The Hungarian government and the outside world

By now the Orbán government reacts absolutely hysterically to the widespread perception outside of Hungary that there is something very wrong in the country. The foreign media have a heyday: one horrendous piece of news after the other is reported all over the world, and the facts seem to direct attention to a government that is undemocratic and  Eurosceptic and that wants to build a disguised one-party system for years to come. The controversial media law is considered to be still unfinished business in Brussels, the new constitution has been received with horror, and just as The Washington Post predicted last summer Viktor Orbán has become a pariah outside of Hungary.

What is the answer of the Hungarian government to these criticisms? The Hungarian opposition is at fault. They are the ones who thanks to their international connections are fomenting anti-Hungarian feelings all over the world. Be it in the United States, Sweden, Germany, Austria, or even as far as Australia.

Now, after Gyöngyöspata, the government’s reaction is the same. The fault lies not with the government nor with the local police that was unable to keep order. No, they are innocent. In fact, there was no trouble at all in the village. Everything was quiet and peaceful, and the Roma had no reason to fear anything. The whole affair was the creation of outsiders who don’t like the current government.

Máté Kocsis, a name I’m sure we will hear a lot of in the future, is the Fidesz chairman of the parliamentary committee on defense and public order who announced Fidesz’s intention to create a sub-committee to investigate “who lied and why they lied that there had been an evacuation” of almost 300 Roma women and children. He specifically mentioned the importance of learning the exact role of the “American businessman who financed the election campaign of LMP.”

Máté Kocsis is only thirty years old, and until now he had no important political role. He is one of those political non-entities whom Viktor Orbán suddenly “discovers” and puts into important posititions practically overnight. He has a law degree from the Péter Pázmány Catholic University. I watched Olga Kálmán interview him on ATV. Although he didn’t strike me as a very skilled politician, he did manage to give a half-acceptable answer to Kálmán’s question about why the government waited so long to take steps against the neo-Nazi groups that showed up in Gyöngyöspata.

Kocsis also wants to uncover “the opposition parties’ responsibility for systematically ruining the country’s reputation.” According to him “it must be investigated in whose interest it is to run to the foreign media and give the impression that there is a situation in Hungary resembling civil war.” Surely, their goal is “to discredit the country abroad.”

What kind of a subcommittee does Kocsis have in mind? According to the appropriate paragraphs of the House rules it will have a Fidesz-KDNP majority, but Kocsis expects all parties to take part in the work of the subcommittee that might be created by mid-May. Surely, Jobbik will gladly join in. Thus there will be an overwhelming right-wing majority with perhaps a couple of MSZP and LMP members. MSZP hasn’t responded yet, but LMP apparently is willing to participate. This despite the fact that Richard Field, the American business man living in Hungary who organized the Roma evacuation and who is a supporter of LMP, addressed a letter to Kocsis in which he told him in no uncertain terms that he will not be part of “a show investigation.” According to Field the real facts of the evacuation are well documented.

Field reiterated in his letter to Kocsis that the evacuation of 276 Roma women and children before the Véderő’s military exercises was justified because on April 22 (Friday) not one policeman could be found in the village. He arrived in Gyöngyöspata at 7:30 in the morning without anyone checking his papers. The police arrived only after the 276 people had left the village in six buses.

He finished his letter to Kocsis by saying that “if as a result of my actions I damaged the international reputation of Hungary, a country I love, I’m truly sorry. However, if in the future I’m asked to help defend Hungarian citizens from fascist gangsters, I will not hesitate because the lives of Hungarian citizens are more important than the reputation of any government or party. If I managed to show to the Hungarians that freedom must be accompanied by the defense of the least fortunate members of society, then I will feel that my life was worthwhile.”

Jobbik followed the lead of Fidesz and decided to turn to the chief prosecutor’s office. They are especially interested in the role of Richard Field in the affair. For good measure they added the name of Ferenc Gyurcsány as well. What does Gyurcsány have to do with Gyöngyöspata? After reading an article by Júlia Lévai in entitled “Not Gypsy but Nazi question” he decided to transfer one million forints of his own money to the local Gypsy organization in case there is a need to evacuate the Roma from the village. Thus Field is not the only one guilty of spreading “rumors” but Gyurcsány as well because both men are misleading the world about the true situation in Gyöngyöspata where, according to the Hungarian government, everything was calm and where the government did everything in its power to keep order.

If Fidesz and the Orbán government asked me how to deal with the outside world, I would strongly advise them to stop blaming others for everything bad that happens in the country. First of all, there was extensive coverage of what has been going on in Gyöngyöspata ever since the beginning of March. The Hungarian government’s efforts to deny the very existence of trouble and to blame others for spreading “rumors” is more than ridiculous. The Orbán government’s reputation–which admittedly is becoming more tarnished by the day–is at stake. If they go on like this, foreign criticism of the Hungarian government will only intensify. Jerrold Post mentioned that some of those dictator-types have a distorted view of reality. I’m afraid this is the case in Budapest at the moment.

April 29, 2011