The Fót election doesn’t bode well for the future

We are getting closer and closer to the national election, which most likely will be held sometime in early April. Therefore I think we ought to ponder what happened at the municipal election in Fót on and after November 24. Fót may well be an omen of what can be expected at next year’s national election.

Someone who is supported by the three opposition parties wins the election, but a week later, after the local election commission finds everything to be in order and gives its blessing to the results, on the basis of unproven election irregularities a court decision renders the results null and void. Moreover, it not only orders the election to be repeated but forces participants to start the whole procedure over from the beginning, including getting endorsements. The new election will be held in February. Yes, February because the procedure takes that long. Meanwhile Fót’s municipal government is in disarray. In the Fidesz-run town the city fathers, all belonging to Fidesz, have managed to get rid of three mayors in three years.

What happened in Fót is a serious situation and doesn’t bode well for next year’s national election. I will try to provide a timeline of the events.

The first complaint came from Jobbik’s county organization. They claimed that someone reported that a Volkswagen minibus allegedly transported voters from outlying districts. They claimed to know who the owner of the minibus was. It turned out that the man “with MSZP sympathies” sold his Volkswagen years ago. And although they produced a picture of the white bus, it was impossible to ascertain how many people were inside the vehicle or where the photo was taken. So, here the situation was entirely different from the Baja case where there was proof of regular transports by a single man with a single car.

Then came another complaint.  Some people found in their mailboxes a handmade poster without a logo and without the name of any organization which advertised that there would be extra bus runs on the day of the election for easier access to the polling station. As it turned out, the bus schedule was not changed in any way, but it looks as if the three-man panel at the courthouse didn’t find it necessary to ascertain whether the intent had been followed by action. For them the picture of a minibus and a piece of paper promising extra bus runs was enough.

These learned judges rendered their verdict on the basis of §47 of the old electoral law that still regulates election procedures. It says that free transportation service provided by the candidate or the organization he represents is considered to be electoral misconduct. But the verdict in the Fót case says not a word about the candidate or his party or organization that allegedly was behind this dastardly deed. So, from here on every time someone doesn’t like the outcome of an election he can produce a picture of a minibus or come forth with a handwritten crumbled piece of paper announcing extra bus runs and, voila, the election will be declared null and void.

The verdict was so bizarre that the notary of Fót asked twice what the judges actually meant. And the town notary is normally someone with a law degree.

justice

Almost all electoral commissions–local, territorial, and national–are in Fidesz hands, and yet the territorial election committee last Wednesday decided that all was in order. They claimed that even if there had been irregularities such actions couldn’t have influenced the outcome of the election. But then came an appeal from a “private person representing a law firm” who objected. The person asked the court to re-examine the bus route case and, in addition, he called attention to two women who “had in their possession some MSZP-DK-E14 leaflets” and who urged people to vote because “the number of voters is low.” Apparently, they didn’t dispense the leaflets. All in all, we are talking about minor infractions, some of which are unproven.

Was the decision an example of judicial incompetence or were the judges influenced either by their own political views or, even worse, were they subject to some outside influence? It’s hard to tell, but the message is: if an opposition candidate wins, the results will not be allowed to stand. I don’t think too many people remember the 2010 Felcsút municipal election when the man elected mayor was not Viktor Orbán’s favorite Lőrinc Mészáros. The election had to be repeated because it was decided that the winner owed a small fee to the local authorities. He was apparently a Fidesz supporter but not quite the right man.

Of course, from my peaceful rural suburb in Connecticut all this sounds crazy. Why couldn’t I ask my neighbor to take me to vote if my car broke down the day before? What is wrong with someone urging me to go to the polls because participation is low? Of course, nothing. But this is, thank God, not Hungary where for a few bucks you can buy the votes of downtrodden Romas. And then there are the crooked local election committees and the incompetent/crooked judges. As a very bitter opinion piece in HVG said: “there is a brutally misleading electoral procedure. A media that makes equal chances of all parties illusory. A population misled by the state, municipal authorities and even by owners of private companies. There are all sorts of lists. And a wacky opposition that hopes it can get justice from the independent investigative and judicial authorities. Keep hoping!”

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25 comments

  1. Leaders and citizens have been at work to create Hungary 2013, a shameful chaos.
    The Orbans of Hungary will claim all fake achievements, but except for their own wealth, they can not truly list any positive results.
    Hungary is independent now, like under horthy, studied ernestly by romsics and co.
    There is a similar choir of whiners again, who prevent the progress, and enable the rule of local oppressors.

    It will be a miracle, if another Deak appears from the dark hole, to shake up the nation, and build a civil society.

  2. @ Steven #20 and Pete H.

    I must answer my detractors.

    First off, ‘generalizations’ are just that–but they are meant to mean that it applies to the majority. If you’ve done some reading, you’d know that without a red sign going off: “Beware: Generalization Coming!” Sorry, but reading requires active thought and the weighing of arguments, not blanket rejection because of a generalization.

    More importantly, I’d like to ask these ‘breast-beaters:

    a) How outraged are you that this moronic, outdated government refers to the country as “Christian Hungary”, thereby marginalizing all those non-Christians?

    b) How outraged were you when a convicted war criminal by the name of Csatary is harbored by the government; and where questions of how he received his Hungarian passport never even came up in Parliament?

    c) How outraged were you when Herr Orban, sans Foreign Ministry, or any consultation that he admists to, released the Azeri axe-murderer…thereby bringing long-lasting shame to the country and its citizens in the court of world opinion?

    d) How outraged were you, Steven #20 and Pete H. when those motorcycle riders boldly dared to plan to demonstrate against the World Jewish Congress with the outrageous
    signs, “GIVE GAZ!”?

    So, did the two of you raise your voices, yell for Justice and Right? How upset, if at all, were you?

    Or, are you just upset because this jew (and born Hungarian) dares to raise his voice
    and point out the malaise and sickness deep within the Hungarian psyche?

  3. In the last few days I”ve been meeting more and more pro-government pro-right-wing Fidesz believers who are staunch believers in the anachronism that is Fidesz and in the belief that those who “watch ATV or read Népszabadság, or Népszava are bleeding-heart liberals and are being duped into believing trumped-up nonsense.

    If I begin to explain some element of what the truth might actually be they instantly interrupt and clamor like psychiatric cases…

    True Hysteria might take hold. Bad will, the exclusionary-‘game’, a willful self-deceipt is prevalent among the upper and mid-upper classes (approx 20% of population) and the lower ‘classes’ who realize they are getting poorer by the day but blame the ex-commies (lumped as the pre-Fidesz group) and blind to the machinations of the current day Fidesz Maffia.

    Hysterical behavior is one where individuals or groups go through bouts of psychosis abrogating all chances of a logical discussion.

    We got it here folks! And medicine has not yet found a Vaccine against this one… The flu shots are no good against psychosis.

  4. “there is a brutally misleading electoral procedure. A media that makes equal chances of all parties illusory. A population misled by the state, municipal authorities and even by owners of private companies. There are all sorts of lists. And a wacky opposition that hopes it can get justice from the independent investigative and judicial authorities. Keep hoping!”

    When I write things like that I’m labelled negative and cynical.

  5. Viktor’s World

    It’s horrible that this is happening in Hungary. But the real nightmare is that it could metastasize to Europe and the rest of the world, creating an Orbellian (sic) hell for us all. Intense international scrutiny has to be focussed on exposing what’s happening in Hungary, not just for the sake of Hungary, but for the sake of the rest of the world. (I don’t think I’m exaggerating: what Fidesz is getting away with, with complete impunity, beggars belief.)

  6. To Petofi #2
    Eva is reporting on Hungary with great objectivity from a distant CT hamlet.
    While you are living and bleeding in the trenches of the daily close encounters with countless stubborn Hungarians who are victims and victimizers at the same time.
    I am listening to your desperate calls for help.
    Very few people are responding to your calls.
    How can we wake up the sleeping souls?
    I am assuring you of my everlasting sympathy and support, and hope that your words are falling on fertile soil.
    Keep going on with your sharply composed comments.
    You have got the most penetrating senses in this circle.
    2013

  7. Stevan Harnad :
    Viktor’s World
    It’s horrible that this is happening in Hungary. But the real nightmare is that it could metastasize to Europe and the rest of the world, creating an Orbellian (sic) hell for us all. Intense international scrutiny has to be focussed on exposing what’s happening in Hungary, not just for the sake of Hungary, but for the sake of the rest of the world. (I don’t think I’m exaggerating: what Fidesz is getting away with, with complete impunity, beggars belief.)

    Perceptive comment and a true danger. Consider Hungary/Orban as the leading edge of the Russian weapon against Europe and the West–that should put an exclamation mark on your fears. Sadly, I see it as all too real a possibility. Remember that Orban spent some time in Moscow as a student. And then again, there’s the interesting case of Megdet Rahimkulov, a billionaire investor in Hungary, once a KGB operative; who, as a billionaire
    has chosen the wonderful, exciting confines of….(wait for it) FELCSUT to make his home!
    Have I given you food for thought…?

  8. @ 2013

    Not many like you out there.
    But I soldier on, and am happy to have you by my side.
    In truth, Hungarians can be talented and innovative but, as a society, they’ve gone down the rabbit-hole. I think that being cheated continually by changing governments–Fidesz/MSZP/MSZP/Fidesz–have left them rudderless and without faith in political solutions.
    Hence the dive into the past: into Religion and Nationalism–long out-dated, 19th century solutions.

    It’s because of this horrendous political culture that I keep calling for a Probity Clause by one of the opposition parties that would promise jail time and monstrous fines (family houses included….let the wives ride shotgun on their husbands!) for financial crimes against the state (corruption).

    What do you think?

  9. Petofi#8: “What do you think?”

    Here is what I think.

    Let us assume that there is a country whose constitution would be declared democratic by all the worlds constitutional experts if they were asked. Let us further assume that the legislative assembly, the government and the administrative units of that country are all faithfully obeying every single paragraph of the constitution and the laws. Could anything criminal be decided or carried out in such a system, where everybody strictly adheres to the laws passed by a democratically elected assembly?

    Sadly, the answer is yes. The legislators only have to legalize the crime. If for example a sufficient majority of the assembly decides that it is legal for the government to distribute state property for free, they are opening the gate for legal theft. Giving common property away for nothing hurts everybody else than the beneficiaries. It is a crime. If it is made legal to take some peoples livelihood away and give it as state concessions to others, the legislature is opening another gate for legal theft. If the legislators approve that the government cloaks its doings in the mist of state secrets they are denying the public control of the government. It is a crime. The ultimate crime which can be committed in an impeccable democracy by legal means is abolishing democracy. It is the favourite project of smart lawyers.

    Clearly a democratic constitution and strict adherence to law is no safeguard against crime committed by authorities. This is understandable when one realizes that crime is a moral term as well as a legal term. What is morally deemed a crime is a crime no matter what legislators decide. However, real existing democracy has no mechanism to prevent legalization of moral crimes such as lying, theft and even murder, just to mention three prominent items in Moses’ top ten list of do’s and don’ts.

    The reason why democracy has worked well in many countries without safeguards against legalisation of crime is that there are sufficiently many politicians in the major parties of these countries who shy away from legalizing what their conscience tells them is a crime. Would-be democracies which do not have enough politicians of that quality are doomed to fail. Moral conscience among politicians is more likely to decline than to increase with time. In fifty years it may not exist at all anywhere and there will be no defence against the smart lawyers. It is necessary to implement a new defence. It could be a universal supra-constitutional principle dealing with the paradox of retroactive law.

    Making a retroactive law that prescribes punishment for something that was legal when it was done, is a moral crime. Yet the members of a regime that commits self-legalized crimes can only be punished by a successor government through retroactive law. Crack that nut.

  10. @ Jean P

    “Crack that nut.”

    First off, legislation and its administration, should be for the general welfare of society.
    There is also a process established by the longest running democracies–I suppose that would be the English and the American–that should be followed. And, of course, ‘precedent’ (in England, it’s the basis of Common Law) has a great role to play in the orderly
    conduct of the application of laws. (Hence the ridiculousness of Orban’s law to ban precedent in the courts.) Thus, for instance, constitutional changes are fine but they must be after great study (in committee) and exhaustive debate in Parliament. Constitutional changes cannot be haphazard and ad hoc–as best illustrated by the Hungarian fiddling of the last three years. There is a right way and the wrong way that is largely known by studying the way the American and British system has worked for the last 200 and 350 years respectively. Use that as a template. Well-intentioned govenment actions/laws consider the welfare of society at large as its first and greatest responsibility. Use that measuring stick on Orban’s laws and its not hard to see what is for the general Good and what is not.

    But these petty fiefdoms like Hungary are far away from having the correct political culture to run an honest system. My choice would be for a new order of instruction–a ‘school of international administration–that would provide a commission of say 10 people to be hired out to countries like Hungary. They would be the rulers for 7-10 years and the ultimate authority. They would be paid for by the UN. All police and armed services would be
    answerable to them as well. The countries best suited to provide these commission members would be citizens of those countries highest listed in Transparency International–Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, England, Canada, USA etc…

  11. Jean #10
    I am reading some profound remarks in your remarks.
    Let us agree on one point, Orban maybe a morally challenged leader, but there are millions of Hungarians, on the right, in the middle, and on the left, who are morally so twisted that I can not even start to describe their problems very well.
    Akos Kertesz has analyzed these social failures in the clearest terms among all Hungarians.
    May I propose a very difficult task?
    Can we commit ourselves to one important objective, namely to build a positive social behavior, PSB, in Hungary?
    (Sorry for the possible unclear composition. I can happen in English, and before the first coffee.)

  12. #petofi
    I am aware and I was outraged by all those things you write about. I write my reps and senators regarding my concerns. I have spoken with US Department of State personel. I have posted comments in several venues. I donate time and money to organizations in Hungary dealing with some of the injustices of the regime. I try and raise my voice as effectively as I can given my position and location.

    My criticism had nothing to do with your religion and I never wrote a word that would suggest that.

  13. In the Rezesova case (vehicular homicide by a billionaire Slovakian woman):

    did Fidesz faction leader Rogan interfere with the deliberation of the court?

    is it possible that he knew about the decision in advance?

    Either way, the case shows the rapidly diminishing independence of the courts.

    What happened?

    Rogan said yesterday morning that the court should send Rezesova back to jail before the apellate court picks up the case. The court ruled according to Rogan’s popular wishes in the afternoon.

    Was Rogan or Fidesz paid for this remark by the defendant?

    This interference may give the European court reason to quash the judgement and set Rezesova free!

  14. It was quite wrong of Rogan to say what he did and in the manner he chose. But it was also puzzling why she was allowed to serve a jail sentence at home rather than in prison which is where most of us would be sent had we done what she did. So it is not as if any injustice has been done. Unlike this business in Fót which sends out a hugely disturbing message.

  15. Hungary getting messier by the day… its like a pamper that noone is changing. The burden just accumulates. We’re wallowing and suffocating in it, at the same time !

  16. Fidesz voted for new House rules today. The new rules introduce additional measures to restrict freedom of speech for members of Parliament.
    (This is not a joke 😦 )

  17. Peter H. :
    #petofi
    I am aware and I was outraged by all those things you write about. I write my reps and senators regarding my concerns. I have spoken with US Department of State personel. I have posted comments in several venues. I donate time and money to organizations in Hungary dealing with some of the injustices of the regime. I try and raise my voice as effectively as I can given my position and location.
    My criticism had nothing to do with your religion and I never wrote a word that would suggest that.

    @ Peter H.

    It seems obvious to me that you are of Hungarian origin but born in the US of A. Otherwise,
    you’d know that Hungarians in Hungary have a whole web of hot-button words that allude to jews without mentioning them. These might be: Communist; Banker; Socialist; and the like.
    The citizenry understand these allusions and agree with them whole heartedly. So you see,
    in dealing with Hungarian-Hungarians, one does not have hear the concrete term of ‘jew’…

    Another thing: sympathetic as you might be to the plight of Hungarians in Hungary you do not have–cannot have–an understanding of the massive rollback in democratic process, or the abandonment of the rule of law, that is taking place. You cannot understand because in the US you are used to logical development and its not comprehensible that such a thing could take place. Well it does in Hungary. Can you imagine repealing all precedents in legal proceedings?!? Is that possible in the modern world? Do you understand that this highlights the total subjugation of the supreme court and, by extension, the instant abrogation of individual rights? There is no principal to appeal to. Laws and Rights are what the Fidesz government say they are, and it changes continually.

    And, what of the sheep called the Hunarian citizenry? For a few hot-button words like
    NATION, and CHRISTIANITY, and INDEPENDENCE…the mindless Hungarian swallows it all whole.

    And you wonder why I curse and mock and heap sarcasm on the ‘noble Hungarians’????

  18. Petofi: So now we are back at the you don’t live here shut up? Many on this blog would object to that you know. Especially that you are only sensitive about Jewish hot-buttons (even if you have to reinvent usury as one, that nobody has used in an anti-semitic way for a century at least), and don’t phase a bit to use the ones about gypsies. You are just as bad as your “general Hungarian”, with different historical predestination and hot-buttons. Shame on you.

  19. Jano :
    Petofi: So now we are back at the you don’t live here shut up? Many on this blog would object to that you know. Especially that you are only sensitive about Jewish hot-buttons (even if you have to reinvent usury as one, that nobody has used in an anti-semitic way for a century at least), and don’t phase a bit to use the ones about gypsies. You are just as bad as your “general Hungarian”, with different historical predestination and hot-buttons. Shame on you.

    In all fairness, Petofi did not re-invent a meaning for “usury.” You may not like his overstating or generalizations, but that meaning has existed for years. It wasn’t just poets like Ezra Pound or TS Eliot who used it in that way, it is regular everyday Hungarians. Living here, you’d have to be tone-deaf not to hear it.

  20. @ Jano

    “So now we are back at the you don’t live here shut up?”

    Did I say ‘shut up’? I don’t think so. It’s quite poor to characterize what someone has said, and then attack the characterization.

    Specifically, I said that Pete H has no experience of the Hungarian reality. Who could have it without actuallly living in Hungary? It’s bizarre. It’s mind-boggling.

    What’s more, my chief interest is not the anti-semitism (though, to have had parents who met in Bergen Belsen, having some motorcycles have the inhumanity to parade around
    with signs of ‘GIVE GAZ’ does bring my (non-religious) blood to a boil.

    If you had read me over a period of time, you’d know that my chief concern is the corruption which is the deadly viral infection that poisons the country. The lack of respect for the rule of law is a close second.

  21. petofi :
    @ Jano
    Specifically, I said that Pete H has no experience of the Hungarian reality. Who could have it without actuallly living in Hungary? It’s bizarre. It’s mind-boggling.
    What’s more, my chief interest is not the anti-semitism (though, to have had parents who met in Bergen Belsen, having some motorcycles have the inhumanity to parade around

    True. You really need to live or have lived in Hungary for at least some years to fully understand how bizarre the place is. How widespread corruption is. How mentally deranged politicians are. How demoralized Hungarians are. Sad actually.

  22. Petofi: “What do you think?”

    Here is what I think – continued.

    The title of this post “The Fót election doesn’t bode well for the future” is an understatement. It would also have been an understatement if it had been “The Fót election bodes ill for the future”. After the decision that the election in Fót should be repeated, there cannot be any doubt that there exists a Fidesz house rule that dictates, as Éva expresses it: “if an opposition candidate wins, the results will not be allowed to stand”. No sane mind can doubt any more that next years election will be a travesty.

    It is time for the opposition parties to consider whether it is a wise policy to let themselves be bound up to a travesty. Since the opposition parties are defenceless against the Fót-principle and similar principles not yet formulated, they are sure to loose. If they protest about Fidesz’ dishonest ways after a lost election they will be dismissed as sore losers. If they protest now nobody will notice it if they do it in words. If they protest by pulling out of the circus they will get attention, but the effect of such a demonstration is unpredictable.

    It seems to me that they should pull half-way out. Stay on the ticket and abandon the vain hope of getting votes by making concessions to Fidesz sympathizers and use the campaign funds for a much needed education of the electorate in the intricacies of democracy. There are some fundamentals of democracy that most Hungarians are happily ignorant about. Teach them. Let me mention an example. It has nothing to do with democracy if people who are not going to face the consequences of an election are allowed to vote. This should be taught by all opposition parties not just by one. The knowledge of Hungarians on democracy is almost non-existent and it will take many years to bring it up to a decent level. Democracy means that you can have different opinions without being enemies. Democracy is for all citizens. No subset can be constitutionally excluded. There is so much for Hungarians to learn. Begin the course now and forget about small time demagoguery aimed at winning votes in an election that cannot be won.

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