December 03. 2020. – 06:44 PM
After his sudden resignation from his European Parliamentary mandate on Sunday citing fatigue over politics in his statement, Fidesz MEP József Szájer found himself in the middle of a scandal that made headlines all over Europe. Since then, the MEP had quit Fidesz, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán had condemned his actions, and the orgy's organizer had revealed further details of the night that ended Szájer's political career. Here is our summary of the Hungarian reactions to the scandal and everything we know about it so far.
On Tuesday, Belgian press first reported about an unnamed, since resigned, Hungarian MEP who was caught by police at a curfew-breaking sex party with 24 other men, reportedly climbing down a gutter from a first-floor apartment to escape law enforcement. As confirmed by his press release, the MEP in question was József Szájer. He divulged that police have found extasy in his backpack, which he claims to have been planted. The Brussels Prosecutor's office has since confirmed that they indeed found narcotics on his person.
Since then, some further details were revealed. Szájer was not invited to the party: he joined as a plus one of someone who was. Initially, the party was reported to have taken place on the floor above Brussels gay bar Le Detour, however, it was since confirmed that it was instead in a private flat above another place nearby called Monroe Bar. Two other people with diplomatic immunity also attended the curfew-breaking party, a certain D.O. (1977) and P. B. (1987), one of whom was confirmed to be an Estonian diplomat by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
József Szájer is a politician and lawyer who had been an MEP of Fidesz since 2004 and an observing member of the European Parliament before, during Hungary's accession procedure. He is often said to have drafted the Hungarian Fundamental Law adopted by Fidesz in 2011. He is married to the former controversial head of judicial administration and a current member of the Constitutional Court Tünde Handó.
Szájer was one of the founding members of the Hungarian governing party Fidesz that lately has been cracking down on sexual minorities, not only in rhetorics but also legislation; years ago, their fourth amendment to the Fundamental Law excluded same-sex couples from the definition of the family, and this May, they outlawed the legal recognition of transgender people. Another proposed amendment (the ninth) currently before the Parliament seeks to constitutionally declare that children have a right to a Christian upbringing and an identity corresponding to their birth sex, and another omnibus bill would close the only loophole available for same-sex couples to adopt while also shutting the door on non-married would-be adopters.
The organiser of the orgy speaks out
David Manuzheley, the organiser of the party who previously told Belgian press that he does not care about politics and did not recognise Szájer, now spoke to Polish news outlet Onet. The 29-year old Belgian has been organising legal orgies for over two years, and he told Onet that politicians are frequent guests at these events:
"At these orgies, there often are Ukrainian, French, German, Dutch, Luxembourgian, Swiss, and Spanish politicians. But the most frequent guests are the Polish and the Hungarians."
Manzheley added that these are family men who prize discretion and want their identities to remain unknown. He also divulged that Szájer was not the only conservative politician from Central-Eastern Europe at these parties, members of Polish party PiS also appear often and he knows about nine members of Fidesz who have also attended them at least once. Manzheley explained that these orgies are aimed at homosexual men, women are only allowed to watch, "but men who attend always have sex with other men."
About the busted lockdown-breaking party on Friday, he said that "some idiot forgot to lock the door, so the police just walked in," adding that "several guests tried to unzip the pants of the policemen as they thought that the raid is a part of the orgy." Manzheley also confirmed the story about Szájer's daring escape through the window and down the gutter. He also claimed that Szájer told him that the he also organised similar parties before in his own apartment, the next one was scheduled for 12 December.
Manzheley also spoke to Hungarian news site 444, telling them that he was not exactly sure what happened when the police arrived as he was having sex at the time and many of the guests had beards similar to Szájer's, presuming he must have either taken his clothes with him or hastily dressed as he was fleeing.
He denied that Polish authorities have an arrest warrant out against him for fraud, claiming that he is being knowingly conflated with a criminal of a similar name in order to discredit him, as a prominent of Polish conservative party PiS is also one of the regulars at his events. He further pointed out that his personal data does not match up with what is listed in the Polish police database, his age is incorrect, his parents are not Polish, though it must be noted that he does bear a striking resemblance to the photo attached to the warrant.
Szájer quits Fidesz, Orbán condemns his actions
The Hungarian governing party has been trying to distance themselves from their MEP's scandal, their EP group had issued a statement on Tuesday commending Szájer's decision to resign, acknowledging his apology to his family, political community and voters. The statement did not mention the illegal nature of the party nor the fact that police had found narcotics in Szájer's backpack.
Balázs Hídvéghi, the party's communications director told state radio Kossuth on Wednesday morning: "Let him, who is without sin, cast the first stone on Szájer." Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó, who is also in charge of secret services, claimed to have had no knowledge about the real reason for Szájer's sudden resignation, he only learned about the orgy from the press. Szájer's fellow MEP Tamás Deutsch also commented on the scandal, telling ATV:
"Let me make this clear. Today, in Hungary, Fidesz is the party that does not want to rummage around in other people's bedrooms, the party that wants to protect people's decisions concerning their private lives, and it is the left-wing parties that are trying to aggressively force their ideological convictions disguised as lifestyle advice on Hungarian citizens who do not wish to align themselves with left-wing ideological notions."
On Wednesday, József Szájer quit the Hungarian governing party via a one-sentence letter addressed to Gábor Kubatov, the party's director. That same day, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán finally issued a response:
"What our MEP, József Szájer, did, simply does not fit into the set of values represented by our political community. We will not forget or deny his thirty years of work, but his action is unacceptable and inexcusable. After what happened, he made the only possible right choice when he resigned from his mandate in the European Parliament and quit Fidesz. We have acknowledged his decision."
At the government's weekly press conference on Thursday, the PM's Chief of Staff Gergely Gulyás refused to say anything more on the matter after repeating Orbán's statement. We tried to get more answers from cabinet members on how this could affect the government's ongoing fight about the rule of law mechanism within the European Union, but after we spoke to two ministers who repeated the same panels, police had cordoned off the area in front of the PM's office where the cabinet meeting was held:
(This video has English subtitles. If you can't see them, turn them on in the settings.)
Pro-government media and the Hungarian state television had reported on the scandal particularly timidly: Origo merely published the MEP's statement on Tuesday without any commentary, public news channel M1 read excerpts from the statement without mentioning as much as the violation of the Belgian lockdown, let alone details about the orgy or the extasy found on Szájer. HírTV did mention the curfew-breaking and the drugs, but consistently referred to the orgy as a "house party." The only pro-government media outlet that mentioned these details was Pesti Srácok, who ran the story on a former MEP's scandal, connecting it to Szájer after his statement was published.
The Hungarian opposition had a field day with the scandal: Not long after Szájer's press release, former PM and Chairman of party DK shared Fidesz's Sunday Facebook post bidding farewell to the resigned MEP, that read "Szájer's role was decisive in Hungarian conservativism and Christian democracy taking its deserved place in European politics," commenting "Decisive it is." His party's statement referenced the previous sex scandal of the governing party, when footage of Zsolt Borkai, Fidesz's Győr mayor engaging in sex with prostitutes onboard a yacht in the Adriatic sea surfaced during the municipal election campaign of 2019. Jobbik shared the same post as Gyurcsány along with the hashtags #orgy, #drugs, and #prostitutes, while their MEP, Márton Gyöngyösi, remarked that "another member of Fidesz was disgracefully revealed not to respect the same standards of Christian conservativism that his party so often brings up."
Momentum stated that the scandal signals the Hungarian governing party's "complete moral bankruptcy," adding that it's "unacceptable" that while COVID-19 deaths break new records every day in Europe, a politician thinks they are above the law, also bringing up Borkai as another example of the party's hypocrisy, similarly to MSZP who, in their post, also included Gábor Kaleta, the disgraced former ambassador to Peru who was found last year to have stored 19 000 pornographic pictures of minors on his laptop.
Green party LMP highlighted that "Fidesz makes even its own members live in a lie," asking how it reflects on the party that one of their members breaks curfew, and how the scandal relates to Fidesz's Christian family model and their attitudes towards the LGBTQ community.