I feel that I have to return to the case of Ibolya Dávid, chairman of MDF, and Károly Herényi, head of the party's parliamentary caucus, for at least two reasons. The first is the testimony of Péter Boross, former prime minister and one of the important players in MDF, at the trial yesterday. The second is the physical attack on Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy, former spokesman of MDF, by an unknown assailant on a Budapest streetcar.
Boross's testimony surprised me to no end. It is a well known fact that Boross, who originally was a great supporter of Ibolya Dávid, eventually turned against her and left the party with some fanfare. In earlier years he was a favorite of liberal media outlets because of his warnings against extremism. Boross, who has a law degree although he never practiced, is a history buff. During his interviews he often went on and on about some fine points of Hungarian politics in the 1880s or the sorry end of extreme right propaganda in Hungarian newspapers in the 1930s. And the reporters, some of whom had no clue what he was really talking about, listened to him with great reverence. He acquired sage status, but not for long. As soon as Fidesz won the elections Boross became a great fan of Viktor Orbán. He even became, at least on paper, an adviser to Viktor Orbán on constitutional issues.
Boross apparently left MDF because in his eyes the party under Dávid's leadership was moving away from the center-right position. According to him, the party was becoming tainted with liberalism. His position was understandable given his own upbringing. He was born in 1928 and his formative years were spent in the Horthy regime. From his interviews it became evident that his family always supported the government party. The kind of conservatism he grew up on was a far cry from the modern Christian Democratic parties of Western Europe today. Thus, it is not surprising that Dávid's "reformed" MDF wasn't exactly to Boross's liking.
Perhaps Boross, who is an old-fashioned Hungarian gentleman, felt it his duty to defend a woman under attack. Whatever the case, at yesterday's hearing he stood by her and in my opinion helped Dávid's case immensely. The most revealing part of his testimony was his recollection of a conversation he had with Kornél Almássy before the election for the chairmanship of the party. Weeks before the election he tried to persuade Almássy not to run against Dávid. Boross asked him: "And what are these two billion forints that you will bring to MDF? Who is it who supports you financially?" The young politician only answered that he couldn't divulge the source of the money.
That is heavy stuff. To my knowledge until yesterday there was no talk in the courtroom about the two billion forints Almássy was offered by those who desperately wanted to remove Ibolya Dávid from the helm of MDF. But on the basis of the telephone conversation between János Tóth and Sándor Csányi it seems that the people in question had to be "Stumpf and his friends." (The Hungarian word was "Stumpfék."). That inexact word let István Stumpf off the hook. He could claim that he himself had no knowledge of the affair and it was only András Giró-Szász who was involved. Giró-Szász's involvement couldn't be denied because he represented Almássy in a conversation with Zoltán Somogyi, political adviser to Ibolya Dávid.
Where could the two billion forints have come from? Surely, neither Stumpf nor Giró-Szász had that kind of money although by now they are quite well off. Two billion forints is a lot of money. Let your imagination soar.
And now to Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy. By today every newspaper is full of his story, but I heard about it from a friend who received an e-mail from Kerék-Bárczy himself. Here is the English translation of the letter that was written last night at 7:50. The "subject" was "Döbbenet" or in English "Horror."
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My dear friends,
Twenty minutes ago I was going home on streetcar #61. I was standing at the end of the first car, leaning against the rail. Somewhere around Nagyenyed Street I saw from the corner of my eye that a man much shorter than I am was watching me intently. I didn't look at him until the streetcar stopped at Csörsz Street. As soon as the door opened, I looked at him. At that point the man who appeared to be between forty and fifty with thin longish hair, short mustache, in a pink Ralph Lauren shirt, light colored paints and brown shoes, asked "Are you Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy?" I had barely answered in the affirmative when he lifted his right hand, hit me in the face, and jumped off the streetcar before the automatic door closed. Luckily the blow didn't land on my nose because it would surely have been broken. Thus, I managed to escape with only dizziness, a headache, and a bleeding mouth. In the fairly full streetcar there was consternation. Some of the passengers asked whether I was all right.
I would be surprised if all that happened spontaneously, although I don't want to speculate. This insult was not directed against me, a private citizen, but against someone who publicly stands up for democracy and against the dictatorial tendencies of this regime. I don't overestimate this incident but I don't want to underestimate it either. This is a terrible sign. What kind of a man is it who commits such an act?
This incident only strengthens my resolve to defend even more resolutely the democratic principles I believe in. Peacefully, without violence, but ever so firmly.
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Indeed, this is a terrible story. Although politically motivated physical assaults are not everday occurrences, people are often insulted for reading the "wrong" newspaper. Or for looking Jewish or Gypsy. This is the result of a ten-year hate campaign.