Hungary: New mayor from Jobbik party to manage town where inter-ethnic tensions continue
As of yesterday, the Hungarian town of Gyöngyöspata has a new mayor. Voters selected the candidate for the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party ("Movement for a Better Hungary"). The town's problems with ultra-nationalists, which resulted in the evacuation of Romani families and international embarrassment three months ago, may not be over.
Newly-elected Mayor Oszkár Juhász was one of seven candidates for the office, including the chair of the local Romani self-government, János Farkas. Former mayor László Tabi resigned in April after the ultra-nationalists clashed with Romani residents in the town, giving health problems as the official reason for his resignation. However, when asked by the MTI press agency whether the escalating long-term conflicts had contributed to his departure, he did not deny it.
Three months ago, János Farkas practically predicted what would happen in the town: "The local mayor might resign due to the growing tension and his successor could be a candidate from the radical nationalist party Jobbik." He also noted that in that case he would probably seek asylum in Canada, Great Britain, or the USA.
This spring, the extremist paramilitary organization Véderő (Defense) established a training camp near Gyöngyöspata. Uniformed members of the group then began patrolling the village, allegedly because of unbearable crime being committed by Romani residents. Romani activists, concerned at the threat posed to the Romani community, organized the departure en masse of Romani children and women from the village by chartered bus, which eventually led to responses from both the Hungarian Government and the international community. However, the Hungarian Government rejected interpretations of this event as an "evacuation" of Romani people precipitated by danger and stated, together with the Red Cross, that the departure had been a planned Easter trip for the children. The Romani children and women returned to the village two days later.
During that weekend, the Hungarian Police called on those participating in the paramilitary training camp to immediately shut it down. The organizer and his two assistants were detained by police, but later released. AFP reported that they began returning to the village, resulting in a clash between the radical nationalists and local Romani people in which four people were injured, one of them severely. A 14-year-old mentally disabled boy was among the victims.
The situation of the local Romani people has not changed because the village does not have the resources for it. Problems are continuing and have culminated in the election of a candidate from the ultra-right Jobbik party as mayor.