Jobbik’s party program is not yet public but we have already some ideas of what it will include because Gábor Vona, the party’s leader, gave a fairly lengthy interview to the Internet paper Barikád (www.barikad.hu). Barikád is a virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Roma publication that can be considered the official mouthpiece of Jobbik.
But before I analyze this interview let me return ever so briefly to László Sólyom’s New Year’s message and compare it to Viktor’s Orbán’s much shorter speech found on his personal webpage. The similarities are striking. Some commentators rather sarcastically remarked that it seems that the two men must share the same speechwriters. Sólyom’s speech emphasized “renewal” and “starting anew.” What words did Orbán use? Surprise. The same two words: “renewal” and “starting anew.” Although Orbán made them stronger by talking about “completely starting anew” and “complete renewal” (in Hungarian “teljes újrakezdés” and “teljes megújulás”).
Great was my surprise when I read in the Vona interview that he was also talking about renewal, but his qualifying adjectives are “radical” and “fundamental” (in Hungarian “radikális” and “gyökeres”). Now we just have to decide what the difference is between “complete” and “radical” or “fundamental.” Not much. Yet László Kövér, the right-hand man of Viktor Orbán, considers Jobbik the real “opponent,” and most commentators seem to agree with him. Yet the differences, at least rhetorically, don’t seem to be striking. Both want fundamental, complete, drastic renewal and change, akin to tearing down the Berlin Wall, to use Orbán’s analogy.
Heti Válasz (January 4, 2010) seems to know something about the nature of Jobbik’s program that will be available in print on January 16. Apparently this year’s program will contain some elements found in the 2006 program and also in the party program for the 2009 European Union elections. The paper seems to know that about 100 people have worked on the program in the last few months, spanning 22 different spheres of government activities. The title of the program will be “Radical Change.”
To return to the interview,
He proudly claimed, not without justification, that Jobbik managed to create an important party “practically out of nothing.” Although, he said, it is true that he and Orbán belonged to the same “civic cell,” in 2003 when he established Jobbik he resigned and hasn’t met Orbán since. He considers Orbán a very talented politician, but “his tragedy is that at the time of the change of regime he was made to be an important politician with the help of a group from which he couldn’t escape. He is like an excellent sprinter who is carrying a sack full of stones on his back. The stones of the last twenty years. He is a tragic personality of Hungarian political life who may want to do good but is unable to act. Thus only words remain.” This is a somewhat baffling description of Orbán’s political career. I assume Vona is claiming that Orbán’s liberal past continues to dog him despite his alleged shift to the right. Somehow I don’t think that the small group of liberals remaining from those days would agree with Gábor Vona on that score.
He was asked about Jobbik’s performance at the elections. What would he be satisfied with? The answer: “The minimal goal is beating MSZP.” And he added, “Just as we inflicted a crushing defeat on SZDSZ we hope in April to hang the trophy of MSZP on the wall of our office.” Vona’s claim here is dubious. It wasn’t Jobbik that “inflicted a crushing defeat on SZDSZ”; SZDSZ inflicted its own seemingly fatal wound. Vona added that “the election will be decided between Fidesz and Jobbik.”
The reporter at that point remarked that Orbán thinks that Fidesz will be able to achieve the magic two-thirds majority on its own. Vona disagreed, saying that for that famous two-thirds “Jobbik will be needed.” Doing it on their own is only an “illusion.” And here came a key sentence: “Those who really want a two-thirds that is more than empty talk but is able to do something should vote for Jobbik. We are the guarantee that if such a majority materializes in parliament there will be a new constitution, there will be a day of reckoning, there will be a real change of regime.”
He indicated that Jobbik is already working on the punishment of “the political criminals” (politikaibűnözők). He is certain that all sorts of documents are being destroyed at this very moment and that not only MSZP will try to stop the investigation of the “really big cases” but Fidesz as well, although he didn’t name the latter party by name. Jobbik will create an “institute” whose job it will be to bring the political criminals to justice.
It is quite clear, he said, that Jobbik has widespread support because in all 176 individual districts they are able to have their own candidates. As for their plans, “the economy is key.” He repeated Orbán’s oft-mentioned “one million jobs.” Of course, neoliberal economic policy must be discarded. In addition, Hungary will have to “renegotiate the country’s debt load.” In addition, they will make sure that “the multi-national companies carry their fair share of the tax burden.” The reporter at this point brought up the possibility that these companies would then leave the country. Vona’s answer was that “if these companies want to get rich on the backs of the Hungarian people, taking their profits out of the country, then they should leave. Those who are willing to cooperate with the country can stay. We are not against multinational corporations per se, but first and foremost we are on the side of the Hungarian people. To us only the interest of the nation and the country matters.” In addition, he wants to set up “a Hungarian bank that will finance Hungarian companies.”
He complained about the media. If Jobbik had its own media, “Jobbik would clearly win the elections.” He emphasized that “the Internet is Jobbik’s best friend” where they “are unbeatable.” He added that soon enough www.barikad.hu will become a printed weekly paper.
Of course, there is a lot of boasting here and it is very unlikely that Jobbik will do as well as Vona and his friends think. It is also very unlikely that they would win the elections against Fidesz and MSZP if the media were kinder to them or if they had their own. For the time being opinion polls still measure Jobbik at around 10 percent, but a lot can happen between now and April. Whether Jobbik will be such a fierce opponent of Fidesz as Vona is predicting, I’m not at all sure. In fact, it is possible that they might work hand in hand behind the scenes.