2016. február 24., szerda

Hungarian Government uses skinheads to prevent MP from filing national referendum question

Skinheads vs. opposition MP in the National Election Office

Yesterday was a truly special day in Hungary’s post-communist history: skinheads gathered in National Election Office’s premises to prevent an opposition MP from filing a referendum question.

Fidesz introduced a controversial law in March 2015 that would forbid shops to open on Sundays. The ban has been highly unpopular among voters and hence opposition parties have frequently tried to hold a referendum on the question.

Regarding national referenda: although Fidesz actively used referenda when it was itself in opposition to combat the then-government’s plans, when Fidesz came to power in 2010, they were quick to install changes that would make it materially harder to hold one, and they narrowed the topics in which referenda can be held quite substantially.

Furthermore, one of the more odd novelties Fidesz introduced was, that regarding a specific topic, at a given time only one referendum text proposal can be before the National Election Office which scrutinises the referendum’s proposed question for not being misleading etc.. If there’s a second referendum question on the same topic, its submission to the Office has to wait until the actually analysed question is decided upon.

The government has played this rule by organising private persons to file repeatedly deliberately unacceptable questions. These wrong questions would then be ‘analysed’ by the Office for a couple of weeks, and then be rejected; leading to the next ‘private individual’ to instantly file the next deliberately unacceptable referendum question.

Now you may ask, what happens when several persons wish to file a referendum question on the same topic to the Office. Well, Fidesz’s law says that in this case, the winner is the person to first physically stamps his or her question in the Office’s premises at a defined spot.

The Fidesz government exploited this rule by using those ‘private persons’ and the eager assistance of the Office itself, to prevent opposition parties from filing a referendum on the Sunday ban 18 times now. This included disqualifying the opposition for several technical reasons. In one case, the opposition question was disqualified because the MP submitted his question a few minutes too early. In another case, an opposition MP had the perfect timing, however the Office decided to disqualify it and accept the question of another person, based on the other person having entered the building first. The problem is, if one takes legal action against such a decision, the court procedure may take years, delaying any referendum even further.   

What happened yesterday?
Yesterday was the day when Hungary’s Supreme Court would take a decision on the outstanding question on the Sunday’s shop ban. So, an opposition MP walked to the Office at 6 a.m. to wait for the decision and try to file his question quickly once it’s there; for the 19th time now. However, there also came an elderly lady and a young gentleman, followed by a bunch of muscled skinheads, and so they waited hour after hour for the court decision to arrive.   

Eventually, the MP was physically prevented by the skins to file his question – they ensured that the lady would get there first. So, that’s the 19th time now the government has prevented the opposition from filing a question, but for the first time this happened with physical force, rather than administrative or legal tricks. The whole spectacle played out amid intensive media coverage. 

There are some further fine details to this action. Independent media reported that the skinheads blocked the Office’s main entrance for several hours, journalists for instance had to enter through the back door. The opposition MP called the police, who entered the scene only to leave shortly later, without having taken any action on the skinheads blockading a public building’s entrance, or even having checked their identity.

While all of Hungary’s non-government-controlled media was strongly focussed on what’s happening, state media was for much of the day completely silent on the issue. Later the day, there was a brief piece of news, informing that a socialist MP wasn’t able to file his questions, because ‘some others have been quicker’.

Who dunnit?
Everyone is quite aware that it’s only the government who has any interest in preventing such a referendum to ever happen. The question has been, of course, whether there’s any actual link to the government. While there is no direct evidence, there are some much-telling facts here.

Independent media soon found out that some of the skins involved belong to the security personnel of FC Ferencvaros, Hungary’s most popular football club. The president of this club is Gabor Kubatov, Fidesz’s vice president. The club’s security guards have been used by fidesz earlier as well e.g. by guarding Fidesz’s party HQ against protesters in 2014.

Two of yesterday’s skins as security men of Ferencvaros, club of Fidesz vice President Kubatov

Furthermore, the old lady escorted by the skins turned out to be the wife of a former Fidesz mayor, and a prominent face of a former nationwide Fidesz campaign. Fidesz reacted rather relaxed to the events, with e.g. PM Orban stating there’s been some scramble in the past as well in such situations, and insisting the opposition is only focussed on creating a scandal.

These responses, state media coverage and the police’s handling the issue are further clear indication on who’s behind this act.    

Final it became known that several of the skins – as evidenced by their own facebook accounts – have far-right affiliations and/or have been in jail repeatedly.

Far-right henchmen blocking the entrance of the National Election Office

Nincsenek megjegyzések:

Megjegyzés küldése