The new Parliamentary Guard: What will Fidesz use it for?

It was sometime in late July or early August that  a 168 Óra headline announced that “László Kövér is organizing a private army for himself.” This is not an accurate description of the new 349-member Parliamentary Guard (Országgyűlési Őrség) that is supposed to replace the 266-member Republican Regiment (Köztársasági Őrezred) that was created for the defense of the parliament and the office building in which the members’ offices were situated.

What was wrong with the Republican Regiment? Most likely nothing because, according to reports, most of its members have been taken over by the new Parliamentary Guard. But this government must change everything to make it bigger and grander. Also, if there is no Republic of Hungary there cannot be a Republican Regiment either.

This new police unit not only has very expensive, tailor-made uniforms to the tune of 2.3 billion forints but also has wider jurisdiction than its predecessor. Members of the Republican Regiment couldn’t enter the chamber, while a parliamentary guard can if the presiding speaker so requests. For example, if László Kövér finds an opposition member’s speech objectionable he can ask the member to leave the chamber. If he refuses, Kövér can ask for a guard to escort him out. If the MP refuses to oblige, the guard can forcibly remove him. He will have all sorts of equipment short of firearms to assist him in this task, including handcuffs, pepper spray, and a stun gun. The problem is that Kövér seems to have an extraordinarily short fuse; his sensitivity is incredible given his own manners. So, one never knows when he will decide that he has to ask the police to come to his rescue.

In October 230 people from the old Republican Regiment and hundreds of  others from the police force vied for this cushy job. The lowest monthly pay for a member of the parliamentary guard was set at 400,000 forints, more than three times the average salary of an ordinary policeman. By October 8 they picked the happy 349 people who in the case of the men had to be at least 180 cm tall and in the case of women 170 cm. After that came the special physical and psychological training about which we know nothing.

Magyar Hírlap made sure that its readers don’t find the establishment of a parliamentary guard that is responsible for “order in the chamber” unusual and informed them that “such a guard already existed in the last century. On July 4, 1912, István Tisza instructed the guards to lead out the protesting members of the opposition. Later the scene was repeated when Parliament voted for the reform of the Army Bill in preparation for war in the summer of 1914.”  A rather unfortunate comparison.

As for the uniform, I read several articles on the subject but it is still not clear to me how many uniforms each guard will receive.  There is the  dress uniform which consists of black pants and a dark green tunic with claret-colored piping, black shoes and shako. But Népszava also talked about “társasági öltözet” which should be an outfit for “social occasions.” Another outfit is called “szolgálati gyakorló ruha” which, if I understand it right, is the uniform worn in performing everyday duties. The dress uniforms cost 68.5 million, the uniforms for social occasions 25.3 million, and the ordinary service uniforms 18.8 million. Just the piping costs 9.8 million forints. Orbán is right: there is no such thing as “austerity” in Hungary! All these details were kept secret until yesterday when the new members of the Parliamentary Guard swore allegiance in front of the Holy Crown of St. Stephen that had been placed by the first Orbán government in the Parliament building.

In the front row Márta Mátria (Fidesz MP), the new Sargeant-at-Arms, and László Kövér, the spaker of the House

In the front row Márta Mátria (Fidesz MP), the new Sergeant-at-Arms, and László Kövér, the Speaker of the House

But there seems to be an even fancier outfit for those who will also perform ceremonial functions. Here is a picture of soldiers wearing this uniform:

Parliamentary guards at ceremonial function

Parliamentary guards at a ceremonial function

I should also say a few words about this new-old position of Sergeant-at-Arms (or in Hungarian háznagy). This position existed in the Hungarian parliament until 1945 but was abandoned after the war. When HVG announced the appointment of Márta Mátrai to the post, they introduced her as “the housekeeper of the House.” Indeed, her duties will be somewhat similar: keeping order not only in the chamber but also in the offices situated in the building. The Sergeant-at-Arms also keeps a list of the addresses of the MPs, takes care of handing out official documents to the members, and helps the speaker keep order. At least according to the Pallas Nagylexikon published at the end of the nineteenth century. I assume, but I’m not sure, that she will be the nominal head of the Parliamentary Guard. At least this is the case in the British Parliament. But Ms. Mátrai’s role will be not ceremonial as is the case with the Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons. In England the security of Parliament buildings and the members is provided by the Palace of  Westminister Division of London’s Metropolitan Police Services, whose members are not armed. Moreover, the British police are there to defend the members, not to lead them out.

In the United States there is also a Sergeant at Arms who is an elected officer of the House of Representatives. He is the chief law enforcement and protocol officer of the House and is responsible for maintaining order on the House side of the United States Capitol complex.  The Sergeant at Arms reviews and implements all issues relating to the safety and security of members of Congress and the Capitol complex. The Sergeant at Arms also coordinates extensively with the U.S. Capitol Police and various intelligence agencies to assess threats against members of Congress and the Capitol complex. Again his duties and those of Ms. Mátrai are not the same.

And one final look at the uniform. Apparently real experts in the history of Hungarian military uniforms designed them and claim that they are in the finest tradition of Hungarian military uniforms. The trouble is that quite a few people see a striking resemblance between them and the uniforms of the Wehrmacht.

The Parliamentary Guard uniform on the left and the Wehrmacht uniform on the right

The Parliamentary Guard uniform on the left and the Wehrmacht uniform on the right

Unfortunately, there are similarities. Especially when it comes to the placement of pockets with buttons and the six gold buttons in the front of the tunic. The color green is reminiscent of the old German uniforms. But, the shako is traditional all right. It was typical Hungarian military headgear that was adopted in many countries and the name picked up in many languages, including English.

We will see what László Kövér and Márta Mátrai will use the members of this beefed up Parliamentary Guard for. Will they really use them against opposition members whose behavior is objectionable to the presiding speaker? Possibly. Of course, the question is whether they will be used only against MSZP, LMP, and DK members or whether Kövér will be equally strict with members of Jobbik when they begin making anti-Semitic speeches as they have done on several occasions in the past.

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Member
Some1
December 30, 2012 6:24 pm

I just cannot wait for the videos on youtube as the members of the opposition will be taken out by these guards. Well, Hungary will make the news again very soon with this. There is no stopping of Fidesz tactics and spending of the taxpayers money when it comes to any tactics to intimidate the opposition in raising any concerns whatsoever.
As far as the wages.. Fidesz uses the same tactics with all of its supporters. This is how the buy the votes and support. Those who are so overpaid, unlikely will allow any other party to come to power as they would loose their cash cow.

Bowen
Guest
Bowen
December 30, 2012 6:32 pm

On a practical level, what would be the point of Fidesz going to this effort and expense to fund a security force to silence the opposition? It’s not as if the opposition can block a Fidesz vote. The opposition often have to resort to rather feeble-looking stunts like blocking the car park or throwing bits of paper around. And it’s not as if most of the MTI-media would provide much coverage of an opposition speech.

So is the point simply Fidesz control-freakery?

Ron
Guest
Ron
December 30, 2012 6:38 pm

Eva I agree completely with you. However, I would use the uniform of the Grune Polizei (my first reaction, when I saw this).

http://www.politiemuseum.nl/collectiedetails.php?a=objecten&b=9826

Member
Some1
December 30, 2012 7:12 pm
Eva S. Balogh : Bowen : So is the point simply Fidesz control-freakery? It would be good to know what they trained these guys for. If they received TEK-type of training Kövér might be planning a force that can defend him and his friends in case there is an attack.They might be paranoid. I am not sure what is the English equalent of “mindenki magabol indul ki”, but I think this is exactly what is happening. THis ties into your previous thread about some Fidesz involvement in the events of 2006. As masses are becoming more and more dissillusioned with the Orban/Kover/Matolcsy trio, Kover and his band feels that there is a possible threat from the opposition trying to overthrow the government on the same way as they tried to in 2006. The other possibility is the Orban prediction: “We hope we do not have to put a new political system in place of democracy, but we need new economical systems, and new ideas.” – speech by Orban at the National Association of Entrepreneurs and Employers (VOSZ) meeting, on July 26, 2012. We were wondering what he has in mind, but I think he is getting ready, and this new… Read more »
tinshed (@tinshed)
Guest
December 30, 2012 7:52 pm

Regarding the uniforms: in a normal democracy you would expect any uniformed Parliamentary staff to reflect the parliamentary and democratic traditions of the House itself. While Hungary may not have the depth of these traditions in the same way as say the Westminister-style parliaments do, you would hope (vainly, I know) that Hungary/Fidesz/Orbán would want to emphasize modern EU democratic values and norms in the way parliamentary staff look and present themselves. These are highly symbolic. In this case the uniforms do look distinctly military in design and execution. This speaks volumes of course about the current regime, and their values and norms.

math math
Guest
math math
December 30, 2012 7:56 pm

Math: 400 each x 3 sets x $100 = $120,000 = HUF 24,000,000

Bribes: HUF2,300,000,000 – 24,000,000 = HUF 2,276,000,000

Probably, there were some minor extra expenses for new swords, guns, hand cuffs, and batons, too.

What happened to the old uniforms? Was there an Army surplus auction to sell them?

Seriously, we can not waste energy on uniform minor affairs.

We have to figure out some plans to return Hungary to decency. We need philosophy and political visions.

An
Guest
An
December 30, 2012 8:23 pm

Bowen :
On a practical level, what would be the point of Fidesz going to this effort and expense to fund a security force to silence the opposition? It’s not as if the opposition can block a Fidesz vote. The opposition often have to resort to rather feeble-looking stunts like blocking the car park or throwing bits of paper around. And it’s not as if most of the MTI-media would provide much coverage of an opposition speech.
So is the point simply Fidesz control-freakery?

Kover (the speaker of the house) has repeatedly expressed his frustration with these stunts. True, these symbolic actions are the only means for the opposition to at least express its disagreement and get some media attention. I think Fidesz wants to do away with this opportunity as well.

Member
December 30, 2012 9:21 pm
This is just another glaring example of the government’s stupidity and insensitivity. The number, 349 doesn’t seem to be high, especially if their job is to provide security inside and outside of the parliament building. Not even if we consider that the number of MP’s they will have to police will only be 199 after the 2014 elections. Well not high on paper. What I’d like to see how will they work together with BP police department. So here is the typical Fidesz part. A dedicated law enforcement unit is not a bad idea it’s a necessity. But they could have renamed, augmented and redressed the existing bunch in a way nobody would have noticed it. Obviously they will need new equipment, new uniforms time to time. If they are not enough it would be natural even to hire more personnel. It could have been a PR slam dunk to demonstrate how the government is doing it’s part in cost cutting while the country is slammed with new austerity measures every day. But no. They have to do it at Christmas time, when the soup kitchens are out of sup in BP, with the usual ta-ra-ra boom-de-ay. Oh, yes, these… Read more »
Member
December 30, 2012 9:41 pm

Breaking News

Bridgestone the tire manufacturer became the strategic partner of the Orban government. Last month they did the same thing with Hankook the South Korean tire firm.

Looks like they were tirelessly seeking opportunities …

Petofi1
Guest
Petofi1
December 30, 2012 10:11 pm

Who can miss the Orban’s relentless efforts to institutionalize FEAR. The idea is to return to a tribal society. Gifts come from above. Noone is entitled to anything. The leader rules by divine right.

Now…one can expect one hare-brained madman, and his followers who follow the trail of cash like a fox does blood….but what on earth possesses the Fidesz followers to submit to this?

I suggest that the country retract its statehood and declare itself one large mental hospital
in need of immediate, and constant, attention.

Ron
Guest
Ron
December 31, 2012 2:12 am

Mutt :
Breaking News
Bridgestone the tire manufacturer became the strategic partner of the Orban government. Last month they did the same thing with Hankook the South Korean tire firm.
Looks like they were tirelessly seeking opportunities …

Yes they do tirelessly seeking opportunities, unfortunately, but they can not reap on their efforts.

Btw did you know that the City of Papa (Fidesz controlled) took over 50% of Papa Hus, a slaughterhouse. They consider it a good investment, but Kapuvari hus just went bankrupt (20 km away from Papa). It seems that the pig slaughter business will be nationalized.

http://www.portfolio.hu/vallalatok/kkv/tobbsegi_reszesedest_vasarol_papa_varosa_a_papai_husban.177597.html

Guest
December 31, 2012 6:49 am

“The lowest monthly pay for a member of the parliamentary guard was set at 400,000 forints, more than three times the average salary of an ordinary policeman.”

I wonder what the ordinary police force will think of it.

Member
December 31, 2012 8:03 am

Eva S. Balogh :
Economists claim that the contracts are meaningless. Just for show.

Yeah, I know. I think my joke about the “tireless” Orban government ending up with tire companies didn’t work …

GW
Guest
GW
December 31, 2012 8:05 am

Above and beyond the retro-fascist look to these uniforms, isn’t there definitely something camp about this obsession with costumes?

Guest
December 31, 2012 9:02 am

London Calling!

Our Sergeant-at-Arms wears tights! (Including the men!)

Below is an interesting link in an article in The Guardian about them.

It is obviously a requirement of democracy to reinforce the principle that etiquette and politeness are the fundamentals of debate – respect for your fellow man.

Even in the English Parliament things can become a little unruly – but we have never had firearms disputes as in the Spanish parliament.

Just as here on Hungarian Spectrum – in the main! (although if Petofi had a gun!………)

Those unfortunate uniforms communicate exactly the opposite – and are reminiscent of unnecessary force and totalitarian states.

Snap! That’s what many of us believe Orban is up to!

And here is the proof.

One more indicator that we must just observe in the slow evolution to Orbanistan.

However they may still find their ‘manoeuvres’ lack dignity depending on what they are required to do ‘ceremoniously’!

The unnecessarily convoluted ‘ceremony’ of the Hungarian soldiers who guarded Pál Schmitt in his castle still makes me laugh – especially when involving a snappy dog!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMnjdvbpHqU

Regards

Charlie

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/dec/03/jill-pay-serjeant-at-arms

Member
Some1
December 31, 2012 9:47 am

CharlieH :
The unnecessarily convoluted ‘ceremony’ of the Hungarian soldiers who guarded Pál Schmitt in his castle still makes me laugh – especially when involving a snappy dog!

That was fun. It is like a SNL skit.
The good news is that the next government will have a head start with saving money. They just have to cut back on the unnecessary expenses that are plenty of course.
The same time, I am hoping that the opposition are already working on to figure out how to take out all the cr*p from the Constitution, and how to let all the “Fidesz installed forever” people from leading positions even if they do not gain 2/3.
I can only hope that Ms Scheppele will be close by to provide a helping hand when it comes to restore democracy in Hungary.

Lecso
Guest
Lecso
December 31, 2012 9:51 am

Can I just point out that you also needed to be over 180cm to join the SS.

Did Köver by any chance force them to do a genetics test, or ask for proof of lineage to Árpád before he hired them? I would not be surprised if he did!

Guest
December 31, 2012 11:10 am

A bit OT:

That requirement of 1.80 m reminds me of the “Lange Kerle” – Prussian soldiers 300 years ago, described here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potsdam_Giants

“The original required height was 6 Prussian Foot (about 6’2″ or 1.88 meters)” but 1.80 was enough in practice – one of my forefathers was a member, I’ve been told …

Herth
Guest
Herth
December 31, 2012 12:18 pm

Lawyers also claim that the agreements with investors contain nothing specific and are unenforceable (though there is nothing enforceable as there are no obligations etc.). They are completely for show. Nothing more that MOUs or LOIs. I don’t think we should bother with them.

Ron
Guest
Ron
December 31, 2012 12:20 pm

Some1: The good news is that the next government will have a head start with saving money. They just have to cut back on the unnecessary expenses that are plenty of course.

I believe that you are too optimistic. In 2014 there will be no Cohesion Funds for Hungary, no money in The National Bank of Hungary, and the country will be or is in the process of being declared bankrupt.

Member
Some1
December 31, 2012 12:32 pm

Ron :
Some1: The good news is that the next government will have a head start with saving money. They just have to cut back on the unnecessary expenses that are plenty of course.
I believe that you are too optimistic. In 2014 there will be no Cohesion Funds for Hungary, no money in The National Bank of Hungary, and the country will be or is in the process of being declared bankrupt.

Of course I have been sarcastic here. I am referring to the excessive spending on the Orban government. Having said that, I would not be surprised if the EU would have some form of resolution offered to a new government regarding fundings, if the the government would be willing to cooperate. Under cooperation, I simply mean, being civilized, democratic, and have some programs in place to cut down on bribing, internal trading, contract handouts, and the no-tender practices.

Kim Lane Scheppele
Guest
Kim Lane Scheppele
December 31, 2012 3:45 pm
Eva, as always, is calling our attention to something really important. The uniforms of this new force speak volumes about how it is supposed to register in the public mind But the law giving this new military force its powers indicates that it may be used for quite dangerous purposes regardless of how it is dressed. When the law authorizing what I called the “Parlia-military” was passed last April, I wrote about the law that set up the force and authorized its powers. Since this was at the very end of my blog post on TEK, the Parlia-military’s powers didn’t get very much attention at the time, so let me reproduce what I wrote about the law here: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/04/19/the-new-hungarian-secret-police/ As if the powers of TEK are not enough, though, Parliament yesterday authorized another security service with the power to use police measures against citizens and residents of Hungary. The cardinal law on the Parliament itself contains a provision that gives the Parliament its own military, a Parlia-military. The Parlia-military is an armed police unit outside the chain of command of the regular military or police structures. Its commander in chief is the speaker of the house, László Kövér, who served… Read more »
gdfxx
Guest
gdfxx
December 31, 2012 4:38 pm

Eva S. Balogh :

GW :
Above and beyond the retro-fascist look to these uniforms, isn’t there definitely something camp about this obsession with costumes?

Very much so. Franz Lehár’s Grand Duchy of Pontevedro.

I think all Lehar operettas have a happy ending (I never saw one). I am not sure about the one that’s playing today in the Hungarian government.

Member
Some1
December 31, 2012 5:08 pm

Eva S. Balogh :

Ron :
I believe that you are too optimistic. In 2014 there will be no Cohesion Funds for Hungary, no money in The National Bank of Hungary, and the country will be or is in the process of being declared bankrupt.

I also have my doubts that Hungary will receive the cohesion funds from the European Union and then Orbán will be in real trouble.

I doubt that they would give it to the Orban government, but as I mentioned above, I would not be a least surprised if they would be open with a new government, as to encourage the transformation to a civilized country.

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