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Roma vote: new video raises questions

October 21st, 2013

After a video surfaced showing Roma men exchanging money for votes in an apartment, centrist commentators question the credibility of the footage while left-liberal columnists lament the fact that the Hungarian Roma sell their votes because they see no other opportunity in politics.
Hvg.hu published a 10 minute video clip in which a Roma man assures four others that if they get the Roma vote out for the Fidesz candidate in Baja, they will get fifty thousand forints each as well as firewood. Then he gives them 200 thousand for the previous round. The first Baja by-election was annulled in one district by the court because voters were driven in groups to the polling station. The repeated election was won again by the Fidesz candidate. (See BudaPost October 15.) Although the opposition maintained that there were irregularities in the repeated round as well, they did not appeal against the result, assuming that citizens had grown weary of voting. After the video appeared, the Socialists called for a new election and Fidesz asked prosecutors to investigate the video and the circumstances under which it was made. The mayor of Baja said none of the video is staged and that it features people who do not live in Baja. Public television reported on Sunday that his suspicion has been corroborated by the police.
444 examines the footage and concludes that “it is a highly amateurish job” whether real or false. The men present do not seem to react to being filmed during an illegal transaction. Although any statement in the video may or may not be true, they conclude that the most plausible explanation is that the Roma organizers wanted to make sure they have a card left if they are not paid.

Cink agrees with 444, finding it highly implausible that the video was made by either political camp. All the more irresponsible and stupid, the author adds, that both the left and Fidesz try to use it as a political weapon.

In Galamus, Ferenc Krémer accuses Roma organizers of “selling out their people and their children for marbles”. He claims Fidesz considers the Roma as an opportunity because local Fidesz bosses know they can manipulate them through minor favours to Roma leaders. While “official Roma organizations are both the causes and beneficiaries of Roma slavery”, Roma entrepreneurs fight over who is to be called “the vajda” (leader). No one will give the Roma anything beyond a bit of firewood, he argues, as long as they accept their “slavery”. If they want to be taken seriously by the majority, Krémer concludes, Hungarian Roma must rise up against their corrupt leaders and reject such humiliation.

In an interview with Index, Roma activist Jenő Setét, organizer of the Roma Pride Day accuses left and right alike of “not taking the Roma seriously”. Parties, he continues, do not talk to the Roma between two elections. As for Roma organizations and leaders, he accuses them of being “far away from the ordinary Roma” and urges organizers to return to grass-root politics. He believes it is unrealistic of the majority “to expect a minority with a 90% unemployment rate to solve their own problems”. Parties simply use the Roma at elections, he claims, “buying votes for a kilogram of chicken buttocks”, a form of political exploitation that reveals the buyer’s cynicism. If for 25 years no one has walked through the Roma districts to ask about their problems, he suggests, it is not surprising that the Roma seek the only advantage they can get out of Hungarian politics, namely, selling their vote.

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