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Viewing cable 07BUDAPEST163, THE GREAT BARRIER BEEF: OPPOSITION MP'S "CIVIL

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07BUDAPEST163 2007-02-08 07:07 2011-01-04 19:07 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Budapest
Appears in these articles:
http://www.spiegel.de/
VZCZCXRO1464
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHUP #0163 0390707
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 080707Z FEB 07
FM AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0721
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
C O N F I D E N T I A L BUDAPEST 000163

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO NSC FOR ADAM STERLING

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/07/2012
TAGS: PGOV PREL ECON HU KDEM ASEC
SUBJECT: THE GREAT BARRIER BEEF: OPPOSITION MP'S "CIVIL
DISOBEDIENCE"

Ref: a) budapest 135 and previous b) budapest daily

February 7

Classified By: POL/C ERIC V. GAUDIOSI; REASONS 1.4 (B) AND (D)

1. (C) Opposition leader Viktor Orban lead approximately 100
MPs from his own FIDESZ party and their Christian Democrat
(KDNP) coalition partner in an attempt to dismantle a
security fence around the Parliament building February 2.
Proceeding en masse from an opposition caucus, the MPs
succeeded in disassembling a significant stretch of the metal
barrier before the police reinforced their presence; police
maintained a visible presence around Parliament through the
night, with crowds estimated at several hundred - including a
visible contingent of young skinheads - gathered in the
evening. 20 arrests were reported in small-scale incidents
during the week-end.

2. (C) Ambassador Foley met with FIDESZ MP (and
Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee Chair) Zsolt Nemeth
just after the initial incident. Coming directly from the
Parliament (and an impromptu run-un with PM Gyurcsany),
Nemeth proudly displayed a small cut on his hand from "trying
to take apart the fence without the right tools." (Note:
Another contact confided to us that Nemeth had cancelled a
scheduled meeting with her by "calling from the fence with a
cellphone in one hand and a wrench in the other." End Note.)
He characterized FIDESZ's move as a blow for the right to
assembly and commented that "even the liberals should support
us." Echoing Orban's public statements, he discussed waiving
his parliamentary immunity from prosecution on potential
misdemeanor charges.

3. (C) The government strongly denounced the opposition's
foray, with the police pressing formal charges (deemed
incomplete by a Budapest court upon initial review) and the
MFA circulating a note verbale to the diplomatic community
condemning "the infraction of regulations in force by virtue
of the law of the Republic of Hungary" and expressing
"serious doubts" over the opposition's "commitment to the
ideals and practice of democracy" beneath the "ill-fitting
cover of civil disobedience" (full text faxed to EUR/SCE).
President Solyom released a statement emphasizing that "the
rule of law cannot be served by illegal methods."

4. (C) Public reaction was predictably mixed, with some of
our interlocutors describing the opposition's action as
"ridiculous" and others expressing concern that the
government's response risked alienating the public. A great
deal of attention has focused on the incident as a reflection
of the dynamic within the opposition. We understand that the
plan was closely held in Orban's inner circle and presented
to the opposition caucus with no advance notice. Many,
including conservative commentator Anita Orban, see the
incident as a loyalty test, pointing out that prominent
moderates including MPs Lajos Kosa, Janos Ader, and Antal
Rogan were conspicuous in their absence (though Rogan has
since released a statement of solidarity). A consistent
critic of the FIDESZ leadership's "divorce" from center-right
intellectuals during the party's shift toward populism, Orban
believes this is the latest effort to whip up enthusiasm and
enforce party discipline before Parliament reconvenes on
February 12. Ultimately, however, she believes the party is
"louder - but weaker - than the MSZP." Indeed, the Deputy of
the KDNP Caucus became the first to break openly with the
opposition's "excommunication" policy toward the Prime
Minister, commenting publicly on February 6 that the time has
come to work together with the government for the good of the
nation.

5. (C) Comment: Although the ultimate disposition of the
land around Parliament is an issue, the opposition's latest
actions add little to either the substance or the tone of the
debate. With the recent release of a lengthy report on the
fall demonstrations which highlights FIDESZ's links to the
violent protestors (ref b), their latest act of "civil
disobedience" will likely underscore questions regarding
their commitment to the rule of law. Much as we saw Viktor
Orban at his best in a recent meeting with Ambassadors (ref
a), this escapade shows that he is still equally liable to
play with fire. End Comment.

Foley