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hvg.hu

Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, a senior Free Democrat, has condemned the direction his party is being led in by Gabor Kuncze, Gabor Demszky and Balint Magyar. The MEP talked to hvg.hu from Brussels.

In an open letter you wrote: "On Wednesday evening, the Free Democrats issued a statement defending Peter Gergenyi, the Budapest police chief, who has openly boasted of breaking the law by refusing to investigate complaints against the police. Someone who claims cynically that policemen simply lost their ID badges, who claims policemen attacked people when they were lying down simply by accident. He rejects the accountability that is required in a state governed by the rule of law. His statements reflect a world view that is founded in the idea of a police state. The Free Democrats' statement sends the message that the party does not want peace and calm in Hungary, but continued conflict." These are harsh words. Why did you think them necessary?

I am worried abou the Free Democrat party. This is about our fundamental values and our identity. My party has been going in the wrong direction since prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany's leaked speech in Oszod. The party made a serious mistake by immediately defending the prime minister after his speech was leaked. The party should have said in public that it did not agree with the style of the speech, with this infantilising of citizens. It should have made it clear that the party would not stick with Gyurcsany through thick and thin until necessary reforms have been completed. Nobody is irreplaceable: we found that out with former prime minister Peter Medgyessy.

How do you explain the Free Democrats' uncritical stance towards Gyurcsany?

There is the fear that if Gyurcsany goes, then Orban Viktor comes, that the extremists will take over. The other feeling is that it is better to be in power than out of it. But this is a baseless fear: the government parties form a parliamentary majority, and Gyurcsany's departure would not have changed this.

How could they justify their defence of Gergenyi?

The Free Democrat leadership felt that Gergenyi had become the victim in a political game, and that it would be unfair to use him as a sacrificial lamb. They were worried that if the police chief departed, the position of Budapest police chief would be abolished, which would degrade Budapest's importance. There is a certain hysteria in certain corners of the party: people are imagining disorder on a vast scale, and they see Gergenyi as a symbol of stern police action.

Of course, the Kuncze-Demszky-Magyar group is a minority in the Free Democrat national council. Hirszerzo has claimed that many others - including Gabor Fodor, Tamas Bauer, Klara Ungar and Peter Gusztos - opposed the defence of Gergenyi. But Gyurcsany and Petretei wanted the police chief to stay.

I still believe what I wrote in my letter. Gergenyi's dismissal is not a solution to the problems of Hungarian politics. I agree that the police had to take action in the face of street violence, but it is important that they do everything legally. I'd like to emphasise this point about legality. We can only support the police if we condemn them when they overreach and do not allow people to sweep these issues under the carpet. That's why we cannot accept Peter Gergenyi either.
HVG English version

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