Farkas Bethlen, an independent (sic) politician

A familiar name, isn't it? Yes, he is a true Bethlen but unfortunately neither as talented nor as moderate as his most famous relative István Bethlen, prime minister of Hungary between 1921 and 1931, was. István Bethlen had the "privilege" of being hunted by the Germans and finally arrested by the Russians. He died in the Soviet Union in 1946.

Even Farkas's grandfather was a respectable politician. Béla Bethlen was appointed "governor" of the part of Transylvania that was returned to Hungary as a result of the Second Viennese Award. While Béla Bethlen remained in Romania, his son, Farkas's father, moved to Hungary where Farkas Bethlen, currently the mayor of Verőce, a small village just north of Budapest, was born.

The Bethlen family cannot be terribly proud of this one. Without going into the gory details, Farkas Bethlen mismanaged the finances of his village terribly; by late 2007 it was close to bankruptcy. The meager resources of the place were spent on grandiose statues, including a bust of Albert Wass, a writer who died in the United States and who was considered a war criminal by the Romanians and was condemned to death in absentia. According to some there was no evidence against Wass but later in life, while in the United States, he was heavily involved with the Arrow Cross Movement, still alive abroad thanks to followers of Ferenc Szálasi who escaped from Hungary along with the retreating German troops.

Farkas Bethlen also liked statues with religious motifs and statues of Hungarian heroes. Every year one or two statues were erected. The inhabitants of the village were outraged when ten million forints were spent on a statue of Prince Géza, father of St. Stephen, on horseback. Although Bethlen managed to win in 2006 by a slim margin, most of the members of council were "liberals," acording to Bethlen. On paper they were all independent but obviously they had had enough of Farkas Bethlen's activities.

He took part in the demonstrations in front of Parliament in 2006 which eventually turned into a months-long camp-out of the most extreme elements. The predominantly Catholic inhabitants of the village were not too thrilled when the mayor passed the local school on to the Hungarian Reformed Church. And what was going on inside of the school didn't please everybody either: maps of Greater Hungary hung in the classrooms and the extreme right-wing group of László Toroczkai, The Sixty-Four Counties' Youth Organization, helped finance the school. At one point Farkas Bethlen was even caught stealing some roofing supplies from a neighbor. All in all, Farkas Bethlen is bad news.

Although on paper he is an independent candidate in the upcoming local elections, more and more signs point to a very close relationship between Bethlen and Jobbik. He is the patron of the Hungarian Island Festival organized by György Gyula Zagyva, currently the parliamentary candidate of Jobbik in the county of Csongrád. Bethlen and Vona are close allies and they gave speeches together in nearby Kókényesd. He had a run-in with the local Fidesz politicians because in Vác somebody plastered Bethlen's posters all over the door of the Fidesz headquarters.

Well, now comes the best. Somebody put up a short video on YouTube of a statement originally delivered at a regional television station. Bethlen's message is that democracy is against the natural order of things. After all, God created both man and the universe with "dictatorship" in mind. "Our toes, our hands, our lungs, our hearts, our kidneys cannot do whatever they want to do because what would happen in such a case? Man himself couldn't function. … Democracy is not a good system because everybody can interfere." According to Bethlen, the ideal state would be "a mixed, dictatorial democracy."

And he's supposed to be the brains of the operation?

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Veroce is also known as the town that hosts the ‘Magyar Sziget’, a self-proclaimed competitor to the ‘liberal’ ‘gay’, ‘immoral’ and ‘interationalist’ Sziget festival held anually in Budapest. It is organised by Torockai’s HVIM and, apparantly, Vona Gabor has also been spotted as a guest. It is purposely held anually in the week prior to Sziget in order to benefit from the publicity that festival generates. While Sziget attracts around 60.000 visitors per day, the Magyar Sziget
is a marginal affair, with around 3,000 visitors. The visitors at the Magyar Sziget are a mixed bunch: a significant minority of skinheads and neo nazis, sporting Hitler and Szalasi T – shirts, and one that memorably read ‘Zyklon-B’, and large majority of youths wearing greater Hungary T-shirts or t-shirts bearing the message ‘I am not a Tourist, I am Hungarian’. This sulky, angry crowd gets together there to ‘feel Hungarian’. Besides chanting political slogans during ‘national rock’ concerts, they visit lectures on ‘national’ topics and practice martial arts. It is a subculture, I cannot imagine this stuff becoming mainstream no matter how well Jobbik do, it is clear that ‘Sziget’ represents the real, modern Hungary.

Pete H.

As long we are on the subject of national festivals. Can anyone tell me about the politics (if there is any of significance) of the Nemzeti Vágta held in Budapest this June? I will be living in Budapest during that time and besides the entertainment, I was wondering what to expect.