Jobbik’s new centrist strategy

It’s time to turn our attention to the right-radical Jobbik party, the bogeyman of some naïve West European observers who are convinced that it is the real threat to Hungarian democracy and not Viktor Orbán’s government. Some of us who are more familiar with the workings of Fidesz know better. While Fidesz was rapidly moving to the right, Jobbik, in order to distinguish itself from the government party, moved toward the center. This change of strategy, however, hasn’t paid off. Jobbik, which in March 2015 had almost caught up with Fidesz in popularity (18% versus 21% in the electorate as a whole), is today a shadow of its former self. It has lost about half of its supporters.

So, one would have thought that Gábor Vona, chairman of Jobbik, recognizing the failure of the policy, would change course and go back to the far-right ideology that made Jobbik popular in the past. Yet, judging from his speech delivered last Saturday in front of approximately 2,000 people, there seems to be no change of strategy in sight. On the contrary, if possible, the party chairman sounded even more moderate than at any time before.

I have to admit that this was the first time I had the patience to listen to a Vona speech in its entirety. He is actually a very good speaker. That was surprise number one. The other surprise was the well-dressed audience and the absence of the nationalistic garb Jobbik politicians and followers have been infamous for. Apparently there were a few of the old extremist types present, but they were in the great minority. Gone were the old historical flags, including the red-and-white striped so-called Árpád flag, named after the first Hungarian ruling house, which was once favored by the extreme-right Arrow Cross Party of the 1930s. In fact, this Jobbik gathering didn’t even have the dozens of red, white, and green flags that we are accustomed to from Fidesz’s mass meetings. Instead, in the background were red and green bridges that will allow Jobbik supporters to visit the “other side” of the Hungarian political divide. Instead of political warfare, Vona wants to build bridges and unite all those who believe themselves to be the victims of Hungary’s twentieth-century history. Those who still bemoan the injustices of Trianon, the sins of communism, and the lost security of János Kádár’s regime.

The caption says: "The real people's party

The caption reads: “The real people’s party”

Those present reported that the Jobbik audience can’t really be roused by this new moderate program. The people who were originally fired up by Jobbik anti-Semitic, anti-Roma rhetoric are not enamored with the idea of building bridges to leftist voters. As Origo’s journalist reported, an older man at the end of Vona’s speech said: “It was a good speech, but I don’t agree with many of his points.”

What is the essence of this new course? If I understand it correctly, Vona envisages a party in the center of the political spectrum that wants to attract not only disappointed Fidesz voters but also those who are currently uncommitted, most of whom, as we know from public opinion polls, sympathize with the left. But can that kind of approach, especially the party’s decision to court potential leftist voters, possibly succeed? I personally doubt it. I am also not at all sure whether a strategy based on extolling the virtues of “civic” Hungary, a society based on middle class values, which Vona announced, can succeed. This formula was tried back in the 1990s by Fidesz, only to be abandoned and forgotten. It was brought back to life recently by Gábor G. Fodor’s revelation that “civic Hungary” was simply a “political product” to be sold to the naïve electorate. It was also useless, I believe, for Vona to talk about “real national consultation” as opposed to the kind the Orbán government offered to the electorate. Why would Hungarians be more excited by “national consultations” conducted by Jobbik than they have been by the ones offered by Fidesz?

Vona spent a fair amount of time on the two sectors, education and healthcare, that are in serious trouble. Jobbik sees opportunities here, especially since, as last year’s by-election in Tapolca showed, a healthcare issue can mobilize the locals. Since the Fidesz mayor of Tapolca supported closing the hospital and the Jobbik deputy-mayor stood against it, Jobbik’s candidate won. It was a lesson to be learned on both sides. It further strengthened the view in government circles that “reforming” healthcare is deadly and that it should be left undisturbed. In the last year, however, it has become obvious that the problems in the sector are too great to be ignored. Although in the last few days the revolt brewing among teachers in the country’s elementary and high schools has dwarfed complaints from the doctors and nurses, both areas are potentially dangerous for Fidesz.

For the problems in education Fidesz alone is responsible. Most people were convinced that it would be a cinch to pacify the teachers, but they turned out to be wrong. The teachers are threatening a strike. Any party worth its salt should keep a very close eye on developments in both the healthcare and the education sectors. If Jobbik could make headway here, it would get a much-needed lift. I suspect that Jobbik party activists are already hard at work contacting dissatisfied teachers in their neighborhoods. Whether other parties are paying enough attention to the ever-growing dissatisfaction of educators and healthcare workers is not at all clear.

February 2, 2016
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nwo
Guest
I would not presume to know what is inside Vona’s head and the shifting strategy of his party. However, there seems to me to be some sense to it (though it may not succeed). Now that FIDESZ has so effectively taken complete control of the far right, where is the biggest whole within the political spectrum? Moderate, populist left. Vona probably sees the MSZP being on its last legs, and assumes DK and Gyurcsany is too compromised to be able to put together a winning coalition. Plus DK is really a liber not a leftist party anyhow. That leaves Vona. If he can re-position his party as more reasonable (difficult), fighting for the little guy who FIDESZ has totally abandoned (plausible) and not corrupt (also plausible), then he can gain a big piece ofthe Hungarian electorate. Vona may lose the neo-Nazi element, but if he can pick up the far larger spectrum of Hungarians who feel like they have lost out in recent years, he stands to gain a far bigger potential platform. He is young; he has time to let the re-positioning play out. He might even benefit in the next election from some strategic voting behavior among those… Read more »
Member

Sounds plausible. Don’t forget that Jobbik enjoys a very strong support among young people and students, also thanks to its efficient student and youth organizations.

Zoli
Guest

Actually, the “naive” West Europeans should look in their own backyard for threats to democracy. Just in the past month, we learned of government and media cover-ups in regards to the migrants in Europe, with scandals in places like Sweden, Austria and of course, Germany. And now, we have the news that German media intend to exclude AfD from the debates for local land elections this March, despite the fact that they have been consistently polling in the double digits in the past few months. This was done due to pressure from the governing coalition parties. Now if Eva, or anyone else can point to something more un-democratic than this happening in Hungary, be my guest! Now, I know you will point to lots of things and claim that it is in fact much worse. But fact is that nothing this bad has happened in Hungary in regards to obstructing opposition to the government as we have learned to be happening in Germany right now.

Member

“We learned of government and media cover-ups (…) in Sweden, Austria, and Germany.” What cover-ups, and where did you get that information? Russia Today?

Zoli
Guest
benedict
Guest

Are you insane? The Guardian newspaper is owned by an independent foundation (the Scott Trust Limited) and has nothing to do with Russians.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scott_Trust_Limited

Zoli
Guest

I was being sarcastic in response to the accusation of Sentrooppa-Santra

Bowen
Guest

“Poe’s law is an Internet adage which states that, without a clear indicator of the author’s intent, parodies of extreme views will be mistaken by some readers or viewers for sincere expressions of the parodied views.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

webber
Guest

That is just too easy to answer.
Fidesz media, on live t.v., broadcast a shot of an empty street and claimed that practically nobody was at an opposition rally – which was actually being held two streets away. Fidesz media NEVER reports anything negative about the government, and NEVER mentions that Hungary keeps losing cases in Strasbourg and Brussels. The number of cases of silence and news falsification is enormous in Hungary.

As to debates – tell me, over the past six years (and more) when has Orban ever debated opposition candidates? And how much air time are they given on Hungarian state t.v.?

What has happened in Germany, Sweden and Austria is an anomaly and people in those countries are rightly outraged.
By contrast, this sort of thing is the norm in Hungary, and people hardly even notice it anymore. It’s just expected.

Zoli
Guest

Yes, but did Fidesz ever try to exclude the Socialists from a debate? Did Fidesz ever muzzle the authorities in order to cover up crimes committed due to Fidesz policies? What you are describing about Hungary has been common practice in Germany according to a former ZDF boss and worse. Covering up crimes in order to protect an ideological position is heinous.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3429621/German-journalist-claims-government-tells-media-t-report-following-outcry-Cologne-sex-attack-news-blackout.html

And no, it is not an anomaly. It is proof that Western elites are in it together against us, the people, who think that we are free. We got to see a glimpse of it because they were caught in offside in Germany, following the horrific NYE mass-molestations. Only fools will resist learning from this. And nothing makes fools out of people like ideological indoctrination.

Observer
Guest

YES.
Fidesz excluded ALL debate., e.g. Orban never went to another debate after the GyF’s one.
They strive for ZERO transparency re policies or government, e.g. we don’t even know who wrote the ridiculous basic law.
Orban didn’t even bother with an election program. Can’t go deeper than that.

YES. Fidesz ALWAYS muzzles the authorities, e.g. “no comments” internal policy, and muzzles all the media they can.

YES. P.Polt covers up Fidesz crimes all the time, starting 1999.

And NO, it is not an anomaly – this is the fff Orban.

YES. Perhaps most Western elites are in it together against ORBAN’S CORRUPT FASCIST REGIME, you seem to be part of . And for good reason.
I am also against the regime/you, together with at least 1.5 million Hungarian voters. So we are the good guys even if in minority.

Nothing makes fools out of people like ideological indoctrination; AGREED – you are a good proof.

Zoli
Guest

Having only one debate is not that unusual. In Canada, they have two, only because they have one in English and one in French. The equivalent of what is happening in Germany would have been to say, “OK! we will have a debate. We will include ourselves, Jobbik and LMP, but not Socialists, DK, and Egyutt”.Very different proposition, and cannot be compared.

webber
Guest

Nonsense, obfuscation and lies, Zolika! And you know it.
In the past two national elections there have been NO debates whatsoever between the Great Orban and other candidates, because the Great O refuses to hold them.
Allow me to remind you and your handlers that lying is not considered “ügyes” in English-speaking countries. It is considered disgusting, and people caught lying for their cause are shunned by polite society.

Zoli
Guest

I did not know that, but have to point out to you that it is still more democratic not to have any debates than to have them and exclude the relevant opposition.

Guest

So it’s “still more democratic” to have a State TV system (I usually call M1 etc North Korean State TV …) that ignores the opposition and only sends government propaganda?

Jani
Guest

Well said, Wolfi.
Add that M1 is a subsidiary of RT.

webber
Guest

If you did not know that, Zolika, then please tell us, which part of Russia are you residing in?
Because you are certainly not living in Hungary, if you did not know that.

Zoli
Guest

This whole Russia attack line is pathetic. No, I do not live in Hungary. If I was, I would most likely not come to this blog. But nor would I if I lived in Russia.

webber
Guest

“it is still more democratic not to have any debates…”
Such bullshit! A two-year-old could see through that one.

Zoli
Guest

Yes, even a two-year-old understands that treating everyone the same is more fair than treating some to a platform, while denying it from others.

petofi
Guest

Well said, Webber.

webber
Guest

“Did Fidesz ever muzzle the authorities in order to cover up crimes committed due to Fidesz policies?”
Yep. The list of things uncovered since 2010 is too long for this blog.
Vida Ildikó ring a bell? What happened to the NAV after that Horvath fellow revealed crime after crime after crime? (and not a single thing he said was in the govt. press).

Bowen
Guest
Zoli
Guest

LIke I said at the beginning Webber, I am sure that plenty of people here will jump and argue that worse is happening in Hungary. But the cover-ups in the West are in fact hitting at the basic foundational principles of not just democratic society, but any society. It is the social contract, which permits the state to monopolize the means of violence, in return for providing the expected level of public safety which some Western countries are guilty of breaking. The cover-ups in this case have to do with hiding the fact that they broke that all-important contract on a massive scale, as we are now learning.

The stuff that you are bringing up is more of the garden variety stuff that one sort of expects to see to a greater or lesser extent. It is not right, but quite often is less of a straight-forward issue, with opposition making something out of it, which is bigger than it really is, while the guys in power trying to minimize the issue.

webber
Guest
No, what has been done since 2010 in Hungary is not the “more or less garden variety stuff that one expects to see to a greater or lesser extent” (who are you anyway? György Schöpflin? He spouts nonsense like this). What I and others have listed above is just the tip of the iceberg – from lying in the media, to a prosecutor who refuses to prosecute government people and presses charges repeatedly when no crime was committed (e.g. Dopeman kicking the papier mache head of Orban), down even to threats to fire kindergarten teachers who dare to attend a protest at their working conditions (link above, in Hungarian – nobody is safe here) – it is systemic and overwhelming in Hungary. The cases you mention are not in “the West,” they are in a few countries and are a few cases, and have generated outrage in those countries because they are so unusual. Hungarians would be DELIGHTED to have problems of that sort, they are so minor in comparison. I must say thanks to you, however, for providing the opportunity to demonstrate to any reader interested how foul Orban’s Hungary is, by comparison with any Western democracy you care… Read more »
petofi
Guest

~Zoli,

are you on a day-pass from the KGB basement?

Guest

Yes, zoli is one of those paid trolls that appear everywhere nowadays.
His story about the “cover ups” in the German media is nonsense – there was a delay because of the New Year but then everybody concentrated on what had happened and the police have also successfully investigated.
Re the AfD:
They are (at least in part) fascist and it’s totally understandable that other politicians wouldn’t even want to be in the same room as them!
So the other parties said that they would not discuss with them.
PS:
What’s going on is well described by the Russian media which invented that rape case in Berlin – seems they’re clutching at straws.

arpad
Guest

You’ve got to love the fact that all the pro-Orban posters have Hungarian names but all the anti-Orban posters have names like “Webber” and “Wolfi”.

arbad
Guest

If you can see “every” in any sentence of what I wrote above then I would suggest medication. On the other hand, to suggest that “every” this or that must “hate”/”love” someone is equally ridiculous. The vast majority of Hungarians like Orban – those who don’t are likely Jobbik supporters. As for foreigners, my guess is that most Europeans like him as well – he is very popular in, for example, Poland. Most of the left wing Soros-backed “elitists”, however, detest him. Proof is very much in the pudding. The left wing vitriol towards Orban makes one rethink the truth about much of European history, don’t you think?

petofi
Guest

You paid schmuck, Zoli.

If you knew any history, you’d realize that political
life in Hungary today is back to what it must have been in the 9th century or so…

arbad
Guest

schmuck – another ur-Hungarian word. You will know them by their deeds and by their words.

petofi
Guest

Zoli,

please get back on your pills.
Are they the same that Viktor gets?

What’s this about Fidesz and debates?
Where? When? What?
The Fidesz members got to parliament to vote (as they are told) and to fill the bldg. For that, they collect their 1-1.5 million forints.

How about Viktor? Is he known for debating? Last time he faced Gyurcsany, he was left standing in his undies.

Debating!?

Gimme a break…

Observer
Guest

Cut it off guys. It is obscene – the fascists who demolished democracy in Hungary are demanding more of it elsewhere.

Guest

Re: ‘Muzzling in Magyarorszag’

Pretty soon as far as ‘debate’ the only media that would be the best to encourage it in the country will be RFE. Besides the tinkering with the Constitution the loss of true independent media with its outlets in the nation is egregious. Hungary: going back to the future.

Jon Van Til
Guest

I remember sitting in Poli Sci 1 at Swarthmore and learning that elections are about getting to 50% plus 1, and that serious parties always cast toward the middle. Jobbik may be trying to do what the other Hungarian parties (save for Fidesz, of course) have not recently shown much interest in– winning elections. Jobbik has a smart and presentable leader, and it makes sense for it to push to the side the radical elements that supported its rise.

As Andras Toth has so clearly shown in his work (http://real.mtak.hu/28300/; and his book chapter in The Hungarian Patient), Jobbik’s base is strong among successful working class Hungarians. And now it has an opportunity to become the Hungarian “labor party” by championing the causes of teachers, doctors, and nurses–and other officially neglected workers’ groupings as well–persons with organizational ties whose work is indispensable to the functioning of this, or any other, country.

tappanch
Guest

The Orban government will give away another 140,000 hectares of agricultural land from March 1. About 1.5% of the population has the right to bid for the land. In November & December, about 80% of the land was given to Fidesz friends, family & oligarchs.

http://magyaridok.hu/gazdasag/ujabb-termofoldeket-hirdetett-meg-az-allam-349105/

tappanch
Guest

The budget would receive 164 million euros for the 130 thousand hectares “sold” in 2015. In addition, the state gave 387 million euros (70.2% of the “price”) in loans to the friendly bidders.

http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/foldtulajdon-allami-foldek-csaladi-gazdasagok-142695.html

tappanch
Guest
Istvan
Guest
I try to read periodically the Jobbik website and I agree there is an evolution in the party. But there is still endless harping about the oppression of Romania againstTransylvanian members of Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM) and various crimes of Roma within Hungary. By the way we have at least two fund raisers for HVIM resident here in Chicago and I have seen them collecting funds for their youth group in Romania at an event sponsored by the Norridge Untied Church of Christ in suburban Chicago in the USA. I don’t see the movement of Jobbik as being so much towards the left as it is now just utilizing part of its pre existing ideology inherited from fascism’s corporatism. Fidesz also shares some of this ideology because it appeals to the confused Hungarians who harken back to the social cohesion of communism, yet claim to be anti-communists. But I will admit that one Jobbik speech recently was very funny where Zsolt Egyed, a Jobbik MP, took up the cause of animal protection following dog fighting stories and the popularity of the film White God which had in it certain ant-fascist themes easily ignored by Jobbik. Imagine a group of… Read more »
Guest

A bit OT:
There once was a very ugly fascist commenter on politics.hu using the nick JapHun who seems to live in Japan and organise dog fights there …
His comments were often deleted because they were so rabid in their racism, homophobia etc …

Guest

Speaking of dogs we have a Lab. The guy loves us we love him. But when I look at him he’s really a ‘wolf’ deep down. We’re having a great time with him after all the ‘domestication’.

Kind of reminds me of Jobbik. They seem to be trying to domesticate themselves on issues. That’s perhaps great for education and health in the country if it works out. Only thing is it could be the means to an end. Question is what are the inherent genes which run them?

webber
Guest

OT – something similar might have been done by a Hungarian about Hungary these days. A shame it wasn’t (how often I’ve heard that – now I’m saying it). These ladies (below) are bound to have more trouble in the near future – brave women!

Guest

^^^^^
Surprised they are still around and Putin hasn’t completely shut them away to a gulag or something. Protesters supporting them were here by the Russian consulate. Because of the crowds the NYPD had to disperse them bringing vituperation on them as well as the consulate. Now I know why Putin lets’em sing….;-)…

webber
Guest

They spent 2 years in prison, and got out. They got whipped and beaten in Sochi, and in Moscow they had some green dye sprayed in their eyes, but they are still active. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were killed sooner or later.
Whipping here – it’s not pretty:

Guest

I too thought about the dire consequences. But on second thought perhaps the fact that they made great publicity for themselves by doing things that are outrageous. I think they are known ’round the world.

One thing Putin hates is disturbance especially ones of an internal kind. He likes to keep things ‘quiet’. If anything bad happens to PR well Putin would be running the risk of going into uncontrollable territory. Anathema for him. But on the other hand the fellow could be unpredictable.

webber
Guest

Tell that to Alexander Litvinenko’s son and wife.
Tell Anna Politovskaya’s family that Putin “hates disturbances” and “likes to keep things quiet.”
Tell Boris Nemtsov’s family that Putin would not kill someone who had international attention.
Tell me again that Putin is afraid of bad PR.

Guest

”Tell me again that Putin is afraid of bad PR’

You know PR, as in Pussy Riot, are still on the stage doing their crazy stuff. They’ve been doing it for a bit. I don’t know. Maybe Vlad likes satire! He hasn’t done anything…. yet. But every autocrat has limits.

webber
Guest

“He hasn’t done anything… yet.”
2 years in prison for singing a song in a church is nothing?
Whipping is nothing?
Being struck by a gang of thugs and having dye sprayed in your eyes with syringes is nothing?
Video of that here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Xnf5bDBTg
I’d say Pussy Riot has had a series of increasingly heavy warnings, and yet they go on. Brave girls.

Guest

You know with PR I look at the worse that could happen. And for some reason they are still alive. They know the calculus in exposing lies and hypocrisy. Yes. They are courageous.

petofi
Guest

‘Positioning’…what a joke.

Jobbik positions itself where the KGB puts it.
As in Russia, Hungary has two parties that are two sides of the same page, and calculated to take up
much of the space in the Hungarian political firmament.

All the opposition has been marginalized to the perimeter as Leftist/Communist. And very successfully among the mentally-challenged Hungaricoes.

Give them circuses (internet); Give them jews (anti-semitism); Give them the helium-filled nationalism–the Hungarian mindset of today.

Paul
Guest
A bit late on this and only just read the thread (which rapidly veers entirely OT and stays there!). To get back to the subject of Éva’s post – the future of Jobbik. Firstly, I think to imply that Jobbik have lost a large share of the vote since the Spring is because of Vona’s attempt to drag it to the centre, is to misread the figures. Since that time we have had the whole ‘immigrant’ panic and Orbán’s overreaction to it. And, whatever we might think of all that, in Hungary it has played very well, Orbán is widely seen as a hero for ‘protecting’ his country and people, and as a sage and prophet that the rest of Europe are now following. I suggest that the switch in support from those ex-Fidesz voters who were drawn to Jobbik back to Fidesz, is almost entirely down to Orbán’s restored popularity, and nothing to do with any ‘New Jobbik’ posturing. As to the chances of Vona succeeding in moving Jobbik to the centre, I think that mostly depends on the reaction of the extreme-right old-guard he is leaving behind. If they remain quiet, Vona will succeed, and Jobbik will become… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Why to paragraphs only appear when you click on ‘read more’?? Very odd!

Jon Van Til
Guest

Very important points made here by Paul. One sign that a new Jobbik has emerged will be the willingness of other parties to join them in opposing various Fidesz policies, or even in supporting changes themselves.

Guest

Yes an interesting analysis. As for UKIP is there a guarantee they don’t go a bit longer on the fascist route as some early predecessors? Probably not because of the fact that political winds are always being affected by the ‘weather’ surrounding them. Same perhaps with Jobbik. Not exactly ‘prime time now ‘ but opportunists now for better things in the future. Wouldn’t be surprised if we see perhaps a new Magyar book ‘Az Eletem’ on the shelves. Would it concentrate minds wonderfully? I don’t know. Hungary is too too asleep in many ways. But one can’t rule out there’s a place for it when there’s a battle for political hearts and minds.

petofi
Guest

Eva,
has your site been sabotaged?
It’s far worse than what it was a year ago…

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