The left liberal side seems to be satisfied with the outcome of their counterdemonstration. Everything went off peacefully. According to the participants the mood was friendly with lots of smiles. Members of the cabinet as well as MSZP, SZDSZ, and even MDF politicians mingled with the crowd. Although Ibolya Dávid didn’t approve of the demonstration and instead suggested a more forceful police presence, Károly Herényi, the leader of the MDF parliamentary delegation, attended. There were no representatives of Fidesz. Even György Szabó, the Fidesz mayor of the district who took part in the first demonstration, was absent because he objected to the presence of the prime minister. Moreover, he is in hiding because he and his family were threatened. He asked for police protection. As far as his role in the first demonstration is concerned, an internet friend of mine received an e-mail from Judapest inviting her to the demonstration. After a brief check I discovered the e-mail on the home page of MAZSIHISZ, the organization of Hungarian Jewry, and Szombat, a Jewish weekly. I myself received the same letter, signed by "Hungarians against the Nazis," from Klubháló, an internet site. Nowhere did I hear any mention of the name of György Szabó, at least initially.
The other good development is that although László Sólyom didn’t join the others, he made a trip to the store and categorically disapproved of the terroristic methods of the extreme right. Oh, yes, and the store. An interesting "coincidence." It seems that the building whose first floor is occupied by the ticket office once contained the apartment of Ferenc Szálasi, the founder of the Hungarist (Hungarian Nazi) movement. His first party (he had many abortive attempts at organizing a viable party) was conceived in this apartment. The party’s name was "Party of the Hungarian Will." So, these modern Hungarian nazis are quite well versed in Hungarian history, or at least certain parts of it. As for the usual ringleaders–György Budaházy, László Gonda, and Tamás Polgár (better known as Tomcat) were arrested, though knowing Hungarian practice most likely they are already home. Krisztina Morvai apparently appeared at one point and complained about police brutality. We will see how far she gets with this latest attack on the police. I have the feeling not very far. Why am I optimistic? Because it seems that Fidesz has changed its attitude toward the extreme right. I base this on a Magyar Nemzet editorial. Since this newspaper is a mouthpiece of Fidesz, one can take it as pretty close to an official stand on the issue.
Let me summarize the article. First of all, Magyar Nemzet begins by saying: "’Enough of exclusion, enough of whipping up hatred, enough of the threats, enough of the provocations, this is our country, we don’t tolerate discrimination." The editorial continues: "The extreme right-wing sites on the internet without the slightest attempt to discover the truth [about the events surrounding the purchase of the ticket] used unacceptable language to trumpet to the whole world the most extreme interpretation of that ticket purchase. The same home pages a few days later enthusiastically greeted the successful attack against the ticket office with the help of Molotov cocktails." Then the editorial refers to the organization of the counterdemonstration: "Civil organizations with the assistance [bábáskodásával] of a Fidesz city council member of Jewish origin arranged a counterdemonstration which was such a success that Tomcat had to show his strength after the fiasco by organizing another demonstration."
And the article summarizes the events of late thus: "Burning down the ticket office is a crime. A police case. However, the Hungarian police force’s attempts to find the culprits are practically never successful. Tamás Polgár’s flash mob was not only provocative and threatening but an undisguised demonstration of strength. He was joined by all the well known figures whom the police are looking for but rarely find." Of course, at the end the paper mentions that such demonstrations are God’s gifts to the party and government of Ferenc Gyurcsány.
This seems to be the strongest condemnation of the extreme right to date from Fidesz. We will see whether this first step will be followed by others or not. It is hard to judge what caused this change of attitude. I doubt that it was the threat on György Szabó and his family. Perhaps Viktor Orbán feels that soon enough he might be the prime minister of Hungary and after all there was an adverse international reaction to these events. Or perhaps the radical right’s condemnation of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán was too much for the party leadership. In any case, I’m curious what will happen after this. One thing is certain: it is time to strengthen the hands of the police. However, this is more difficult than one would think. First of all, the laws were formulated twenty years ago in such a way that they give very little power to the police. Second, we saw what Krisztina Morvai and her friends could do. By now the police are simply insecure. They don’t know what they can do and what they can’t. It would be time to change the laws, but unfortunately one needs a two-thirds majority. Perhaps this editorial is the first signal that Fidesz is willing to reconsider its opposition to changing the laws.