Political thuggery in Hungary

Prime Minister Viktor is planning on holding a referendum on whether Hungary should agree to EU-wide quotas on the division of refugees amongst European Union member states. The Hungarian leader announced his plans for a plebiscite, in which the government will campaign for the “no” side, one day after skinheads and thugs, almost certainly hired by Fidesz politicians or oligarchs, physically prevented representatives of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) from submitting their own referendum proposal to officials at the National Election Office in Budapest, on whether to overturn the Orbán regime’s 2014 decision to close most retail stores on Sundays. The Socialists had already attempted to propose a referendum in this same topic before, but then too, “random” people managed to submit their own proposals in the same topic seconds or minutes before the Socialists. In this case, Mr. Nyakó deliberately arrived a dawn, because the Hungarian Supreme Court was about to render a decision on the previous submission that very morning. The Socialists took no chances and wanted to make sure that as soon as the earlier proposal is disqualified, they could be the first to submit their question.

The store closures are hugely unpopular, even among Fidesz supporters. When the decree came into effect, two thirds of Hungarians were opposed to the new law.  It is difficult to imagine any scenario where an MSZP-proposed referendum question on this topic would not have garnered majority support, and this would have been a major (and much needed) political victory for the largest centre-left opposition party, precisely two years before the next national elections.

When MSZP politician István Nyakó arrived at the National Election Office at 6:00 AM on Tuesday, he was faced with over a dozen burly skinheads. The men had been previously involved with providing security at rowdy sporting events and had been hired by circles close to Fidesz. The skinheads, dressed in black and some with nationalist symbols of Greater Hungary, all claimed to also be waiting in line to submit proposals to the elections bureau. The intimidating thugs had no other purpose but to block the entrance and ensure that Mr. Nyakó was unable to enter and submit his proposal. Thanks to the thugs, an elderly woman, who turned out to be the wife of a former Fidesz party mayor of the town of Herceghalom, who now is (on paper) “independent,” managed to submit her own referendum proposal precisely four seconds before Mr. Nyako was able to hand his over to the officials in the National Election Office. Since Hungarian law states that a single referendum question can be considered in any given topic, there is no opportunity for Mr. Nyakó to have his party’s proposal even heard by the office, as he has been preempted. Instead, the question submitted by the bizarre elderly woman and Fidesz crony, Mrs. Erdősi, will be given consideration instead and is deliberately oddly worded, thus ensuring that the referendum will likely not garner the necessary voter interest or would only rally government supporters.

Skinheads and thugs, dressed in black, prevented the Socialists from submitting their proposed referendum question to the National Election Office. Nobody could enter the office, unless they  were allowed in by the mysterious and intimidating men.

Skinheads and thugs, dressed in black, prevented the Socialists from submitting their proposed referendum question to the National Election Office. Nobody could enter the office, unless they were allowed in by the mysterious and intimidating men. The police chose not to intervene for hours.

Fidesz politicians, with singular cynicism, were quick to label the Socialists as  “incompetent” and “stupid” for failing to submit their question. But I trust that everyone, except for the most blinded, die-hard Fidesz believers and those who reap benefit from their collaboration with the regime, see Hungary’s  government for what it is: a criminal gang, plain and simple, which now uses skinheads to intimidate and physically stop any opposition.

Gellert Rajcsányi, assistant editor of the conservative Mandiner website referred to rule of law in Hungary as “a balding democracy,” in direct reference to the thugs. No friend of the Socialists, Mr. Rajcsányi still writes: “Nobody stopped the sick cabaret in front of the National Election Office, which lasted for several hours–not the officials, who tolerated all of this (the skinheads reportedly decided who to allow in and who to ban from the building), nor did the Hungarian police and security officers intervene to re-establish order…What happened yesterday was a revolting mockery of Hungarian democracy.”

There’s not very much left of the Hungarian democracy that Mr. Rajcsányi writes about. Some of us have been saying this for some time, and have occasionally been labelled as liars and extremists for doing so. What happened on Tuesday, however, is perhaps the most blatant visual of the state of rule of law in Hungary.

At least Hungarians will be able to vote in a referendum, which raises a range of potential legal issues, on whether the regime should continue its very effective hate campaign against refugees and migrants.  And the opposition can wait for when these same thugs might come knocking on their door.

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