The headline of today’s Népszabadság editorial was “Shock.” It referred to an Ipsos poll published yesterday that showed that Jobbik’s popularity is getting dangerously close to Fidesz’s. The government party has a 21% share of eligible voters, Jobbik has 18%, and MSZP has 12%. The newspaper’s editors attribute the steady growth of Jobbik’s base to Viktor Orbán’s campaign against refugees, foreigners in general, and foreign banks and businesses and to his turning up the volume on nationalistic sentiment. Fidesz is steadily losing followers, and lately they seem to be joining the ranks of Jobbik.
What makes these figures shocking is not so much the growth of Jobbik but the rapid decline of Fidesz. Before democratic Hungarians panic, they should remember the results of the national election of 2014 when 20.22% of the voters cast their ballots for Jobbik. Currently what we are seeing is a loss in popularity of the government party, the steady growth of Jobbik, the stagnation of the democratic opposition, and a still large bloc of undecided voters.
The last thing Fidesz needs right now is a Jobbik victory in Tapolca-Ajka, two of the larger towns in the electoral district (which also includes sixty villages) where by-elections will be held next month as a result of the death of a Fidesz member of parliament and where Jobbik is said to be strong. Some commentators believe that all three contenders–the MSZP-DK supported Ferenc Pad, Lajos Rig of Jobbik, and Zoltán Fenyvesi of Fidesz–have an equal chance of winning the race. So, let’s take a look at the political situation in Tapolca, where Fidesz seems to think the election will be decided.
Zoltán Dobó, the mayor of Tapolca, is a member of Jobbik. Apparently his election as mayor was largely due to his vigorous defense of the local hospital that was supposed to be either closed or stripped of some of its functions. Local Fidesz politicians, including the then incumbent mayor, misjudged the situation and took the government’s side on the hospital issue. Dobó’s victory didn’t make the whole town “brown.” Only three Jobbik candidates managed to win seats on the nine-member council, a number that includes the mayor himself. Fidesz is still in the majority on the council. Moreover, Dobó defeated the Fidesz candidate with a margin of only 146 votes.
It seems that this time around the Fidesz brain trust decided that Jobbik is a real threat to a Fidesz victory, which is considered to be a must given the waning popularity of the party and the rise of Jobbik. So, they have launched an anti-Jobbik assault, including a negative campaign against the person of Lajos Rig, currently deputy mayor of Tapolca.
Finding dirt on Lajos Rig is not difficult. A month ago the left-liberal blog kettosmerce.hu discovered Lajos Rig’s Facebook activities, which were full of anti-Roma and anti-Semitic remarks. His timeline included a spate of reposted nonsense: conspiracy theories involving 9/11, Jews who use Gypsies as a biological weapon against Hungarians, and writings about his own race that must be defended against foreign strangers. Not surprisingly, shortly after the appearance of the kettosmerce.hu article, Rig’s timeline disappeared.
But Rig’s problems were not over. This time it was the pro-government pestisrácok.hu that learned that Rig has a tattoo that depicts the SS’s infamous slogan in Hungarian translation: “My Honor Is Loyalty” (Becsületem a hűség). When the journalist confronted him about it, Rig acted dumb, which didn’t seem to be much of a stretch. From the video of the encounter, I have a strong suspicion that pestisrácok.hu‘s information is correct.
Rig acted as if he didn’t even know what the SS was and muttered something incomprehensible about the SS logo being in German while the journalist was using Hungarian words. Three days later, however, Rig discovered that he does have a tattoo in which the two words “honesty” and “honor” can be found, but those words have nothing whatsoever to do with the Nazi SS. Rather the tattoo was inked at the time of his wedding, and the two words are part of his pledge to his wife. In his version of the story, the date of his wedding is included in the tattoo. Of course, the story will not end here. Moreover, with a little effort, Fidesz will undoubtedly find more embarrassing stories about the Jobbik candidate in Tapolca.
I’m not sure whether Fidesz is going after the right guy. By now Fidesz has only one newspaper, Magyar Hírlap, that is unequivocally loyal to the government. It is solely through this media outlet that Fidesz is trying to wage a negative campaign against Ferenc Pad, the candidate of MSZP-DK. So far their accusations have no teeth. Since Pad is on the city council of Ajka, his financial statement is in the public domain. Pad’s only sins seem to be that he owns half of an 80m² (805 ft²) house on a 612m² (6,587 ft²) lot and that he inherited one-sixth of another house of about the same size. Moreover, Mrs. Pad owns half of an orchard with a 29m² (312 ft²) outbuilding. The article is titled “The millions of Ferenc Pad.” I don’t believe that these “revelations” will carry much weight, especially when one considers the circulation figures of Magyar Hírlap.
Recent by-election results indicate that voters are prepared to vote for anyone but a Fidesz candidate. If Fidesz manages to completely discredit Lajos Rig, which I believe they have already pretty well accomplished, it can easily happen that Ferenc Pad will sail in, especially since Ajka, an MSZP stronghold, is the largest town in the electoral district. In any case, Fidesz is in a difficult position and, according to information coming from the upper echelons of Fidesz, they are not at all optimistic about the outcome. But, of course, we still have almost a month to go before the election.