Yesterday the Hungarian Parliament passed a no-confidence motion, which essentially ousted Ferenc Gyurcsány as Prime Minister and brought in Gordon Bajnai (Europe’s second Gordon B) as the new Prime Minister. The Socialist Party is still in power—Gordo is a socialist—and the result has been many demonstrations, protests and minor riots ever since Ferenc Gyurcsány made the announcement that he was going to step down.
So yesterday the streets around Parliament were completely shut down by over 8,000 protesters who want dissolution of this government and early elections. Unfortunately, as the sun went down and a thunder storm rolled through the city, the protests turned violent. Here is an image gallery from the local web portal.
While the protesters consist of people from all different political views (except the socialists), including liberals, you can see from the pictures, most of the protesters are from the Hungarian extreme right-wingers. How can you tell? The Árpád flag.
I don’t know why but the whole thing troubles me. It’s a little scary. I asked Györgyi why they weren’t covering the protests live on the local news—as it was 5:30pm and the news was on anyway. In addition there were cops in riot gear, tear gas, and general unruliness, which is an escalation from the last few weeks of mostly uneventful protests. She said, “Covering a protest or riot in Hungary is not exactly news.” Of course she’s someone who grew up behind the iron curtain where you couldn’t even get good fruit unless it was smuggled in from the west. I guess growing up in the Midwestern suburbia and attending college in the golden farmland didn’t exactly prepare me for civil unrest.
But it’s the iconography even more than the unrest that frightens me.
The Árpád Flag, for example, was the flag of the first Hungarian Kings. Even though it’s used in state celebrations and the pattern is also in the Hungarian Coat of Arms, the flag has basically been usurped by the right-wing political party. In the 1940s the Arrow Cross Party decided to pay a little tribute to that early flat with their own take on it:
The Arrow Cross Party was a fascist organization during the 1940s, who were the governing pro-German anti-Semitic national socialist party that killed thousands of Jews and sent thousands more to concentration camps (mostly Auschwitz). It’s not the original Árpád Flag’s fault, of course, but it’s no wonder that people get a little uneasy when the Árpád Flag starts waving in the wind on the back of right-wing protesters who are calling for the downfall of the current government and burning the European Union flag.
Anyway here’s hoping there won’t be too much trouble ahead. But in Hungary, you learn to deal with what comes.