Well, I think freedom is very important for us—freedom from corruption as well as. So joining the EPP is of high priority,” he revealed.
“Of course, also an anti-corruption agency setting up here in Hungary is very important as well as launching a new constitution-creating process basically. So hopefully, we will see a referendum in the end on that issue. There are many other things, of course,” Márki-Zay noted.
“But, freedom is first. You know the free press, and the judiciary must be independent of the government, of course. So we have a lot of things to do,” the opposition candidate added.
Yet, the underfunded mayor-turned-opposition candidate faces an uphill battle. An anti-opposition film is only part of the government propaganda machine being rolled out. Its campaign also included a petition titled “Stop
Gyurcsány, Stop Márki-Zay.”
Opinion polls predict a close election race. But opposition supporters say it will take more for the increasingly autocratic Orbán than a film, or petition, to stop the united opposition after more than a decade in power.
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