In the wake of the publication of House Speaker László Kövér’s speech, in which he named the opposition a national security risk, Hungarian public life is noisy with reactions. The opposition insists that he must leave politics and announced they will press charges against him; pro-government reactions, on the other hand, attempt to depict that the Fidesz founder’s comments were not aimed at the opposition, and that his words were twisted.
Last weekend, a speech made by László Kövér was unveiled in which the Speaker of the National Assembly told officials of Hungarian national security that the greatest national security risk Hungary faces lies within its political elite. The Fidesz strongman argued that the opposition “operates in a tradition of a self-sacrificial statehood and self-destructive nation politics,” later adding that the “laws and institutions are important, but in times of crisis, character, values, and loyalty are paramount.”
A clash in Parliament
The leaked recording has naturally led to harsh reactions over the weekend, with the opposition demanding his resignation. The verbal battle continued on Monday in the National Assembly, in a meeting led by Kövér himself.
Leftist-green Párbeszéd‘s MP, Bence Tordai, believes that the House Speaker’s attitude towards democracy is reminiscent of the [Communist] leaders of the 1950s. According to one of Fidesz’s leading politicians, the national security threat is not posed by the fact that spies from Russia and China are being planted here with the help of the state, when KGB agents and Chinese secret service agents no longer use Hungary as a gateway under the guise of a bank or university, but rather as a dumping ground for their European raids, Tordai explained.
Jobbik MP, Koloman Brenner, stressed that he considered Kövér’s words worrying and dangerous, and offensive to the majority of Hungarian citizens. In his view, the “one-party supremacy is constantly invading state power,” and it is devastating that “this reached the secret services” too, he argued.
According to state secretary, Csaba Dömötör, however, this is not the first time that Kövér’s words were twisted and a smear campaign was built around them. He explains that László Kövér didn’t name any political actors as a risk, but the political situation in which two mutually exclusive images of state and nation exist within politics. In reference to Kövér’s words, he also said that “If you are not like that, then don’t take it personally. If you take it personally, then there is a reason for that, but don’t put the blame on us for that,” he said. Later, he labeled the case a new “fake news” campaign of the opposition, usually made up right before the elections, due to lack of adequate support.
According to MSZP group leader, Bertalan Tóth, it was apparently a mistake to think that with the Borkai and Szájer scandals Fidesz already hit the moral rock bottom. According to the Socialist lawmaker, the Speaker’s words showed that they did not consider their political opponents desirable. This is “not only scandalous, but disgraceful” from one of the state’s top dignitaries. He also explained that the Orbán-led government destroyed the system of checks and balances, but by “inciting the secret services” against the opposition, a line has been crossed, interpreting Kövér’s speech as a veiled request to the services to help Fidesz stay in power.
Meanwhile, the square just in front of the Carmelite Monastery was cordoned off last week officially due to the (re)building of the National Military Defense Headquarters, opposite PM Orbán’s office. This was an important spot for government-critical journalists to interview government politicians before and after government meetings, after they had been restricted recently to do so in Parliament. Telex revealed
that workers in fact use another street and not this square.
In PMO head, Gergely Gulyás‘ view, what László Kövér said is something that everyone, be it on the governing side, or on the opposition, can easily identify with. Gulyás also pointed out that the speech wasn’t made at a secret meeting, but at one also attended by former Socialist ministers. He noted that while there are European countries where secret service agencies monitor democratically-elected parties, Hungary still isn’t one of those. Although, it did happen during the left-liberal governments, those who monitored and those under surveillance should now discuss this issue among themselves in their alliance (Gulyás’ words were most likely targeted at Jobbik, as several members of the formerly far-right party may have been on the authorities’ radar).
Meanwhile, Kövér, who led yesterday’s meeting, had a chance to react in Parliament, he apparently chose not to do so.
In response to 444.hu, Fidesz MP, János Halász, thinks that Kövér always formulates his words “very precisely and responsibly,” and he must have done so on this occasion too. “Just because someone is left-wing doesn’t mean that he/she cannot be a traitor to the nation,” he added. Christian Democrat (KDNP) MP, Péter Harrach, said that “monitoring/surveillance in itself doesn’t hurt anyone. It only does, if it reveals someone’s guilt.”
In the same interview, opposition politicians insisted that Kövér must resign and leave politics.
Opposition alliance to press charges against House Speaker
The opposition alliance, consisting of the six parties (Everyone’s Hungary, Jobbik, LMP, DK, MSZP, and Momentum) will press charges against László Kövér.
In their Tuesday announcement, Párbeszéd co-chair, Tímea Szabó, cited the Penal Code’s relevant section on incitement and the one on “unauthorized secret collection of information or unauthorized use of a concealed recording device instrument.”
featured image via Tibor Rosta/MTI