Tag Archives: László Marton

MSZP’s self-inflicted wounds, with some outside help

Mistaking the date of the publication, I started reading a report by József Nagy of 24.hu from June 2017. The report was based on conversations with ten high-level MSZP politicians about the prospects of their party. Most of them were so optimistic about the bright future for MSZP led by István Botka that Nagy’s article bore the title “Botka eats the grandmother.” One of them described the situation as follows: the party now has 20% of the votes among the determined voters and perhaps by October MSZP will have 27%. If not, they will have to come to terms with the Demokratikus Koalíció.

The polls published in May and June did show a slight bump in MSZP’s popularity, but that didn’t last for long. The party began losing supporters at a fairly rapid rate. Instead of reaching 27% support by October, Medián reported at the beginning of November that MSZP has only 9% support among those voters who are 100% sure that they will vote. DK has 7%. So, it’s no wonder that an article appeared in HVG today that talked about “shrinkage of the declining MSZP.” MSZP is in such a sorry state, claimed the article, that by now its leaders are ready to invent agreements with DK in order to boost the waning trust of the voters in MSZP. This description of the state of affairs is not quite accurate, but it is true that some observers talk about the party’s “death struggle.” It is just a question of time before the socialist party meets its maker.

Party preferences in October 2017 / blue: population as a whole; green: eligible voters; red: committed voters

Many of MSZP’s problems are self-inflicted. Let’s start with Tibor Szanyi, who for years has been a problematic character. Every few months he comes out with something outrageous, but he seems to have enough clout within the party that he never gets into serious trouble with the leadership. It’s possible that his latest job as a member of the European Parliament was an attempt to remove him from center stage, but unfortunately Facebook is always at his disposal. And he is a diligent contributor. Moreover, he is still a frequent guest on radio and television programs.

In order to “appreciate” Szanyi’s lack of common sense, here is an early example. A few months after Szanyi occupied his office in Brussels, he invited the far-right Goy Bikers for a visit to get acquainted with the workings of the European Parliament. Their airfare was paid from a special fund that could be tapped by members of parliament for such invitations but, naturally, whoever came up with the idea didn’t have the Goy Bikers in mind.

This time Szanyi decided to commemorate the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by posting a photo of the only major blemish on the face of a revolution, which was renowned for its incredibly humane treatment of those on the other side. Anyone who tried to use force was told that these people should be dealt with in a court of law. But a mob attacked and lynched several people after the occupation of the party headquarters. The Kádár regime used this event as proof of the counterrevolutionary nature of the revolution. Szanyi decided to remember the revolution with this photo, which he posted on Facebook. By now the photo and Szanyi’s comment are no longer available. Everybody, not just Fidesz-KDNP and its media, was outraged. Gyula Molnár felt compelled to distance himself and his party from Szanyi’s outrageous “remembrance of the revolution.”

But that’s not all. Szanyi’s latest is that he shared his opinion, again on Facebook, of László Marton’s sexual dalliances, saying that he finds “the public calibration of Marton’s penis a disgusting thing. It is worth recalling who is running around on stage stark naked,” obviously referring to the women who were allegedly the victims of Marton’s sexual interest. Well, that wasn’t well received in the party either. Kata Tüttő, a member of the board, sent Szanyi straight to hell. István Ujhelyi, his colleague in the European Parliament, wrote “Tibor, this is shameful. Stop it!” Szanyi’s post elicited an incredible number of comments, practically all negative.

One could write Szanyi off as an aberration. But when a letter to the party chairman, written by an important party leader, accusing him of incompetence, reaches the public, the situation is more serious. And that is what happened yesterday. HírTV got hold of a letter that Árpád Velez, a former “party director,” wrote to Gyula Molnár. In it he describes at length how Molnár ruined the party. From a “leading party of the left [Molnár] created a vulnerable political community which is unmotivated, dejected, trailing after the others.” In this weakened state MSZP is at the mercy of DK, which has been building a strong structure while “our own party is in ruins.” Apparently one reason for Velez’s distraught state of mind is that the district he was supposed to run in was allegedly given to DK.

The impression is that MSZP is in total chaos. Gyula Molnár stated already on Friday that MSZP and DK had reached an agreement. The announcement was made in an interview with György Bolgár, the moderator of Klubrádió’s call-in program “Let’s Talk It Over.” Molnár said that the two parties had agreed on a 60-40 split of the 106 electoral districts. DK’s press office immediately released a correction: “Contrary to a series of news items and statements, so far no agreement has been reached concerning the coordinated candidacy of electoral districts between MSZP and DK. Negotiations are still ongoing. Our aim is to reach an agreement within weeks.” It turned out, however, that Molnár had told the truth. An agreement about the ratio had been reached, but there was no final decision yet on the particulars. For example, MSZP and DK must talk to the other smaller parties about the allocation of districts.

The way I see it, DK has tried to undermine MSZP’s credibility by choosing to interpret what constitutes an “understanding.” As a result of DK’s denial, the alleged chaos within MSZP has been magnified, and the public perception of the incompetence of the MSZP leadership has been strengthened. DK is counting on the further weakening of MSZP and the growth of DK as a result of a promising signature drive against the voting rights of dual citizens. Apparently, in the first five days DK collected 70,000 signatures. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if these negotiations drag on until the end of November, when new opinion polls are available. Perhaps, if DK closes the gap with MSZP, even the 60-40 split will have to be renegotiated. Of course, with Fidesz support among committed voters standing at 61%, these negotiations will have at best only a marginal effect on the outcome of next year’s election.

November 7, 2017

The Hungarian media and the local Harvey Weinstein case

Enemies of globalization have been fighting a losing battle. The world is indeed a big village where a Hollywood scandal can easily spark a very similar reaction in far-away Hungary. This is exactly what happened. Only a few days after the news broke about Harvey Weinstein’s 30 years of abuse in Hollywood, Lilla Sárosdi, an actress in Budapest, accused a very famous theater director of trying to take advantage of her 20 years earlier when she was still a naïve admirer of the already famous László Marton.

Marton began his career in 1968 as a stage director for Vígszinház, a highly regarded theater in the Hungarian capital. In addition, he became an instructor at Színház- és Filművészeti Egyetem (Drama School). He is well known in theatrical circles abroad, both as a director and as an instructor. He is the recipient of all sorts of prizes, including the Kossuth and Mari Jászai Prizes. So, accusing him of sexual abuse is a serious affair. Sárosdi first told her story on Facebook, on October 14, without mentioning the sex offender’s name. Five days later, on October 19, she revealed his name as well.

The reaction was instantaneous. Within hours, Marton’s theater issued a statement, from which it was well nigh impossible to determine whether they condemned the accuser or the accused. Soon afterward, the Drama School issued a communiqué which basically said that “as long as an independent authority does not take cognizance of a legal infraction, the university has no right to proceed in the case.” However, the students and some of the faculty members of the university thought otherwise. They demanded the suspension of Marton’s activities at the university until the case is settled.

László Marton / Source: Origo / Photo: Gyula Czimbal

Meanwhile, television producers were madly looking for people from the theater world to comment on the general state of the profession. István Verebes, a former director, told the audience of ATV about the incredible power directors have over the actors. But he added that “László Marton cannot be suspended because he was the theater director of Vígszinház; he is an excellent stage director; and a lot of actors must thank him for their careers.” Verebes was not the only one to suggest that fame and/or talent is a license for sexual abuse. This was the excuse in the case of László Kiss, the famous swimming coach, a few years ago. As the Hungarian cliché goes, this or that man “already put something down on the table,” and therefore he is untouchable.

Marton’s first reaction was denial. He called Sárosdi’s accusation slander and promised to sue her. But within hours he changed his mind and suspended his professorship at the university. A day later he announced that he would step down from Vígszinház while his case is pending.

On October 21 Lilla Sárosdi was the guest on Alinda Veiszer’s show on HírTV. By that time there were two other women who, anonymously, told their stories via telephone. By early morning today, seven women had contacted 444.hu saying they were ready to share, in vivid detail, their experiences with László Marton.

All of the above is background for what I really want to talk about, which is how the centrally manipulated Hungarian pro-government media handles a case of this sort. Let’s start with the official news agency, MTI. It hasn’t published anything about the case. Not a word. Consequently, the state television’s news hasn’t carried the item either. Interestingly, Magyar Idők, however belatedly (about three days late), repeated Marton’s threat of a suit against Sárosdi and made reference to Marton’s temporary retirement from Vígszinház.

One pro-government internet site, however, has been lapping up the story. Since the story broke, Origo has published four articles about László Marton. During the summer, Ádám Matolcsy, son of György Matolcsy, chairman of Hungary’s central bank, purchased Origo, but for a while he left the old CEO in place. Six days ago Ádám Matolcsy took over the management of the publication. I don’t know whether Origo’s somewhat independent handling of the Marton affair has anything to do with the management change, but Origo doesn’t seem to care about the lack of “official news” from MTI.

In Origo the scandal is portrayed as a purely political affair. “Who is László Marton really?” Origo wants to know. He is described as a typical theater director of the Kádár regime. The author admits that, given the times, the theater under Marton’s direction was “upright,” although perhaps not as brave as it had been during the tenure of his predecessors. But the article admits that “Marton couldn’t be accused of fawning.”

From the second article, published this morning, we learn that “people on the liberal side are perceptibly unhappy about the fall of the sex offender.” Some of those who talked about the issue “consider it a great loss of a well-known hyper-liberal man.” Without mentioning names, the author accuses a number of well-known liberal commentators of trying to defend Marton by talking about “the defense of human dignity, the liberals’ favorite topic.” The article points out that only left-liberal governments showered prizes and awards on Marton. After giving a partial list of cases against Marton, the article ends with “This is László Marton, a great liberal theater director. That’s all. An ordinary sex offender. Period.”

After this article Origo published two more. One was a simple rehash of 444.hu’s article on the stories of the seven women who had so far come forward. A few hours later the paper reported that it had gotten in touch with the police. They wanted to know whether anyone had filed charges against Marton. The Budapest police refused to answer, referring to the law on the right of informational self-determination and the freedom of information. So, Origo gleefully remarked that “on the basis of the answer, we cannot rule out that, yes, the police are already following the case.” As, I would add, well they should.

October 22, 2017