A Hungarian member of parliament, domestic violence, and the blind komondor

Viktor Orbán isn’t having an easy time of it lately. The tobacco scandal doesn’t want to go away. In fact, this morning the government retreated after Viktor Orbán announced that it is unacceptable that  former tobacconists will be dispossessed. His faithful chief-of-staff, János Lázár, was a great deal more humble today than he was a few days ago when he sarcastically dismissed any allegation of an unfair distribution of  the available concessions.

Then there is the European Union, which is withholding subsidies for certain Hungarian projects. For months no money has been coming while the contractors must be paid, and this at a time when there is a shortage of funds at the government’s disposal.

This morning came the bad news that according to the economists at the European Commission this year’s deficit will be higher than the Hungarian government’s estimate. It is projected to reach 3%. The shortfall next year will be even larger–3.3%. Thus, unless something is done, within a year Hungary will be back under the excessive deficit procedure. New austerity measures must be introduced.

And if all this weren’t enough, there is the case of József Balogh, a Fidesz-KDNP member of parliament, who after a drunken wedding party beat his partner so badly that she ended up in the hospital. The first report, again by the new 444.hu, talked only about a broken nose but it later turned out that the woman had a fractured skull as well. Our honorable member of parliament, it seems, beat his first wife regularly for twenty-five years. After these episodes his former wife dutifully reported that her injuries were the result of some accident or other. At one point she said that she had fall off their farm’s seeder.

Balogh, whose formal education ended with a trade school certificate in repairing agricultural machinery, is a fairly prosperous farmer with a large house, several outbuildings, and about 103 acres of land. He also receives 864,987 forints a month for his services to the nation. He has three horses and a “Mercédesz,” as he called his car in the compulsory yearly financial report .

Unfortunately, domestic violence is widespread, and Hungary is no exception. Lately there have been a lot of terrible tragedies ending in multiple deaths. A man killed his children, his wife, his mother-in-law, and finally himself. But it doesn’t happen too often that we find out that a member of parliament is a regular wife-beater. And Balogh is no newcomer to parliament. He has been an MP since 1998. Moreover, he got there by being directly elected four times from Bács-Kiskun County. In addition, he became the mayor of his village, population 834. I might add here that while the members of most town councils in villages of this size hide behind the independent label, Fülöpháza can boast a Fidesz-KDNP mayor in addition to four Fidesz-KDNP counselors. What I find amazing is that this man was elected several times even though one would suspect that his behavior couldn’t have been a secret in such a small place as Fülöpháza.

Balogh began his political career as a member of the Smallholders’ party. About that time, in the middle of the 1990s, I asked a fellow I met on the Internet why he became a member of the Smallholders’ party. His answer was: he wanted to go as far right as possible, and in those days it was the Smallholders’ that fit the bill. Balogh ran as a Smallholder in 1998 and 2002, but by 2003 he became a member of Fidesz. He was reelected in 2006 and 2010.

Balogh’s initial account of his domestic partner’s injuries was simply enough. The two of them went to the wedding of the woman’s son where he drank too much. In fact, he drank so much that, he said, he doesn’t remember a thing that happened after they got home. It was only the next morning that he discovered that his partner was in the hospital and that she claimed that he had hit her. Within a few hours, however, we found out that this was not the first time that Terézia S., Balogh’s companion, broke her nose or had other suspicious injuries. Earlier she covered up the cause. But this time her injuries were so severe that the doctor by law had to report the case.

Beware the dog is blind / szerintem ...s photos

Beware of blind dog / szerintem …s photos

Meanwhile Balogh himself came up with increasingly fanciful stories. The two of them got home from the wedding at around 4-5 o’clock in the morning. Upon their arrival his blind komondor got so excited at the smell of the stew (pörkölt) the woman was carrying in a pot that he knocked her off her feet. The blind komondor became a star in no time because Balogh was not shy about telling this incredible story to every reporter who got in touch with him. He gave interview after interview during which he offered more details and claimed that there was a witness to this alleged encounter with the blind komondor, Balogh’s adopted son Szabolcs or Szabika, as he called him. (Since then we learned that Szabika got a tobacco concession in Fülöpháza.)

Hir24.hu wrote about the case under the following headline: “Strangling, thrashing–More victims of the blind komondor.” A blog writer called his post “The blind komondor and the broken-nosed Hungarian reality.” HVG announced “Here is the picture of the ‘guilty’ blind komondor.” Klára Ungár, former SZDSZ politician and currently the leader of a small liberal group called SZEMA, organized a demonstration of women and dogs to defend the good name of their four-legged friends. They also demanded, as have many feminist groups, tougher laws against domestic violence.

All the fanciful stories Balogh came up with didn’t do him any good. The first wife suffered for twenty-five years from this man’s brutality, but his current girlfriend was less patient. She left the hospital but didn’t return to the Balogh residence. She went home to her children. His party got rid of him as well. As it stands now, he left the Fidesz caucus and moved over to the independents. According to Antal Rogán, Balogh was strongly urged to leave the Fidesz delegation, but Balogh denied this and claimed that his leaving the Fidesz caucus was his own decision. He also made it clear that he intends to remain a member of the party.

Whether it will be his decision I very much doubt. According to the latest information, Antal Rogán and László Kövér demanded that he give up his seat altogether but Balogh refused to oblige. In a way I understand his position. After all, he didn’t receive his mandate as a result of the largess of the party. He won it on his own. Moreover, I’m not at all sure whether Fidesz actually wants to have a by-election right now unless, of course, they are pretty certain of an easy victory. The story hasn’t ended yet. Most likely Balogh’s parliamentary immunity will be lifted and, if he is found guilty, the problem will be solved.

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17 comments

  1. Why shouldn’t he beat his wife? After all, his dog is blind and he can’t beat him. Anyway, women deserve it, don’t they? Hasn’t that been the Catholic mantra for two thousand years? (Oh, wait a minute, maybe I’m thinking of the Middle Ages….but, hello there, it is the middle ages in Hungary!)

    But Joseph Balogh is a sterling member of Fidesz-KDNP with impressive political credentials. Why, his fellow villagers love him so as to elect him twice. Of course, it’s only in medieval Hungary that you can hold down a local and a federal position, isn’t it? With all that gelt, how many votes/jobs can Joseph dole out to his fellow drinking partners?

    But you know, I think I know the answer: secretly, Balogh is a Jew–those bloody jews always beat their wives….atleast, that’s the way I heard it-

  2. There was recently this great piece on Galamus by Mihály Andor: http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=207322&catid=71&Itemid=109 .
    Briefly: if you want to govern the country with mafia methods, you must have real mafiosi as your lieutenants, people who are violent, completely unscrupulous and stupid enough never to question your authority or the laws of the mafia. But the problem is that you also have to run the country and make its institutions work and function (and perhaps even maintain a façade of respectability), using the same people who are too stupid to understand anything beyond violence and violence-based authority.

  3. BTW, József Balogh has started a blog to defend his reputation: http://azigazibaloghjozsef.blog.hu/ . Or, rather, had somebody start this blog. (In the first version, his CV was written partly in the 1st, partly in the 3rd persion, as reported on http://kepviselofunky.blog.hu/2013/05/01/hat_igy_nez_ki_egy_agressziv_csaladapa .) Alongside lots of photos with the guy surrounded by his numerous children and grandchildren, to demonstrate what a nice guy he is, there is an incredibly bad joke about Kohn, Grühn and Weisz’s daughter, and… drumrolls… a photo of Ferenc Gyurcsány, who, of course, is behind this whole campaign of false accusations! Parody has truly become impossible.

  4. These guys, the Fidesz parliamentary representatives, were selected for daring and willing to anything if so commanded. This is the only reason they got to be there.

    Don’t be naive that Fidesz’ regional commissioner (there is one guy who is responsible for managing the internal issues of every larger region) did not know that Balogh was an agressive wife beater, it was common knowledge that from time to time he ‘snaps’.

    Fidesz does a thorough background check called vetting (same in the US, only Fidesz is freer to do it), which obviously deals with embarracing details as well.

    However, these details will not get published unless the guy betrays Fidesz (in other words the “community”, and by extension, the nation), which simply means he votes not accoording to the commands and gets disorderly.

    Unluckily, it was the media which found about Balogh this time, but Fidesz holds all these info about its MP’s. Everyone is held tightly. Fidesz controls them by various means and they are loyal right wingers to begin with. In fact it is encouraged that they enter into shady deals which can be made public later. It’s like in the mafia, you have to make a killing to look credible (and show that you are not an undercover policeman).That is basic politics.

    Only amateurs, like LMP and MSZP (or the left) fall apart.

    Unity is strength, division is the end of the game in the current system. Fidesz will enforce unity by any means necessary because they know until they have the single most uniform block in politics they have won.

    The election system is calibrated to the dominant party of the right (with an overall 7-8-9% advantage towards the right, depending on the exact circumstances, ie. how many parties enter the elections). If they keep that spot, they are gonna win, no matter what scandals the media breaks (which will not get to the majority of population anway).

  5. For non-Hungarian speakers:

    Balog or Balogh is a frequent family name. Its original meaning is left-handed, lefty.

  6. Yana: “It’s like in the mafia, you have to make a killing to look credible (and show that you are not an undercover policeman).That is basic politics.”

    Sometimes I wonder how Hungary was able to pretend for so many years that it is part of civilised Europe.
    But without a joke, I am still not convinced that this is what most people want or what most people find natural, no matter how often I read here that it has always been somehow the way that it is now. Also the Fidesz network in my impression could lose its appeal quite quickly – if people do not repeat ceaselessly that OV is almighty, that the point where people would have cared is long gone, that whatever Fidesz does, it will stay in power as long as Ferenc Gyurcsany lives because he has REALLY ruined the country, or that people “gain” from Fidesz through ONE action (gas prices) while overlooking all points where they pay heavily etc. Fidesz’ propaganda works well across the entire society, it seems.

  7. @ Kirsten:

    “….will stay in power…”

    As long as you allow the Catholic Church to grab you by the cojones and deliver you to the best bidder, this will go on.
    There is no substitute for thinking for yourself and determining the true state of affairs. Hungarians must grow up.

  8. I guess one of the reasons of the “initiation kill” is that it could be used against you. In Fidesz, they want to you to take advantage of your situation, and then if you misbhehave lo and behold, the prosecution will (or at least can, unless you become to important) get you.

  9. Stevan Harnad (@AmSciForum) :

    Video for Eva. :
    The multi-culturalist anti-racist Hitler:

    A very cheap and brainless low-propaganda video regardless of the spin anyone puts on it: why was it posted here?

    I took a quick look at it and I decided that it was what Stevan says it is. I wanted to inform the sender of this video that Israel actually has two official languages: Hebrew and Arabic. 20.6% of the population is actually Arabic. So, this stupid propaganda is a far cry from reallity.

  10. Kirsten :
    Yana: “It’s like in the mafia, you have to make a killing to look credible (and show that you are not an undercover policeman).That is basic politics.”
    I am still not convinced that this is what most people want or what most people find natural, no matter how often I read here that it has always been somehow the way that it is now…. Also the Fidesz network in my impression could lose its appeal quite quickly.

    @Kirsten – I couldn’t agree with you more. I enjoy reading this blog and all the comments most of the time. However, there is an air of pessimism and occasionally even defeatism in the comments which is counterproductive. I know this blog is not an organiser of resistence to Orban and his followers, but neither should it act to demoralise those who are in a position to fight back. The greatest enemy of Orban and his government is a thinking population. Yes, there are swathes of Hungarians who are a bit moronic and do not like to think. It is a form of intellectual laziness, but it happens everywhere in the world, not only here. However, those who think that these people are in the majority are wrong. They exaggerate as an external expression of their own frustration and hopelessness. So, I applaud your optimism and am sure that Orban is not forever. Now, as to the method of how we are going to get rid of him I can’t comment or guess. But be assured we will! I have changed a famous saying slightly to come up with: “You can lie to all of the people some of the time and lie to some of the people all of the time, but there is no way you can lie to all of the people all of the time! Hang onto this and all of it will become easier!

  11. JGrant, thank you very much for supporting my point. I actually do not consider this optimistic, I think so because of lack of alternatives. If people do nothing, it is doomed in any case. I can also easily imagine that Hungary will slide further with the general feeling even of people who are opposed to OV that “nothing can be done”. But if (at some moment) change should become possible, it would be of great help to have some workable ideas and a positive vision for post-Orban Hungary and some qualified manpower already available (so that change will not be in the hands of some turncoat Fideszniks with ad hoc ideas of what has to be “reformed”), and second, the moment when change becomes possible this will be the case because people lose their respect for OV (for which some people could set the example already now). Both cases are helped by not losing sight of a positive vision for a democratic Hungary, even if many people are defeatist. So I actually consider this approach pragmatic :-).

  12. IME, police don’t tend to take domestic violence seriously and a popular politician is involved. Also, there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling a restraining order… Not a good situation at all!!!

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