István Balsai (Fidesz) has had an interesting political career. He began in MDF and soon enough had an important post: he became minister of justice (1990-1994). After the lost elections Balsai remained a member of parliament and sat in the MDF delegation. In 1998 MDF and with it Balsai managed to get into parliament with the help of Fidesz. Four years of coalition taught Ibolya Dávid a thing or two and she refused to continue the partnership. In 2004 there was a parting of the ways and a fair number of MDF MPs decided that their parliamentary seats were more important than independence from Fidesz. A group of MDF politicians who called themselves the Lakitelek Group (Lakitelek was the place where MDF came into being) left MDF and, after spending six months among "the independents," moved over to Fidesz. Balsai was among them.
Since then he has been a faithful Fidesz member. If I had to place him within the party I would put him somewhere to the far right. One thing is sure, he is ready to do any dirty work Viktor Orbán gives him, and he perfectly fits the picture of an inquisitor. Originally three men were chosen to carry out the program of retribution: István Balsai, Ferenc Papcsák, and Gyula Budai. My impression at the time was that Balsai would serve as the chief inquisitor, Papcsák would be in charge of investigating the crimes of the last eight years, and Budai would investigate the casino affair at Sukoró. Since then the roles have changed somewhat. Papcsák decided that he might be a target himself given his less than pure professional history. He chose to drop out of the picture and continue his political career as mayor of one of the Budapest districts. Budai took over Papcsák's job and, as we know from this blog, he is expanding his horizons: he is investigating philosophers, historians, everybody. Balsai has concentrated on the events of late 2006 when there were several bloody riots in Budapest.
Balsai seems to be convinced that during the socialist-liberal government there was a "dictatorship" in Hungary. The subcommittee investigating Ferenc Gyurcsány's role in the events found nothing that would implicate Gyurcsány in the "police brutality" that allegedly took place in Budapest. However, that doesn't bother Balsai who keeps repeating that the police "couldn't have acted so brutally without … political demand." Never mind that the Hungarian police were a great deal less brutal than most police forces in the world when they are under attack.
In a democratic country one rarely sees the kind of falsification of history that is going on in Hungary at the moment. According to the Fidesz version the peaceful pedestrians were wantonly attacked by the police at the order of the dictator Ferenc Gyurcsány. Well, here are two pictures:
You may notice in the second photo that the "peaceful passerby" is in the middle of trying to hit a policeman on the head. In fact, during the disturbances more policemen were injured than rioters, and very few people were convicted in court.
Now Balsai wants to undo these convictions. He came up with a plan. In all cases where the evidence came from a policeman the verdict will be nullified. That is, if parliament approves his proposal. In plain language, the testimony of a policeman is not trustworthy. When it was pointed out to the former laywer Balsai that such a decision would shake the very foundation of trust in the police force, his answer was that his proposal affects only those few weeks. Prior to or after those few weeks the police could be trusted. The trade union representing the police is not satisfied with this explanation. Neither are the judges whose decisions he is planning to annul. Another former minister of justice warned that if parliament approves the proposal, "the state is commiting suicide."
LMP as usual is trying to stand somewhere between Fidesz and MSZP on this issue. Their legal experts came up with another solution. Instead of nullification they suggest amnesty. That at least doesn't question the independence and professional competence of the judges. Some of the judges thought that might be a solution, but Balsai disagrees and claims that the judges would opt for amnesty because "they don't want to work." As for LMP's amnesty suggestion I have very serious reservations.
Balsai's imagination knows no limits. Most likely he learned in school, just as I did, that at the beginning of the twentieth century and between the two world wars the demonstrations organized by the Hungarian Social Democratic Party were met with police brutality. In those days the riot policemen used the flat side of their swords against the demonstrators. What do I hear from Balsai: "Many thousand policemen were let loose who with the flat side of their swords beat the demonstrators." Oh, yes, swords in hand during a police attack in 2006! It would be laughable if it weren't so serious.
But I left the best to last. Balsai claimed yesterday on MTV's "Ma Reggel," the early morning political show, that he "encountered data and information that are truly frightening. Among other things, the units involved were trained, indoctrinated, and told that they have reasons to be afraid of the masses, because the masses–and we are talking about armless demonstrators–will take hostages from among them. Moreover, they were told that the demonstrators will attack the families of the policemen. Astonishing, but I have information that more appropriately belongs in witches' tales (boszorkánymesék)."
I'm asking in all seriousness: are these people normal?