Many members of the opposition parties spoke of today as a “sad day for democracy.” Is it really? Yes and no. What happened inside the walls of parliament was indeed sad but outside we saw the beginnings of an energized common cause.
Inside the Fidesz-Christian Democratic members of parliament voted mindlessly on so many new laws that one could hardly follow what was going on. Hungary has a new electoral law, a new law on the family, a new law on the status of the Hungarian National Bank, and the present disastrous taxation system was practically made permanent since its repeal requires a two-thirds majority in the House. And that’s not all. Thirteen different important laws were passed amid loud protestation coming from LMP, MSZP, and DK. That is, from those who were not at the police station.
You may recall that there were two cardinal laws José Manuel Barroso especially objected to. As we learned last night from Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian government refused to consider the request of the European Commission to postpone their enactment. After all, Barroso has “neither the right nor the authority” to demand such a thing.
Currently, the Commission is “examining in detail” (tüzetesen) Viktor Orbán’s reply to Barroso according to Dennis Abbott, the spokesman on duty for the Commission. The topics brought up by Barroso, Olli Rehn, and Viviane Redding are so important that the Hungarian prime minister’s answers require “extensive study.” It is possible that after this extensive study of the matter the European Commission will not give the IMF the go-ahead to begin negotiations with the Hungarian government for a loan that Orbán, despite his protestations to the contrary, badly needs.
The laws that were voted on today reflect the undemocratic nature of the Orbán regime. And by now Ferenc Gyurcsány is no longer alone in saying that participation in the parliamentary process is not only superfluous but politically unwise. The two other democratic parties have also come to the same conclusion.
It was three days ago that Gergely Karácsony, deputy leader of the small LMP caucus, announced that he and some of his colleagues were planning a demonstration for December 23 in front of the parliament building. Somewhat naively Karácsony announced that by staging this demonstration they will attempt to appeal to the conscience of the Fidesz members of parliament. Perhaps they will understand that voting for these undemocratic measures is unconscionable. He mentioned the electoral law and the law on economic stability as especially unacceptable.
I didn’t think that LMP would be able to organize a major demonstration a couple of days before Christmas and only a day after a rather large demonstration yesterday for the freedom of the press. Indeed, there were mighty few people there. A few LMP activists and LMP members of parliament. András Schiffer wasn’t among them, which I find noteworthy. The young LMP MPs chained themselves to a gate to the couple of parking lots reserved for members of parliament.
Virág Kaufer (LMP)
The stop sign reads: “It was enough!” Well, it seems that it was also enough for the government. Soon enough a large number of policemen arrived on the scene. They unchained the MPs and arrested them.
Gábor Vágó (LMP)
I think I should mention that Gábor Vágó, pictured above, wasn’t only dragged away by the police. His fellow MP László Varga (KDNP), who is also a Calvinist minister, hit Vágó on the head with his brief case. I am going to post this “gentleman’s” picture here for the whole world to see what kind of people are running the show in Hungary.
At this point a number of MPs from the Demokratikus Koalíció, including Ferenc Gyurcsány, came out of the building to see what was going on. They were planning to talk to the policeman in charge. They were also promptly arrested. Soon enough the same thing happened to a number of MSZP MPs as well, including Attila Mesterházy and Ildikó Lendvai. Ildikó Lendvai gave an interview to Klubrádió as she was being transported to the police station. Once there the whole crew, MPs and activists, in the final count 43 of them, stood for an hour in a corridor. Apparently there were no chairs available. They were told that they would have to go for a medical examination. I guess this examination was intended to prove that the police didn’t rough them up. But in the end there was no medical examination and the MPs were let go. Not so the activists who stayed behind for a while.
I must say that this government is not too smart. Whoever gave the order to arrest a former prime minister didn’t realize that this is not ordinary news. And indeed, within a couple of hours BBC, CNN, and Fox News reported in detail about the events.
Ferenc Gyurcsány is led away
What happened later in the afternoon was truly significant. LMP originally planned two demonstrations, one in the morning and a second one at 4 o’clock. Since only a few dozen people showed up for the morning demonstration it initially seemed unlikely that the afternoon demonstration would be much bigger. However, the morning police action did the trick: thousands of people showed up.
It looks as if the diverse oppositional groups are finally joining forces against the Orbán regime. The civic groups which wanted nothing to do with political parties suddenly are suggesting the formation of a new Round Table where all groups and democratic opposition parties could hammer out a common strategy and the ways and means of getting rid of Viktor Orbán and Fidesz.
Even before the afternoon demonstration Ferenc Gyurcsány in an interview shortly after his release from the police station talked about the “Gyorskocsi utcai koalíció.” Gyorskocsi utca is the location of the police station. I might add that it was here that Imre Nagy was executed. During their stay in that corridor LMP, MSZP and DK members and their supporters came to realize that it is time to unite and to act. Life looks a little brighter after December 23.