Commenting on the noisy occupation of the Speaker’s rostrum staged by right-wing radical MPs in Parliament, a pro-government columnist compares Jobbik to the Jacobins who plunged Paris into a spiral of terror during their rule. A centrist analyst predicts a series of similar spectacular acts as the elections get closer.
On Friday, Jobbik MPs occupied the Speaker’s rostrum in protest against the Land Act Parliament was about to pass, which they claimed amounted to a “sell-out of Hungarian land” to foreigners. The Deputy Speaker moved down from his seat and chaired the session from another rostrum normally used by deputies addressing the House. Throughout the procedure, the Jobbik MPs and their guests maintained a barrage of chanting: “high treason, high treason”. Népszabadság reports that Speaker László Kövér consulted PM Orbán before the decision was taken not to have the protestors forcibly removed. As a result of their action, Jobbik MPs were banned from the vote. Representatives of LMP also protested against the proposal, claiming that it hurt the interests of small family farmers. After the incident, LMP and Jobbik both claimed that the vote was invalid, since the presiding chair violated the House regulations by leaving the pulpit and ignoring a request by Jobbik to have a roll-call vote on the proposal. József Ángyán, a long-time critic of the governments’ land policies (see BudaPost, May 14 and September 28 2012 and May 14, 2013) quit Fidesz after the vote.
By adopting the new Land Act, Fidesz risks losing the support of farmers, one of their core constituencies, Tamás Bihari speculates in Népszava. Although the left-wing pundit doubts the feasibility of agricultural production based on small family farms, he believes that the adopted law will be seen as treason by farmers. The land law dispute may also serve as a basis for an anti-Orbán platform including all his adversaries, Bihari contends.
While Ángyán and LMP fear for family farming, Agrarszektor.hu, an agricultural news site complains that the new rules undermine large farms by favoring smallholders and family farms. In the long run, the author contends, a number of jobs will be lost and agricultural productivity will decline as the number of family farms will increase. The report also points out that farmers who lease land exceeding the maximum limit set out in the new law, are trying to gain time by prolonging their existing lease agreements before the new regulations come into effect.
In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Bayer calls the Jobbik MPs “berserk and stupid liars”. He argues that the new Land Act follows in the footsteps of a Danish regulation, which requires that land can only be sold to resident famers, and that the transaction must be approved by the local community. “If Danish land is not bought out by foreigners, neither will ours”, Bayer remarks. He also rejects the arguments of centrist critics, who claim that as a result of the new regulations Hungarian agriculture will be concentrated in the hands of a few great land-owners. At present, Bayer replies, 50 per cent of the land is exploited by large farming units, while the new law aims to reduce that proportion to 20 per cent.
Regarding Jobbik’s performance in Parliament, he dismisses the protestors as “dwarf Jacobins”, and reminds his readers of the the fate of those “who, as soon as they took power, installed a terror machine that engulfed everyone else and finally their own people as well.”
Political scientist Gábor Török describes Jobbik’s spectacular stunt as ‘without precedent in Hungarian history since the early 20th century,’ when defiant opposition MPs were forcibly removed by the Speaker of the National Assembly. He suspects that Jobbik would have been only too happy to see themselves on TV, seized by guards in uniform and escorted from the assembly hall. With the date of the elections (May 2014) fast approaching, Török believes the government side will probably be interested in displaying calm, while the opposition, especially the radicals, will be increasingly tempted to stage spectacular and noisy initiatives.