Corona and Populism

  • January 28, 2022
  • István

The Kiel Institute has made a research about the handling of the pandemic by populist governments, including Hungary. Their press release:

COVID-19 pandemic: under populist governments, risk of death is higher


Populist governments perform worse than non-populist governments in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. This applies, for example, to countries such as the United Kingdom, Hungary, and India. Excess mortality—the number of deaths above those that could be expected even without the pandemic—is more than twice as high on average in populist governed countries than in non-populist governed countries. This is shown in a research paper with involvement of the Kiel Institute.

”The numbers are clear—populists are the worse crisis managers in the COVID-19 pandemic and responsible for many avoidable deaths in the countries they govern,” says Michael Bayerlein, a researcher on populism at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. With an international team of researchers, he evaluated the crisis management during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 of 42 member countries of the OECD or the BRICS countries.

The aim was to identify differences between populist and non-populist governments (Bayerlein et al.: Populism and COVID-19: How Populist Governments (Mis)Handle the Pandemic). The authors classified a total of 11 governments as populist, including those in Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and India.

According to the study, on average, significantly more people die as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic on a percentage basis under populist leadership than in non-populist led countries. The so-called excess mortality—the number of deaths above the level that would have been expected even without the pandemic—is a good 8 percent in non-populist-led countries and almost 18 percent in populist-led ones.

Thus, for an otherwise 100 deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic causes 8 additional deaths in non-populist-led countries and 18 additional deaths in populist-led countries, more than twice as many. On average for all countries considered, excess mortality is 10 percent—instead of 100 deaths otherwise, the pandemic causes 110 deaths.

The reason for the significantly higher excess mortality is that citizen mobility is higher in populist governed countries at similar infection rates. To measure this, the authors use mobility data from Google that show how busy certain places such as grocery stores or parks were during the pandemic. The data show that that the movement index in populist-ruled countries, with a value of 20, is twice as high as the value in non-populist-ruled countries, with 10.

The team of authors identifies two reasons for the higher mobility. First, populist governments are less likely to implement long-term and unpopular policies against the spread of the pandemic such as contact restrictions. Second, the communication of populist governments is designed to downplay the severity of the pandemic and to discredit scientific findings. Citizens therefore are less likely to take the virus seriously and to restrict their movement activity on their own initiative.

“Our study is the first to prove that populists are doing a poor job of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, which is directly reflected in the death toll. The high excess mortality is driven by too much mobility, which in turn is caused by a lack of restrictions and anti-COVID-19 propaganda,” Bayerlein said.

“The only good news – the clear link between mobility and death toll also means that people can protect themselves by voluntarily limiting their contacts during the pandemic.”


We discussed repeatedly that the chance of dying through the virus is in Hungary among the highest in the world. But there is also another remarkable statistical fact. Since the beginning of the pandemic until week 3 of 2022 within EU/EEA have been made 1 762 149 926 corona tests ►EN. The UK is excluded from the dataset of January 27th, 2022 as only in 2020 they delivered data. So every European citizen has been tested 3.81 times. Austria, which served according to Orbán as our “laboratory” for some time tested every citizen 22.22 times the last 2 years, the highest value in Europe. Hungary has the 2nd worst rate, every citizen has only been tested 0.87 times, only Poland was slightly worse. Instead Hungary has destroyed massively tests for being beyond their shelf date. If a doctor prescribes a test this is free in Hungary, if someone just wants to be sure not to be infected after having symptoms the doctor regards as not too bad or just for meeting others safely he has to pay much more than elsewhere for being tested, while in some countries this is free. The Hungarian Competition Authority GVH started an investigation only after having got complaints concerning overpriced tests ►HU.

But as least the law and order policies of Orbán have a great effect on vaccination – no, not really. First the vaccination of health care staff has been made mandatory and obviously this worked. But among teachers this wasn’t repeated, there is quite a number on unpaid leave since the beginning of the month. Now mandatory vaccination of police officers, prison guards, and other public staff has been delayed from January 31st to April 30th ►HU. Especially among policemen and fire-fighters there is a too huge percentage unvaccinated to continue operating when those who don’t want to take the vaccine would be suspended. Since unvaccinated agents did not get christmas gratification and won’t get the “gun money,” a bonus for weaponed state employees worth 6 month nets wages, I can’t believe that things will change until the end of April.

There are no signs that Orbán would change course, especially not before the elections. The easy messages that he has everything under control and that elsewhere things are so much worse will continue. Orbán doesn’t care about health and life.

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January 28, 2022 11:48

Once again I have to ask:
Don’t Hungarians care about the large number of sick people and deaths?
Or don’t they get/understand those horrible numbers?
My wife and I (both boostered of course) just don’t understand it!
We don’t have much hope for the elections, propaganda seems still to work here in Hungary.

Istvan (Chicago)
Istvan (Chicago)
January 28, 2022 15:18
Reply to  wolfi7777

Well Wolfi as you well know there are differences in vaccination rates internationally by age groups. Those of us over 65 years old are generally more vaccinated than those who are younger, especially here in the USA see As with the USA the death rate for those of us who are older resulting from Covid is consistently higher than for younger people and internationally vaccination of older adults was a priority.The focus of the article “Populism and COVID-19: How Populist Governments (Mis)Handle the Pandemic” is on national government policy. Here in the USA because of “states rights” built into our Constitution, State governments, county governments, and city governments play a huge role. So we here have found that areas that voted in favor of Trump have more deaths from Covid ( ). So I think the study discussed by Istvan is pretty consistent with what we see over here on this side of the Atlantic.

As people who have read my posts over the years on Eva’s site are aware we have a second home in northern rural Wisconsin that overwhelmingly voted for Trump, in fact its a geographical area of the State with one of the very lowest vaccination rates (Clark county). Yet even in that area the rate for those over aged 65 is much higher that for those younger, as of today the full vaccination rate is only about 36%. As of January 27, 2022 there have been 7,212 confirmed cases of Covid in the county which has only 34,774 people in it, and 112 dead who were confirmed to have had Covid with 87.2% of the dead aged 60 and older. The situation in Chicago which is infinitely more densely populated is much better overall. So Wofi we old folks have good reason to be cautious.

January 28, 2022 15:39

Istvan, of course we are cautious too – my wife is 77 and I hope to reach 79 soon.
Sometimes I think that many Hungarians, Fideszniks first, would be happy if more older people die – less pensions and medical costs …
In a year or two the numbers of excess mortality and life expectancy will be available. If I remember correctly life expectancy in the USA already was reduced from 2019 to 2020 …
Whatever the real reasons are for excess mortality being around twice as high in Hungary compared to Austria eg it’s a sad sad story.

Szérmán Smuel
Szérmán Smuel
January 29, 2022 07:28
Reply to  wolfi7777

I have taken many other vaccines, but, not this one – not once.

I will not take a revolutionary vaccine that has not a minimal 8 year body of clinical data in field experiments behind ité nor DELETED

That said, if it makes you happy to have the vaccine, by all means.

I respect your choice, so long as that choice is to not compel me and my loved ones.

Edited: This is not the place where promotion of getting infected with Sars-Cov-2 and just taking “herbs, vitamins, and minerals” would be allowed. The dangers of the infections are real and vaccination is one of the cornerstones to get our lives back. It is you and your kind who are making normal life impossible, blocking hospital beds, and cost lives!

January 29, 2022 15:39

Smuel’s real address maybe Moscow!
The MRNA research of 40 years produced solid data.
Safe and efficient.
Vaccinate and ignore the hostile propaganda.

Szérmán Smuel
Szérmán Smuel
January 29, 2022 16:14
Reply to  SandF

Unfortunately, Sand, DELETED

I will not.


I agree with Mi Hazunk Mozgolom, and, I note, they DELETED

Edited: This is no place for propaganda regarding medicines that never worked and never got a permission to be used with human beings.

Szérmán Smuel
Szérmán Smuel
January 29, 2022 16:18

It is you and your kind who are making normal life impossible, blocking hospital beds, and cost lives!’


Edit: This is no place for dangerous fake news! Read the community rules!

January 28, 2022 15:01

completely OT, found this earlier today…uplifting rather than depressing …

an old interview of Eva … in Hungarian, English subtitles

Last edited 1 year ago by Phil_S_Stine
January 28, 2022 16:30
Reply to  Phil_S_Stine

While Eva fed us with lots of information, a careful pick of the subjects is advisable from now.
I found a useful article from the past, by Yasmeen Serhan

Istvan (Chicago)
Istvan (Chicago)
January 28, 2022 16:52

Off topic but appearing in the news today from Hungary. This article in Telex today that is based on this article indicates that the USA may be denying recognition of the validity Hungarian citizenship to those living outside the borders. The Magyar Hang article cites a response from the US embassy that includes this: “The process of naturalization of persons of Hungarian origin in neighboring countries is vulnerable and questionable. These vulnerabilities have allowed criminals and fraudsters to obtain a valid Hungarian passport Since the problem was identified, the United States and Hungary have been working together to mitigate these border security threats.”

Of course the US embassy avoided something important in its statement, we as a nation do not recognize dual nationality status, and in fact once upon a time a US citizen who voted as a dual national in a foreign national election was committing an illegal action. That threat was removed by a US Supreme Court decision AFROYIM v. RUSK(1967) ( ) The decision is very odd in this sense it only concluded that there is “no general power to revoke an American citizen’s citizenship without prior consent.” So even with the Affoyim decision dual nationality is not formally accepted by the US government and apparently is being applied to the Fidesz government’s granting citizenship to people of Hungarian origin living beyond the existing borders of Hungary for admission to the USA using facilitated visa (ESTA, or Electronic Entry Permit) in the United States.

I have long argued against American Hungarians becoming dual nationals and voting in Hungarian elections. I have also advised members of the American Hungarian community (including Eva our former host on the Hungarian Spectrum website) that such an action could result in being denied US Federal security clearance needed for many different Federal jobs, contracts, and aspects of military service. In Eva’s case she had done at least one presentation on Hungary involving forty employees of the U.S. State Department and the CIA in offices near CIA headquarters in 2009 (see prior to the passage of the Fidesz dual nationality law. Apparently her own presentation was considered to be classified but she did provide a public article she had published that her presentation was based on to Népszabadság.

Istvan (Chicago)
Istvan (Chicago)
January 29, 2022 04:36
Reply to  István

It can be more complex because the official representatives of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at what is called the port of entry there is a primary inspection station. That CBP person can stop any one from entering the USA based on questioning, which could include questioning about dual nationality. Then depending on your answers and documents you provide you can be sent to secondary inspection to confirm your eligibility to enter the U.S. Really what happens there is a deeper screening takes place using data systems that do a pretty exhaustive search of the individual.

It sounds very much like the US embassy is trying to avoid having a Hungarians who are dual nationals sent into secondary inspections at US airports for extended time frames then being denied entry.

Istvan (Chicago)
Istvan (Chicago)
January 29, 2022 04:45

On a totally different issue I am reading many different speculations on US military forces being sent to Hungary. One is the possibility of AWACS, (Airborne Warning And Control System), a mobile, long-range radar surveillance and control centre for air defense being brought into Hungary along with their air crews. I do not think other speculations I am reading about seem realist, but there clearly are additional US combat forces going to the Baltic.

Istvan (Chicago)
Istvan (Chicago)
January 29, 2022 15:36
Reply to  István

Coming from an ESTA country does not mean you are waived through the CBP initial inspection, especially because of terrorists who have entered from Europe. Most recently it was Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a citizen of the United Kingdom who took four hostages at the Beth Israel Congregation synagogue in Texas and was killed in a shoot out with an FBI SWAT team. He entered on ESTA tourist visa and it is still unclear if he was a dual national.

President Biden immediately terminated Trump’s executive order mandating that intelligence agencies step up efforts to screen and vet aliens seeking to enter the United States. Now he is under huge pressure from Republicans to put more people from ESTA countries into secondary inspections at US airports without additional funding for more staff. Because of the need for the Biden administration to demonstrate it is not using a racial or ethnic standard in doing this some Hungarians and others with dual national status will be swept up. This is particularly easy because the USA does not formally recognize dual nationality under our laws and it can create a presumption of what is called “divided loyalty.”

January 29, 2022 08:25

Some may remember that György Schadl (the corrupt court bailiff who had the deputy-minister of justice/state secretary on his payroll) had a video kompromat in his possession when he was arrested and which was taken by the police. Rumour has it that Béla Merkely (a main face of the anti-COVID efforts), Barbara Orosz (Z-list media celebrity) and Zoltan Kovacs (government spokesman lately appearing only rarely) are on it, Merkely and Orosz performing and Kovacs (Orosz’ boyfriend) making the video. Not a biggie, still a funny story, would be fun to see Kovacs’ comeuppance.