Hungarian President János Áder may soon discover that his pen is as perilous as the sword.
Critics across Europe are pressuring Áder not to sign the governing Fidesz party’s latest amendments to Hungary’s Constitution, claiming they will etch into stone everything from speech restrictions to the criminalization of homelessness. If Áder signs, everyone to the political left of Attila the Hun will condemn him as an accomplice in the dismantling of democracy. If he withholds his imprimatur, Hungary’s right wing will be so rankled that they may well take a swing at anti-government protesters on the March 15 national holiday.
The time is ripe for riots, albeit not on the scale of the mayhem that engulfed Budapest in October 2006. Fideszers are feeling more threatened than at any time since their party racked up a 68 percent majority in Parliament nearly three years ago. This is clear in the party’s reaction to a group of young folk who clambered into the courtyard of Fidesz’s party headquarters to protest the new amendments on March 7. Soon after the demonstration began, party loyalists arrived and began spewing hate-filled invective. One white-haired gentleman even threatened to throw acid in a protester’s face. Scuffles erupted, but were swiftly broken up.
Football hooligans — including a convicted murderer (that’s him at right in the photo above) — soon arrived to help resolve the situation. Two days later, party manager Gábor Kubatov appealed for volunteers to form a communist-style citizen’s guard to protect Fidesz from further such encroachments. This volunteer force will almost certainly include these very same ne’er-do-wells.
Fidesz spokeswoman Gabriella Selmeczi and her male counterpart Máté Kocsis have been making matters worse by firing up hysteria among the party rank and file. The pair have spent the past few months warning that Fidesz’s opponents are conducting a “hate campaign” and have been installing “hate coordinators” on every street in the country. Fidesz’s paranoia is also evident in the decision to call in the Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (TEK) to close the square in front of Áder’s official residence ahead of a protest planned for the evening of March 11.
President Áder has five days to decide whether he is going to sign the amendments. If he fails to give his blessing, Fidesz’s coalition of pensioners and football hooligans will be baying for blood. Police will have a tough time keeping the streets scuffle-free during the March 15 demonstrations.