Tamás Sneider

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.

The opening session of the new Hungarian parliament

Today was the opening session of the new parliament. Before the session began the new MPs were treated in the “Red Room” to music by the so-called folk musician András Jánosi and his orchestra. Actually, András Jánosi’s genre is what used to be called Gypsy music; it seems to be experiencing a revival with the assistance of the Orbán government. In fact, Magyar Rádió established a separate channel devoted to Gypsy music and songs created in the manner of folk music (műdalok). The channel is named after a famous Gypsy band leader, Pista Dankó (1858-1903).

But why Gypsy music at the opening session of Parliament? According to Népszabadság, “they revived the tradition that the Gypsy band of János Bihari (1764-1827) played music for the arriving members of the Diet.” It’s too bad that historians are such sticklers for the truth, but this so-called tradition couldn’t have been exactly long-lived. Between 1811 and 1825 no Diet was convened at all; the “reform era” spanned the period between 1825 and 1848. Bihari, to repeat, died in 1827. So much for a great Hungarian tradition.

Outside the parliament building Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, a Jobbik member of the European parliament, organized a demonstration protesting the new law concerning agricultural lands. When a guest to the opening of parliament, István Pásztor, a Hungarian politician from the Voivodina, appeared, a scuffle ensued. The police stood by passively. Demonstrators, mostly women, surrounded Pásztor, calling him a traitor and a Bolshevik. Several women spat in his face. Why did Gaudi-Nagy’s group decide to attack Pásztor? According to ATV’s website, last year Gaudi-Nagy tried to “defend” the Hungarians in Serbia in the European Council, which Pásztor deemed “harmful” to the Hungarian minority. Whatever the reason, Jobbik distanced itself from Gaudi-Nagy, emphasizing that he is not a member of the party’s parliamentary caucus. Gaudi-Nagy, you may recall, is the man who a few months ago threw the flag of the European Union out of one of the bathroom windows of the parliament building.

Of course, there were also the usual opening speeches. Especially interesting was the speech of President János Áder, who drew on the writings and speeches of Ferenc Deák (1803-1876), known as the wise man of the nation because he was the architect of the Compromise of 1867. As is often the case, Áder used Deák as a springboard to make a political point. He quoted Deák saying that “we should not cast our glances at the past, but instead we must look forward to the future.” I don’t think one needs much imagination to grasp Áder’s intent. In my opinion, at least, he is telling all those people who are upset over the alleged falsification of history to leave the past alone and stop being pests.

Áder also invoked Ferenc Deák’s words about the necessity of differences of opinion in politics. “The truth gets extracted from differences of opinion,” Deák said. “I don’t mind, in fact I desire differences of opinion even in very important matters. I love all those citizens who oppose us. Let God grant us opponents and not enemies.” To hear these lofty words coming from the mouth of  János Áder was jarring. His party and the government he supports never listen to their political opponents, whom they treat as enemies.

Otherwise, according to Áder, no one can question the results of the election and the legitimacy of the electoral system. As for the new constitution, the election results also legitimized its legality.  Moreover, the results of the April 6 election in Áder’s view mean that “the Hungarian nation considers the long process of regime change final.” That is, the second Orbán government has brought to fruition what began in 1989-1990. Hungary has arrived at the pinnacle of democracy thanks to Viktor Orbán.

It seems, however, that some MPs openly and loudly disagreed with János Áder. When it came to the swearing-in ceremony, when the new members have to swear to the new constitution, the four Demokratikus Koalíció MPs, Ferenc Gyurcsány, Csaba Molnár, Lajos Oláh, and Ágnes Vadai, added the following two sentences: “I solemnly swear that I will do everything in my power for the reestablishment of the republic. I will try with all my strength to achieve the adoption of a new constitution confirmed by popular referendum.” Otherwise, Heti Válasz noted with some satisfaction that whoever was responsible for the parliamentary seating arrangement put the independent members of DK and Együtt2014-PM right behind the rather large Jobbik delegation.

Members of the Demokratikus Kolíció add their pledge to the official text of the swearing-in From left to right, Lajos Oláh, Csaba Molnár, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Ágnes Vadai / Stop.hu

Members of the Demokratikus Kolíció at the swearing-in ceremony
Lajos Oláh, Csaba Molnár, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Ágnes Vadai / Stop.hu

It was at this point that the new members had to vote for the deputies to the president of the House. The only interesting vote was for former skinhead Tamás Sneider (Jobbik). He received 150 yeas and 35 nays, while 5 MPs abstained. They were members of the LMP delegation. Fidesz, KDNP, and Jobbik have altogether 156 members, and therefore a number of MPs did not vote at all. Among them were Zoltán Balog, Zoltán Kovács, János Lázár, and Tibor Navracsics. On the other hand, Viktor Orbán voted for Sneider. As for the nays, they must have come from the democratic opposition parties: MSZP, DK, Együtt2014-PM, and the sole liberal member, Gábor Fodor. Péter Kiss (MSZP) and Ferenc Gyurcsány did not vote on Sneider.

In the secret ballot vote for president of the House, László Kövér received 171 yeas and 19 nays, with 3 abstentions. This is a first. In the past, votes for the president of the House were always unanimous. Fidesz and KDNP together have 133 members, and therefore 38 yea votes had to come from somewhere else. DK announced ahead of time that they, all four of them, will say no to Kövér’s nomination. If I calculate correctly, six people simply refrained from voting. Népszabadság announced the 19 nays as “Nineteen people dared to say no!”  Unfortunately it does seem to take a certain amount of courage to vote against Kövér and even greater courage to announce it publicly. He’s not the kind of guy who understands fair play and the democratic rules of politics.

Two controversial Jobbik appointments: Tamás Sneider and Dóra Dúró

Today Jobbik finalized the composition and officers of its parliamentary delegation. The caucus consists of 23 people. Just as in the last parliament, Gábor Vona, party chairman, will be heading the group and just as before he will have five deputies.

Jobbik nominated Tamás Sneider to be one of the deputies to the president of the parliament, who will most likely once again be László Kövér. This nomination is very controversial and sparked a slew of objections in the last week or so. Even Bence Rétvári, undersecretary in the Ministry of Administration and Justice, remarked that perhaps Jobbik should “rethink” the nomination. Well, Jobbik thought long and hard about it and decided to stick with its candidate.

So, what’s wrong with Tamás Sneider other than being a member of a neo-Nazi party?

Way back in August 2009 I wrote a post about Hungarian skinheads. There I briefly mentioned a skinhead cell in Eger. The group was  infamous because, under the leadership of Tamás Sneider, known in those days as Roy, it was involved in Roma beatings on the streets of Eger. That was sometime in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Sneider later joined Jobbik and became a member of the Eger city council.

During his time on the council he was arrested by the police because of a family dispute. As we learned from Magyar Nemzet, just before the 2010 election, Sneider, who by then was #9 on Jobbik’s party list for the 2010 election, wanted to put his parents under guardianship because, according to him, his father wanted to kill him. The parents had a different story to tell. Sneider apparently spent his share of the family fortune and further demanded the sale of their winery in Eger. When they refused, all hell broke loose and the parents sued the son. It was at this point that Sneider insisted that his parents were no longer able to be on their own due to their psychological impairment.  Since then psychiatrists have determined that the parents are perfectly normal. In light of the above, it is especially ironic that as a freshman MP Sneider was deputy chairman of  the parliamentary committee that dealt with, among other things, “family affairs.”

There were rumors in the last few days that the Fidesz delegation might vote against the appointment of Sneider due to his skinhead past. But that doesn’t seem likely. Today Antal Rogán, who was re-elected leader of the Fidesz delegation, indicated that Fidesz will not veto the nomination. “Each party must take political responsibility for its nominees. We would not like to choose among opposition nominees. There might be several nominees with whom we disagree. After all, we had a deputy president who was a party member in the old regime.”

I would have been very surprised if Fidesz, especially before the EP election, would have instigated a political fight over a Jobbik nomination. The reality is that Jobbik did exceedingly well in the last two elections and legitimately became a parliamentary party with all the privileges and prerogatives of that position. Perhaps Vona’s youth organization, so warmly supported by Viktor Orbán, should have been stopped as soon as it espoused an anti-Semitic and anti-Roma ideology. It is too late now.

Jobbik, just like all other parties, can send delegates to the various parliamentary committees. By law, the chairmanship of the committee on national security goes to someone delegated by one of the opposition parties. The position was held in the last four years by Zsolt Molnár of MSZP, and MSZP once again claimed the post. But this year, just as four years ago, Jobbik also wanted this important committee chairmanship. Four years ago their nominee, Gábor Staudt, didn’t receive clearance. This time around their nominee was the party chairman himself, Gábor Vona. But handing over the national security chairmanship to Jobbik would have been too much even for Fidesz. Instead, it supported MSZP, saying that by custom the largest opposition party is entitled to that position.

Having lost the chairmanship of the committee on national security, Jobbik insisted on another important post: chairmanship of the committee on education and culture. This time Fidesz supported their claim. An outcry followed. How could Fidesz give that critically important committee to Jobbik? “Our children’s future and Hungarian culture in the hands of a neo-Nazi party?” —asked Magyar Narancs.

Jobbik’s nominee for the post is Dóra Duró, wife of the notorious Előd Novák, who is most likely a member of the group responsible for kuruc.info. Here are a few choice (quasi-literate) sentences uttered by Dóra Dúró on matters of education. “Jobbik’s educational policy does not consider equality and integration as real values, but rather the fulfillment of people’s mission.” According to her, “from here on, the truth of educators must be unquestioned.”

Ildikó Lendvai, former MSZP chairman, commented on the probable appointment of Dúró this way: “Finally there is a seal on the alliance of Fidesz and Jobbik.”  The ideological roots of the two parties are similar in many respects, and over the past four years their views on cultural matters were practically identical. Fidesz often borrowed Jobbik’s ideas. For example, the removal of Mihály Károlyi’s statue was originally a Jobbik demand. The idea of resurrecting the Horthy regime also came from Jobbik. It was the extreme right that wanted to include Albert Wass and József Nyirő in the curriculum. And Jobbik was the first to propose the nationalization of schools, segregated schools, and the centralization of textbooks.

Dóra Dúró and her infamous laptop: "The nation lives in the womb"

Dóra Dúró and her infamous laptop: “The nation lives in the womb”

As for Dóra Dúró. The Dúró-Novák duo’s motto is “Be fruitful and multiply!”  She is only 27 years old but is pregnant with their third child. I read somewhere that she considers four children to be the minimum for a patriotic Hungarian family. Producing children seems to be a very important, if not the most important duty of a Hungarian woman. See the picture on the cover of her laptop: “The nation lives in the womb.”

She, like her husband, is a rabid anti-Semite. About a week ago a journalist asked Novák why the couple doesn’t take part in events remembering the Holocaust. His answer was: “We remember only genocides that actually happened.” Denial of the Holocaust is now a crime in Hungary, but as far as I know nothing happened to Előd Novák. Except that his like-minded wife will be chairing the parliamentary committee on education and culture.