News from Hungary are nowadays dominated by anti-feminist, pro-procreation policies, anti-LGBTIQ+ protests and sentiments, seen by the country’s withdrawal of the Eurovision song contest of it being too gay, and the ongoing anti-refugee politics of Victor Orbán and his mainly male government. Where are the women of Hungary? E&M’s author Diana Zsoldos looks at the Hungarian female politicians which leaves her to feel more optimistic about the state of the country’s politics despite.
What do a lawyer, a medical doctor and a sociologist have in common? Not only are they all women. Not only are they all Hungarian, but all of them won seats at the European Parliament elections this year in Hungary. It seems that the controversial Hungarian domestic politics — which are sometimes referred to as “illiberal democracy”—has some emerging women power.
Hungary is sending new female faces to the European Parliament. We could call it quite an achievement.
Viktor Orbán’s plan for women involves a deal to increase the birth rate, policies which were abundantly mentioned in the international press. Additionally, the country just recently hosted the third Budapest Demographic Summit, where the Prime Minister was pictured sitting with only men in the front row. However, Hungary is sending new female faces to the European Parliament. We could call it quite an achievement.
The front row of today’s third annual Budapest Demographic Summit launch. The conference is focused on raising the fertility rates in central and eastern Europe. pic.twitter.com/2vKttLN5ft
— Valerie Hopkins (@VALERIEin140) September 5, 2019
The Hungarian Hillary
Klára Dobrev, 47, became well-known as the wife of former Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány. Since she took up a political position too, she was often criticised by the public. She was considered a marionette of her husband, with people saying that Mr. Gyurcsány still aims to lead the country through his wife. That says a lot about the current state of womankind in Hungary.
To recap: Mrs. Dobrev has a degree in law and has had a successful career as a business leader and as an academic; she speaks five languages and she has raised five children. Now, she holds a position as the Vice-President of the European Parliament. Looking at how active she is in her work in Brussels already, we can expect that the best is yet to come.
The Momentum of Lift
The Momentum Movement quickly gained attraction in the recent years. The Movement is a very young political party, emphasising on Hungarians living abroad and public policy, like education and healthcare. Their leader, András Fekete-Győr, has often been compared to a young Orbán. However, the party cleverly put women at the forefront of their campaign during the European parliamentary campaign and won two seats. This outcome was surprising and unexpected. Both women are in their 30s.
It seems that women in Hungary have great potentials.
Ms. Katalin Cseh or as she calls herself, Katka, is a medical doctor, specialised in genealogy. She was born in Canada and studied in the Netherlands. Her background seems like a gush of fresh air in the conservative Hungarian political mindset. And this is exactly what Momentum managed nicely: focusing on young, educated, open-minded people and putting professionals in their main positions, not solely career politicians. Hence, your average Hungarian citizen is likely to think that they are really experienced in their field and know what they are talking about, making them look authentic to a disillusioned and disappointed country. Their social media presence is well-built as well, which is important to future generations. Even Ms. Anna Donáth, who is coming from a political family, is an experienced sociologist and when you see her talks, her professional manners can amaze.
A few years ago, when Orbán called back Hungary’s Ambassador from the US, Réka Szemerkényi, reporters asked him to explain his reasons for doing so. He responded by saying that he does not deal with women’s issues. Maybe, he should reconsider this statement, which became a source for many memes since then, because it seems that women in Hungary have great potentials.
These women who got to power are truly inspiring, especially for the younger generations. As an effect, Hungary saw many people join political or non-governmental organisation. People could see that working for a community can be good and even remunerative. After the disappointing general elections in 2018, when so many people decided to participate and voted, a bit of hope was lost. Now, these women brought it back – what a relief. Albeit, Hungary is still very far from having a woman as Prime Minister, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either.