Jobbik: Are the Hungarian media after the party?

Yes, and not without success. Although parties on the left don't seem to have much skill in unearthing dirt,  Fidesz has a long history of successful detective work against its political opponents. Once Jobbik's danger to Fidesz became evident the Fidesz sleuths began work in earnest. In fairly short order they came up with some really juicy stories.

Let's start with stories that are old and have nothing to do with the media. Last April a man who was a member of the Hungarian Guard in Kalocsa fatally stabbed his girlfriend and drew a swastika on the poor girl's back post mortem. At last the case was decided; he got a fifteen-year sentence. A bit earlier it came to light that the chairman of the Bicske chapter of Jobbik was involved with the Arrows of the Hungarians, an organization led by György Budaházy. The group carried out a number of attacks against MSZP and SZDSZ politicians and its members were planning the assassination of some politicians not to their liking. The Jobbik politician from Bicske was supplying Budaházy's gang with ammunition. He had to resign.

But that's not the end. It was discovered that one of Jobbik's spokesmen, András Király, participated in a gay parade in Canada. Vivid pictures illustrated his "misdeeds." They are in stark contrast to the pious portrait he drew of himself as a deeply religious person who reads the Bible every night to his beloved wife and children.

Then came pictures of Adonis Kassab, Jobbik's candidate in the ninth district in Budapest, with a group of friends. It seems from the objects on the table that they were enjoying more than just a little wine.

Magyar Nemzet unearthed a rather ugly story. Tamás Sneider, #9 on Jobbik's country list and therefore most likely a future member of parliament, wanted to put his parents under guardianship because according to him his father wanted to kill him. The parents had a different story to tell. Sneider apparently spent the family's fortune of 8.5 million forints and further demanded the sale of their winery in Eger. When they refused, all hell broke loose and the parents sued the son. It was at this point that Sneider insisted that his parents were no longer able to be on their own due to their psychological impairment. Since then psychiatrists have determined that the parents are perfectly normal. According to the parents, Sneider is a no good who never did a day's work and who always demanded money from them.

It was discovered that another Jobbik politician had spent nineteen years in jail for AUTHOR: Eva Balogh
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Four organizations involved with the law and human rights just published a report on the work of the new parliament. Three of the four are Hungarian branches of international organizations: Transparency International, TASZ or the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and the Helsinki Committee. The fourth is a strictly Hungarian organization called Károly Eötvös Institute established in 2003 with the help of the Soros Foundation. Károly Eötvös (1844-1916) was a politician and lawyer whose name is associated with the infamous Tiszaeszlár case (1882-83) in which he successfully defended a Jewish community falsely accused of murdering a young girl and using her blood for ritual purposes. I gave the links because each web site has an English version; for those not familiar with the Tiszaeszlár case Wikipedia offers a decent account.

Before I begin a summary of the report I should explain once again some of the intricacies of Hungarian parliamentary rules. Most of the time a bill is prepared and presented by the government. That usually takes months of work by the appropriate ministry. During the preparation of the bill the ministry by law must consult with groups that will be affected if the bill is passed. Normally experts are also consulted and their opinions can be scrutinized by members of parliament. So, it is a long and arduous affair. On the other hand, there is something called "bills proposed by individual members" that dispenses with all these compulsory stages of preparation. This "institution" was adopted to enable the opposition parties to take part in the legislative work of parliament. However, the practice is not restricted to members of the opposition, and in the last three months Fidesz has made extensive use of it. Of the 56 bills only 11 were proposed by the government, all the rest by individual Fidesz-KDNP members.

These bills were not the brilliant ideas of individual parliamentarians. Behind the flood of individual proposals was most likely a group of people who have been working furiously on various subjects that the party and Viktor Orbán found important. It was too much, too fast. Often these proposals were poorly prepared. Some of them had spelling and grammatical errors. Often there were internal discrepancies; sometimes important items were left out. In any case, most of them evidenced haste and carelessness. Equal speed was dictated by the speaker of the house, and thus there wasn't enough time to catch even the bigger problems with these bills. It often happened that the proposal was presented on Friday afternoon, on Monday morning it was discussed in committee and voted on without much discussion, and in the afternoon the bill was put to the floor for general discussion which they also closed on the same day. The result of this clever move was that no proposal for any modification could be suggested. Tuesday they scheduled the "detailed discussion." Usually there are only two sessions of parliament a week, and thus the following Monday the final vote was held. Even changes to the constitution were introduced and voted on in this manner.

As a result the public has been in the dark about the details of the proposed bills although some of them will have serious repercussions when it comes to the everyday life of citizens or the workings of Hungarian democracy. But nothing stopped the newly elected parliament with its huge Fidesz-KDNP majority. On average, bills were pushed through in nineteen days from the submission of a proposal to the final vote, but ten proposals were accepted within a week–that is, in two or three sessions. There were also bills that needed only one day to pass from start to finish. Within ten weeks parliament changed the constitution six times.

The result of this frenetic schedule was that it was almost impossible to follow the work of parliament. The justifications that accompanied the bills were neither detailed nor convincing. In important pieces of legislation, like the media law, justifications for certain proposals were summarized in single sentences. The justification for decreasing government subsidies to parties was simply that it was necessary to fulfill one of the goals outlined in the 29-point "action plan" introduced by Viktor Orbán in a great hurry after the Kósa-Szijjártó-Varga debacle that sent the forint plunging.

According to the legal experts of our watchdog organizations even bills proposed by the government were not prepared according to the rules and regulations currently on the books. For example, if the government wants to change the status of state employees, it will have to negotiate with the representatives of the employees. The ministry must also post the proposal on its web site and invite comments and suggestions. Of course, with this breakneck pace there was no time for such formalities. There was also no time to ascertain whether these new bills conformed to European Union laws. In fact, several observers have already predicted that the Orbán government might have to appear before the European Court because there was at least one occasion on which it knowingly violated EU dictates–namely, lowering the salary of the Hungarian National Bank's chairman, vice-chairmen, and the members of its Monetary Council. And most likely there will be others.

The first part of the report criticizes the way in which bills were prepared and passed. As is clear from this summary, the employees of these organizations found the whole process unsatisfactory and in certain cases illegal. But the substantive criticism is reserved for "the elimination of basic guarantees of a constitutional state." I will leave the discussion of this more weighty subject for tomorrow.

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Mark
Guest

“So, all in all, Jobbik is encountering some serious difficulties but I wouldn’t go so far as to predict that the party’s success at the polls will be jeopardized by these revelations.”
It is a tiny piece of evidence and probably not indicative of anything very much, but I was surprised to see that in yesterday’s by-election for an assembly seat in Budapest VI’s district Jobbik’s share of the vote was a good 4-5% lower than in the results in the precincts that make up the district in the European election last year:
comment image
Not the sort of result I’d be hoping for two weeks before a national election in which I was hoping for a breakthrough.

Paul Hellyer
Guest

One thing about seems an almost universal political truth: the further to the Right you go, the greater the propensity for hypocrisy. It seems that Jobbik members are perfect examples of this.

whoever
Guest

Not only the right-wing media, but also TV2 and RTL Klub have declared war – potentially, this is more damaging than Magyar Nemzet/Hírlap. But is it too little, too late?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “but I was surprised to see that in yesterday’s by-election for an assembly seat in Budapest VI’s district Jobbik’s share of the vote was a good 4-5% lower than in the results in the precincts that make up the district in the European election last year”
On the other hand, Jobbik did well in Mezőtúr and Körmend. About as well as last year at the EP elections. In both cases their candidate finished second, ahead of MSZP.

NWO
Guest

I think this kind of stuff is fairly common in political parties organized by and around a single or a few highly visible leaders. As the party grows, it must start to take in a lot of questionable types. It is obvious there is no bench in Jobbik behind Vona and maybe one or two others. It is also for sure that as soon as they actually have real elected roles, the internal tensions will get even greater and the risk of the party breaking apart in to tow of three dissident Jobbik parties will be high.

Mark
Guest
Éva: “On the other hand, Jobbik did well in Mezőtúr and Körmend. About as well as last year at the EP elections.” No they didn’t – not in any three of the by-elections. What you need to do is identify the precincts that make up each of the local authority districts, and use the data from each precinct to calculate the 2009 European election results across that district and then compare the movement of votes. So, in revese order of how bad they were for Jobbik: Körmend – 14.71% on Sunday compared with 16.42% in the European elections; a loss of 1.71% Mezőtúr – 24.5% on Sunday compared with 28.3% in the European elections; a loss of 3.8% Budapest VI – 5.02% on Sunday compared with 10.64% – a loss of 5.62%murdering his wife. Since then he has resigned. One of the latest possible criminal links to Jobbik came with the arrest of a young man who robbed several banks and gas stations to the tune of 50 million forints. One of his sisters told an ATV reporter that at first the family was completely baffled about where the 50 million went. Apparently their brother had claimed that he used the money to pay off gambling debts. The… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Of course the real issue is what this means – because of the lower turnout are different people voting in these by-elections; normally the closer you get to a major election the more these converge. As I say, if Jobbik were asking me what they would get on this basis (and taking into account the rider that there may be other factors in play) I’d say that they’ll end up clearly third quite a way behind MSZP with 11-13% of the national vote share.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark, the couple of percentage points simply means nothing in case of Mezőtúr and Körmend. We are dealing here with a few hundred people all told. If two Jobbik sympathizers didn’t go and vote you may have the difference right there. I wouldn’t read too much into these results.

Öcsi
Guest

Nézőpont Intézet is hinting that Jobbik, like many new, extremist parties, will implode from internal conflicts.
“A párt keretein belüli szélsőségesek terén külön szervezeti problémát jelent a kampány idejére közterületi felvonulásait felfüggesztő Magyar Gárda, amelynek időleges háttérbe vonása nem értékelhető meggyengülésként. Erre utalnak Kiss Róbert főkapitány szavai is, mely szerint „saját kezűleg fogják kirángatni az Országgyűlésből a Jobbikot, ha olyanná válik, mint a többi párt”. A Magyar Gárda már csak létszámából fakadóan is ellenőrizhetetlen szervezet, a kitörés napi hungarista rendezvényeken való részvétele pedig mutatja, hogy egyes ügyekben messze jobbra áll a Jobbik „hivatalos” irányához képest.”
You can read other juicy bits of information at the Nézőpont Intézet site:
http://www.nezopontintezet.hu/olvass_politikai.php?cid=324

Mark
Guest
Éva: “I wouldn’t read too much into these results.” I don’t completely agree – in other countries there is a whole literature on how to project national elections from local government by-elections with electorates of these kinds of size (and I can tell you from my deep and distant past analyzing election results for a UK political party, local election results were used extensively). They are not as reliable as an opinion poll with a decent sample (though sometimes they are) – but everyone believes they say something. I don’t think it is possible to dismiss this though as easily as one can read nothing. Let us suppose that the percentage changes were the result of the random decisions of tiny numbers of people. We would expect to see different patterns across individual results, so large Jobbik plus here, a large minus there. But we don’t – the movements are very similar across all the results, even though they are in different parts of the country with very different political cultures and behaviours. And it isn’t just the Jobbik score for which there is a common pattern. They also suggest a FIDESZ national score in the upper 50s, and an… Read more »
whoever
Guest
Mark, I think the issue of ‘voter turnout’ is treacherous territory, with lots of unpredictable elements. Incidentally I recall that at least 2 British Prime Ministers – Wilson and Brown – have obsessively followed local elections. Obviously many people believe in them as good indicators. Remembering the 1992 UK election, with its massive turnout – many people in Labour had always believed that this would work to its advantage, that these were its own missing voters. But the people who ended up at the polls were, by and large, conservatives, so the big Labour vote (much larger than 2001 and 2005) was eclipsed by a lot of first-time, casual voters. And no-one really saw it coming. Anecdotal evidence from talking to people in Hungary in 2010 shows a couple of contradictory trends. Firstly, Jobbik’s strength seems to be concentrated in the 18-30 age group, notoriously hard for pollsters to capture accurately. According to this logic, the polls are under-reporting the Jobbik vote. What is more these people are probably determined to go to the polls, and will be hard to deflect. Secondly, from talking to people, the MSZP vote amongst under 40s is very soft, and appears to be peeling… Read more »
PassingStranger
Guest
I wouldn’t get your hopes up just yet, judging from the responses to this satirical take on Jobbik scandals: Populist challengers to the established order can become virtually unassailable. Whatever scandal erupts, no matter how sordid, it is likely to be blamed on ‘persecution’ by the elite. Even if not, their core supporters are likely to hate the established parties even more than the populists. Ocsi is correct in noting that the many extremists and nutcases will become a liability to Jobbik. However, Jobbik is unlikely to implode as long as it has a strong leadership and can boast electoral victories. We can expect loads more revelations about crime, extremism, Russian links, nepotism once Jobbik are in parliament, by which time it will be too late. In any case this will not affect Jobbik core supporters. However, in the long run, it may make it more difficult for them to make inroads into Fidesz supporters, who will be less forgiving. The bigger Jobbik become, the more likely Vona is to engineer some purge to silence the radical element, so that in four years time he can be a serious competitor to Orban. That is, if he is a clever politician.… Read more »
Mark
Guest
whoever: “Remembering the 1992 UK election, with its massive turnout – many people in Labour had always believed that this would work to its advantage, that these were its own missing voters.” As someone who campaigned in 1992 I could tell you quite a lot about this. All I’ll say is that in the UK the absolute level of turnout is not important – the average turnout level for an election producing a Labour and Conservative win is the same. Differential turnout is what counts – and there is a long-term trend towards lower turnout among those working-class voters most likely to support Labour going back to the rises in unemployment in the mid-1970s. Furthermore opinion polls in every election between 1987 and 2001 underestimated the eventual Conservative vote – though only in 1992 this was this crucial to predicting who would form the government. Lastly though local government results predicted the 1997 election far better than the opinion polls, in the other elections this is distorted by the fact that in the UK at local level many supporters of other parties vote for the Liberal Democrats (because of their record of running competent administrations)thus leading them to overperform. You… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Contradictory in that whilst so far Jobbik have only registered actual success in elections with limited turnout, their support base is very secure, undercounted and rock-solid in various parts of the country. In this sense I am not contradicting you.
I am afraid cosmopolitan District VI won’t be a counterweight for large chunks of the North-East. Jobbik voters and members in Edelény and Ózd really do mean business. At best, I hope that in Budapest they are marginalised (though I have concerns about many working-class areas) and that rural cities with different political traditions manage to find better ways to express discontent.

Mark
Guest

As I said a post ago on this thread I recalled reading that young people were more likely not to vote. It is covered in this survey which sheds interesting light on youth’s political participation:
http://nol.hu/belfold/20100401-ez_a_generacio_eltunt_a_politikusok_szeme_elol

whoever
Guest

But this time round, which young people are more likely not to vote? I suspect it’s those who have vague, leftish political ideas. The “Turul” crowd will definitely show up. I hope I’m wrong…

Tihumachina
Guest

Seriously, you guys think we would be better off with the current reign?
I have bad news for you, everything ends once!
This time it`s the “mutyis” time to disappear. People are angry and have a right to be, that is what jobbik strength is.
And no bad news on side taking media will change that. I have my doubts with jobbik, but they WILL get my vote, Worst case scenario they`ll be as bad as the rest.

John T
Guest

Tihumachina – “And no bad news on side taking media will change that. I have my doubts with jobbik, but they WILL get my vote, Worst case scenario they`ll be as bad as the rest.”
What a damning indictment of Hungarian politics and, if your mood reflects the wider population, lack of ambition and foward thinking. But one point for you to ponder – they may match everone else for corruption, dodgy dealings etc. What they will also do is alienate a lot of people / governments and institutions outside of Hungary and that is a very big danger.

John T
Guest

I would add that Jobbik were always going to be setting themselves up for people to find dirt when they portrayed themselves as the party who were going to clean up politics and intimating they were “whiter than white”. But clearly, they didn’t check that they actually were. How very foolish of them!
Also, I think it’s sad to say, that for a number of Hungarians, the anger about corruption / graft isn’t because it is bad – I think that it is really anger coupled with frustration that they were unable to get a piece of the action themselves.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

whoever: “The “Turul” crowd will definitely show up. I hope I’m wrong…”
I’m afraid you’re right.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

In the matter of Jobbik , the Arabs have a saying which is “The Holier the City the more wicked its inhabitants’. So none of this news surprises me.

Stefan
Guest

I imagine the liberal news media in Europe have moved heaven and earth to find every scandal they can involving JOBBIK candidates and supporters. No different than the vermin in American media who go into attack mode against any candidate or party even slightly to the right of the Democratic (leftist) party.
And when all else fails, start making charges of “racism” and/or “anti-semitism.”
May JOBBIK have great success, for a better Hungary