Prime Minister Gyurcsány stood alone in front of the parliament building Sunday morning and announced that the mob attack on a peaceful demonstration the day before was the last straw. Hungarian society has had enough. It is time to show that the majority will not tolerate a few thousand troublemakers’ constant threat to public peace and order. He suggested that on September 2 there should be a mass demonstration. In addition he asked the president, the speaker of the house, the chief justice of the constitutional court, the chief justice of the supreme court, and the chief prosecutor to get together with him to devise a course of action to put an end to lawlessness.
To tell you the truth I don’t believe that this is the right course of action. I simply don’t know what either a demonstration or a meeting of the chief dignitaries would achieve. I suspect mighty little. A lot of words, a few thousand people, a few thousand policemen defending the few thousand peaceful demonstrators and then comes October 23, 2008, and everything goes its merry way again. The parties will refuse to celebrate together, the government’s events will be attacked by the members of the same mob that attacked the gays on Saturday, and a totally demoralized police force will be standing there, meekly taking the verbal and physical abuse of the mob.
I rarely agree with anything that Viktor Orbán says, but this time he hit the nail on the head when he suggested that Ferenc Gyurcsány, instead of talking to the highest dignitaries of the land, should perhaps have a heart to heart with the chief of police. Of course what he neglected to add is that the totally demoralized state of the police force is mostly his and his party’s work. Ever since September-October 2006 there has been a systematic effort on the part of Fidesz through the activities of Krisztina Morvai to make the police a useless instrument. I’ll bet that if Orbán managed to take over the reins of government tomorrow Hungary would instantly have a police force whose members wouldn’t be spat on; no stones, no eggs, no cucumbers or tomatoes would be thrown at them. Or if somebody did any of these things he would be duly and severely punished. There would be no Krisztina Morvai to defend the “innocent and peaceful demonstrators” as she called people burning and turning over cars, driving an old tank, throwing bottles and stones at the police. For now, however, undermining the police and showing that this government cannot even provide domestic tranquility is part of the opposition’s political strategy.
Orbán and Fidesz get a lot of help in this endeavor from the courts and the prosecutors. It is impossible not to notice that the courts most of the time refuse to convict people whose actions in other countries would lead them straight to jail for a few years. If someone throws a Molotov cocktail into a room full of people, the police or the prosecutor’s office describes the act as a simple misdemeanor (garázdaság) or disorderly conduct (rendzavarás). And then comes the judge who either decides that the fellow is totally innocent and he is acquitted or, at most, he will have to pay a modest fine. The proper charge, of course, would have been attempted murder. If this had happened only once or twice one could say that this particular prosecutor or judge is incompetent. But when it happens over and over again, one becomes a bit suspicious. Legal experts seem to be hesitant to call these obviously wrong decisions politically motivated. Very often they simply say that there is nothing wrong with the law but only with the interpretation. There is confusion in the heads of the judges when it comes to deciding the limits of freedom of speech, for example. A few months ago the courts decided that throwing eggs at people one doesn’t like is perfectly acceptable behavior: it is simply a form of freedom of expression. There were altogether 57 people who were arrested during the disturbances on Saturday and seven of them had to appear today in the Budapest courthouse. They were all accused of throwing eggs. Four were fined and three were acquitted. It seems from today’s ruling that once the police tell the demonstrators to cease and desist, throwing eggs is no longer protected as freedom of expression; rather the action falls under the category of disorderly conduct.
Anyway, Orbán is right. Gyurcsány and his minister in charge of the police should have a little chat with the chief of police and tell him that his men ought to stand upright and not allow themselves to be intimidated by either Fidesz or Krisztina Morvai. (And perhaps they need still more training.) However, he cannot do the same with the “independent” judiciary. The only hope is that perhaps the new, still not nominated chief justice and some of the big brass will realize that judicial decisions that tolerate force against Hungarian citizens and Hungarian institutions are a threat to Hungarian democracy.
I will attach a picture that speaks volumes about the state of the Hungarian police. It is embarrassing.