A quick look at the opening of the Hungarian Parliament

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.Magyar garda-2

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.Magyar gard melleny-1 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.

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Paul
Guest

Eva, you are usually so tough on fidesz, yet see no problem with them denying the youngest member of parliament their traditional right? For purely political purposes? If you were able to put your hatred for jobbik aside, you would admit that this was a pretty dirty and arrogant move. Her comment was however quite clever, she said graciously: “The important thing is not who reads but who keeps the oath”.
Vona Gabor showed the kind of courage and conviction we could never expect from most of hungary’s politicians, and he was rewarded for it. Personally im still trying to figure out whose “human rights” are being violated by the sight of this vest. Or was the decision to ban it merely political – in which case, good on jobbik for resisting the politicisation of the judiciary. the court ruling against the guard was a political farce, by anyone’s standards, and will continue to be used to jobbik’s advantage.
you also didnt mention the singing of the szekely anthem in parliament, which i found to be incredibly touching. the mszp, naturally, were not amused by such a showing of national solidarity.

John T
Guest

Its surprises me just how often Hungarians behave like sulky, immature little children. Looks like Jobbik is a natural home for for this type of behaviour. Paul, you may be inspired by Mr Vona’s actions, but the reality is that its all rather pathetic. Just goes to show that Hungarian politics is never going to emerge out of its mediocrity. What disappoints me is there is no sensible, genuine talent ready to come to the fore. But the more one looks at Hungarian society in general these days, the more one just sees malaise and drift.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
Paul: “Eva, you are usually so tough on fidesz, yet see no problem with them denying the youngest member of parliament their traditional right?” You will be surprised. I see problems but the problem is deeper than what Fidesz did in this case. The problem is a very great dilemma of democracy itself. Because of the “democracy” of the democratic system it is close to impossible to stop forces participating in the democratic process. Thus, parties, like Jobbik that is an enemy of democracy can end up in parliament. Of course, there are other democratic countries in Europe where Jobbik would have been barred from political participation a long time ago. But in Hungary thanks to Fidesz the courts would have never acted forcefully against Jobbik because at that point Fidesz thought that it wouldn’t be a threat to them. Once Jobbik is in parliament the problem is becoming really thorny. Should the oath be read by a Jobbik representative when the party actually doesn’t believe in the very constitution the oath refers to. Or, when the head of the party breaks the law by wearing an outlawed uniform. The lawmaker breaks the law at the opening ceremony of parliament.… Read more »
Peter Koroly
Guest
Paul tries to tell us, that Jobbik is just a normal right wing party. But that is not the case, there is no other right wing party in Western Europe with a paramilitary organisation of its own. One of the basic characteristics of Jobbik is it’s vehement antisemitism and antiziganism. The background to this is that the majority suffers not only from low economic income, but also from lack of security and status. This has created a great deal of frustation among large sections of population and those generate aggressive sentiments. Jobbik has managed to mobilise part of those people. However many of Jobbik’s voters will see – I hope very soon – that Vona and his ilk cannot make their life better. The fact that president L. Solyom has voiced his opinion about Jobbik and Vona is very important. He did not always speak, when one expected him to speak. This time he found the right words. Unfortunately for Hungary there exists a second possiblity, that those who expect V. Orbán and Fidesz to make a revolution and keep his promises to everybody will be disappointed and some of them turn to Jobbik. In the near future, we’ll see… Read more »
Öcsi
Guest

Paul wrote: “Vona Gabor showed the kind of courage and conviction we could never expect from most of hungary’s politicians, and he was rewarded for it.”
Courage and conviction, eh? That kind of stuff moves you, no doubt. It leaves me empty because I’ve read about rulers with courage and conviction. Pol Pot, Stalin and Hitler had both courage and conviction. And they made the world a better place, right?
I’ll give you some quotes you can ponder.
“I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.”
— Pol Pot
“Convictions are more dangerous foes of truth than lies.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
“Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.”
— Charlie Chaplin

John T
Guest

Although Vona of course wasn’t elected as the winner in his constituency. He only made it into Parliament because he was at the top of the Jobbik list.

Odin's Lost eye
Guest
Professor you say *** “Once Jobbik is in parliament the problem is becoming really thorny. Should the oath be read by a Jobbik representative when the party actually doesn’t believe in the very constitution the oath refers to. Or, when the head of the party breaks the law by wearing an outlawed uniform. The lawmaker breaks the law at the opening ceremony of parliament”. Oink! Now thereby hangs a tail! If it is decided that Jobbik is a de facto Fascist organisation or at least a an anti-democratic one, then it is an illegal organisation. If any one from Fidesz/MZSP ever reads this blog they will know why. They should remember the treaties of accession to the E.U. and of Paris (1948). If a member of an outfit which is forbidden under the law were to take speak an oath then would that oath be valid? If that oath is invalid would the laws passed by the body in whose name it was spoken be valid etc? When the law makers themselves break the law what price the law? Öcsi you have mentioned three of the nastiest little toads –perhaps in all of human existence-. You are probably too young… Read more »
John T
Guest

Odin’s Lost eye – This was how he faired in the constituency vote:
Heves – Gyöngyös
1) Balázs József – Fidesz/KDNP 12,226
2) Dr. Magda Sándor – MSZP 9,121
3) Vona Gábor – Jobbik 5,460 (20.37%)
This was on the 2nd round. So hardly a ringing endorsement of him as an individual.

John T
Guest

This is from the MTI websites English pages on the Fidesz reaction to Mr Vona’s stunt – “Szijjarto called it narrow-minded and harmful that “many tried to divert the assessment of the revolutionary parliament’s first session to the issue of a vest.”
So Fidesz clearly aren’t bothered about upholding the constitution – 1-0 to Vona. He has called Fidesz’s bluff and they have let him get away with it. Pathetic.

PassingStranger
Guest

You might have added that the last Hungarian politician to swear an oath on the Crown was Ferenc Szalasi.

PassingStranger
Guest

Eva, a better parallel than the Nazis is another Hungarian party that received 800,000 votes at one time: was the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) in the 1945 elections. At 16,96% of the votes then almost the same as Jobbik’s current share.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Passing Stranger: “You might have added that the last Hungarian politician to swear an oath on the Crown was Ferenc Szalasi.”
Yes, I should have.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Passing Stranger: “a better parallel than the Nazis is another Hungarian party that received 800,000 votes at one time: was the Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) in the 1945 elections. At 16,96% of the votes then almost the same as Jobbik’s current share.”
Another very good point.

Joe Simon
Guest

I am quite sure that the Jobbik will always be a fringe party, a reaction to the grave problems Hungary faces. Getting tough with the gypsies is always popular with many voters. I have read Debreczeni’s first biography of Orbán. He is committed to democracy. He had showed great deal of ccourage to bring about the fall of communism. Yes, he gives the imoression of being a young man in a hurry. Hopefully power will mature him more. Remember when Pierre Trudeau wanted to abolish the monarchy in Canada? He had slowed down considerably. As to Slovakia,
he is on the right track, showing some resolution which was sadly lacking in the previous government. You are accusing him of not being diplomatic, etc. Well, did Fico consult Hungary before bringing in their language laws and ‘nyelv-rendőrség’?
It is high time for some one to show some guts on this issue of dual citizenship.
Joe Simon, Diósgyőr

Joe Simon
Guest

Also, it is kind of silly to compare Vona
to Szállasi. Two completely different historic circumstances. The majority of Hungarians would reject such an alternative. Orbán’s two-thirds majority
should speak for itself.

Bela Varga
Guest

Seems like the champions of tolerance and free speech masquerading as moderators at this wonderful site got lost again in bushes around here. Excellent job!

Bela Varga
Guest

Would it be too much of a hassle to show my previous comment as well? Come on you’ve gotta be larger than that.

Kolarek Moralek
Guest

You show what you are: an intolerant censor.

Kolarek Moralek
Guest

By comparing Vona to Szalasi, and Jobbik to the Arrow Cross, you relatize the Holocaust. As a third generation survivor, I will take you to court.

Kolarek Moralek
Guest

Sorry for the typo: you relativize the Holocaust.

Tomreal
Guest

Hungary is not threated by multiculturalism but they anyway made the right choice and voted for Jobbik. I hope that other Europeans do same in the next elections before it’s too late.

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