parliamentary committee on national security

Skinheads here, skinheads there

Never a dull moment. Yesterday, a convicted felon was elected to serve as one of the five deputies to the president of the Hungarian parliament. An outcry followed in opposition circles, especially since Viktor Orbán himself voted for the appointment of Tamás Sneider (Jobbik). A few hours later Magyar Nemzet found a skinhead in MSZP: Zsolt Molnár, who served as chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security in the last four years and who was supposed to continue in this capacity in the new session. What a coincidence!

It was on October 23, 1992 that Hungarian TV viewers could see a rather large far-right crowd, skinheads and others, who ultimately managed to prevent President Árpád Göncz from delivering his speech on the national holiday. People were shocked at this first sign of a far-right movement in Hungary. Magyar Televizíó, the only television station in existence then, filmed the event. After they aired their report, government officials accused the producers of falsifying the event. 168 Óra, a weekly magazine, ran a long story on the demonstration decrying the appearance of neo-Nazi ideas among Hungarian youth. The magazine published several pictures to accompany the story. As it so happened, on one of the pictures was a young hooded man. He was just a high school student at the time but, according to his classmates, he was deeply interested in politics and, as they recall, he sympathized with the right. According to one old friend, he was an MDF (the government party) supporter, while another remembered that he was a follower of István Csurka. (At the time István Csurka was still a member of MDF, so the two recollections are not necessarily in conflict.) The young man was none other than Zsolt Molnár, today a very important man in MSZP.

As Zsolt Molnár recalls, he was excited that his picture appeared in such an important publication as 168 Óra. He even boasted about it to his family and friends. He made sure that there were several copies to go around. But this was an isolated incident of “fame,” followed by years of obscurity as he went to law school, worked first as a prosecutor and then as a lawyer in private practice. Ten years later, it seems, he decided that his true place was in MSZP. In 2004 he became a party member and from there on his political career was uninterrupted and hugely successful.

Molnár naturally doesn’t deny that he was present at the anti-Göncz demonstration, but he denies that he was a skinhead. His accusers claim that skinheads in those days wore hoodies–I guess to cover their bald heads–and Molnár wore one. Molnár claims that he covered his head because it was raining. I checked the weather forecast for October 23, 1992 and, yes, it was raining. In fact, it rained in Budapest for four solid days. Not only, he says, wasn’t he a skinhead; he claims that he didn’t even know any skinheads. He was only a Honvéd (Kispest) football fan; they called themselves “the Ultras.” Honvéd was Ferenc Puskás’s club, by the way. Even his former classmates deny that he had anything to do with skinheads.

Zsolt Molnár with his youthful picture and plenty of hair

Zsolt Molnár with his youthful picture and plenty of hair

The timing, as always with Fidesz, is perfect. MSZP refuses to vote for Tamás Sneider because he was a skinhead? And what about your Zsolt Molnár? He was a skinhead too.

I can’t help wondering whether the Molnár affair is the third “sin” of MSZP that Fidesz people promised to uncover. The first was the infamous Baja video and the second the Gábor Simon case. (In passing, a quick update on the latter. Since the initial flurry of  accusations and counter-accusations, there’s not been a word about the case. Gábor Simon is still in jail, but no one is interested in his case. According to his lawyer, he has been interrogated only once since his arrest on March 10, and we just learned that his infamous African passport doesn’t exist. Or, at least, it is not in the possession of the prosecution.) Is it possible that Fidesz got wind of Molnár’s picture a long time ago and just waited for the best possible moment to use this evidence? I think that’s a likely scenario. If this was indeed the third strike and if the promise of three strikes against MSZP is true, perhaps we will be spared more discoveries of MSZP “wrongdoings”–at least for awhile.

In any case, MSZP is scrambling again. Molnár has asked for another security clearance, the so-called C-type, which is the most thorough. He had already been checked out twice before and no problems were uncovered. However, even if he passes with flying colors, it might already be too late to salvage the situation. DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy admits that Sneider’s case is a great deal more serious than Molnár’s demonstrating against President Göncz and yelling “You have lied enough!” Molnár, in his opinion, was just a misguided youngster. However, “if the Hungarian left wants to be an alternative to Fidesz, we must be consistent, which may require difficult decisions. Therefore, the Demokratikus Koalicíó thinks that Zsolt Molnár should not be the chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security.”

The opposition parties continue their squabbles. DK is taking a position against MSZP in this case, while Együtt2014-PM is outraged that MSZP joined Fidesz-KDNP, Jobbik, and LMP in nominating Sneider to the deputy-president position. Mind you, MSZP wasn’t exactly generous toward their former allies. They could have helped E14 and DK have their own parliamentary delegations, but they didn’t. Oh well, as I said, never a dull moment.