Hungary’s extreme right: Jobbik

According to the latest poll (Szonda Ipsos) on party preferences Jobbik, which in earlier polls had lost some of its appeal since the last national elections in April 2010, regained its former strength by July 2011. To give an idea of the relative strength of Jobbik here are some numbers. Fidesz is being supported by 22% of the population eligible to vote, which means 1.8 million voters, while MSZP's supporters constitute 14% of the population with 1.1 million votes. Jobbik has more than 600,000 potential voters.

Who are these people and why are they attracted to an extreme right-wing party? In the media one can read opinion pieces which claim that the leaders of Jobbik, an insignificant party even as late as 2006, discovered that capitalizing on the anti-Roma sentiments of Hungarians was a winning political card. However, András Tóth, a researcher at the Political Science Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, together with István Grajczjár, who teaches sociology at the King Sigismund College (Zsigmond Király Főiskola), came to the conclusion that the Gypsy issue was merely one of several components in the rise of Jobbik.

Hungarian society is a good breeding ground for extreme right-wing movements. On the basis of research conducted in 2003 Tóth and Grajczjár concluded that one-fourth of both Fidesz and MSZP and two-fifths of SZDSZ voters harbored attitudes that can be found in the ideology of the extreme right. For example: nationalism (10%), xenophobia (18%), superiority complex (20%), undue respect for authority (28%), and political disillusionment (36%).

Just to give an idea of the rapid growth of Jobbik, in 2006 Jobbik allied with István Csurka's MIÉP received only 2% of the votes. Four years later, leaving MIÉP behind, it received 16% of the votes. The troubles of the MSZPSZDSZ coalition and the subsequent economic crisis certainly played a significant role in the growth of the party, but Gábor Vona's ability to reorganize and reenergize the party after the fiasco of 2006 was also important.

According to the research of Tóth and Grajczjár, Jobbik supporters/voters are the most pessimistic group in the country. They don't see any change for the better in their own lives or in that of the country. They are dissatisfied with the workings of the democratic institutions and they don't consider the existence of free elections a guarantee that parliamentary members will represent the will of the people. Altogether Jobbik voters don't trust people in general. They find any kind of reverse discrimination distasteful. They are the most xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Roma group in the population. They are suspicious of parties in general and believe that what the country needs are a few brave, hard-working, and committed leaders. Nationalism is widespread in Hungary, but the romantic type of nationalism and the devotion to tradition is strongest among Jobbik voters.

So, where did the Jobbik voters in 2010 come from? Fifty-one percent of Jobbik voters four years earlier still voted for Fidesz. Nineteen percent of their numbers had voted for Jobbik-MIÉP earlier. And one-third came from MSZP. Jobbik voters are young and overwhelmingly male (63%). A large majority of Jobbik sympathizers are students, young unemployed people, and workers. Yet most of them describe themselves as middle class. This dichotomy may give rise to frustration. Supporters of Jobbik seem to be people who feel that society has treated them unjustly, that they haven't received the recognition they deserve.

The description of the Jobbik sympathizers as an unusually pessimistic lot is worrisome. It is a well known fact that Hungarians as a whole are a pessimistic people. According to a very recent survey done by GfK Roper Consulting (Mood of the World 2011) Hungary still leads the pack of pessimists. Roper Consulting conducted the survey in 25 countries with the participation of 37,000 people. The result is staggering. Forty-two percent of Hungarians don't believe that their financial situation will be better a year from now. The average is 10 percent, but in countries of the region the percentage of pessimists is way below that of Hungary. In the Czech Republic 14% and in Poland 16%. There are some optimistic people in Hungary (26% of the population), but the average of the 25 countries is 60%.

I am wondering about the connection between the infamous Hungarian pessimism and the possible growth of Jobbik in times of economic difficulties. The same sociologists mentioned elsewhere the possibility of Jobbik getting 30% of the votes in 2014. The next elections are still far away and a lot of things can happen. The democratic opposition might pull itself together, and the economy might also improve. Let's not be too pessimistic.

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Haha! I love the end of your post. The post is centered around the very pessimistic predictions that the extreme right will gain support. But, wait! We are pessimistic! That’s awful! 🙂 This tendency to support extreme views is like alcoholism. Giving up, chug that bottle of “palinka” (Hungarian for brandy) and all is good. What worries me is the large number of supprters in the young generations. Why is that? Lack of patience?

Johnny Boy

No other country in our region can “swagger” with a past 20 years gone as wrong as in Hungary. All of our neighbours prospered throughout while Hungary has experienced a decline most of the time, “thanks” to the post-communist governments.
The reign of the post-communists makes an excellent breeding ground for the extreme right. No wonder that it has always been right after a post-communist era that the far right emerged (1998 MIÉP, 2010 Jobbik). During right wing tenures, the far right weakened. I foresee that coming in the next few years too.
So the recipe is simple: if you want to get rid of the far right, get rid of the post-communists. For good.


Here is mother of all off topic posts. Actually who knows? The Media Council under the upcoming JOBBIK government may make it mandatory.
“Hungarian Spectrum” in ancient Hungarian Runic Script (rovásírás):


Oops. The link doesn’t work. Here is another:


jobbik has been organizing all the time.
no other party developed a similar reach out.
some districts sport a rosszabbik branch every corner.
jobbik fished for and found idiots, who need an ersatz family.
these people seek an empowerment. to have the promised ubermensch status. ultra – hungarian, ultra – christian.
the task is to separate these pitiful people from vona, before many of them turn into programed executioners, vigilanties.


Johnny Boy: “So the recipe is simple: if you want to get rid of the far right, get rid of the post-communists. For good.”
Yes. Let start with setting examples by our governing party, in the governing part, Fidesz and get rid off Orban who was the local party leader for the Young Communists. That was prior before he became liberal, prior he becoming religious, prior befor he became a conservative, prior before he became a nationalist and an anti- democrat.


No wonder that it has always been right after a post-communist era that the far right emerged (1998 MIÉP, 2010 Jobbik). During right wing tenures, the far right weakened.


About 2 weeks ago, in Pecs, I saw a small parade of kids in nice homemade armor with runes on their shields, an Arpad flag as well as a Magyar flag. There were a couple of adults (one in fatigues) with them. Since I was standing next to a shiny new Jobbik office sign, I thought perhaps this was a Jobbik endeavor. My Hungarian companions thought I was wrong, an American leaping to conclusions. Anyone have any ideas about this?

Odin's lost eye

Johnny B Here is something you should consider.
Hungary, which in accordance with the Armistice Agreement has taken measures for dissolving all organisations of a Fascist type on Hungarian territory, whether political, military or para-military, as well as other organisations conducting propaganda, including revisionist propaganda, hostile to the United Nations, shall not permit in future the existence and activities of organisations of that nature which have as their aim denial to the people of their democratic rights.
Well Johnny Boy ? Why is it not being done?


RE: ”Johnny B Here is something you should consider.”
Why didn’t the (then-ruling) (ex-)commies then do anything about MIÉP or Jobbik?


Self-identification as middle class is something nearly everyone does. No one wants to see themselves as below others; no one wants others to think (or know!) they think themselves better than the rest.
You only have to look at poor Americans, who overwhelmingly consider themselves as middle class (or maybe the “working poor”), and only inner-city types as the true poor. That’s why so many American politicians have to distinguish between “the poor,” who of course use all of our resources, and “the middle class,” who of course are deserving of protection and coddling. (Not to mention “the rich,” whose members never seem to identify themselves, yet who every member of the other two groups aspires to be…)
The fact Jobbik is largely male and young is no surprise, but I would doubt the rank and file, should they be subjected to actual questions of income, would place nearly so high a socio-economic status.

Eva S. Balogh

Gretchen: “My Hungarian companions thought I was wrong, an American leaping to conclusions. Anyone have any ideas about this?”
Well, if it wasn’t Jobbik, it was some other far-right organization.

Johnny Boy

Odin: “shall not permit in future the existence and activities of organisations of that nature which have as their aim denial to the people of their democratic rights”
You are right, I myself often wonder why MSZP is not banned yet.

Before the myth about the lost 20 years spreads too far, I’d like Fidesz fans to recall the fact that there was a first Orbán government (1998-2002). In the current rewriting of history (or is it the beginning of a hagiography?), this embarrassing fact is studiously glossed over. Why is it so embarrassing? As I remember it, this government ended in scandal, dirty deals, corruption – and empty coffers. It’s lasting memento is a national theatre designed by an interior decorator. Even then it was obvious that Fidesz did not define itself as a democratic party, but rather as a collecting tank of Duce fanatics. Where else would it have been possible that a party head keeps his post after losing two elections in a row? Although it is true that the socialist-run governments could have been better (a large part of their failures can be attributed to the obstructionist Fidesz policy when it came to reforms), they were at least democratic. And, although they did not result in the desired progress, nobody can accuse them of having made Hungary decline. The lost years will be counted as of 2010, and they will be more than the four years lost… Read more »
Lutra lutra

From a rough calculation, half the sample of the survey you mention either didn’t support any party or didn’t want to say which one they did.
This is far from being an endorsement of Fidesz (small wonder they rebut their critics by harking back to the election results rather than quoting approval ratings)and shows MSZP’s failure to retake the political or moral high ground.

kis fiu

Hate to be pessimistic but Im not sure its possible for both the economy to improve and the democratic opposition to “pull itself together.” If the economy improve then rightly or wrongly Fidesz will get the credit.
However, its hard to see how the economy is going to improve as the Orbanites seem to have no idea what they are doing. Perhaps even more importantly, the european economy looks destined to underperform until the euro crisis is sorted out for good.

Dario: “Why didn’t the (then-ruling) (ex-)commies then do anything about MIÉP or Jobbik?” I often question tat myself, but I you have to recognize that Fidesz blocked every single effort of MSZP to create a more balanced Hungary. Fidesz at the time was supporting the Jpbbik in order to retain those memberes who were flirting with ideas presented by Jobbik. You need an across all party effort tp get rid off the extreme right, but Fidesz choose to support Jobbik as their nationalistic point of view is very much on the same track with the Fidesz ideology. Johnny Boy: “I myself often wonder why MSZP is not banned yet [for aiming to deny to the people of their democratic rights]” Johnny either mistyped Fidesz or throwing in something that he thinks is clever, but has no basis. Fact: The MSZP was never in the centre of concern at the EU, Venice Commission, USA, neighbouring countries, and the Institute on Religion and Public Policy for its policies, actions or plans reagarding any antidemocratic actions and so forth. On the other hand Fidesz achieved all the attention for just that all at once in less then a year being in power. Anyone… Read more »
Hungarian from Tokyo

I am taking a quick look at the comments posted here. Well, have not found one that was on the right track. Young people are rebellious by nature, and always in search of identity. Now when you are in search of identity, you vote for the party who provides one. What kind of identity has the MSZP provided? Let’s sell and globalize everything we can. Globalization, which means every city you go in the world you can eat the same Big Mac. Every item you buy has “Made in China” printed on it.
It sure makes a 1% very rich, and places most person in competition with Ching Cheng Chung who works for 7$ a day.
Well, good luck with looking behind every corner for fascism and anti-semitism, but I think there is more at stake here.
A Hungarian from Tokyo, Japan (a pretty orderly and homogenus country in the east)