FAR-RIGHT TAKES GYONGYOSPATA
BY ROBERT HODGSON
|Friday, 22 July 2011|
JOBBIK CANDIDATE WINS RACE FOR MAYOR OF VILLAGE THAT HAS BECOME A POLITICAL FOOTBALL
The candidate of the far-right party Jobbik became mayor of Gyöngyöspata on Monday with roughly a third of the vote. He has already announced he intends to set up a local gendarmerie to keep order in the town that has been plagued by politically fuelled ethnic tension in recent month. For a village of under 3,000 souls,
Gyöngyöspata has gained a surprisingly high profile both at home and abroad – and for the worst of reasons. Jobbik got the ball rolling in March when it staged a rally calling for action to end “Gypsy terror” (the rhetoric having been ratcheted up a notch since the party scored 17 per cent in last year’s general election with a campaign against “gypsy crime”).
The rally marked the arrival in the village of a thuggish group calling itself the “Civil Guard for a Better Future”, which began patrolling the streets, especially the peripheral Gypsy ghetto. According to Amnesty International, the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center and others, this involved frequent intimidation of the local Roma population.
Far right’s fertile ground
After over two weeks, and amid increasing domestic and international press attention, the vigilante group left to continue its activities elsewhere. Then came the Good Friday “evacuation”, organised by the US businessman Richard Field with the assistance of the Hungarian Red Cross, of 267 Roma women and children from the village.
A nationalist paramilitary outfit calling itself Defence Force (Védero) had for weeks been advertising a military training camp to be held on land it had acquired in Gyöngyöspata. The choice of the small village some 75 kilometres northeast of the capital was coincidental, the group said. It was also a coincidence, we were asked to believe, that it happened to overlook the low-lying area on the edge of town where most of the local Roma live (as in many rural villages, in de facto segregation). The HRC bussed out the village’s Roma women and children on the morning of 22 April, subsequently stating that the event had been a simple Easter camping trip, organised at the request of locals three days earlier. The organisation denied that the event had been an “evacuation”, as it had been widely reported.
The police moved in in the afternoon and broke up the Védero camp before it got underway. The leader of Defence Force, Tamás Eszes, and some of his associates were arrested and charged with disorder-related offences. All were subsequently released after a court found no grounds to detain them. Within days of these events, the government legislated to outlaw the “uniformed crime” of the numerous self-appointed guardians of public order and Hungarian culture that took their cue from Jobbik’s own Hungarian Guard (outlawed in 2009 for human rights offences against Roma villagers).
Eszes stood for the post of mayor, and garnered just over ten per cent of votes cast.