Ágnes Vadai’s interpellation in the Hungarian parliament, May 29, 2012
Ágnes Vadai, a member of the Demokratikus Koalíció but an independent MP by necessity of a new house rule devised by László Kövér, addressed a question to Tibor Navracsics, minister of administration and justice, on May 29 on the new Horthy cult. The title of her interpellation was “Should we also be prepared for the rehabilitation of Szálasi?” Her speech at times was hardly audible due to the loud objections of Jobbik and Fidesz MPs . The presiding deputy speaker, István Ujhelyi (MSZP), had to interrupt the proceedings and adjust the time allotted for Vadai’s interpellation.
Ágnes Vadai with a certain satisfaction announced on Facebook yesterday that her speech in parliament had made it to The Economist, where in a recent article (“Sickness on the Danube”) we read that in Hungary “hate speech and xenophobia are on the rise. Agnes Vadai, a left-wing MP, was howled down by right-wing and far-right opponents when she protested in parliament against the rehabilitation of Horthy.” I wouldn’t call Vadai a left-wing MP because DK is more of a liberal party, but that’s beside the point.
Here I will translate Vadai’s interpellation on the renaissance of Miklós Horthy as recorded in “Napló.” I left out only a handful of sentences not necessary for an understanding of the encounter. I should make it clear at the outset that it was Jobbik that began the Horthy cult a few years back, but now Fidesz politicians are lining up behind Jobbik as we can see in the parliamentary encounter below.
Ágnes Vadai: It seems that we are witnessing a Horthy renaissance. Almost as if Miklós Horthy’s rehabilitation were a new fashion. (Tamás Gaudi-Nagy (Jobbik): “Yes, you are right.” Other Jobbik members: “This is so!”) They name a square after him, they set up a statue of him in Kereki, and in the Debrecen Reformed College with the assistance of the highest church leaders they dedicate a memorial plaque in his honor. (Interruption from Jobbik members: “This is so!”) So, not only is the extreme right promoting the introduction of a Horthy cult but Fidesz politicians and mayors are also taking part in the rehabilitation of the admiral on horseback. Fidesz parliamentary members agree to be patrons of a ball organized to collect money for a statue of Horthy on horseback.
I just want to be clear. Are we talking about the man who managed to seize power in the shadow of foreign troops? (Enormous noise caused by Jobbik and Fidesz-KDNP members.) About the man who consolidated his power with the assistance of paramilitary detachments creating a bloodbath? (Noise, the presiding speaker rings the bell.)
The Speaker: Madame Member, I would like to apologize in the name of the majority of the House because I myself cannot hear what you are saying. (Interruptions from Jobbik and Fidesz-KDNP.) I think that the television audience is in a similar situation. That’s why I suggest to the ladies and gentlemen to wait until the madame member finishes with her question because at the end they will not know what she wants to ask from the minister. We can wait until the House calms down, I have enough time and I think Madame Member also. Can we continue? (Előd Novák (Jobbik): “Get to the point!”) Thank you, please continue.
Ágnes Vadai: Let’s make it clear that we are talking about a man who seized power in the shadow of foreign bayonets. (Tamás Gaudi-Nagy: “What are you talking about?”) About a man who consolidated his power with the assistance of paramilitary detachments. (Interruption from a Fidesz MP: “Kádár.”) He was the man who agreed to sign the Treaty of Trianon that is called a national tragedy by the Hungarian right. It was during his reign that the first anti-Jewish law was enacted to be followed by three more. Horthy’s regime was rejected not only by writers of the left but also by the narodnik writers of the period who are greatly revered by the current Hungarian right. He is the man who led Hungary into the second world war and who allowed the deportation of almost half a million Hungarian citizens to perish in concentration camps. Finally, he passed power into the hands of the murderous hordes of Szálasi. I’m talking about the man who was saved only by Stalin from being labelled a war criminal.
The current government could have stopped the spread of the Horthy cult in the spirit of the Paris Peace Conference, but you didn’t do it because you didn’t want to do it. (Interruptions from Fidesz-KDNP members.) You for the sake of far-right votes (The speaker rings the bell again.) in a competition with Jobbik are ready to revive the heritage of Horthy. How long will that go on? At the end will you rehabilitate Szálasi? (Applause from MSZP and LMP members.)
The Speaker: Honored ladies and gentlemen of the government parties. When you look at the video of the last three and a half minutes you will be appalled by your own behavior. After all, the madame member’s interpellation has nothing to do with current politics (Tamás Gaudi-Nagy: “She insulted the governor and that’s enough!) and therefore one cannot understand why the Fidesz-KDNP members kept yelling. (Interruptions from Fidesz-KDNP members.) I will give Tibor Navracsics the opportunity to answer the question in four minutes.
Tibor Navracsics: Let me start with a quotation that has nothing to do with current politics. “I, the undersigned, admit that I was a member of the Arrow Cross Party between such and such dates. I realize now that this was contrary to the interest of the people and I made a mistake. I would like to correct my mistake and therefore I promise to spend all my time and energy for the building of the people’s democracy. I swear that I will be a faithful member of the Hungarian Communist Party.” (Laughter from Jobbik and Fidesz-KDNP members.)
Ladies and Gentlemen! When we are talking about the rehabilitation of the Arrow Cross Party in this house there is only one party and some members of the independents who should have to explain a thing or two. (Applause from the Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik members.) Here I’m talking about such independent members who chose such a leader [Ferenc Gyurcsány] who lives in a villa on Szemlőhegy Street that had been confiscated twice from its Jewish owner. Once by the Arrow Cross regime and once by the communists.
If Ágnes Vadai is seeking historical continuity then she should look into the Kratkii kurst of the Hungarian Communist Party and find out how many former Arrow Cross Party members ended up in the Communist Party. [The members of MSZP and DK] should ask themselves how they could possibly make common cause with the members of the Arrow Cross Party. (Long applause from Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik. Interruptions. István Józsa (MSZP): “Is this the answer on Horthy?” Long live Navracsics, Long live Horthy! You don’t know what you are doing!)
The Speaker: Most likely he didn’t hear the question but there was an answer. Madame Member has one minute to give reasons for her acceptance or rejection of the answer.
Ágnes Vadai: I consider you, Mr. Minister, a very intelligent man. (Laughter in the Fidesz-KDNP caucus.) But you just proved that your intelligence can be overwritten by party loyalty. You should be ashamed of yourself, Mr. Minister. I asked you … (Indignation and interruptions in the Fidesz-KDNP caucus.) I asked you what you thought of the Horthy cult and whether there might be an introduction of a Szálasi cult. I had every right to ask these questions because in the last few days the Hungarian media were full of them.
You want to teach József Nyirő to the Hungarian youth when Nyirő was a member of Szálasi’s parliament and an admirer of Goebbels (Continuous interruptions from Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik caucuses) and yet one of the prominent members of your party, the speaker of this house, a member of the Hungarian parliament in the last twenty-two years, takes part in the rehabilitation of this man. (Interruption from Fidesz-KDNP caucus: “He did the right thing!) You should be ashamed of yourself, my fellow members of parliament. I very much hope that your children will not have to answer one day for this abominable behavior you manifest inside and outside of parliament. (Further interruptions: Time! Time!) You should be ashamed of yourselves! I don’t accept the answer. (István Józsa (MSZP) pointing to Tamás Gaudi-Nagy (Jobbik): “Into the minutes! He said, ‘Start to get scared’” Tamás Gaudi-Nagy: “Go ahead!”)
The Speaker repeats again that Vadai didn’t accept Navracsics’s answer and then asks the House to vote. István Nyakó (MSZP) before the vote cried out: “Vote for Horthy!” Another MSZP member, Zoltán Lukács, said: “What a shame!” Navracsics’s answer was accepted by 239 members against 44. At this point Zoltán Lukács (MSZP) said, “That at least is clear!”
(Vadai’s assessment of Horthy wasn’t completely correct historically but Navracsics’s answer was totally unacceptable. This is what happens when politicians argue about history.)