The Jobbik candidate won the mayoral elections in Gyöngyöspata

A local by-election normally doesn't exactly make headlines. But the election of a new mayor in Gyöngyöspata yesterday was no ordinary local affair. You may recall that it was in the village of Gyöngyöspata that a couple of neo-Nazi militias decided to put the fear of God into the local Gypsy population in March and April. I wrote about the events in this village in the northeastern corner of Hungary earlier.

For a good couple of weeks the Hungarian police did nothing to put an end to the situation. Therefore, an American businessman, Richard Field, with the help of the Hungarian Red Cross arranged the evacuation of Roma women and children from the beleaguered village. The neo-Nazi Jobbik party took advantage of the situation and organized a "pro-Magyar" mass demonstration. 

By that time the mayor, who had enjoyed the trust of the Gypsy community, had had enough. Claiming ill health, he resigned. Thus came yesterday's by-election. Originally eight people announced their candidacy: seven "independents" and one who was the official candidate of Jobbik. Among the "independents" was Tamás Esze, the commander of Véderő (Defense Force), one of the two paramilitary organizations that invaded the village last April. Another independent was Mrs. Ferenc Matalik, the deputy mayor of Gyöngyöspata, who, as everybody in the village knew, was Fidesz's favorite. The third independent was a young Roma man, János Farkas, Jr., who the night before the elections announced his withdrawal from the race.

There are 300 eligible Gypsy voters in the village and even if all 300 had voted for János Farkas he couldn't have won the elections. Thus, the Roma community made the decision to support Mrs. Matalik, whom everybody in the village liked. They hoped that with this move they could prevent Jobbik's candidate from winning the race. The Gypsies interviewed before the elections were all certain that Matalik would win. Well, it didn't work out that way.

Normally very few people vote at by-elections, but in Gyöngyöspata most people, Roma and non-Roma, seemed to have realized the importance of this election. More than 60% of the eligible voters turned up. Oszkár Juhász, the Jobbik candidate, won with 33.8% of the votes, which meant 433 votes. Mrs. Matalik ended up second with 333 votes (26%), and Tamás Esze, the commander of Véderő, received 134 votes (10.5%). Thus the far-right actually received 567 votes (44.3%). This is very high indeed.

How did Jobbik achieve this victory over the allegedly independent Fidesz candidate? First of all, Oszkár Juhász conducted an effective and well organized campaign. Yet the local Gypsy community didn't think he had a chance because, as it turned out, people who had already decided to vote for Jobbik's candidate didn't share their secret with anyone. The word in the village was that Mrs. Matalik would be the winner. According to some observers even Juhász seemed to be surprised at his success.

Most likely the Roma population supported Mrs. Matalik, but then what happened? The Gypsy leaders in town claim that out of the 300 eligible voters 217 went and voted. Does this mean that only 116 non-Roma cast their votes for Mrs. Matalik? Magdolna Bernáth, another independent candidate, who ended up third, garnered 274 votes (21.4%).

It is interesting to compare the results of yesterday's by-election with last October's local election results. Actually more people voted this time than in October when only 55.43% of the eligible voters participated. Then, the same Oszkár Juhász, as a Jobbik candidate, received only 68 votes! No wonder that he was somewhat surprised at the stunning results yesterday.

Gábor Vona, the chairman of Jobbik, is ecstatic. According to him, "Jobbik defeated Fidesz and terror." He predicted that the Jobbik mayor of Gyöngyöspata will make a model village out of the place. Vona talked about the arrogance of Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, the unconcern of Viktor Orbán, the primitiveness of the Defense Force, and the stomach-turning American behavior. This last reference is to Richard Field, who has done a lot to help the Hungarian Roma community.

The new mayor promised to follow the example of Tiszavasvár, where a Jobbik candidate won the race in last fall's local elections. He promised the creation of new jobs in the village, but he didn't want to elaborate on the subject for the time being. Index, the on-line newspaper, seems to know that Jobbik and Oszkár Juhász are thinking in terms of Turkish and Iranian investors. There has been some talk about a factory producing adobe bricks. Not too original. Hungarian Gypsies were known for their skills in making these bricks (téglavető cigányok) in the past. As for the Iranian investors, the news might actually be more than idle talk. Not long ago I read on the Fars News Agency's website that Tehran is ready to further expand its ties with Budapest. This is most likely a response to a letter sent by János Martonyi to the foreign minister of Iran in which he expressed his appreciation for Tehran's cooperation with the European Union during Hungary's presidency.

MSZP's reaction to the outcome of the Gyöngyöspata election was an announcement that it resulted from Fidesz's overly cozy relations with Jobbik. I don't think that this is the real problem. Instead, I believe that the economic situation, especially in this part of the country, is such that the people in these villages are really desperate. A majority of them voted for Fidesz, like everywhere in the country, and hoped that practically overnight, just as Fidesz promised before the elections, all their problems would be over. The situation, if possible, is worse today than it was a year and a half ago.

Although one shouldn't generalize from one by-election, especially not in a place like Gyöngyöspata, the results there are a warning sign. And not only to Fidesz.

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Paul
Guest

Accepting Éva’s caveats, this still supports the feedback we’ve been getting from friends and family in the east.
Fidesz is losing support quite rapidly amongst those who voted for OV for the first time last year and who believed the promises of instant changes for the better. But those lost voters aren’t switching to the left. Most of them are just giving up – but a sizeable proportion are taking the next, inevitable, step of hoping that Jobbik can do what OV failed to deliver.
As I’ve said several times on here already, if the left/liberal opposition doesn’t get its act together very quickly, the next election will see a Jobbik opposition.
The extreme, nationalist right running the country, with the loony extreme right as their only real opposition.
What a bleak future for Hungary.

Paul
Guest

And as for Richard Field, I was talking to some friends of ours today who know him pretty well. They report that he was so frightened by the intimidation he experienced after his humanitarian actions (threatening calls in the middle of the night, etc) that he fled to the USA.
According to our friends, he is a very tough guy who normally fears nobody, but, so feirce was the reaction, that he was visibly shaken. At one point he asked our friends if his family could shelter in their house, but they had to turn him down as they feared for the safety of their own children if the house should be attacked.
Welcome to the new Hungary.

Member

“As I’ve said several times on here already, if the left/liberal opposition doesn’t get its act together very quickly, the next election will see a Jobbik opposition.”
..or a Jobbik government.

Paul
Guest

Of topic (sorry) – can someone explain the background to the new changes in the media law passed today? (see http://www.bbj.hu/politics/house-passes-multitude-of-amendments-to-media-law_58943)
Is this undoing the changes requested by the EU (were those changes ever made?) – if not, why are they changing a law that’s only 6 months old?

Jano
Guest
“MSZP’s reaction to the outcome of the Gyöngyöspata election was an announcement that it resulted from Fidesz’s overly cozy relations with Jobbik.” Are they really unable to get detached from the same old Mantra? I recommend some reprograming during the regenerative cycle of these MSZP borg-drones. Our opposition is just as pathetic as our government. No wonder Jobbik is making such a progress, they are the only ones talking on a language that these desperate people understand. “I don’t think that this is the real problem. Instead, I believe that the economic situation, especially in this part of the country, is such that the people in these villages are really desperate. A majority of them voted for Fidesz, like everywhere in the country, and hoped that practically overnight, just as Fidesz promised before the elections, all their problems would be over. The situation, if possible, is worse today than it was a year and a half ago.” Excellent assessment finally. This is what I’ve been saying since ages in connection with the Gipsy problem and Jobbik. Actually this is how Jobbik was born and grew to it’s current form. Too bad the Hungarian liberals spent this time using Jobbik to… Read more »
szabad-magyar
Guest

it is bad that the jobbik can still participate in elections with its dumb propaganda slogans.
it could be the easiest task to ruin the reputation of such a lousy organization.
a small team of candid journalists should focus on their murderous stance.
where is our karl pfeifer in hungarian colors?

GW
Guest

Paul:
We really need a translation of those amendments. By making the media-code penalties collectible as taxes, it sounds an awful lot like they are attempting to criminalize administrative code violations. Definite echoes of Soviet-bloc days.

NWO
Guest
Vast parts of Hungary have become almost completely de-industrialized. With no job prospects, extremely poor quality of education and really no realistic reason to believe the situation will get anything but worse, it is not surprising that the level of radical political behavior is on the increase. Sorry to say it, but the pat 20 years of economic policy and more generally domestic policy has exacerbated this situation. In particular, the MSZP with their support concentrated in cities did not focus at all on this trend. While most of us know that Jobbik does not offer any real solutions, they at least have the ability to articulate the frustrations and fears of the people and provide easy slogans and scapegoats. To turn this trend around would require massive improvement in the economic prospects of the region and a significant investment in human capital (especially the young), neither of these things has any real chance of occurring. As such, I believe much of the countryside (particularly in the East) will remain fertile territory for radical political parties. Whether this will be enough to vault Jobbik in to the leading opposition party or something more is not clear. I assume one of… Read more »
Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Unfortunately, as Fidesz looses some popular support, which is inevitable in every 4 year political cycle, the already radicalized supporters are turning even further right. I am afraid that in 4 or 8 years we will see a Jobbik or a Fidesz-Jobbik coalition government. The lack of a centrist political movement will leave the country dangerously divided, even more than it is now.
I truly hope I am wrong…

florian
Guest

It just gets worse.
The mayor now plans “patrols” around the village. http://www.politics.hu/20110719/new-mayor-plans-armed-patrols-in-gyongyospata/
Strangely no mention of this worrying turn on the BBC (not impressed by their correspondent’s coverage of Hungary).
Hello Johnny! Where are you?

Member

Oszkar Juhasz and his party are definitely fascists but he is not stupid. Few days before the elections Juhasz got a call from Jozsef Balazs, the county’s FIDESZ mucky-muck (FIDESZ MP). Balazs threatened Juhasz that if he wins Gyongyospata will not receive any government grants. The reason is that Juhasz published something about Balazs the he didn’t like. Juhasz recorded the whole phone converstaion and it got published on the internet. I think the genius in this is that with this Juhasz probably will get a blank check from the FIDESZ in exchange of letting this slide. In the US Balazs would have been bumped from office if not jailed. In Planet Hungary Circus he’ll survive. I bet in 5 bucks.

Member

Off-off topic from Planet Hungary Circus.
It seems this Strasbourg thing has a potential:
http://wires.univision.com/english/article/2011-07-19/rights-court-clears-hungarian-buff
The “insult” happened 3 years ago. I wonder what would happen now if somebody would say something like this. Jail?

Member

“Strangely no mention of this worrying turn on the BBC (not impressed by their correspondent’s coverage of Hungary).”
Thorpe was, of course, the journalist the regime turned to when there was the Gyöngyöspata evacuation-weekend break. They used him to “put the record” straight, hoping that the weight of the BBC’s man on the ground (or at least in Budapest) would stem the negative tide of media coverage that morning- to their immense irritation it didn’t.
Nick Thorpe has been assiduously courted by Fidesz for some time now in an attempt to counterbalance the almost 100% negative coverage from the other western journalists (eg those working for The Economist, WSJ, Der Spiegel).
He is also occasionally seen being wined and dined by the lower-rank Fidesz apparachniks and already had an overly romantic view of the Young Democrats (sic) coloured by his memories when he first met them in the late 80s.
Nothing inherently wrong with all that…normally… with a “normal” journalist working for a “normal” media outlet but the BBC’s Charter and self-proclaimed “independence” should make him more neutral.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Re Oneill’s post. This is very much I have heard from a Hungarian journalist who knows him well. I also received information about the dining and wining. Apparently it was common practice of Fidesz every time there came a new foreign correspondent.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Paul: “According to our friends, he is a very tough guy who normally fears nobody, but, so feirce was the reaction, that he was visibly shaken.”
I bet the real reason for his ‘fear’ was that the parliamentary committee set to investigate the Gyöngyöspata case wants to question him.
Do you think the USA would have welcomed a ‘media coup’ based entirely on deliberate lies by a foreigner, stationed there, against the government?

Member

@JB (or Simon) “Do you think the USA would have welcomed a ‘media coup'”
Nobody would give a damn. It’s a free country. It would be like “Please stay and give more money to the bus companies!”
Welcome back, JB! I know you’re a trooper but you don’t have to comment retroactively on the past weeks posts.

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