Feb 20, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Brace yourselves, election season is here

Hungary’s parliamentary elections will be held less than seven weeks from today, on April 8th, and we find ourselves up to our eyeballs in election season madness.

This is the time when critics of the Orbán Government in media and international organizations go to great lengths to paint a negative picture of today’s Hungary and the prime minister. That comes as little surprise, but what I find interesting this year is that many of them are simply rehashing the tired old topics we dealt with in the lead up to the 2014 elections.

As I wrote earlier this month in my response to that second-rate article published in The New York Times, it’s so déjà vu that I can predict the topics: independence of the judiciary, the media law, checks and balances, social inclusion. We already litigated these – in some cases quite literally in our discussions with the European Commission – in the run-up to the 2014 elections and settled all of them. But as we approach another election, some believe these wells haven’t run dry. A recent example comes to us from the BBC, a slanted report depicting the plight of Hungary’s most vulnerable social group, the Roma.

In her “investigative” report entitled “Gypsy Kids Taken From Home”, the BBC’s Stacey Dooley roamed one of the poorest regions of Hungary in search of justification to support her theory that the Hungarian child-care system discriminates against the local Roma population. She argues that authorities take custody unjustly of Roma children.

Of course, the best place for all children is by their mother’s side, we can all agree on that.

But dragging Hungary’s most vulnerable social group into an otherwise politically-driven narrative touches a nerve with me. Trust me when I say that as a former state secretary for Roma Inclusion in the Ministry of Human Resources, I know first-hand the full scope of government policies on Roma inclusion, including Safe Start programs that address early childhood education and parenting, study halls that tackle primary school and high school drop-outs, as well as second chance programs for adults.

By the way, when Hungary held the presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2011, the government initiated an EU-level strategy for Roma inclusion. We won’t say Hungary doesn’t have social challenges, but decades of setbacks cannot be fixed overnight.

This BBC report is only one of many yet to come. Brace yourselves, election season is here, and the mainstream media that has never really bothered to report in a balanced way on Hungary will continue to publish more of the same. Expect to hear more in the coming weeks about Hungary’s media, judiciary, checks and balances, social inclusion and electoral system.