Theft, physical violence and drug abuse are just some of the entries on the criminal records of the henchman that were tasked with blocking an opposition-backed referendum drive last year. Despite the fact that the incident raised wide-scale outrage, police did a half-hearted job investigating the matter and no convictions were made. The same individuals have in many cases popped up whenever muscle was need to support issues important to the governing party and its friends.
The individuals who made an attempt last year to physically block an opposition representative from submitting a referendum bid were all found to have criminal records. Earlier the government introduced the mandatory closure of retail outlets on Sundays, citing he need for more family and leisure time for shop workers. The measure was unpopular because of the inconvenience even among governing party voters, which the political opposition wanted to capitalize upon.
Hungarian law states that the election office in charge of clearing referendum motions can only accept a single entry in any given subject, and there is a time constraint for the same issue to be raised again if the previous bid is turned down. Government loyalists made efforts to submit questions that they had to know would be rejected, but it also meant that the opposition wouldn’t have a platform to start campaigning with a potentially unifying referendum.
As such, deadlines became important and being first to file a motion became a competitive sport.
Istvan Nyako, a representative of the opposition left-wing MSZP arrived at the election office at dawn to make sure he would be first. He was joined by a group of large muscular bald men who seemed to be waiting as well. Later an elderly woman named Mrs. Laszlo Erdosi, arrived at he scene, and the bouncer-types allowed her in and later blocked Nyako from reaching a timing labeler that is to determine the sequence in which referendum bids are received.
The woman in question was found to have ties to the government and its oligarchy. More interestingly based on the recordings and photos taken during the incident, the musclemen were identified and it turns out, most have had dealings with the law before. Many of them were questioned or even served time for physical violence, drug abuse, theft diving under the influence and theft among others.
These records would technically disqualify them from the security jobs that formally earn them their living. Being a bouncer at various venues doesn’t pay all that well, they are nonetheless known to drive around in expensive cars and wear expensive clothes.
The election office declared the submission of Mrs. Erdosi the “winner” since it had the earlier time stamp, which was placed on the document by one of her helpers. The decision was challenged and the Kuria, Hungary’s top court ruled in Nyako’s favor, because the law states that whoever is first to formally submit the documents for processing is to be accepted and the time stamp is only an assisting device, not a legally binding element. Furthermore, Mrs. Erdosi’s submission should have been rejected on the grounds that the time stamp was used by someone else and individuals may only personally exercise their constitutional rights.
This was likely a major factor in the fact that the government backtracked and announced it would repeal the mandatory Sunday business ban.
Nyako however, also filed criminal charges against the bouncers claiming they constrained him in his rights. The matter is ongoing, but his first submissions were rejected, based mainly on the fact that the law that was the target of the referendum was scrapped.
The common theme in the muscle group is that they are tied to professional football. Many of them have provided security for games as well as other sporting events. They have also appeared on several occasions to counter anti-government sentiment by intimidation, like interrupting college debate sessions or threatening protesters trying to protect a historic park area in Budapest from becoming a museum district.
The football angle ties them to Gabor Kubatov, head of Hungary’s most popular football team FTC and also a key strategist for the governing Fidesz party.
The bouncers seem completely unconcerned about people knowing about their pasts, some even boast on social media when they are interrogated by the police. Nonetheless, they get well-paying jobs even though their criminal history shouldn’t allow them in such positions.
We reached out to people familiar with the matter to try to find out how such people can get around not only with impunity, but getting ample rewards for their loyalty.
One theory is that the government is keen on avoiding another 2006, when anti-government riots broke out and football hooligans who are also in the same weight group led the charge. In this scenario, the government prefers to keep them working and buy their loyalty should things go south. The simpler version is that the intimidation service they provide is seen useful within circles close to the government.
Nonetheless, the investigation of the events at the election office was abruptly stopped, citing lack of evidence. Although the police were thorough at first and gathered all necessary data. However, for whatever reason they soon became sloppy. None of the musclemen were questioned about the incident and there was also laxness in how they documented the affair.
Our source in the police stated that the entire investigation was highly unprofessional. He doubted that his colleagues would make so many procedural mistakes, accordingly he is convinced that there had to be a direct order from the top to drop the matter.
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