Viktor Orbán is the real danger, not the Hungarian far right

While commentators in the western media were not at all surprised about Fidesz’s electoral sweep, they were shocked at the substantial growth of the neo-Nazi racist party Jobbik. The original name of the organization was Jobb Magyarországért Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary), which eventually was shortened to Jobbik, meaning “Better.”

Almost all the articles dealing with the election mention that “every fifth Hungarian” voted for an extremist party. Of course, this is not quite accurate because only 62% of the eligible voters actually bothered to vote, and it is a well-known fact that Jobbik followers turn out in high numbers. They even surpass Fidesz sympathizers. Nonetheless, this result must be a disappointment to Viktor Orbán, who has been trying for years to convince the West that his party is the guarantee that Hungary will not fall prey to extremists. After all, he argues, Fidesz is a party of the moderate right-of-center. On the far right are the neo-Nazis and on the left the “communists.” Naturally, with the exception of a very small communist party that hasn’t managed to get into parliament in the last twenty-four years, there are no communists in Hungary, a detail that doesn’t seem to bother the propagandists of Fidesz.

Now Orbán has to face the fact that all his efforts at weakening Jobbik’s base have failed. He thought that if he moved his own party farther and farther to the right he would be able “to steal” the Jobbik sympathizers. He showed Jobbik voters that his own government could satisfy all their demands. In his last termViktor Orbán gave numerous unexpected gifts to Jobbik. This was especially true when it came to media policy and questions of unifying the nation across borders. The rehabilitation of the Horthy regime was also originally a Jobbik demand. Moreover, it is possible that Orbán’s pro-Russian stance was inspired by Jobbik.

Despite Orbán’s best efforts, the 10% growth in Jobbik’s voting base came largely from the ranks of former Fidesz voters. On the last day of the campaign in Debrecen Orbán warned his audience that splitting their votes between Fidesz and some other party would weaken the Fidesz cause. Although he didn’t mention the party by name, it is clear that he was thinking of Jobbik. And indeed, once we have all the numbers I suspect we will find that a fairly large number of Fidesz voters split their votes between Fidesz and Jobbik. They voted for a Fidesz candidate locally but chose to use their second vote for the Jobbik list. In the final tally 100,000 more people voted for Jobbik than four years ago.

Jan-Werner Mueller in his article in The Guardian sees a correlation between the growth of Jobbik and Viktor Orbán’s pro-Russian policy. In order to understand the connection between Jobbik and Orbán’s pro-Russian policy we have to go back a bit. The first time I learned of Jobbik’s infatuation with Putin’s Russia was in 2009 when I read a study on “Russia’s Far-Right Friends.” According to this study, Jobbik’s attachment to Russia became evident for the first time during the Russian-Georgian border dispute. It also turned out that Gábor Vona, Jobbik party chairman, made at least two trips to Moscow even before 2009. Jobbik wanted “to open Hungary to eastern markets and to sell Hungarian products to Russia, China or even Iran instead of the European Union.” Jobbik also wanted to expand Hungary’s nuclear capacity and even then, the authors of the study believe, Jobbik had the Russian Rosatom in mind when it came to the Paks power plant’s expansion. Keep in mind that at this point Viktor Orbán had very different ideas about Russia, which he considered to be a danger to Europe and Hungary. It seems that Jobbik managed to convince him otherwise. He saw the light and more or less copied Jobbik’s ideas on Russo-Hungarian relations.

These moves didn’t slow the growth of Jobbik, just as government policies didn’t help the position of the conservatives vis-à-vis the extreme right in interwar Hungary. Orbán followed a policy of appeasement in dealing with MIÉP, the precursor of Jobbik, during his first government (1998-2002) just as he did in handling Jobbik. Give them what they want and perhaps they will be satisfied with Fidesz rule. That strategy didn’t work in the Horthy era as it doesn’t work now.

Viktor Orbán at the victory celebration, April 7, 2014 /Photo picture alliance/dpa

Viktor Orbán at the victory celebration, April 7, 2014 /Photo dpa

To be fair to Horthy, there’s appeasement (at a distance) and appeasement (embracing). I think we can safely say that Orbán’s ideas are closer to the extreme right today than were those of any of Horthy’s governments. After all, Orbán is a populist while Horthy and his ministers were hard-core conservatives. The leaders of the extreme right in the 1930s held some “revolutionary ideas” when it came to social policy. Many of the party’s ideologues were outright admirers of the Soviet experiment with its planned economy and egalitarian ideology. Szálasi, for example, was well versed in Marxism. For Horthy all that was anathema. It would have been unimaginable for Horthy to allow his government to conduct a pro-Russian/Soviet policy or to get too cozy with Ferenc Szálasi and his friends. On the other hand, Orbán seems quite willing to take over Jobbik’s ideas–their pro-Russian foreign policy as well as their views on modern Hungarian history–and pass them off as his own.

There is a paper thin line between Jobbik and Fidesz. I know that the western media is preoccupied with the growth of Jobbik, but I think everybody would be better off realizing that the real problem is Fidesz and the system Viktor Orbán created. Jobbik will be in opposition, but Viktor Orbán, who often carries the Jobbik banner, has practically unlimited power. He is the much greater danger, not Gábor Vona.

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An
Guest

Jobbik is also benefiting from Orban’s goal to batter the left into oblivion. With the constant Fidesz propaganda bullying and ridiculing leftist and liberal parties, there is practically no choice left for those who are disappointed in Fidesz than to move further to the right, especially in the countryside where Fidesz’s grip on the media and local politics is even stronger. If Fidesz wouldn’t try to bulldoze the left, the disillusioned would go left AND right, not mostly to the right. The Jobbik is the third who benefits.

What I’m trying to say is that without Orban and Fidesz, Jobbik wouldn’t get this strong either.

Also, by implementing Jobbik’s ideas and applying its rhetoric, Fidesz is gradually changing what is acceptable in the political discourse. Sentiments that were unacceptable just a couple of years ago, sound almost normal nowadays… so Fidesz, by courting Jobbik sympathizers, is helping to move Hungarian society further to the right in general.

Hungary Future
Guest
I am new to this site — the writing and thinking is excellent. I have a question: What do you think the election outcome would have been had Fidesz not suppressed the media? I wonder if it would not have been roughly the same, perhaps Fidesz would have lost a couple of percentage points. My rationale is that if the other parties had campaigned freely, they might have each picked up a couple of percentage points. At the same time, if Orban had campaigned freely, there would have been 5%-6% of the electorate that would have felt better about Fidesz and would have voted for Orban based on his economic record. If Orban had won with 41%-42% of the vote it would have been a more impressive victory than the victory he achieved at 44%. He would have won by a still-large margin and could have said to the world, to the EU, that he still commands a large majority. It is of course an impossible question to answer with certainty, but it is an interesting thought. As background, I am a third-generation American with an interest in Eastern European history. I have no agenda or ax to grind here,… Read more »
bob
Guest

“Viktor Orbán is the real danger, not the Hungarian far right”

This seems completely false to me. If this were true the solution was extremely simple. An alliance between MSZP and Jobbik. Would have cleared 47-48% at least putting it over Fidesz’s 44%. Fptp election systems favour the winner in a big way, leading into a clear election victory for the Jobbik MSZP coalition. Even if it is not a formal alliance the strategic withdrawal of candidates outside Budapest by MSZP would have led to the result: Mostly Jobbik wins in rural areas mostly MSZP wins in Budapest.

Fidesz would have been beaten down around 60-70 seats.

Istvan
Guest

Eva you write “Despite Orbán’s best efforts, the 10% growth in Jobbik’s voting base came largely from the ranks of former Fidesz voters.” That makes sense to me, but the study Biro Nagy Andras and Rona Daniel did of Jobbik voters from 2003-2010 indicated 37 percent of the far-right party’s voters said they had previously voted for Fidesz and 21% percent said they were traditionally socialist voters. To see this study go to

http://www.policysolutions.hu/userfiles/elemzesek/B%C3%ADr%C3%B3%20Nagy-R%C3%B3na_Tudatos%20radikalizmus_v%C3%A9gs%C5%91.pdf

So is your statement Eva that the Jobbik vote came largely from former Fidez voters mean more than 37% came from that voting block and where did this data come from? Also did the number of former socialist voters going to the Jobbik also rise?

As I have indicated in another post I am very concerned the Jobbik are a real force that wants to govern. So while both Viktor Orbán, and Gábor Vona support policies that will clearly not promote a more democratic or inclusive Hungary, I have to say I am more fearful of Gabor Vona and the Magyar Nemzeti Garda that stands behind him. Orbán is not the lesser evil, but I simply fear him and Fidesz less.

Jano
Guest

Welll, khm, I can’t really say I agree. They are both problems and Orbán is more current, but Jobbik is clearly more dangerous on the long run.

Member

@ Hungary Future: I do not think what could of alter results is the “free media” either. In reality Fidesz covered all the basis to create an uneven playing territory. THe media was just one piece. THe constant misinformation, the arresting of individuals under huge funfair, and then dropping the charges quietly also done damage. How the alteration of the election process to benefit Fidesz resulted in a “winner takes all” outcome cannot be undermined either. THe populist tactics the “don’t listen what I say to get elected” attitude also done damage. So, yes the suppression of opposition media maybe only contributed a few percentage points, but there is also the government news agency that filtered the news to benefit Fidesz. The election cheats (nomadic voters) are sort of under investigation. If each those small element contributed 2%, you can do that math. Off hand we are talking about 10% at least.

Ivan
Guest

Jobbik are terrifying, on a daily basis, here in Hungary. Orban is reprehensible in making the monster possible and even normal. But Jobbik are the greater threat. I am certain that a straw poll of minority groups living here in Hungary would overwhelmingly agree with me … and could cite, of course, thousands of examples.

gardonista
Guest

Here’s a bit of a snarky way of talking about this:

The difference between Fidesz and Jobbik is that Jobbik wants to have vigilante groups supporting the party’s agenda. Orban wants to turn state police and other powers into tools of his party’s agenda.

tappanch
Guest

There is no evidence for vote splitting of any significance.

Fidesz party list (only domestic) 2.076 million
Fidesz individual district candidates: 2.098 million, +22,000 only
Difference: +22,000 only

Jobbik party list vote: 0.984 million
Jobbik individual district candidates: 0.967, -17,000 only.
Difference: -17,000 only.

Left Alliance party list vote: 1.246 million
Left Alliance individual district candidates: 1.273,
Difference: +27,000

LMP party list vote: 0.252 million
LMP individual district candidates: 0.230,
Difference: -22,000

ne hagyjuk
Guest

dictatorship. extremism. mega-corruption.
the rich is the problem.
they take from the state, and deceive the nation.
orban is not the one in charge.
the rich is pulling his strings. he made a pact with them.

there is not enough intelligence in the rest of hungary to dump this leadership.

petofi
Guest

People won’t dare to say it but Orban’s central success–he’s allure to much of the electorate–is his willingness to bait and torture the jews. This appeals to the anti-semites, outed or closeted, in the country. He’s actions with the German monument is a classic example. He knows that his disdain for the previous agreement, and the nonchalant manner in which he ignored common courtesy and decency would be widely appreciated, and approved of, in the country.
Such behavior seems to tittilate the masses.

Two other points briefly. One, the genteel manner in which the government handled Csatary in comparison to Biszku is blatant. Let’s not forget that the eagle-eyed government failed to question the how and why Csatary was able to get a Hungarian passport.

And finally, Orban’s introduction of the term ‘Christian Hungary’ has met with wide approval.
Whenever I question acquaintances on the topic–how people can abide the blatant unfairness of it–I’m met with the same answer: people don’t really think of it.

But they do. They certainly do.

The platform for Orban’s success is his outright daring in displaying his anti-semitism.

Bertalan66
Guest
Spot on post. Some thoughts about Jobbik, though. MIÉP, Jobbik’s precursor was an urban, almost intellectual phenomenon without much national grass-roots support base, though in those days discontent was anyway smaller and the left still had its traditional rural bases. Orban could not and cannot prevent Jobbik from emerging very simply because Orban cannot conceivably make the economy any better for people in rural areas, i.e. outside Budapest. It is enough if we see the investment figures of the GDP, which anyway mask huge, unproductive state-initiated investments, instead of private investments. Moreover, the small orderly working class (employees at factories owned by multinationals, most of which came to Hungary for the low wages) now supports Jobbik, given that Fidesz is for many now clearly a party of the “bourgeoisie” as it could be seen from the election night party pictures at Fidesz, with its smartly dressed high-earner celebrities or the now the shoes of Rogan’s deputy mayor or the fact that local top land-owners, the local strongmen are all openly Fidesz clients. Since Orban will not be able to improve life in the rural areas and Jobbik’s organization will continue to improve, Jobbik will not stop here. But naturally Orban… Read more »
An
Guest

@Bertalan66: A resume like this could explain Jobbik’s Russian connection. This guy is one of Jobbik’s EP representative. He was schooled in the Soviet Union in 1986, worked in foreign trade, and worked in Russia for several years. He joined Jobbik in 2005, and according to this Wikipedia entry,Jobbik has become more pro-Russia after he joined.

http://hu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kov%C3%A1cs_B%C3%A9la_(politikus,_1960)

It's party time
Guest

The Museum project, at a current price tag of HUF 150 billion, is on track.

According to the government resolution made today, the entire project has to be finished by March 2018 (i.e. just before the next general elections).

These buildings will be like other concrete structures such as the MÜPA or the National Theatre — and the fidesznik construction companies know how to build concrete structures quickly, so these buildings could be build within 12-16 months. They will be no more complex technically than an office building. Concrete and granite are fantastically easy to use materials.

And the bonus:

Orban can finally move to the Castle District (Palace) and look down on his domain, just so people understand who is below and who is on top.

szaboT
Guest
OT: Now that Hungary has a Mediterranian climate with very hot long summers, and already there is a starting drought in Hungary, Fidesznik land oligarchs will receive state-sponsored (specially managed by the Ministry of Interior) public irrigation water — for free. Never mind that ground water levels uniformly fell by many meters all over Hungary in the last decades as there is much less precipitation (especially snow) and the weather is also warmer. And it is a double whammy: because if there is no rain, there is usually more sun which makes the drying effect much stronger (the number of non-rainy, but cloudy days which at least did not dry the land that much decreased). But who cares about the environment and sustainability when there are giant chunks of land owned/controlled by Fideszniks and such land owners form the local backbone of the rural Fidesz elite? And mind you, the Hungarian agriculture is based on the most basic wheat and corn monocultures which are easiest to operate. But the local land-owner oligarchs have now a strong lobby (including the Orban family itself and its friends and strohmen) so they will receive the water for free. Which is all the more… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Great discussion here.

I agree with Eva to the extent that seeing Jobbik as a discrete entity is probably unhelpful – it is like a mysterious new tree-trunk springing up right next to an existing one – same soil, same roots, and the health of the senior entity largely determines the health of the junior. Whilst racism is a large problem in Hungary, there’s nothing intrinsically fascistic about Hungarians, who have a tendency, if anything, towards going with whatever’s going on at any time.

Jobbik has been deliberately cultivated, yet the internal culture is more cohesive than Fidesz’s – and the appeal to young people is inexplicably high. There is every indicator that the party will grow with its young supporters. I don’t understand how Eva seems so relaxed about Jobbik – they are a competent political movement aimed at bringing young people into a fascist intellectual world. Poisonous.

tappanch
Guest

A new low for a museologist.

Orban’s rucksack (2006-2014) will be exhibited in the Hungarian National Museum!

“”This will be the first object from Viktor Orban”, said Vilmos Gal chief museologist”

http://www.blikk.hu/blikk_aktualis/orban-hatizsakja-a-nemzeti-muzeumba-kerul-2246781

Rakosi would have envied Orban…

Karl Pfeifer
Guest
So Hungary will have probably in the near future only the choice between the pest and the cholera? The question is how much of Jobbik’s ideology was internalized by Orbán and his ilk. There are those liberals like Bálint Magyar who believe:”Whereas the leaders of Fidesz are not antisemites and their target is not “the Jew”, they pander to antisemites” (Hungarian Spectrum 2014-02-13) Whereas the Historian Krisztián Ungváry sees no great difference in ideology between Fidesz and Jobbik, however points out political competion between the two parties. I agree with the following statement of Bálint Magyar: “However, it is their unexcusable sin that they have legitimized feelings of antisemitism and racism as well as allowed to use the language that expresses such feelings. In a campaign to reach out to extremist voters they reproduce them in expanded numbers and occasionally build the representatives of radical right-wing ideology into state institutions.” The historian Sándor Szakály is a good example for this statement. He was nominated by Orbán to head the new nacional History rewriting institute “Veritas”. Karl Marx writes in his “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon”: Hegel says somewhere that great historic facts and personages recur twice. He forgot to… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@Karl Pfeifer

“Let us hope that it will not end in Hungary again as tragedy.”

Too late for that already: the tragedy is already in the great numbers of immigrants; and we can speculate that it’s the ‘best and the brightest’ who are leaving. And they won’t be back once they compare the free, west world with the closeted mindset of once-loved, Hungary.

Guest

I am wondering if deep down, Orbán is not annoyed by Jobbik’s success and will start going after them one way or another. Some commentators wrote just weeks before the elections that Fidesz aimed its campaign at the left-wing coalition and ignored Jobbik’s rise in the polls; only to react in the last few days but too late to regain some of Jobbik’s votes.

Petur
Guest

OT, fyi for Hungarian speakers. The new, ‘consolidated’ fidesznik kurucinfo aimed at under 35 urban people is here written by reliable hardcore fideszniks (the chief editor is apparently son of the deputy chief editor of magyar nemzet, fidesz’ mouthpiece): oxox.hu.

Gazsi Orbán the only son of Viktor Orban already likes the site on facebook, so the official seal of approval has been issued.

With great articles like “Bajnai shat in his pants” and with outright lies, the young fideszniks which includes all people under 35 who are not jobbikniks, will finally have an own medium.

Mind you Fidesz is very smart about the media, it’s not enough that they own virtually every print and electronic medum (except for some limited reach internet media), they want to own the internet too. Note also that the left is complaining about the lack of unbiased media, but it did not even start any new blog-like site. The left is just clueless.

Nádas
Guest

“… shortened to Jobbik, meaning ‘Better’.”

Whether intentional or not, the term is actually a clever play on words: “jobbik” can mean “the better one” and/or “the ones on the right.”

I think it’s a moot point to say that either Fidesz or Jobbik is more dangerous. They are both dangerous and symptomatic of a deeper malaise in Hungarian society. And they will both be with us for quite some time to come, I’m afraid. For better or worse.

Although they could never win an outright majority, Jobbik is probably more dangerous politically and socially in the long term, as they have many kindred spirits – and therefore an international network of organized mutual support – throughout Europe. Orbán’s Fidesz is a kleptocratic one-off with no real friends or opposite numbers anywhere, deftly manipulating the legislative process with their two-thirds majority.

Once again, Hungarians have come to the proverbial fork in the road and, once again, they may have chosen the road to disaster.

tappanch
Guest

jobb= better
jobbik= the better [out of two]

Similarly,

rosszabb= worse
rosszabbik= the worse [out of two]

tappanch
Guest

Final numbers about the “Transylvanian” votes are out.

There were 128,712 accepted outer envelopes.
Another 20% of the outer envelopes were thrown away without checking the votes.

Origin of the accepted envelopes:

Romania: 45.32%
e-Landia: 35.66% (oh, the land of mystery)
Serbia: 13.61%
All other places: 5.41%

tappanch
Guest

The “Transylvanian” votes gave Orban 1.44 seats in Parliament. (This number will change slightly on April 12).

Think twice before laughing!

1.
Next time, there will be 2 or 3 times as many “Transylvanian” votes.

Let me remind you, that a registration lasts for 10 years – people
who registered this year do not have to register in the next two elections.

Every time s/he votes, the 10 year clock is reset.

2.
What if a voter dies in Transylvania or in e-Landia?
Nobody would notify the Hungarian Election Office.

The Office is not even allowed to erase a dead person from the registry.
They can erase someone from the registry of “külhoni választópolgár”s only
if s/he has not voted for 10 years, loses her/his citizenship, or a court
takes it away.

3.
Destruction of evidence by early July:

268. § A levélben szavazók névjegyzékének adatait a szavazást követő kilencvenedik nap utáni első munkanapon törölni kell.

4.
Easy altering of ballots:

275. § (3) A levélben szavazás listás szavazólapjának mérete és kialakítása eltérhet a szavazóhelyiségben használt szavazólaptól. A levélben szavazás szavazólapja bélyegzőlenyomat nélkül érvényes.

Joe Simon
Guest

This is a needlessly inflammatory assessment, vintage Eva, kind of sour grapes. Angela Merkel warmly congratulated Orban, so did Dennis A. Ross, American Senator. Donot forget, the People are always right and the People have spoken in Hungary.

tappanch
Guest

Rate of processing of the outer envelopes:

March 31: 11,202 – accepted as valid: 75.54%
April 01: 0
April 02: 17,852 – accepted as valid: 81.03%
April 03: 21,601 – accepted as valid: 80.39%
April 04: 22,797 – accepted as valid: 80.73%
April 05: 21,849 – accepted as valid: 81.63%
April 05: 14,504 – accepted as valid: 78.89%
April 06: 0
April 07: 0
April 08: 8,100 – accepted as valid: 83.21%
April 09: 20,513 – accepted as valid: 83.58%
April 10: 16,206 – accepted as valid: 83.22%

??: 4,030: – – accepted as valid: ??

Fidesz: 95.49% – Bravo.
Jobbik 2.28%
Left: 1.16%
LMP 0.45%

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