Gábor Vona of Jobbik cleans house

Something momentous happened today in Hungarian party politics. Gábor Vona, chairman of Jobbik, got rid of three of his most radical deputies: Előd Novák, István Szávay, and István Apáti. In addition, he made it clear to Mrs. Lóránd Hegedűs, wife of the anti-Semitic, extremist Reformed minister, that she shouldn’t even try to put her name forward as a member of the executive board because he has veto power over candidates. Instead of these far-right extremists Vona would like to see successful Jobbik mayors in the party leadership. The young mayor of Ózd, Dávid Janiczak, has already indicated that he will support the chairman.

Other Jobbik leaders in the provinces are outraged at Vona’s attempt to rid the party of people like Előd Novák. It took Tibor Ágoston (Debrecen) only “one sleepless night to come to a decision: [he] support[s] Előd Novák as a candidate for chairmanship of the party.” Ágoston’s name may be familiar to those who follow Hungarian politics closely. He is the Jobbik politician who was recently fined 750,000 ft for Holocaust denial.

All three radical politicians are ready to defy Vona who, according to the bylaws, does have veto power over the nominations.

Gábor Vona's signature photo where he shows a sweeter side of Jobbik

Gábor Vona’s signature photo, where he shows the sweeter side of Jobbik

Historically, far-right parties have a tendency to crumble. For years I have been predicting (either incorrectly or prematurely) that the same fate was awaiting Jobbik. Such an event most likely wouldn’t make a tremendous difference in Hungary’s political landscape if the current system didn’t consist of a two-pronged opposition: from the far-right and from the left. Each of about the same strength at the moment.

In order to understand the rationale behind Vona’s move we have to go back to Viktor Orbán’s concept of central power. I devoted a whole post to this notion, which is really the cornerstone of Fidesz’s political system.

Jobbik was founded in 2003, but it wasn’t until 2006 that the party’s popularity started to mushroom, until in 2010 it received 16.36% of the votes. In 2014 Vona’s party did even better, with 20.69% of the votes.

Sometime in 2008/2009 Orbán realized that Fidesz had a fantastic opportunity. It faced an opposition that was split between far-right and left and that could never form a common front against his party. The political situation resembled that between the two world wars when the “government party” faced noisy right-radicals whose idols were Mussolini and later Hitler and a handful of Social Democrats and liberals on the left. Obviously, the two groups couldn’t join forces against the “government party.” Orbán recognized that Fidesz was similarly well positioned in the new political landscape and would likely have a very long tenure.

Vona is trying to change that landscape, which, if he succeeds, is not good news for Fidesz. Although Vona keeps insisting that Jobbik can defeat Fidesz single-handedly and form a government in 2018, I doubt that he actually believes in such an unlikely scenario. If he is a rational human being, he can only think in terms of some kind of coalition with either Fidesz or with the left-liberal groups. In both cases, he would have to change his colors and show that Jobbik is no longer a far-right extremist party but a right-of-center party able to be part of a coalition government. He seems to be quite confident that he will be able to keep the troops together even if Jobbik sheds its anti-Semitic, extremist image.

We have no idea what Vona’s game plan is. Fidesz commentators believe that he will make a deal with the left-liberals, which would undercut Orbán’s notion of “central power.” Magyar Idők, the government organ, is certain that Vona is moving closer and closer to the left. In a sarcastic editorial Péter Szikszai writes: “What will the next step be? Are they contemplating using the Hungarian Guard to defend [Budapest] Pride that will be held on the anniversary of Trianon? Will they offer settlement permits to migrants at Röszke? Will they abandon the theory of the Hungarian-Sumerian relationship? Will they demolish Horthy’s statue? Or, will Vona attend the meeting of the Assembly of God (Hit Gyülekezete)?”

Another notorious right-winger, Ferenc Szaniszló, who works for the pro-Fidesz Echo TV, also believes that Vona is planning to leave the right-wing fold. As he puts it, both Fidesz and Jobbik have changed a lot in the last few years. Fidesz started off as “an extremist liberal party” which moved first to the right of center and “later to the right,” while Jobbik “used to be a combative right-wing party which moved slowly toward the soft right and from there to the right-of-center.” And he adds the following significant sentence: “This softer reassuring force might be more attractive, but if Fidesz can take over the role of Jobbik, then what is the use of Jobbik?”

What do Fidesz officials think of this new development? They naturally would like to see Vona fail in his endeavor. They claim to have polls indicating that Jobbik in the last year or so lost a number of its more radical followers. They consider it a grave mistake for Vona to turn his back on his radical base because this might lead to Jobbik’s losing its political prowess. Pesti Srácok, another government sponsored internet site, is also certain that Vona will fail in his task. The provincial leaders are behind those radical politicians Vona just got rid of. He will fail just as Ibolya Dávid of MDF failed when she moved closer to the left.

What Vona has done is certainly a gamble, although he seems confident that the majority of Jobbik’s voters and sympathizers are behind him. But when, according to Medián, 54% of Jobbik voters are strong and 15% are moderate anti-Semites, I doubt that getting rid of the most anti-Semitic Jobbik leaders will endear Vona to Jobbik’s electorate.

Fidesz, however, is worried about him because they fear that Lajos Simicska is one of Vona’s supporters. Magyar Idők’s editorial, quoted earlier, makes that clear. “What Vona’s plan is we don’t know yet. Perhaps he would like to make his party more attractive to those entrepreneurs who are disappointed in Fidesz,” adding “(didn’t I say that politely, Lajos?)”.

I myself can’t see at the moment how Jobbik and the socialist-liberal opposition could create a common front against Orbán’s autocratic rule.

April 21, 2016
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Excellent post.

Looks like there could be an eventual amalgamation of Fidesz and the more moderate wing of Jobbik, in which case Vona might well end up as prime minister of Hungary in a decade or two.

The point made in Eva’s post that the Hungarian political spectrum today is eerily similar to that which prevailed in the last decade or so of the Horthy era is particularly interesting.

In this connection one can only say, paraphrasing Santayana, that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Hungarians have indeed reverted to type, and looks like Hungary’s past is destined to be Hungary’s future too.

Deeply rooted mind sets inevitably tend to remain frozen in time.


Should Orbán loose big in 2018, a Fidesz-Jobbik coalition would become almost inevitable, in which case it is more than likely that Vona would eventually become deputy prime minister.

Given the centrist compromises that would be forced on Vona in that situation, it is also likely that this would lead to a formal split in Jobbik between its more moderate and extremist wings.

In that case, Előd Novák & Co. would probably form a new Hungarist/National Socialist (nazi) party that would take the place of Jobbik on the political palette of Hungary, and the part of Jobbik that was in the governing coalition would sooner or later fade into Fidesz.


Off topic but in the news in Hungary: Eva I think it might be interesting for you to present a short essay on the government proposal to eliminate the teaching of all geography education in vocational high schools. The proposal is that only natural science subjects along with vocational course work would be required for these students. From what I have been reading this would include the elimination for these students of all environmental protection studies.

This proposal seems consistent with creating a very narrow minded isolated technically trained industrial workforce in Hungary. As you well know Eva the consequences of the lack of world geographical knowledge here in the USA are profound. Despite nearly constant news coverage since the war in Iraq began in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to 24 failed to correctly locate Iraq on a map of the Middle East. Seventy percent could not find Iran or Israel. I recall very clearly prior to my deployment to Kosovo having to explain to soldiers under my command where the Balkans were in general. Some thought (including senior NCOs) UN forces were being sent to take control of part of Russia, truly scary.

It actually happened in Slovakia (Fico, Slota, Bugár). By the way look at Serbia, it’s also a virtual one-party state (with elections coming up in a few days) just like with Fidesz and people will reelect Vucic. There is nothing genius in this ‘central power’ thing. In a first past the post system the biggest party wins and if there are many parties any party that seems to hold the center wins. Eventually of course any real FPP system degrades into a two-party system, but given that there is a small party list element there is seems to be a remote hope that it’s possible to enter the party system and so new parties are being set up (like Együtt, LMP, DK etc.). Or Fidesz can also set up and finance “competitors”. The bottom line is that the party list element of the election system ensures that there are many parties, but the more important FPP ensures that the relative biggest party (perhaps with as little as 25-30% of the votes cast, 70% against) will remain in power in perpetuity. As long as there is a more extreme party to the right of Fidesz it will always be the default… Read more »
Reality Check

Does no news from Gyurcsany for 4 or 5 days mean he has become silent? You lose credibility with that statement. You are either very selective in your news sources or another commenter whose goal is to discredit the opposition.


He seems to be in the new every few days: http://www.atv.hu/kereses?search=Gyurcsany&date_from=&date_to=&heading_id=&types=


I don’t watch TV. Yes, I know TV is still very popular and internet is much less important, but I just don’t see him on the popular internet sites (granted most of them are related to Fidesz in one way or another). ATV is popular among the “converted” ones, any politician would need to reach those who are undecided, who are non-committed. Does Gyurcsany appear on RTL Klub or TV2? I doubt it.


Just as you cite Fico in Slovakia – he has lost popularity because he can no longer squeeze any more hate and xenophobia from the refugee situation.

It’s all gone quiet for both Orban and Fico.

The electorates of both country’s are turning inwards and trying to com e to terms with the dreadful state of their Health systems and Education administrations.

A long slow decline as both electorates start to see the true mis-management of their countries.

Orban will desperately present his ’10-point Schengen 2′ as he tries to keep the issue alive.

But it will be rejected out-of-hand and his ‘Big Politics’ with the Big Boys – will be seen as little politics of a little man – then go crying to the Visegrad 4.

The long slippery vulnerable slope for Jobbik’s calculated opportunist moves to become effective – as the EU gravy train slowly dries up.

I’d leave the EU now, Orban, if I were you…….


Orban says that he will stay in the politics for the next 15-20 years.

And he will. He has no challenger, really, especially not from the Left. The liberals rather sip their lattes and play with their Ipads, At most the hard-working Jobbikniks will present a bit of a nuisance but that’s nothing for pros.


Reality Check

The article you link to says he will be in politics for another 15 to 20 years – it does not say he will be part of a ruling party. ” will remain in politics, whether the first or the third line”.

Jobbik is very popular amongst younger people, and their popularity will grow if they get rid off their extremist views. There is a “room” for extreme right as Jobbik softens, and Agoston, Novak, Duro, etc. could form a small party just like that. It will consist of crazies just like them. Jobbik will take away the those supporters of Fidesz who have had enough from Fidesz robbing the country blind, but have no interest in any parties at the left. The programs of Jobbik are based on the government serving Hungarians, not on Fidesz’ idea of Hungarians serving the government. I am not sure if they can rebrand themselves as an “all inclusive” group, but at this moment Jobbik is the only party that offers any alternative to past attempts of the last decades. Do I like it? Hell, no. But if moving to the right worked to Fidesz, moving the centre cold work for Jobbik. As far as extreme right members concerned, Fidesz already has many on their payroll. Let’s not forget about the skinheads who blocked the MSZP members, the skinheads who “protected” the Fidesz headquarters from pensioners and university students. In fact maybe Fidesz and Jobik is… Read more »
Jon Van Til

Jobbik would seem to have a bright future, what with a talented young leader, a well-organized structure, and most important of all, an increasingly strong and solid electoral base. Ridding itself of useless “hatred” baggage should only increase its support among citizens already attracted to it. One such group, the auto workers of Gyor, have been studied by political scientist Andras Toth and his colleagues and found to be steadily moving toward the Jobbik camp. (Toth’s work is widely accessible on http://www.academia.edu and an excellent chapter of his on the Hungarian right may be found in THE HUNGARIAN PATIENT, published by the CEU Press.)


The white working class is firmly pro Jobbik and conservative. The left-wing is seen as an urban effeminate bunch which has no traction in rural regions like Győr. Actually the Audi workers are in Hungary blue collar, but middle class with a strong, disciplined work ethic. White, blue collar workers just don’t like urbanites and smarteggs who think antisemitsm and similar things are a huge issue. They want conservative values and policies which prefer the indigenous whites. No surprize here. They will never vote for a intellectual type leftist politicians. Out of the question.

@győri Today 1:34 pm You are absolutely right that ordinary Hungarians do not consider antisemitism any kind of a huge issue. That is even true of most Hungarians of Jewish descent, because if they did consider it a huge issue, they would be living in New York, Los Angeles, Tel Aviv or Sydney, and not in Budapest, Debrecen, Szeged or Pécs. Hungarian antisemitism is part of Hungarian identity, like paprika an essential ingredient in Hungarian cooking. And anyway, Hungarians are no different in this respect from any of the other East Europeans. As far as ordinary Hungarians are concerned, if a Jew does not like Hungarian antisemitism, s/he can lump it. For, as they say in Hungarian, ‘fel is út, le is út, nagy a világ’ (if you don’t like this place, just f*ck out of here!). Since I am one of those relatively few Hungarian-born Jews that really does take deep umbrage at the all-pervasive antisemitism in Hungary, I took the advice and f***ed out of there. We both win this way. On the one hand, Hungarians can carry on with their lunatic antisemitism to their heart’s content, whilst I on the other hand don’t have to put up… Read more »

Not too much OT.

Politics.hu reports from O’s radio talk today:
“The alliance of Brussels and the Hungarian left wing, whose intention is to import many millions to Europe, must be stopped”, the prime minister said. Hungary’s Schengen 2.0 action plan must be promulgated because the alternative of a proposal by Brussels to tackle demographic and economic problems by allowing in more and more migrants would spell disaster, Viktor Orbán said in an interview to state Kossuth radio, claiming that this goal tied in with a document published by former Socialist governments on migration policy.

“This figured in the programme of previous Socialist governments: a tenth of the country would consist of foreigners within the foreseeable future,” he said, adding that this would be a “nightmare”. He said the EU’s youth unemployment problems should be addressed by giving jobs to European workers instead of bringing in “people from other cultures” who would raise social tensions and “increase the threat of terrorism”. But this issue cannot be discussed openly in Western Europe where people “live in a bubble” and under “intellectual oppression”, he said.
Is this really true?


@wolfi “Is it really true?”
True what?

If you mean whether O. has said this, the answer is yes, of course.
In his political life O. has said everything and its opposite too. And he would say anything if he seems some advantage in it. What he says just doesn’t matter, one has always to look beyond his words.

If you mean whether what O. said is true, the answer is no, of course.
In his political life O. has lied about everything. And he would lie about anything if he seems some advantage in it. What he lies just doesn’t matter, one has always to look beyond his lies.

A great reading in this vein is the


@observer, of course I meant “Did O really say this”?

re congress of baboons – that’s one of my favourite Hungarian sites too. I had thought it disappeared but just found (and linked to …) two new scathing and angry comments from March and February.


Vona is anti-semitic.


People don’t care about antisemitism if he is otherwise likeable and has leadership qualities (to which getting rid of old allies adds, people expect politicians to be able to be ruthless, they know politics is tough and not for wusses, which is why MSZP is so much disliked even though Fidesz is not so popular either).


Why do you stupid trolls (or is it just one under different names?) always have to repeat that old Mantra:
“MSZP is so much disliked”
You’re getting even more ridiculous every day …


April 22, 2016 7:43 pm

Duh? Well, whoopie doo. Anyway, so what, most Hungarians are.


Jobbik changing colors??? Just has to be impossible regardless of ‘radical changes’. If GV still leads the ‘ideas’ and ‘ feelings’ flow from inside his head. I just doubt some things never change about who or what one is unless the individual gets different axons and synapses in the brain.