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Debate over compensation for inmates and Roma rolls on

January 27th, 2020

Weeklies and weekend editions of dailies right across the political spectrum discuss the implications of the government’s plans to suspend payment of compensation for  inmates who have won court cases for overcrowding and Roma children taught in segregated classrooms. Each side accuses the other of inciting hatred and threatening the constitutional order.

Magyar Demokrata editor-in-chief András Bencsik, commenting on the dispute over compensation for segregated Roma children (see BudaPost January 13 and January 20) and prison inmates who won compensation in court for sub standard detention conditions, (see BudaPost January 21) accuses opposition politicians and ‘the Soros network’ of using courts to get hold of public money. The pro-government columnist suspects that cities taken over by the opposition in the local elections are also syphoning off money in corrupt ways. All in all, Bencsik claims that the only concern of both the opposition and their intellectual hinterland is to get rich.

On Látószög blog, Judit B. Varga claims that the segregation of Roma children serves their interests as well. The conservative historian believes that separate classrooms help both non-Roma and Roma to overcome their mutual stereotypes and also to offer targeted education for disadvantaged Roma children – thus segregation should be seen as an instance of affirmative action, she believes. Varga adds that de facto segregated education programs designed for poor Roma children, run by churches, have been highly successful in Hungary.

Magyar Nemzet’s József Horváth suggests that the opposition and multinational companies are using the Roma and the inmates to accuse the government of discrimination. The pro-government pundit reckons that after failing to weaken the government by accusing it of mistreating migrants, human rights NGOs now want to incite ethnic hatred. Their action, Horváth writes, is ‘an open attack on the Hungarian constitutional order’.

In its weekly first page editorial, Magyar Narancs writes that Prime Minister Orbán is using inmates and the Roma to mobilize his supporters with fear-mongering rhetoric, because of the recent lull in the migration crisis. The liberal weekly finds the claim that ‘the Soros network’ is using prison conditions and ethnic segregation in schools for its own financial advantage, ‘a barefaced conspiracy theory’. In a passing remark, Magyar Narancs claims that PM Orbán’s words against the compensation of segregated Roma were borrowed from ‘Neo-Nazi’ far-right politicians.

Heti Világgazdaság’s Sándor Révész interprets the Prime Minister’s plans to suspend compensation payments as a demonstration that the Prime Minister has placed himself above the law. The liberal pundit claims that the government has actually rebelled against the rule of law. Révész adds that the government has announced a de facto civil disobedience movement as it cannot simply change laws that are against its taste as long as Hungary is in the EU.

On 444.hu, Péter Magyari recalls that the compensation of prisoners was made possible by a law that the government enacted in 2016. The liberal columnist recalls that the government introduced the new law on the compensation of prison inmates kept in poor conditions to pre-empt European court procedures against it.

Népszava’s Róbert Friss also thinks that Prime Minister Orbán wants to put himself above the law by ignoring court rulings. The left-wing commentator describes the government’s move as ‘the last nail in the coffin of the rule of law’. He accuses PM Orbán of ignoring the institutional order of the Hungarian state. Friss interprets what happened as proof that the governing party fears that it may soon be ousted from power.

On Index, Attila Rovó thinks that the Prime Minister is looking for new enemies to use to keep his voting base together. The government and its media, the liberal analyst  writes, have replaced migrants with inmates and the Roma, but kept the ‘Soros network’ as a scapegoat. Rovó believes that this strategy may actually pay off, as both the Roma and prison inmates are highly unpopular, and therefore the opposition has nothing to gain from defending them.

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