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Orbán and Márki-Zay rally on 65th anniversary of Hungarian uprising
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his recently elected challenger Péter Márki-Zay both held rallies in the capital on October 23, some six months from general elections, which are expected to be very tight.
Some seventy thousand (professional estimate of atlatszo.hu) supporters of Viktor Orbán took part in a solemn march through the streets of Budapest to hear a speech by Orbán on a national day paying tribute to Hungary's crushed anti-Soviet uprising of 1956.
The prime minister spared only a few words on the actual revolutionary events of 1956, and rather focused on the events that took place 15 years ago, when violent riots broke out under then prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. Orbán also called on his sympathizers to stay united against the opposition. He also pointed fingers at the EU, comparing it to the Soviet Union, because of the its treatment of Hungary and Poland over rule-of-law issues.
The rival of Viktor Orbán, Péter Márki-Zay, who won the opposition primary election a week before the national day, spoke only a few miles from his adversary, before a much more modest crowd.
He told his supporters that people “had enough” in 1956, just as “they have enough today,” but he also struck a more conciliatory note by saying that “..those who are not opposed to us are with us.”
The primary elections of the opposition were organized by the coalition of the six main opposition parties, uniting greens, liberals, social democrats and even a former far-right party.
The association of the opposition, created with the goal of maximizing results in an election system favoring the prime minister’s Fidesz party, did not only succeed in choosing Orbán’s rival, but also found the best contestants suitable to challenge Fidesz candidates in all of the 106 electoral districts.
Orbán won three landslide victories since 2010, giving him a qualified majority allowing him to modify the constitution. If re-elected, he would start his fifth term, as he was already at the head of the government between 1998 and 2002.
Analysts say that next year’s elections will be the closest race since 2006, as most pollsters agree that the opposition alliance led by Márki-Zay is neck-and-neck with Fidesz, even enjoying a slight advantage.
Curia blocks one of the questions in Orbán’s referendum
Hungary’s supreme court, the Curia, rejected one of the questions in the Orbán referendum, arguing that “..a valid and effective referendum on the relevant question would result in a conflict of fundamental rights that could only be resolved by the amendment of the Basic Law. Therefore, a referendum on the specific issue has been rejected.”
The specific question was the following:
"Do you support the availability of non-neoplastic treatments for minor children?"
All five of the government’s questions passed swiftly through the National Electoral Commission at the end of July:
- Do you support the organization of sexual orientation sessions for minor children in public education without parental consent?
- Do you support the promotion of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?
- Do you support the availability of gender reassignment treatments for minor children?
- Do you support the unrestricted presentation of sexual media content to minors that affects their development?
- Do you support the display of gender-reassignment media content to minor children?
A few days shy of the green light given by the National Electoral Commission, Orbán announced that he would initiate a so-called “child protection" referendum, following that, as he put it "Brussels clearly attacked Hungary over the child protection law in recent weeks.”
The government’s anti-pedophile law was passed with homophobic modifiers in which the government banned the "promotion or portrayal of homosexuality."
The European Commission has launched infringement proceedings against Hungary in connection with the law, arguing that it restricts the right to free speech, while the government is unable to explain why and how LGBTQ content adversely affects children's development.
But now, according to the verdict of the Curia, the outcome of a referendum on this issue would conflict with the Basic Law itself in several respects.
"The Curia, while defending human dignity, refused to validate one of the government's referendum questions. The government planned to put a total of five questions to a referendum during its homophobic and transphobic referendum initiative,” Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU) said in a Facebook post following the announcement of the Curia.
"The Curia has stated that the right of minors to receive certain treatments cannot be deprived as a general rule, because it would prevent them from exercising their fundamental rights. Children also have the right to self-determination and physical integrity, and a general prohibition on the decision to use treatment would deprive them of the right to self-determination, “ HCLU added.
On the other hand, the validation of the government's referendum question is made impossible by the latest, ninth amendment to the Basic Law: if “yes” votes were cast in the majority, the “birth gender identity” declared in the Basic Law would be violated by the referendum.
The Curia will decide on the other issues later.
Hungarian competition authority slaps record fine on Nitrogénművek Vegyipari Zrt. and affiliates
The Hungarian Competition Authority GVH imposed a record fine of 14.1 billion forints on Nitrogénművek Vegyipari Zrt. and its group of affiliates for cartel activities, arguing that the companies sought to restrict competition between their reseller partners and imports for years.
“The recently concluded investigation of the GVH has revealed that Nitrogénművek Vegyipari Zrt. and its artificial fertiliser manufacturing and distribution affiliates infringed the law by determining the resale prices of their products and even to which customers the resellers were permitted to sell them,” GVH said in a statement
“Furthermore, in order to restrict imports from abroad, the group of undertakings required significant annual minimum quantities and exclusivity for its resellers,” GVH added.
To put the amount of 14.1 billion into perspective: GVH imposed a total fine of 8.4 billion forints for the whole year in 2020.
“Nitrogénművek Zrt. operates the only artificial fertiliser factory in Hungary; therefore, only imports are able to compete with it on the domestic market. The proceedings of the GVH revealed that the group of undertakings had developed a complex system of agreements with its strategic partners that was able to hinder the competition for customers,” the statement also said.
These agreements were aimed at restricting the pricing of the products manufactured by Nitrogénművek Zrt., while specifying expected order volumes under the threat of high penalties and applying exclusivity clauses were intended to limit the purchase and sale of substitute products, according to GVH.
According to the GVH, Nitrogénművek Zrt. caused significant damage to Hungarian farmers, and because fertilizer is indispensable in agriculture, and the costs of producers are also reflected in consumer prices, the damage was also caused essentially to all Hungarian consumers.
Fatal Verona bus accident: driver sentenced to six years in prison
The trial of the Verona bus accident in Italy, which claimed 17 lives - mostly Hungarian students - continued, and a settlement has been reached, local daily tabloid Blikk reported.
At first instance, the bus driver was sentenced to 12 years in prison and banned from driving, but according to the settlement reached at the current trial, the Hungarian man was sentenced to six years in jail, which he will have to serve in Italy.
The man from Békéscsaba did not appear at the trial. The driver’s lawyers presented a hundred-page document to the judge and proposed that his sentence be halved to six years.
The driver was said to have fallen asleep before the tragedy because he did not brake and did not even steer to avoid the collision. It turned out later that he was struggling with sleep disorders.
The bus accident, which claimed 17 lives, took place between Verona and Venice, Italy on January 20, 2017, when a bus transporting students from the Szinyei Merse Pál High School in Budapest returning from a skiing trip in France collided with a strip fence on the highway and caught fire.
A total of 56 people traveled on the bus, 43 students and 13 adults, including teachers and parents. It was one of the most serious bus accidents involving Hungarian citizens abroad.