More trouble for Torgyán
The chairman of the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP), József Torgyán, is to take legal action over an article published in
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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said there would be serious legal consequences, which, depending on the outcome, either the Torgyáns or the paper will have to face.
Meanwhile, yet another Smallholder MP left the parliamentary faction on Monday. This time it was László Molnár, who said he did not agree with what was taking place in the party.
Although this obviously means that the government majority is reduced further, Molnár said that he and the five MPs who had been expelled or quit of their own accord "wish to signal their continued support for the government coalition by signing a declaration of solidarity." The Smallholders who left the parliamentary caucus have, however, said they expect more MPs to join the Independents. "Now they are waiting, because they are scared. They are waiting for us complete the job, but they will join us when the situation is settled," Molnár said on Hungarian TV on 31 January.
Government spokesman Gábor Borókai said after a meeting between the Agriculture Minister and the Prime Minister that he had "no information on any change in the composition of the government." Torgyán is adamant that he will remain chairman of the Smallholders. "Neither my removal nor my resignation were mentioned [in the meeting with the PM]... Had I resigned after every libellous statement in the press, I could have turned in my job about 1000 times these last few months," he said.
FIDESZ and MSZP chairmen meet
FIDESZ-Hungarian Civic Party Chairman László Kövér and his Socialist Party (MSZP) counterpart, László Kovács, have rejected the idea of a coalition between the two parties or of a FIDESZ government supported by the MSZP. The two met for the first time for a debate, which was broadcast on TV on 28 January.
Kövér said that despite the current crisis in the Smallholders' Party, FIDESZ had no prepared scenario for a minority government. The execution of the Government's programme was not, he said, affected by what was going on in the FKGP. Commenting on suggestions that the governing coalition might collapse, Kövér said that the agreement with the Smallholders was "not a marriage of love like that of the MSZP and the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ) in the previous administration."
Party leader Kovács said that the coalition was unquestionably in a crisis and added that he could not rule out early elections.
Dávid re-elected MDF leader
On Saturday 27 January, Ibolya Dávid was re-elected as head of the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), receiving 465 out of 468 votes cast.
Speaking at the party's 16th national assembly, Dávid said that the MDF was preparing to run on its own in the 2002 elections. FIDESZ, however, is the MDF's "natural political partner" she said, adding that the MDF "highly respects" the progress made by FIDESZ in the last ten years.
On the Smallholders, the MDF Chair said that "necessity" had been the underlying reason behind the coalition, adding that Torgyán feels the same way.
Dávid further said that the party would aim for the votes of around eight to ten per cent of the population and design an election platform after having scrutinising the most important issues: economic prosperity, the fight against corruption, reform of the health sector, public safety and the stabilisation of small and medium-sized businesses.
Russian takeover legal?
Following the Russian takeover of BorsodChem last week, the Hungarian Financial Supervisory Authority (PSZAF) has put forward a proposal which would see the law on securities amended. The reason being that the current law does not protect minority shareholders adequately, according to PSZAF managing director Gyula Kabay, who believes the Russian purchase of the majority of shares in BorsodChem was not in line with Hungarian rules. PSZAF would, he said, sue the Central European International Bank because of the takeover. The bank is accused of unfair practices. The owners of the shares sold are also unknown.
According to Népszabadság, Hungarian officials have verified press reports suggesting that the Russian gas giant Gazprom's plans are a "strong national security risk."
On Tuesday, Government spokesman Gábor Borókai said that there is a suspicion of money laundering during the acquisition as "intermediaries transferred amounts of money that were completely out of proportion with their equity."
Borókai said, "The reason why the [Hungarian Financial Supervisory] Authority launched an investigation of BorsodChem was because transparency was impaired. The investigation is continuing."
And in other news...
- Prime Minister Viktor Orbán assessed the state of the country for the third time in a speech on Thursday 1 February, at the request of the Hungarian Civic Co-operation Association. Orbán judged the economic performance of the past year as the most successful since 1990. "Hungary is the only state in the region where inflation has decreased," he said, and emphasised the country's losses of several billions of forint due to floods, oil crisis and weak euro.
- Parliamentary caucus leaders József Szájer of FIDESZ and Sándor Nagy of MSZP will, for the first time, go head-to-head in a TV debate on 8 February.
- Not even a week after Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina (VMSZ) Chairman József Kasza was named deputy prime minister of Serbia responsible for minority affairs, the VMSZ has protested strongly against a ruling by the Constitutional Court to reverse a previous decision which had allowed for the use of Hungarian place names. The names used locally will now be replaced by Serbian ones, but Hungarian phonetics will be allowed. This prompted the VMSZ to protest against the new "hybrid language." The VMSZ pointed to the fact that Yugoslavia had approved the Council of Europe's framework, which stipulates that the use of traditional place names should be allowed.
- The fifth national meeting of the Hungarian Way Circles, chaired by Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) leader István Csurka, took place last weekend. Csurka told Hungarian news agency MTI that he would reject any possible co-operation with the Smallholders, the Christian Democratic People's Party or the MDF. Csurka also suggested that in order to "retain the nation," free land would be given to all Hungarians who agreed to cultivate it and have at least three children. He also said Hungarians are in "mortal danger" and that democratisation in neighbouring states would not solve the problems of Hungarians living there.
- Hungarian Government Commissioner László Székely said on 31 January that Slovakia was ready to accept that there will be no hydroelectric power plant on the Danube in Hungary if certain conditions were met, since there "are no legal means with which Hungary could be obliged to carry out such an investment." Székely was commenting on a translation of Slovakia's reply to Hungarian proposals geared at solving the dispute. The conditions include compensation for the halted construction of the planned Nagymaros power plant.
- Watched by the Prime Minister, István "Koko" Kovács on Saturday night became Hungary's first professional boxing featherweight champion of the world. Over a thousand fans had travelled to Munich to see Koko win with a 12th round knock out against Antonio Diaz from the Dominican Republic.
- In a competition sponsored by the Hungarian Olympic Committee, former Golden Team Captain Ferenc Puskás and five-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer Krisztina Egerszegi were named the athletes of the century at a ceremony in Budapest on Sunday night.
- The Hungarian winner of the Santa Claus beauty contest, Tibor Jónás, is to pay a visit to Lapland on 2 February. He will travel to the northern "homeland of Santas" to hold talks with the "real Santa Claus" and invite him to be jury president of the second Santa Claus contest of Hungary in December this year.
Paul Nemes, 1 February 2001
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