I wasn't planning to write another piece today, but I simply must write about this first day of the new session in parliament. It was jammed full with absolutely incredible events.
Vona's vest. Everybody wanted to know whether Gábor Vona would dare do what he had been promising to do: take the oath of office in the vest of the Hungarian Guard. And if he does, what will happen? Constitutional lawyers came up with their varied suggestions about one could do in such a case. As usual no two of them could agree on a constitutional and legal way of handling this business. Police can't enter the building, but there are guards who can lead the recalcitrant members out of the chamber. Letters were written to László Sólyom asking him to warn Vona ahead of time.
Then came the first piece of news. Great relief. Vona must have changed his mind. He was wearing an ordinary jacket even though under the jacket there was the infamous vest. Optimistic commentators concluded that Vona had come to his senses and would not go against the general consensus that a member of parliament shouldn't wear the uniform of an illegal organization because that is against the law.
Well, the rejoicing was premature. In the last moment, just before the beginning of the oath-taking ceremony, Vona removed his jacket and took the oath of office in the forbidden outfit.
He wasn't led out, and the rest of the members stayed and watched. So basically nothing happened except that Sólyom later warned Vona in stern terms about the illegality of his act and that his oath is thus not valid.
Consequences? Most likely there will be none. János Lázár, head of the Fidesz caucus, announced that the problem doesn't concern the parliament or János Horváth, the oldest member, who was presiding. The Bajnai government is still in office. They should do something.
I might mention that on the back of the vest there is a depiction of a lion. I didn't know the significance of this lion, but as usual in the digital age it didn't take long to fill this knowledge gap. I found a fascinating article on the topic by Júlia Lévai in the Hungarian-language online paper www.galamus.hu. The accompanying pictures themselves are fabulous.
Oath to the Holy Crown. Another part of Jobbik's agenda for the day was a separate Jobbik ceremony prior to the opening of parliament. The Holy Crown, mistakenly called the Crown of St. Stephen, was dragged by the Hungarian Nazis to Germany in 1944-45. There it came into the possession of the United States where it remained until 1978 when it was returned to Hungary. At that time it was placed in the National Museum. It was on display there until Viktor Orbán got the bright idea of moving it to the parliamentary building on the occasion of the millennial celebrations on January 1, 2000. It is actually an odd idea to keep a royal crown in the parliament of a republic, and there were plenty of jokes about Orbán's ambitions concerning the crown.
Jobbik and other far-right organizations are mesmerized by the crown and its alleged significance. There is no time here to go into the details, but these people subscribe to the so-called Theory of the Holy Crown according to which the crown itself embodies the territorial integrity of historic Hungary. Thus, this oath-taking that we might find ridiculous is a deadly serious business to these guys, replete with revisionist overtones.
Again, the general consensus was that Jobbik shouldn't be able to take a separate oath, especially not to the Holy Crown. Some legal scholars claim that the guard of the parliament could have prevented the ceremony, but nobody tried. In this respect I found the attitude of the leader of LMP's caucus the most bizarre. According to him these symbolic gestures mean nothing. One should worry only about their ideology. As if the two could be separated. Moreover, added the great liberal, if they want to do something like that, it's fine. They don't hurt anyone with it! Every time I hear something like that from an LMP politician I really wonder whether the liberal voters who supported them didn't make a huge mistake.
The oath itself. According to custom, the youngest member of the house reads the text of the oath. However, there was a bit of a problem. The youngest member is a university student and the spokesman of Jobbik. Well, not even Fidesz wanted to have Dóra Dúró read the oath. Since the oldest member belongs to Fidesz and he was the one who was in charge today, he got the job of reading the oath. That was easy.
The problem of the chairmanship of the committee on national security. It seems that after all MSZP will win the post. Pál Schmitt, in my opinion correctly, decided that in the past it was always the largest opposition party that provided the chairman and that the largest party is MSZP. It seems that saner people in Fidesz don't equate Jobbik with MSZP as Péter Harrach, head of the Christian Democratic caucus, did: to the greatest surprise of the reporter who interviewed him, he said that having an MSZP chairman of the national security committee poses just as great a danger as if it were in Jobbik hands. (Harrach was minister of social and family affairs between 1998 and 2002.)
And finally. The latest piece of news is that after all Gordon Bajnai didn't run away from his duties as prime minister. He instructed Imre Forgács, minister of justice in charge of the police, to start proceedings against Gábor Vona because he wore a Hungarian Guard vest while taking his parliamentary oath. The last time the government brought charges in an outlawed Hungarian Guard uniform case, they lost. Perhaps this time the prosecutors will be more courageous, especially after hearing Sólyom's serious warning.