The growth of the extreme right in Hungary

Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian think tank, came out with a new index that the authors call the DEREX Index that is supposed to measure societal acceptance of right-wing extremism. The findings were reported today in HVG. The researchers compared 32 countries; they found that in Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Hungary the impulses toward the acceptance of right-wing extremism are the strongest. In Hungary, for example, in six years the percentage of potential extreme right-wing voters has more than doubled from 10% to 21%.

The study supports my long-held belief that this trend goes against the development in the West. Many of my friends who felt personally insulted every time the question of the Hungarian extreme right came up kept repeating that Hungary is just following a European trend. Moreover, these guys cannot be taken seriously. Just a few loud mouths who make a lot of noise. I could never quite believe this optimistic assessment of the Hungarian situation and it seems that I was right. First of all, in the West the strength of the extreme right has dissipated. Moreover, there is a big difference between the Western and the Eastern European varieties of extremism. In the West right-wing extremism is directed against immigration and foreigners and isn't coupled with a general rejection of the whole democratic regime as it is in Hungary. In Eastern Europe the anti-Roma prejudice is coupled with a distrust of the regime itself and with a general dissatisfaction with life in general. And, Political Capital adds, that combination can threaten the very stability of the regime.

Let's look at some examples. In Ukraine in two years, between 2005 and 2007, anti-regime feeling grew from 25% to 51% among the adult population. In Hungary between 2003 and 2009 dissatisfaction quadrupled: from 12% to 46%. Political Capital measured all sorts of indicators: lack of trust in institutions, anti-elite feelings, economic nationalism, xenophobia, and aggressive nationalism. These are all dangerous components of instability and this danger is especially present in Eastern Europe, most notably in Ukraine, Hungary, and Bulgaria, in addition to Israel and Turkey. In these countries Political Capital estimates that 20-30% of the population is inclined to support the extreme right.

I found the comparison between Poland and Hungary especially interesting. In 2003 both countries started off from roughly the same position. In Hungary, 10% of the population supported the extreme right; in Poland, 9%. But while in Poland that number has decreased, in Hungary it has steadily grown. In addition, in Hungary xenophobia has grown tremendously. Between 2003 and 2007 those expressing negative feelings about foreigners has grown from 37% to 55%, that is the majority of the population.

Political Capital very rightly talks about this whole phenomenon in terms of supply and demand. Surely, if there is a growing segment of the population expressing extremist views, sooner or later parties or organizations will emerge to meet that demand. So it is no coincidence that Jobbik has grown so spectacularly in the last few years.

I must say that Hungarians who are so proud of being part of Europe might not find it reassuring that the country is being compared to Ukraine, Turkey, and Bulgaria. How did all that happen? If you ask a socialist or a liberal he will tell you that it is all Fidesz's fault. Even Ibolya Dávid, a conservative politician, said just the other day that "in the meantime from the overcoat of Orbán quietly and slowly came forward the muscled up anti-democratic and radical Jobbik." The reference is of course to Gogol's famous short story and Dostoyevsky's saying: "We all come out from Gogol's 'Overcoat'."

Up to a point I agree with this assessment but at the same time one must ask: which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Surely, Viktor Orbán himself couldn't have emerged as a leading politician if there was no "demand" for the type of populist authoritiarian politician he is.

By now I'm looking forward to the elections with a morbid curiosity. How strong will Jobbik be coming out of this competition? If Political Capital is correct, stronger than we think. 

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Öcsi
Guest

“In Eastern Europe the anti-Roma prejudice is coupled with a distrust of the regime itself and with a general dissatisfaction with life in general. And, Political Capital adds, that combination can threaten the very stability of the regime.”
I don’t mean to nit-pick, but don’t you mean “region?” If you meant “region,” it’s a significant difference.

Peter Koroly
Guest

Add to this Trianon and traditional antisemitism and the legend, that no decent real Hungarian (igazi magyar) collaborated with the Kádár-Regime and you have a better picture of what is happening in Hungary.
Of course one should not forget the cowardice of so many loud leftliberals, who advocated freedom for nazi speech.

NWO
Guest

Eva-
Poland is an interesting example. One big difference of course is that Poland recently went through a period where populist, nationalist right wing (ala FIDESZ) was in power. However, the PIS and the Kaczynskis were not too successful (though certainly not nearly as awful as the MSZP was in Hungary from 2002 onwards). In response to the “failures” of the PIS, the Poles have actually turned to a pretty orthodox conservative party which has done a fantastic job getting the country through the crisis period. The second big difference is of course the respective economies. In Poland, capitalism is working (at least over the past 5 years), unlike Hungary. If people are getting richer and seeing more of the world, they are likely to become less radicalized not more. If you want to solve the crisis of right wing extremism in Hungary, then put in place an economc framework that leads to growth and jobs and optimism.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Öcsi: “I don’t mean to nit-pick, but don’t you mean “region?” If you meant “region,” it’s a significant difference.”
No. The “regime.” Meaning democracy.

Lord Amexos
Guest

Run for the hills!! (if you are a liberal bolshevik) 🙂
So how come that these “extremists” have gained so much popularity in these countries??
Are they born nazis and fascists??
THINK and don’t believe everthing that these “Think Tanks” so conveniently spoon feed you!
ps: and beware of “experts” trying to inform you impartially*…usually they have an agenda on their mind… 🙂
Cheers!
*can we say this of Eva??

John T
Guest

“ps: and beware of “experts” trying to inform you impartially*…usually they have an agenda on their mind… :-)”
And there was I thinking it was just someone expressing an opinion and people commenting on it 🙂

PassingStranger
Guest

I have seen this report and it has some methodological issues. If Jobbik is far right, then so would Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands be. I believe they also can count on 20 % in the polls. I don’t doubt Jobbik is on the march, but I think the international comparision is off track, and your friends are indeed right that growing exrremism is a European trend.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

PassingStranger: “I have seen this report and it has some methodological issues. If Jobbik is far right, then so would Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands be. I believe they also can count on 20 % in the polls.”
Political Capital has an explanation for that. In the Netherlands the far-right is only anti-Islam, anti-immigration. In Hungary the situation is different in the sense that the anti-Gypsy, anti-foreign attitudes are coupled with turning against the democratic regime itself. That is, in their opinion, unique in the Hungarian, Ukrainian, Buldarian situations.

Pistefka
Guest

NWO makes a good point about Poland – they have had first hand experience of populist parties – and once bitten twice shy.
In 2005 it was actually a coalition of PiS (a Fidesz style conservative party rather than real extremists) with small, ultra-conservative and populist right wing parties that got into power – not only PiS (Prawo is sprawiedliwosc -Law and Justice) but also the hardline Catholic LPR (“League of Polish Families”) and “Self-Defence” – a populist farmers’ party (something like the small holders party) whose members wear red and white striped ties.
Anyway the coalition only lasted a year or so, and PiS lost a lot of credibility from being associated with the fringe.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Fidesz has taken note of this, which might explain their Jobbik bashing.

Leo
Guest

Comparing the support for right-wing extremism in eastern and western Europe we should not, I think, put Wilders on a par with Jobbik. In Holland the marching uniforms are found in miniscule organizations like the NVU, while Wilders is rather a soulmate of Orbán. You might think the formers radical views on Islam a big difference, but just try to image Fidesz´s reaction on massive immigration!
That being said, I tend to agree with Eva that the essence of right-wing populism in east and west is different. In the west it is mainly an immigration issue (not on the wane though). In Hungary the slogans may be the old fashioned ones (God and fatherland), but actually the issues are not clear at all.
Many Hungarians tried to explain to me their disgust with the present goverment, but on a rational level I find it difficult to understand. The facts are few, the arguments weak. The emotions, however, are overwhelming. The malaise in Hungary comes from the heart, from emotional sources that do not exist in the west.

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Joe Simon
Guest

The radical right, the Jobbik, is a real
danger in a democracy. Many disillusioned
people during the Gyurcsány-Bajnai years
turned to the Jobbik’s simple message.
I still believe that Orbán is the right
choice to steer this country toward a
Western-style democracy
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Odin's Lost Eye
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I am afraid that the peoples of ‘New Europe’ are politically somewhat naïve, but then real democracy is a total novelty in Hungary. We had our ‘go of fascism’ under the puritans in the Commonwealth Period.
With the invention of ‘Spin Doctors’, and ‘Political Sound bytes’ by New Labour in the U.K. it has become more difficult for even politically aware peoples to spot the demagogue.
There is something attractive to people in the idea of the ‘Messiah’ who will cure every one and make everything right.

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I have seen this report and it has some methodological issues. If Jobbik is far right, then so would Geert Wilder’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands be. I believe they also can count on 20 % in the polls. I don’t doubt Jobbik is on the march, but I think the international comparision is off track, and your friends are indeed right that growing exrremism is a European trend.

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