Joint opposition stance against muzzle act – Orbán on the way to his fall

On Wednesday, the Parliament started the debate on the so-called muzzle act. After the addresses by the lead speakers, the representatives of the opposition parties held a joint press conference to call the public’s attention to their concerns about the act. As it was reported earlier, Fidesz explains its intentions to seriously curb MPs’ rights, including access to public institutions, by the circumstances of the vote on the so-called slavery act, the demonstrations in the State Television building and Ákos Hadházy’s signs. The governing party also suggested that allegedly misbehaving MPs should face substantial sanctions up to and including banning from the Parliament.

However, they have so far been unable to define what constitutes misbehaviour – for example, what punishment should be given to the sinner who sits in Viktor Orbán’s chair? As a test, Péter Jakab sat in Mr Orbán’s chair and presiding chairman István Jakab had no right to adjourn the session despite his threats to do so, because the House Rules have no provision for such cases – and the Parliament could easily go on working without Viktor Orbán...) Blocking the opposition from submitting its topics to the agenda of the plenary sessions means that the pro-government majority will no longer need to repeatedly turn down the bill to open the Communist secret police files or the motion to help severely ill children with SMA, for example.  

 

Péter Jakab in Viktor Orbán’s chair, 19 November 2019 during the debate of the muzzle act

Photo: Balázs Béli

Nevertheless, Jobbik’s deputy faction leader László György Lukács emphasized that the opposition was standing united in this matter. As he put it, the Prime Minister just wants to save himself by limiting the MPs’ rights but this bill “set Viktor Orbán on the way to his fall”. No matter how hard the government tries to muzzle the opposition, they will never let themselves be silenced, the politician said. 

Talking about the governing party’s bill, Socialist MP Bertalan Tóth called it Fidesz’ revenge targeted against opposition voters, too. According to the MP, it was symbolic that the so-called slavery act was submitted to the Parliament exactly a year before, which then laid the foundations for the opposition’s coordinated efforts and the local election results on 13 October.  He expressed his opinion that the governing parties failed to learn anything from the outcome of the local elections and that’s why they are limiting the opposition’s rights, the plenary sessions, the control of public institutions and that’s why they are threatening to ban the opposition from the Parliament. 

The Democratic Coalition’s Gergely Arató agreed that the bill was a revenge. In his view, the government got scared and it is trying to intimidate the opposition and its voters. “But it won’t succeed,” he added.  As he put it, it was the Prime Minister himself who deprived the Parliament of its dignity when he answered nothing but “Merry Christmas!” to an MP’s (Márta Demeter; the ed.) question. “No matter what they say, we won’t shut up,” he asserted.

LMP’s Antal Csárdi called this day the black day of modern democracy. He explained his statement with two examples. Firstly, he had tried countless times to access public institutions as an MP but he was mostly denied – now Fidesz wants to legalize this practice. Secondly, he compared the limitation of MPs’ rights to the tax authority giving a 2 week advance notice before auditing a business enterprise. This is unrealistic, he stated. 

Tímea Szabó (Dialogue) said this bill fit into a chain of vengeful acts. In her opinion, there were some other similar actions such as Speaker László Kövér restricting the media’s movement in the Parliament, the central government’s encroachment into how municipalities spend their funds and the governing parties’ intentions to tamper with the election act.  According to Liberal MP Anett Bősz, the bill reflects Fidesz’ attitude to social matters: some members of the society are able to rise while others are not given the same chance. She also emphasized that the parliamentary committees’ work is blocked by the pro-government MPs. 

 

 

Independent MP Ákos Hadházy added that the reason why Fidesz MP Máté Kocsis submitted this motion was not to protect the Parliament’s dignity but to “save his mother-in-law’s job as a secretary to [Fidesz director] Gábor Kubatov”. Because if Fidesz loses the elections, this job will no longer exist, he explained.  In his view, the Parliament lost its dignity when Fidesz stopped the debates and the presentation of arguments. 

To our question as to what the sinner who sits in Viktor Orbán’s chair deserves, Mr Lukács responded he didn’t think it was a sin to sit there “but since he sat there I believe he deserves that chair in 2022,” he added. According to Jobbik’s politician, this case, which he called a smart test, shows that some rules will be flexible and the actual punishment will depend on László Kövér’s rigour and/or his antipathy for the particular MP. Fidesz could not close the loopholes so László Kövér will do it at his own discretion, he noted. Responding to our prediction that the debate on Fidesz’ bill will likely take place in the late night hours, Tímea Szabó said it was a clear proof that Viktor Orbán wanted to keep the discussion out of the public eye. This is a mockery of democracy, she concluded. 

 

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