Earlier I described February 23 as a “day of infamy” in the life of the Orbán government. It was on that day that István Nyakó, a former MSZP member of parliament, was prevented from reaching the time clock that registers the exact arrival of an intended referendum question at the National Election Office. Approximately twenty skinheads stood in his way. His question was thus clocked four seconds after a young man handed in the meaningless referendum question of Mrs. Erdősi, the wife of the mayor of Herceghalom, a small hamlet not far from Budapest. The lady seems to be a fanatical admirer of Viktor Orbán.
The Orbán regime obviously dreads a referendum on the question of Sunday store closings, which would be overwhelmingly rejected by the voters. Since the passage of the bill that greatly inconvenienced the majority of the population this was the thirteenth attempt to reverse the 2014 decision, which has been in force since March 15, 2015. Most of the referendum questions that reached the National Election Committee and the Kúria were formulated in such a way as to be ruled invalid, delaying the submission of any other question on the issue. The National Election Office in cahoots with the National Election Commission used all the tricks in the book to prevent the submission of any question that had the slightest chance of approval. But they seem to have run out of tricks, hence the 200-kg skinheads. An optimistic MSZP politician described the event as “the last flurry of a hapless dictatorship.”
I’m not sure of that, but in the last few days the government and Fidesz have retreated on a host of issues. One doesn’t have to search very hard to see cracks in the edifice. Several high-ranking Fidesz politicians openly criticized the party’s handling of the referendum question. It looks as if László Kövér disapproves of the bill that György Matolcsy, chairman of the Hungarian National Bank, and Viktor Orbán pushed through parliament to allow the profits of the bank—which are naturally public money—to be transferred into private funds established by the bank. According to rumor, President Áder may not sign the bill. János Lázár, head of the prime minister’s office, already talked yesterday about a possible compromise on the issue. There is also a general retreat on the education front as well, but so far the compromises the government is offering don’t satisfy the educators. The government will have to go much further than it ever intended.
And it looks as if the government will have to retreat on the issue of the referendum as well. After the head of the National Election Office, Ilona Pálffy, determined that everything was in perfect order because no one had prevented Nyakó from reaching the clock, Mrs. Erdősi’s question was sent on to the National Election Commission. But then, something must have happened behind the scenes because, after some hesitation, she decided to pass on Nyakó’s question as well.
That was the first crack in the Fidesz defense. The second crack came when the National Election Commission, after looking at the existing videos, split on the merit of Nyakó’s complaint. Above is the crucial 26 seconds that shows the situation at the National Election Office. The chairman of the commission, Szabolcs Patyi, sided with the delegates of the opposition against the Fidesz-KDNP delegates. Still, the vote was 7 to 5 in favor of Mrs. Erdősi’s claim. Thus, it was her question that was sent to the Kúria for final approval. But high-ranking members of Fidesz were not at all satisfied with Ilona Pálffy’s handling of the affair. Both László Kövér and Gergely Gulyás urged an investigation of the case, and apparently some members of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation were up in arms, blaming Gábor Kubatov, deputy chairman of Fidesz and head of the Ferencváros FTC, for the debacle. After all, some of the skinheads were the club’s security guards.
After the National Election Committee’s decision, Nyakó didn’t give up. On March 2 he submitted a request for a review of the case to the Kúria. Yesterday the Kúria made its decision public: it partially annulled the decision of the National Election Committee. After taking a look at the video, the judges reached the conclusion that Nyakó had after all been prevented from exercising his constitutional rights. But the Kúria didn’t agree with Nyakó’s position that there was a conspiracy between Mrs. Erdősi and the skinheads, although it is blatantly obvious that Mrs. Erdősi and the skinheads acted together according to a well-executed plan. Each of the men held a translucent folder with a copy of Mrs. Erdősi’s referendum question together with her signature. They were photocopies of the original. The enlarged picture of the folder is clear proof of collusion. The Kúria obviously didn’t want to rule on the charge of collusion, which would lead straight to Gábor Kubatov, who, by the way, happened to be in the United States at the time, learning the secrets of the Republican Party’s campaign strategies.
But Kubatov didn’t have to be present to prevent MSZP from turning in a referendum question. Kubatov filled all the important positions at the Ferencváros club with people who have strong ties to Fidesz. One such man is Kubatov’s secretary, Máté Kindlovits, who is actually the managing director of the club’s affairs due to Kubatov’s many duties in the party. The club’s spokesman is Bence Sipos, who just happens to be Kindlovits’s old classmate at the Pál Apostol Katolikus Gimnázium. And Ádám Varró, the young man who actually handed Mrs. Erdősi’s referendum question to the authorities, was a classmate of Kindlovits and Sipos. (For those unfamiliar with the Hungarian educational system, friendships made in high school can mean life-long associations. Thirty or forty students spend four years together in the same classroom, often sitting at the same desks and having the same homeroom teacher, who in this case happened to be a man who today is the Fidesz mayor of District XVII.)
I assume that in Kubatov’s absence it was Kindlovits who arranged the meeting between Mrs. Erdősi and the Fradi hooligans. How did Mrs. Erdősi enter the scene? A few years ago she was pictured on one of the billboards advertising the decrease in utility prices. Today (in the second picture) she is a few years older, a little grayer, but still willing to serve Fidesz. Most likely Kindlovits recruited her for the job, promising the assistance of his men and assuring her that she doesn’t have to do anything, just be there, because his old high school friend Ádám Varró will take care of everything.
I don’t have much hope that the police investigation which is now underway will ever get as far as my imagined scenario. But I’m not so sure that the earlier obstructionist practices will continue unabated. Fidesz and Viktor Orbán are feeling the pinch.