Torgyán, the Independent
Reform Smallholders (FKGP), meeting in Budapest on 6 May, voted to expel József Torgyán from the party's parliamentary caucus while the convention in Cegléd on the same day backed Torgyán as party leader. In Budapest, the members of the Smallholders elected Zsolt Lányi—expelled from the party by Torgyán—president. As the party split in two, the convention also elected a new board.
In Cegléd, Environment Minister Béla Turi-Kovács and Defence Minister János Szabó pushed their way
into the convention. Both said they would take measures to declare the convention invalid, while Torgyán accused the two of having broken into the sports stadium, where the meeting was held, accompanied by an "armed gang" to "annihilate" the Smallholders.
Parliament's Procedural Committee on Thursday declared that it could not reverse the FKGP caucus's decision to expel Torgyán, who was shut out from the party faction on Monday. The committee said the expulsion was an internal Smallholder decision. However, the Budapest Municipal Court did not recognise Lányi's registration as chairman of the FKGP, saying that the party's statutes did not sanction the Budapest convention to elect a new party president.
Lányi said he would appeal the decision, claiming he had the support of the majority of Smallholders. After the Court's decision, he stated, "It would have been too good to be true had everything come together on the same day, in other words, the court had registered me as FKGP chairman on the same day that József Torgyán had been expelled from the parliamentary group. Things like that happen only in fairy tales."
Torgyán responded by saying he would refuse to become an independent MP. Instead, he would file a lawsuit against the caucus for "intellectual document forgery." "I consider my expulsion from the parliamentary group to be similar to having several rebellious cardinals expelling the Pope from the Catholic Church," he said.
Meanwhile, on 10 May, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán accepted Turi-Kovács's request that State Secretary Sándor Kávássy, who remained loyal to Torgyán, be dismissed.
On the same day, Torgyán attacked the Prime Minister, saying that "the conduct and steps of the Prime Minister seriously violate the coalition agreement, and could threaten democracy." Referring to Kávássy's sacking, Torgyán said that the coalition agreement authorises Orbán to appoint or remove ministers and state secretaries, but went on, "If a decision was taken that runs against this, that should be considered as the crude violation of the coalition agreement, which the FKGP presidium will evaluate and will examine the issue of responsibility."
In contrast, Orbán last week decided not to accept the resignation of Health Minister István Mikola. Mikola resigned on Thursday after Parliament passed a decree that would restrict Mikola's control over the social insurance authority. A Cabinet spokesman said neither Orbán nor Mikola agree with this decree. Mikola later said he would only remain Health Minister if some ministry personnel were removed, including State Secretary Zsolt Horváth. Orbán later accepted Horváth's resignation.
Magyar Hírlap refused entry
FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party locked Magyar Hírlap out of their party congress after the newspaper had published an article, which it has since apologised for, suggesting that the country would be better off if Prime Minister Orbán and FIDESZ Vice-President László Kövér were liquidated. In protest, Magyar Hírlap—joined by Népszabadság and Népszava—published only a blank space in place of a report on the party congress in its Monday issue.
FIDESZ later claimed that, even though the daily had not been invited to the congress it could still have covered the event. Also, the public could gain access to information about the congress though both the Internet and the MTI news agency, said the party press office.
At the congress, Education Minister Zoltán Pokorni was elected party chairman, while his predecessor, László Kövér, was re-elected to the party's board. Addressing the congress, Pokorni said that the party could not envisage forming a coalition with any party currently in opposition, the Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) and the Socialist Party (MSZP) being no exception.
On Thursday, Pokorni announced that he had nominated Kövér to run the party's election campaign for the 2002 elections.
Strasbourg return recent arrivals
On 5 May, a group of 24 Hungarian Roma from Győr-Moson-Sopron County arrived in Strasbourg. József Krasznai, spokesman for the Zámoly Roma, said he had met with the group before they left Hungary and warned them that there was little chance they would be granted asylum, as France would not accept economic refugees and because they had no proof of being discriminated against in Hungary.
The country newspaper Kisalföld on Tuesday published a statement by the group, in which they claim that Krasznai had lied to them. Kálmán Lakatos, speaking on behalf of the group, said the fact that they could not meet with Krasznai or find an interpreter had made their lives very difficult, as they could not understand documents from French authorities.
Unable to finance their accommodation, the Roma group began their journey home on Tuesday, after a local prefecture on Monday is believed to have told them to seek asylum in the Schengen country nearest to Hungary.
Vojvodina autonomy to be reinstated?
According to Népszabadság's Wednesday edition, Vojvodina will be handed autonomy in two stages. Hungarians in Vojvodina will, through this course of action, be given cultural and personal autonomy (in the first stage) as well as territorial autonomy—or so it is hoped.
Meeting with Foreign Ministry State Secretary Zsolt Németh in Budapest on 8 May, Yugoslav Minister for Minorities Rasim Ljajić introduced his Hungarian colleague to Yugoslavia's draft law on minorities.
Minister Ljajić has said Belgrade is "committed to reorganising public administration" and restoring Vojvodina's autonomy. However, because of the "critical situation" in Kosovo and Montenegro, the local government act would have to be put off.
And in other news...
- Béla Markó, Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) chairman, said on Monday that Romanian authorities had given the go-ahead to the Miercurea-Ciuc (Csíkszereda) economics department of the planned private Hungarian university in Transylvania. Romanian National Academic Assessment and Accreditation Council Chairman Ion Mihailescu notified the RMDSZ that the Sapienta Foundation's application had been approved.
- The last Saturday of June has been chosen as the Day of Hungarian Freedom. A law on this was passed on Wednesday. Furthermore, 19 June will be a national day of commemoration, marking the day the last Soviet soldier left Hungary in 1991.
- A man and his three-year old grandson died after a 500-kg shell exploded in the garden of their home on Wednesday. The man had planned to dismantle the shell which he had fetched from a nearby shooting range. The Ministry of Defence said the shooting range is the largest in Central Europe, and that it would be impossible to fence it in or guard it at all times. From Sopron, there was more welcome news as bomb experts on Thursday afternoon successfully disarmed a 500-kg Soviet Second World War bomb in the evacuated city centre.
Paul Nemes, 11 May 2001
Magyar Távirati Iroda
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