On Monday we learned that a signed document exists between one of Hungary's extreme right wing parties, Jobbik, and one of the two police unions called Tettrekész Magyar Rendőrség Szakszervezete (TMRSZ). TMRSZ (in English, Resolute Trade Union of the Hungarian Police) is a fairly new organization. According to Szentkorona Rádió (Holy Crown Radio, a far right station) it was established in 2004 when 34 policemen in Tolna County had had enough of the "socialist" police leadership. However, the trade union's by-laws seem to have been drawn up more recently, on January 1, 2008. This trade union already has, according to its homepage, 5,310 members. That is a little over 10% of the Hungarian police force. The members are mostly young men and women whose political views are anything but moderate. The presence of the red and white stripes on the shield of their logo says a lot. The mainstream trade union in the force is the Független Rendőrszakszervezet (FRSZ) that, as its website proudly announces, was the first independent trade union of any police force among the former socialist countries. It was established on July 5, 1989.
The person who is behind the organization of this competing trade union is Judit Szima, a lieutenant colonel who has made no secret of her political views. Her name first surfaced when in the fall of 2006 she called on policemen to refuse to obey orders they considered unlawful. This was when the extreme right first noticed Szima and brought her up as an example of a truly patriotic member of the police force. Szima's political activities were eventually also noticed by the police chief, József Bencze, who warned her several times to refrain from political announcements not only in her own name but in the name of the organization she was heading. The union's website is full of objectionable articles and ads for books written by the extremists. The Budapest Military Court has become interested in Judit Szima and her trade union; at the moment they are investigating her activities.
But the last straw was the announcement that Judit Szima is fourth on Jobbik's list of contenders for the European Union parliament. The Hungarian constitution is fairly clear on this front. No member of the police force or the military can engage in political activities. Gábor Vona, head of Jobbik, originally claimed that he asked Szima as a private person and not as a member of the police force or head of a police union. That didn't wash. Bencze insisted that for the duration of the campaign Szima can't be active in the police force. Whether she can continue her role in the union is not at all clear.
There is another matter that is even more problematic. Jobbik and Szima's trade union negotiated a "professional agreement" between the party and the union. What kind of "professional cooperation" can exist between a party and a police trade union? According to the agreement, the party will consult with the trade union on policies dealing with the maintenance of law and order. TMRSZ, for its part, agreed to help to put together Jobbik's "law and order" program. Now to me this constitutes political activity forbidden by the Hungarian constitution. MSZP doesn't seem to be as sure as I am. Upon hearing of the agreement, the party asked Tibor Draskovics, the minister in charge of the police force, to "investigate" whether the agreement is unconstitutional. SZDSZ is of a different opinion. Péter Gusztos considers the agreement unconstitutional and added that the whole development might be a serious risk as far as national security is concerned. I side with Gusztos in this matter. Just now, with the growth of the far right all over the world, when there is good reason to believe that far-right organizations in Hungary might even have military training camps, how can a democratic country tolerate the infiltration of the far right into the police force? Even Fidesz decided that this was too much. After all, lately Orbán and his colleagues have discovered that Jobbik, which originally seemed like a pliable youth organization under the thumb of the party, has become a dangerous competitor. János Lázár (Fidesz), head of a parliamentary committee dealing with law and order, announced that "in Hungary it is not permissible to use the police force as a political weapon. The constitution expressly forbids this." So it seems to me that Fidesz's point of view is quite close to that of SZDSZ. Even the emblem of the police force illustrates the the apolitical ideal of the organization. In addition to the spokesmen of the political parties, the secretary of FRSZ, the mainstream police trade union, also expressed his misgivings. Géza Pongó said that he considered the activities of TMRSZ unconstitutional and found it worrisome that the "radicalization" of society had reached the police force itself. Pongó announced what few people had the guts to say: TMRSZ is an arm of Jobbik.
While politicians find the connection between TMRSZ and Jobbik unconstitutional, the police and the minister are "investigating." If we are lucky, by early next week there will be a verdict. Although for some politicians and most people with ordinary common sense Szima's association with Jobbik and whole political ethos of TMRSZ constitutes "political activity," according to some legal experts the constitution is not clear on the subject. The constitution talks only about "political role," "political activity" of members of the armed forces. The question is whether a "professional agreement" or "cooperation" falls into this category. Knowing Hungarian jurists, they might consider a professional agreement with a political party not a "political activity." They seem to stick with the letter of the law, and because the framers of the constitution didn't have the foresight in 1989 to include the words "professional agreement," who knows! Anything is possible.