“There is no room for such flamboyant lifestyles, at least there shouldn’t be. A responsible member of the government, a leading politician is not supposed to allow himself all these, even if this was possibly alright so far.” – Zoltán Pokorni (left), former Fidesz MP, currently mayor of Budapest’s 12th district.
“A political veteran should think twice about weakening our positions simply because of being offended or having a political agenda. Whoever seeks to weaken us is finishing himself off instead.” – János Lázár (right), Fidesz MP and Chancellor, former mayor of Hódmezővásárhely
The US entry ban scandal appears to be causing fissures within Fidesz, Hungary’s governing party. Several weeks ago Zoltán Pokorni, former MP and minister of education under the first Orbán government (1998-2002), criticized prominent Fidesz politicians for indulging in “flamboyant lifestyles” involving the conspicuous display of luxury items, something he feels is not acceptable at a time when Hungary’s government is “the focus of grave charges of corruption”.
János Lázár, who interpreted Pokorni’s comments as a personal attack on himself, accused him of “stabbing the party in the back”, saying that Pokorni’s comments are more dangerous than any of the social consequences of Fidesz’s legislation and policies, for sowing seeds of doubt among hard-line Fidesz supporters. Lázár also claimed that Pokorni’s comments were an organized attack by “party elders” attempting to regain influence within the party on the younger generation of Fidesz politicians.
“A political veteran should think twice about weakening our positions simply because of being offended or having a political agenda. Whoever seeks to weaken us is finishing himself off instead.”
Lázár’s words of warning were reportedly uttered after consulting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who personally green-lighting the political attack on Pokorni. It appears to have worked. The following day Pokorni told Magyar Nemzet Online Lázár was “the most talented politician of his generation.”
“I find it quite natural that as a leader of this younger generation within Fidesz he (Lázár) courageously engages in such conflicts. But we, who are slowly to be considered the veterans of the party, have already learned that we should not forget how to make peace in the turmoil of our inner battles.”
After this photograph of Lázár wearing a Rolex in parliament while chatting with chief prosecutor Péter Polt (who obviously has no intention of asking parliament to lift the immunity from prosecution of any Fidesz MPs) was circulated, Pokorni made the following statement over the course of a political discussion on pro-government HírTV:
“These smaller or larger cases, about who wears what kind of watch, who is going for vacations and to where, how big somebody’s apartment is were well known in the past years, and nobody cared about it. Because the whole has not been associated with charges of corruption. Since the entry restrictions imposed by the US, however, this charge is a new organizing principle of these small facts that so far were merely annoying. […] There is no room for such flamboyant lifestyles, at least there shouldn’t be. A responsible member of the government, a leading politician is not supposed to allow himself all these, even if this was possibly alright so far.”
A former leading government official himself, Pokorni was one of Viktor Orbán’s most vocal critics within Fidesz, openly splitting with Fidesz’s chairman over reforms to public and higher education enacted in 2011, calling the nationalization of public schools a “disproportionate” measure.
Magyar Krónika editor-in-chief Gábor Bencsik, an enthusiastic supporter of Orbán, has cautioned ministers over trading Fidesz’s moral integrity for personal gain, thereby putting obstacles between Orbán and his long-term plans. Former Fidesz think-tank analyst Tamás Mellár, who spoke at one of the protests against the proposed internet tax, has given an interview in which he talks about corruption within leading government circles.
What Pokorni meant
An apparent fondness for luxury goods on the part of prominent Fidesz politicians has been the source of much controversy lately.
- Shortly after being sworn in as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, former prime minister spokesman Péter Szijjártó bought a luxury villa just outside of Budapest for a reported HUF 167 million (USD 677,352). When asked to account for the source of the money, he gave conflicting accounts.
- It was recently revealed that former government spokesman (now state secretary) András Giró-Szász owns a motor yacht valued at HUF 25-30 million (USD 100,000-120,000) as well as shares in various companies worth hundreds of millions of forints, including several run by his brother-in-law.
- In addition to the fact that he sports a Rolex, it recently came to light that Lázár’s ten-year-old son owns a luxury flat in Pokorni’s district previously owned by András Giró-Száz’s brother-in-law. (What a remarkable coincidence!-ed.)
- Fidesz managing deputy chairman and MP Lajos Kósa recently travelled to New Zealand for the purported purpose of seeking out members of the Hungarian diaspora, paid for with public funds. Kósa was accompanied by the production crew of a local Debrecen TV station. By coincidence, the Rolling Stones were performing in Wellington that week and Kosa and company were able to take in a show, also at Hungarian taxpayer expense.
- Earlier this year it was revealed that Fidesz caucus leader and Budapest 5th district mayor Antal Rogán, 5th district former deputy mayor András Puskás and Minister for National Economy Mihály Varga all own luxury flats in the same gated community at the exclusive part of the second district. (The fact that Rogan was criticized earlier for toting a Gucci bag apparently was not enough to dissuade prime minister “strategic advisor” Árpád Habony (below) from doing the same).
Fissures within Fidesz
Lázár’s threats nothwithstanding, more and more Fidesz MPs are starting to vote their consciences rather than the party line. János Bencsik, Fidesz MP for Tatabánya, recently refused to vote on a number of key pieces of legislation, and even voted against the government’s scheme to oust every tobacco wholesale company from Hungary but one from Lázár’s home town of Hódmezővásárhely, Continental Dohányipar Zrt. (Yet another remarkable coincidence!-ed.). For daring to stand on principle and vote his conscience, Fidesz fined Bencsik HUF 300,000. Bencsik does not seem to be too shaken by this, posting on Facebook
“This only means that we will hold a more modest family Christmas this year”.