Yesterday several by-elections were held, with mixed results. Here I will concentrate on the election held in Lakitelek, a large village about 30 km from Kecskemét.
Before 1987 few people had ever heard of Lakitelek. But in September 1987 Sándor Lezsák, a minor poet, offered the backyard of his house in the village for the first gathering of anti-communist forces. There they established the Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF). The vast majority of the people who attended this meeting belonged to the Hungarian equivalent of the German Völkisch or the Russian narodnik movement.
Sándor Lezsák, a typical representative of the narodnik (népies) Hungarian literary tradition, has since drifted far to the right. By 2004 he was expelled from MDF, along with some other like-minded politicians. In no time they joined Fidesz as members of a political group they named Nemzeti Fórum.
Lezsák is a great supporter of Turanism, a nationalistic ideology that believes that the Hungarian people migrated from the steppes of Central Asia. A couple of years ago he was the honorary president of Kurultaj, a tribal meeting of Turanian people. A private initiative five or six years ago, this annual event is now sponsored by the Hungarian government and aided by generous grants.
The Hungarian narodniks were always keen on educating talented peasant boys and girls. After 1945 they established so-called people’s colleges, which were forced to close after the 1948 communist takeover. A few years ago Lezsák and his wife established a foundation and began building a people’s college (népfőiskola) of their own. On four hectares the Lezsáks have been erecting an ambitious complex, naturally with generous government grants. In 2015 the Orbán government gave the Lakitelek Népfőiskola 2.3 billion forints. In 2014 the income of the college was 445.7 million, of which 343 million came from the ministry of human resources.
As you can see from the plans, Lakitelek is Lezsák’s Felcsút. When the campus is completed, the college will have a swimming pool, tennis courts, a guest house, café, restaurant, print shop (with a separate building for its publications), gallery, mini golf course, chapel, horse stable, “national statue park,” and, rounding things out in appropriate fashion, yurtas. Classes in Azeri, Bashkir, Belarus, Georgian, Kazakh, Kirgiz, Tatar, Turkmen, Uyghur, and Uzbek are already offered. How much the students will learn in 32 hours of instruction I have no idea, but I have my doubts about the usefulness of Lezsák’s educational methods.
Lezsák has been running the show in Lakitelek ever since 1990. In fact, the local internet site is called Lakitelek Lezsák-falva, meaning “the village of Lezsák” where nothing happens without his say so. In the past, the majority of the town council and the mayor were all members of Lezsák’s Nemzeti Fórum, a party with a status similar to that of the Hungarian Christian Democratic Party. It has eight members in parliament within the Fidesz parliamentary caucus. In 2014, however, an unheard-of event took place. A Nemzeti Fórum candidate for mayor lost the election to an independent, Mrs. Anita Kiss-Zoboki. Her margin was slight. Moreover, in the town council Fidesz-NF members remained in the majority. Although Kiss-Zoboki was most accommodating, Lezsák and his men refused to work with her. In fact, when the new mayor asked for an appointment with the great man, he refused to meet with her for six solid months. The situation in Lakitelek began to resemble the one that developed in Esztergom after 2010 when its independent mayor ended up with a totally uncooperative city council with a Fidesz majority. Just like in Esztergom, the Fidesz-NF majority refused to work with the new mayor until, at the end of January, the Fidesz-NF deputy mayor suggested the dissolution of the council and new elections. He sure made a mistake.
First of all, this time 61% of eligible voters cast ballots, as opposed to 45% in 2014. In the October 2014 election Anita Kiss-Zoboki got 867 votes as opposed to her opponent’s 795, a difference of 72 votes. Yesterday she received 1,377 votes; her Fidesz-NF opponent, 827. In the six-member council formed in 2014 there were four Fidesz-NF affiliated members and only two independents. Today all six council members are independents belonging to Kiss-Zoboki’s team. That’s called a rout.
The village is described as politically divided, and therefore articles in local papers that appeared before the election predicted a close contest. The Fidesz-NF leadership in town seemed to be worried because apparently the party’s local supporters distributed phony leaflets trying to tie the independent candidate to Ferenc Gyurcsány. On the leaflets one could see a picture of Anita Kiss-Zoboki with the colors of DK in the background. The ads claimed that if she wins the election the whole town will be full of migrants and same-sex marriages will be allowed.
According to Hírösvény, an internet news site serving Kecskemét and environs, such a huge win was totally unexpected because other left-leaning opposition parties are not at all represented in Lakitelek. Clearly, the people of Lakitelek had had enough of the local politicos acting like medieval barons. The people also realized that voting for a non-Fidesz mayor but allowing a Fidesz-ruled council doesn’t work. The result is a non-functioning local government. And so, while the people of Lakitelek were at it, they got rid of the whole bunch.