Hungarian far-right appointed to operate theater, György Matolcsy’s 750,000 HUF/month advisor, consequences of hate crimes and homelessness: covering the first half of October, here’s another edition of the short-format collection of Contrarian Hungarian news otherwise known as the Hungarian News Digest.
City of Budapest to Operate Neo-Nazi Theater
Budapest Mayor István Tarlós appointed György Dörner – an actor lesser known for his art than for his far-right sympathies – as director of Budapest’s Új Theater. The decision was not based on the application’s artistic content, managerial promise or competence, given that Dörner’s materials focused almost entirely on the author’s ideological commitments, and on his plans to properly represent, through the theater’s artistic repertoire, “the Hungary that groans under the social-liberal yoke.”
The appointment ensures a public-founded basis of operation to István Csurka, the Hungarian play-write who was the first public figure in Hungary to openly voice anti-semitic and irredentist views in the 1990s. If Budapest’s mayor and his party is courting the far-right vote by the appointment, they are probably pursuing “salami tactics” on the far-right: though Csurka’s now defunct Hungarian Truth and Life Party (MIÉP) used to be allied with Jobbik (the far-right parliamentary party which ranks as the second or third strongest in the most recent polls), Jobbik questions the far-right “credentials” of both Csurka and Dörner, given their “selling out” to Fidesz.
György Matolcsy’s 750,000 HUF/Month Expertise
György Matolcsy, Hungary’s minister of economics is so lowly regarded among professional economists that even those affiliated with Fidesz, including Orbán’s previous minister of economic affairs, Attila Chikán, question his expertise. Not Viktor Orbán, however, who often boasts that his government is in the process of writing a new and unconventional textbook on economics, one which is to replace the outdated, conventional theories that form the basis of his opponents’ critiques.
The author of this textbook, however, is not Matolcsy, but Matolcsy’s mentor and expert advisor Sándor Kopátsy, a self-proclaimed representative of “non-conventional economics” and an eccentric economic thinker. As index.hu reported, Kopátsy, aged 90, receives a monthly salary of 750,000 HUF for his services to Matolcsy and the Hungarian economy (this is reported to the Hungarian parliament on this document as item 347). Just for the sake of comparison, in July, the average Hungarian salary was 212,000 HUF and, starting 2012, those called in for mandatory public works must accept to 48,000 HUF monthly as their wages.
No Indictments in Gyöngyöspata Hate Crimes
TASZ, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) recently found out that none of the cases it brought against extremist vigilantes who menaced the Romani population of Gyöngyöspata during the spring resulted in indictments for hate crimes. One of the cases involve two far-right “civil” guards (most likely members of Betyársereg) who entered two houses belonging to the Romani of the town, with an axe and a whip in hand, yelling obscenities and threats (“I am going to build my new house right here on this row on out of your blood”). The couple also engaged menacing acts, one of which brought the blade of the axe within less than an inch of the head of a two-year-old child. A third case involved two men who threw two fit-sized stones through the window of one of the houses populated by Romani while yelling “You are going to die stinky lousy gypsies if you do not move out of [Gyöngyös]Pata!”
The fourth case of a pregnant woman who gave birth prematurely after being chased by uniformed vigilantes concluded without charges being brought in August. In the rest of the cases, the police downgraded the criminal category under investigation, from the Hungarian equivalent of a hate crime to a mere “violation.”
Because the police neglected to notify the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union of these decisions, the non-profit human rights watchdog organization was prevented from advising or acting on behalf of their clients in the capacity of their legal representative.
Appeal in Budapest Pride 2009 Case Fails to Secure Harsher Penalties
A Hungarian appeals court upheld the two-year suspended sentence of far-right figure László Toroczkai, leader of Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom, and one of the main organizers of the now infamous ”Magyar Sziget.” The festival that functions as an international meeting-place for neo-Nazis all over Europe and where the recording of an openly racist speech incited to violence against Jews and people of color was not however at the center of the trial. Rather, Toroczkai was found guilty of “interfering with freedom of assembly” for a piece he had written in 2009 with the title “Yet Again There Is Need for Gun Powder.”
Toroczkai’s article, written only a few days before the Budapest Pride march in 2009, opens with a lengthy description of the international humiliations suffered by the Hungarian nation (one of Toroczkai’s complaints is that Hungary does not hold military exercises at Hungary’s “borders of mockery” – a reference to the irredentist strivings of Toroczkai’s group). In the later sections of the article, the pride march is characterized as “an aggressive and deviant event coerced by global powers” which assaults “the being of the nation,” and, along with violent language, details are given on locations where the participants of pride week may be found. During the trial, Toroczkai stated that his words are taken out of context if they are interpreted as preventing freedom of assembly, and added that “in a healthy society, sick animals like these would not be allowed to hold a parade.”
In March, 2001, Toroczkai was acquited of inciting to violence against a minority group charges, and received the symbolic sentence for the “interfering with freedom of speech” charge for which he was found guilty. The appeal was sought in the hopes of a more severe sentence.
Hungarian Parliament to Stiffen Penalties for Homelessness, Opening Legislative Avenue to Imprisonment
On Monday, October 17, the Hungarian Parliament is going to start deliberations on a law which would not only make it a criminal violation to conduct a “homeless lifestyle” on publicly owned areas of the country, but which would also raise the maximum penalty for the violation to imprisonment, and/or a fine of 150,000 HUF (the equivalent of 515 euro, 450 GBP or 712 USD!).
The mayor of Budapest 8th district, Máte Kocsis, who became famous for prosecuting homeless individuals in his district and who, since last Wednesday, is also an advisor to the Hungarian government regarding homeless issues, described how he proposes to “solve” the homeless problem in Hungary in an interview last week.
There would not be one homeless person to be found on the Hungarian streets come December, Kocsis said, “if necessary, we are going to drag them by force” into one of the three new shelters Kocsis plans to open in Budapest. They would receive religious counseling based on their declared religion and a job would be found for them fitting their medical condition. Although a policeman would stand guard at the gate of the institution, the residents of the shelters would nevertheless be allowed to leave during the day. Should they be found living on the streets again, they would be taken back to the facility again; after the third time, the perpetrator would merit the 150,000 HUF fine, imprisonment and/or mandatory public labor.
It is estimated that 30,000 people are homeless in Hungary, among these, 8 to 10 thousand live in Budapest, and 2700 in Budapest’s 8th district.