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Meet Lajos Rig, Jobbik MP from Tapolca

“Behind Jobbik there are expert politicians who know just what to do. . . . The platform of Jobbik was the same in 2010 and in 2014. . . . A year ago I wore gray socks.  Now I wear black ones. My orientation and my thoughts are still the same.”  – Lajos Rig (Jobbik), winner of the Tapolca parliamentary by-election

In the recent by-election held in Veszprém county’s third electoral district (commonly referred to as Tapolca, although in fact it includes Ajka and a number of other towns and villages), Jobbik candidate for parliament Lajos Rig narrowly defeated the candidate of the ruling Fidesz-KDNP party alliance to become the first Jobbik candidate to win a parliamentary constituency.  Previously all Jobbik MPs entered parliament from the party’s national party list.

Rig says he has no problems with Romani (Gypsies) but he would imprison drug dealers for decades. He supports neither needle exchange nor the right of homosexuals to “flaunt” their sexual orientation in public.

Rig is an assistant anesthesiologist by training but in his opinion this is not a problem because he originally wanted to be a politician. He says Jobbik’s platform is the same as before and that it is ready to govern the country.

You won the by-elections in Tapolca just a week ago. Have you got used to the idea of being a member of parliament? 

This is a jumping board after the local government administration. This is a bigger scale, a bigger volume. First I was a trade union representative, protecting the interest of 220 employees. After that, as a deputy mayor I represented 18,000. Now I will represent 72,000 people in parliament.

As far as I know you worked as an ambulance man and anesthesiologist assistant? What did you study?

I finished my studies as anesthesiologist assistant and I worked as a leading assistant.

You have been an assemblyman in the local government since 2010

At that time I entered local government from the party list.  In 2014 I won an individual mandate.

You spent 22 years in healthcare and four in public administration. How adept are you in public affairs? 

From now on I am not only representing the interests of the single region but will have to make decisions on the fate and direction of the country. In my opinion no one MP was born to be a politician and their political orientation is refined and developed over many years.

What decisions affecting the fate of the country will you have to make?

The votes on bills requiring a two-thirds majority always affect the future of the country. For example, the actions against the Islamic State. I do believe that Hungary should not step up against a terrorist cell in another country with which we have nothing to do. If Hungarian soldiers go there then the terrorists will consider it as an attack and the terror threat will be higher in Hungary.

I can see a picture of a saint on the wall in your office. The Islamic State massacre Christians.

That is right,  and they execute Muslims as well. We have to separate it from the Christianity. I am a believer but I do not believe in violence. That is the reason I do not suggest Hungary to take part in a war in another country that could increase the chance of an attack against Hungary.

You are saying you are not a devotee of violence. However Jobbik supports such organizations as the Hungarian Guard which are organized on a military basis. 

Is the Hungarian Guard violent? How many violent crimes did they commit?

There was march in the town of Devecser in 2012 organized by Jobbik and many members of the Guard were there. They threw stones at the houses of Roma. 

Is there a criminal case in process?

There is a court case.

I don’t know about it. Everyone should have the right to be presumed innocent. The antecedents have to be examined, what the Roma community did there against the locals. I think there were reasons why the locals asked for the appearance and there were many civils as well.

Were you there? 

No.

Would you organize a similar march if an atrocity similar to the one in Devecser happened? 

In this electoral district there are no such problems. If you walk in Tapolca you can see that it is a quiet, calm town. Comparing to Veszprém County and to the country average, the crime prevention and the law enforcement is in good shape. The police perform great here.

What kind of relation would you like to build with the Roma minority in your district? 

We have a very good relation. You should ask the opinion of the local president of the Roma government here. I do not have any special problem. But again we are talking about the Gypsies. We can split Hungarian society to two groups. There are people who strengthen the society and there are people who weaken it. We can work together with the first group but we cannot engage the second one. Regarding the crimes it can occur among Romas and the Hungarians as well. People can live here together pretty well.

When Jobbik politician Előd Novák spoke about Gypsies in a derogatory manner as he did on New Year’s Eve, didn’t it cast a shadow over this good relationship? 

Here in the countryside people do not really deal with politics.

What do they do instead? 

They work. They do not watch what goes on in Parliament.  Sometimes it is almost like a joke what they speak about there.  Tapolca and the surroundings said a clear “no” to Fidesz.

Why will it be better for the electorate if you represent them in the Parliament from now on?

If we look back over the past 12 years, no new jobs were created here  regardless of the local government or whoever the representative was. The relation with the mayors – be the mayor a member of Hungarian Social Party (MSZP), the governing Fidesz or independent – has to be closer. The mayors know the jumping points of the regions, what could be the touristic attraction. For example there is Zalaszegvár. A week ago I was not aware that there is a 32 oC thermal spring, and an investor could build a thermal bath there.

For many years Jenő Lasztovica (Fidesz) was the representative of the region. He was considered an influential politician in Fidesz. Do you think that you will have the same lobby power?

Do you know that regarding the distributed sources in Veszprém County between 2007 and 2013 what the rank of Tapolca and its region are? The very last. What kind of lobby power do you need to come in last place?

How would you help as an MP? 

As I said I count on the mayors. Job creation has always been mainly the task of the big town mayor. There is Béla Schwartz in Ajka. The city has socialist administration and still the industrial park is expanding, investment is increasing, and the city can stand on its own feet. Even many from Sümeg come to work there. The mayor of Bodorfa arranged for locals to work three shifts in Ajka thanks to the modified public transportation. In my opinion this is the only way out: public transport has to be reinforced to make available the hidden jobs, as on the weekend people had no way of getting to work.

The administration in Tapolca has been led by Jobbik for the past half a year. And you were the vice-mayor. What results did you reach for example in job creation? 

We have a project, we applied for grants to the Veszprém County assembly. It is all about the creation of a so-called foam-glass factory in the old barracks at Tapolca. It would mean almost 70 jobs.

When do you think it will be realized? 

Within a year.

You are the very first Jobbik MP candidate in the history of the party to win his district since 2003. Why did it take so long? 

Jobbik is the only party which cannot be considered a “system change party” and therefore has not become mud stained. It took 4-5 years for people to start believing in Jobbik.

During the past years – especially after 2006 – Jobbik became visible by its implied or direct anti-Semitic notions and blaspheming Gypsies. Do you agree with these? 

Look, in every party, in Fidesz as well, there are MPs with whom I would not sit down to drink a cup of tea. There are anti-Semitic phenomena … in every party there are rascals, and they have to punished. Jobbik is the only party which coherently punishes its members in case of doing anything like that. And that is how it should be in every party.

So there are members in your party with whom you would not sit down and drink a cup of tea? 

Of course there are. There are in every party.

Who is it?

Let’s not get too personal! I did not mention names in the case of the other parties so I won’t do it in the case of Jobbik.

Let’s talk about some topics on which Jobbik usually has a very clean-cut opinion. There is an estate eradication program in the northeastern city of Miskolc and its aim is supported by Jobbik as well. Basically it is all about the eviction of the locals by the local government in order to force them out from the settlement. Do you agree with the program?  Would you like to see a similar one here? 

We have to see what is behind this eviction. I am not aware of the details but probably the tenants have huge public utility debts. Here in Tapolca there is approximately HUF 25-30 million of public arrears. In Miskolc this amount must be enormous. That is another question if these people are provided with some dwelling or they are just put on the street.

Would you provide dwellings for them? 

If there is a will for paying the debts and it is guaranteed some way, then yes, I would. And it is all the same if we are talking about Gypsies or Hungarians. Would you provide an apartment to a tenant in case the tenant can’t pay the rent and the bills?

I am not a local government providing social assistance and assigning tasks.

Would you evict them from your apartment after not paying for three months?

And if the tenant has six children? Would you evict a family with six children? 

The local government has the ability to locate them to mothers’ shelter. We did not see any example for it in Tapolca.

There was a hospital in Tapolca and its active beds were wound up. You promised to bring them back. However, according to Jobbik’s program  the basic services have to be reinforced in order to nurse more patients at home. How can the two be reconciled? 

During the campaign everybody wanted to restore the active hospital wards, both MSZP and Fidesz as well. Gábor Zombor (under-secretary) promised to restore 20 active beds as well as a  “one-day surgery” ward to be opened with ten beds. The one-day surgery has been working since 2010. The twenty internal medical ward beds is good enough for now but we need the 55 beds back. The 10 beds for the one-day surgery are not enough as 35 were ceased.

In Europe 80 percent of all surgeries are operated on one-day surgery. In Hungary it is only 8 percent. This should be brought up to 50-60 percent.

One-day surgery is when the patient spends a maximum 24 hours in the hospital. After the surgery the rehabilitation is carried out at home. The active hospital care stands for patients spending 72 hours or more in the hospital.

Is there a real demand for the hospital beds?

12 thousand collected signatures in a week qualifies as real demand.

In Budapest’s 8th district there was a needle-exchange program for drug users which the local government shut down. What is your opinion about a program like this? Would you support a similar one in Tapolca? 

I reject drugs in any form. I would put the dealers behind bars for not only years but for decades, because we cannot be sure who is the next they sell drugs to, it may be to children. Although I would spend on the rehabilitation of addicts.  We have to help them to overcome this situation, even with the help of the church.

The object of the needle-exchange program is not supporting drug use . . . 

. . . rather preventing AIDS. However, let me tell you again that I reject it, and I would not support it. The participants would like to exchange the needles because they use drugs. They have to be persuaded to stop it, because with this habit the drug users threaten his or her own and other’s health as well. If the addict shoots up it can be a risk for everyone. What if the user drives a car? The dealer is responsible as well. It has to be stopped in any form.

A needle-exchange program for harm-reduction activity…

. . . prevents AIDS and not the drug usage.

And that is not necessary? 

I do not know the exact numbers how many HIV or AIDS patients are in Hungary.

How could drug use be handled in the countryside? The so-called designer drugs are getting more and more popular in the countryside. The trend is for authorities to ban a drug one day, only for another drug to come out the next day which is even more harmful. How can the circle be stopped? 

Here in Tapolca we can see the appearance of the designer drugs,. The chief police officer informed me about it. It is said the Hungarians are very inventive. These are not registered as prohibited substances, therefore it is very hard to prove someone was selling drugs.  In my opinion the law has to be modified. Everything having psychoactive effect has to be on the list of banned substances. Otherwise we are just tilting at windmills.

Is a drug user a victim or a criminal? 

First a victim, then a criminal. I guess the user buys the drugs. I do not really know the counter value of these drugs, but there has to be a strong financial background to purchase the daily quantity.

Even in small towns the question of homeless people is an issue. In Budapest for example the homeless people can be penalized just for living on the streets or public areas. Do you think this is the right attitude, or do you have different views? 

Just take a look at the homeless shelter in Tapolca. It is almost like a three-star hotel. But we can only provide this service to those who require it. No one can be forced to stay in the shelter. We can help only those people who require help. I think that is the same everywhere in the country.

The minority cannot go against the interest of the majority. In Budapest the homeless were banned from the frequented downtown public areas. We are not facing similar problems here. They just spend the nights at the shelters, they can have a shower, watch TV.

Do they leave the streets on their own or because the police penalize them?

There is no penalty here in Tapolca so they decide to go.

Back to Budapest!  Every year there is the gay-pride march. And there are counter-protesters as well. Would you support something similar in Tapolca? 

I would definitely not support it. The heterosexuals could march too.

They could.

Why must someone march in order to express his or her sexual orientation to the local people? In my opinion the appearance of gay pride – dressed like sisters and priests – goes extremely against the community. Sexual life or orientation should be confined to behind one’s four walls. No one should bring it to the streets, and that is why I do not support it.

So the marchers behaved more provocatively than those who curse them from behind police cordons? 

In my opinion a man dressed as a priest standing behind another man dressed as a nun is very provocative.

There was an example of this but it is not the case for all gay participants.

Again, they should not march.  They should conform to society behind closed doors. Even in the society of the Roman Empire there were examples of homosexuality but they did not go to the streets to . . . let’s say flaunt it.

After the win (Jobbik chairman) Gábor Vona emphasized that Jobbik is prepared to play a role in replacing the government. Is the party ready for this? 

Yes. If we consider that the party has three years (until the next general election in 2018) to set up the system structure. In case of an early election, we have to accelerate everything. Behind Jobbik there are expert politicians who know what to do. There is no problem at all.

What is the key factor for 2018? Last year and in 2010 you were prepared to replace the government but this did not come about. 

If we look at the proportions there are only 200,000 voters between Jobbik and Fidesz. And this difference was “extracted” in 18 months by the policy of Fidesz against the people.

Did increasing the number of Jobbik voters required a change in 2013, the so-called cute-campaign?

This cute-campaign will accompany me to death. In my opinion the voters turned to Jobbik but not because of its “cuteness”.  The platform of Jobbik was the same in 2010 and in 2014.

In 2010 Gábor Vona walked into Parliament wearing the uniform of the Hungarian Guard. Now he is talking about cutting the wild shoots. 

A year ago I wore gray socks.  Now I wear black ones. My orientation and my thoughts are still the same.

Ákos Albert :