Jobbik’s checkered past and present

Even a cursory look at the recent Hungarian media reveals Fidesz’s anxiety over every political move Jobbik makes. Fidesz uses every opportunity to discredit the party, to portray it as a duplicitous formation whose turn to the center is nothing more than a sham. Indeed, it is difficult to take the party’s official portrayal of itself as being moderate right-of-center at face value when one of its deputy chairmen, László Toroczkai, at the height of the government’s attack on Central European University, declared that “it should be banned, shuttered, and its ruins should be dusted with salt.” Toroczkai shared these lofty thoughts at roughly the same time that his superior, the chairman of his party, Gábor Vona, in an interview asserted that Jobbik stands for the freedom of education and that the party will not vote for the amended higher education law that was designed to make the university’s continued existence in Budapest impossible. Yet László Toroczkai is still deputy chairman of Jobbik.

It is time to reacquaint readers with Toroczkai’s career because it’s been four years since I wrote about him. At that time I described him as “an infamous neo-Nazi who has been banned from Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia because of his openly irredentist views and illegal activities.” I wrote these words at the time that Toroczkai was elected mayor of Ásotthalom, a large village near Szeged, adjacent to the Serbian-Hungarian border.

Toroczkai was born László Tóth but changed his name to something more Hungarian sounding. After all, a great Hungarian patriot cannot be called Mr. Slovak (“Tót” means Slovak in Hungarian). He is the founder of the irredentist Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom (HIVM/Youth Movement of the Sixty-four Counties), a reference to the number of counties in Greater Hungary. The high point of his career was leading the mob in September 2006 from Kossuth Square to the building of MTV, the public television station, which the crowd stormed, burned, and eventually occupied. During the siege almost 200 policemen were injured. He made a name for himself again in 2015 when, on his own, he began the “defense of the country from the modern-day migration.” It was his idea of erecting a fence along the border that inspired Viktor Orbán, who put the idea into practice.

And yet Gábor Vona, while ostensibly trying to reorient Jobbik along more moderate lines, asked Toroczkai, who at that time wasn’t even a party member, to become one of his deputies. Naturally, Vona was showered with questions about the incongruity of having the radical Toroczkai as a member of his team. His answer at the time was that “there are issues that need radical solutions and there are others that require moderate ones,” which was a pretty lame explanation for his action.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Vona has since regretted his decision, because on almost every issue Toroczkai has taken a position contrary to the party’s official stand, including such an important issue as the government’s refugee quota referendum, which Jobbik didn’t support. A month later Toroczkai was in the news again. This time his town council passed a number of ordinances that forbade building mosques, wearing the burka, all activities of muezzins and, for good measure, the “propagation of gay marriage” and any publicity given to “opinions about the family different from the definition in the constitution of a man and a woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation.” Vona paid a personal visit to Ásotthalom, where he apparently gave Toroczkai a piece of his mind. Toroczkai at that time considered leaving Jobbik, but it seems that the serious differences of opinion between Toroczkai and the more moderate leadership were patched up. At least they were until now.

On October 31 the Toroczkai-led HVIM covered a full-size statue of Gyula Horn (1932-2013), prime minister of Hungary between 1994 and 1998, with a black sack and hung a sign on his neck reading “PUFAJKÁS GYILKOS.” “Gyilkos” means murderer and “pufajka” is a quilted jacket that was part of the Soviet military uniform worn by the paramilitary force that was set up by the new Kádár government in November 1956. Gyula Horn is highly regarded abroad, especially in Germany, because when Hungary let the East German refugees cross over to Austria, Horn was the country’s foreign minister. He is also considered by many to have been the best Hungarian prime minister since 1990. MSZP’s leadership was outraged, but as a Jobbik politician rightly pointed out, László Kövér, the Fidesz president of parliament, refused to name a parliamentary chamber for Horn because of his role in the 1956 revolution. President László Sólyom also refused to give an award to the former prime minister because of Horn’s role in the revolution and because he allegedly didn’t change his views on 1956. Still, considering that it was only a couple of weeks ago that Gábor Vona delivered a speech in which he made overtures to the left, Toroczkai’s assault on Horn’s statue again cast a shadow on Vona’s sincerity.

The pro-government media has been salivating over the possibility of an open split between the moderates and the radicals in Jobbik, which in Fidesz’s opinion would greatly weaken the party. All of the articles I read in 888.hu and pestrisrácok.hu predicted that, even if not now, after the election Jobbik will surely fall apart. Today  pestisrácok.hu heralded the fact that within days the Army of Outlaws and the Association of Identitarianist University Students will organize a new party “where the disappointed Jobbik followers will find their true voice, for which they joined Jobbik in the first place.” The hope in the pro-Fidesz right-wing press is that, as a result of the radical right’s departure from the party, Jobbik will collapse.

But this may not happen. B. György Nagy wrote an article titled “Arabs, Greens, Jobbik” in which he called attention to the fact that when a party embarks on a major shift in political direction its popularity can drop precipitously. A good example is Fidesz’s own experience in 1993, when the party had a commanding lead with 30% of the votes, which by the 1994 election shrank to 7%. But Jobbik hasn’t lost much support. It is holding onto its usual 20% share of committed voters. Moreover, there is a fascinating dynamic to this support. One-third of Jobbik supporters are new recruits, while 30% left the party, most likely heading to Fidesz. This means that Jobbik has a reserve among currently uncommitted voters.

A Fidesz caricature of Jobbik’s anti-Semitism / 888.hu

And so Fidesz has to weaken Jobbik in some other way. One line of attack is establishing a connection between ISIS and some far-right groups, like the Hungarian National Front (Magyar Nemzeti Arcvonal/MNA) and the Army of Outlaws, who are now being investigated by the parliamentary committee on national security as well as the prosecutor’s office. The reason for the investigation is that a Hungarian version of a video promoting ISIS, its cause, fighting methods, etc. was found among the documents of MNA. The problem for Jobbik is that at one point Jobbik had a loose organizational connection to the Army of Outlaws, and Toroczkai to this day has close ties with Zsolt Tyirityán, its leader. Apparently Jobbik no longer supports Toroczkai’s HVIM financially, but Toroczkai is still deputy chairman of the party. Zsolt Molnár, chairman of the parliamentary committee, instructed the national security people to investigate and report in two weeks on their findings. If a link between these extremist groups and Jobbik can be established, Vona’s party will have to weather some very hard times between now and the election.

November 10, 2017
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Michaelo Kaplan
Guest

Thanks for follow up on Jobbik. A leopard can not change its spots. The repulsive nature of the Fidesz “caricature” only under scores my disgust for both parties. As a 70 year old, I had hoped Hungary, let alone the USA would be further along the road to progress. How wrong I was!

petofi
Guest

@ M. Kaplan

Soon I will join in anno 70.

It’s only slightly amusing, but more massively demoralizing, that the notion of ‘progress’ has been blown to smithereens. Nowadays, I channel
the sadness of the intelligentsia after the book burnings of 1933–if anything, the present day descent into dementia is more pervasive.

And, (to bring the argument back to Hungarica…) the world leaders into moronicity are the lost tribe of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Hungaricoes.

HAJRA MAGYAROK!

Farkas
Guest
Vona’s Kabuki act is doomed to failure. Leopards can’t change their spots. The overwhelming majority of Jobbik members are viscerally antisemitic, anti-Gypsy, anti-Western, irredentist/Hungarist and neo-Nazi. This is integral to their sense of identity at the deepest personal and psychological levels. The reason why they joined Jobbik is precisely because they hate the Hungarian mainstream, even in its right-wing Fidesz form. Their attitude to mainstreaming is much like that of the Arrocross/Hungarist members to the governing Party of Hungarian Life between 1939 and 1945. So, in reality, when push comes to shove, Vona’s attempt to mainstream Jobbik could only have one of two outcomes, once the membership of Jobbik had a gutful of his Kabuki act. One possible outcome would be the hardcore, viscerally antisemitic and anti-Gypsy majority in Jobbik giving the shove to Vona. In that case Vona could swallow his pride, pull in his horns, accept the majority verdict on the party line and continue as a senior functionary in Jobbik. Alternatively, he could leave Jobbik and take the for him highly unpalatable and not a little humiliating option to eat crow and join Fidesz, together with his closest supporters. The other possible outcome would be the hardcore,… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

Of course it is not beyond belief that Vona is attempting to play a long game with his Kabuki act, and behind the scenes he is reassuring his people that this is all just a “sophisticated trick” to enable Jobbik get into power, which would be a necessary precondition for Jobbik to actually implement its hardcore antisemitic, anti-Gypsy, xenophobic and irredentist policies, rather than just gas on about them.

Even if that were the case, I still think that Vona would just be playing with himself, because I don’t believe the hardcore membership of Jobbik is “sophisticated” enough to wait it out patiently until Vona’s little games actually yield some tangible results.

Observer
Guest

Farkas

There are many examples of greater metamorphoses in politics, e.g. Henry the IV of France narrowly surviving the Catholic conducted massacres and then turning Catholic, Bonaparte’s path from revolutionary to Emperor, not to mention Orban’s having slept in all political beds, from rebelious liberal to fascist dictatorship.

Vona’s act to to turn around the Jobbik is a hard one, but already 30% of their voters base have changed. Give him a chance. Rigid, doctrinarian positions in politics are usually failed by the shifting realities, it is the art of the possible, remember.

Finally, anything is better than Orban’s monumentally corrupt, primitive dictatorship.

Farkas
Guest
Observer The logic of your position seems to point to a desperate hope for some kind of a Jobbik-led restoration of constitutional checks and balances, and of the rule of law in Hungary. Well, I suppose hope springs eternal, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I wish you the best of luck with Vona & Co, though to me the proposition that Vona could ever be some kind of an agent of constitutional salvation sounds both absurd and ludicrous. In any case, even with all of the left-wing fragments uniting with Jobbik in an effort to get rid of Orbán, it would still be most unlikely that such a unity ticket could ever muster the numbers necessary to actually defeat Fidesz. The best that could be hoped for in such a situation is that Fidesz would be denied a renewed parliamentary super-majority, but that still would not have got rid of Orbán. In any case, it is quite laughable and delusional to even dream of such a unity ticket in Hungary. It will never happen. Why not? Well, for one, there is the nature of Hungarians. Then there is the Curse of Turán (Turáni Átok). And for good measure… Read more »
Member

Well, it will be interesting to see how opposition will try to build cooperation… There are places where only Jobbik can beat Fidesz.

Caprice Goldberg
Guest

Eva,
I believe that your post contains what is likely a typo, Horn was prime minister 1994-1998 when Orban first rose to power. Your post claims 1998-2002…

petofi
Guest

Why is it that, to think of Hungary and Hungarians, is to enter the world of
Hieronymus Bosch?

Ferenc
Guest

Re: Hieronymus Bosch
In the spring of last year (2016 April, so before I saw those horrible blue referendum billboards in HU) I visited the exhibition in his Dutch home town ‘Den Bosch’, almost all his paintings were there. Absolutely brilliant!! Remember even some Hungarians were entering, I heard them speaking to each other, when I went through the exit.
Unfortunately his famous The Garden of Earthly Delights (in Prado, Madrid) couldn’t be transported to the exhibition. To compensate a virtual tour through it was made available online, it’s still there, so have a trip through this amazing painting:
https://tuinderlusten-jheronimusbosch.ntr.nl/en

petofi
Guest

@ Ferenc

I will check out the website, but I did see the original in the Prado sometime in the late 90s.

wrfree
Guest

Interesting point petofi! A very very close look on to the ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ marries the medieval with the modern angst of life on earth today. And the more things change arguably the more they stay the same or in his case it can get worse.

HB’s visual allegory shows the signs of the Magyar times where many things are just weird and strange as history moves on and affects everyone from low to high. No one escapes his brush as Bosch paints evil in all its fantastic imaginary guises. And he sure has some hellish visions for modern man as we push the envelope towards greater and greater excess. Bosch in that paints the nightmare.

Ferenc
Guest

IMHO there’s one essential difference between Hieronymus Bosch and the ‘current painters of the Hungarian society.
HB (is thought to have) made, his paintings to warn people about the evils around, so trying to prevent them from doing ‘the wrong things’.
‘Current painters of HU society’ are claiming to do similar (warning about ‘evil migrants/foreigners/liberals’), but actually (for their own gain) pushing ‘their people’ to do ‘the wrong things’ and even preparing them for more and more in the future…

PS: hope soon more and more people in Hungary will realize that they’re used in ‘the wrong painting’!!

Guest

A more contemporary comparison might be 1984 – Orwell meant this as a warning too (after he left the English communist party btw …) but Fidesz and others see it as a user’s manual!

And these people are not controlled by Putin – they are xenophobic, homophobic etc and they want their world to be like that!
The logic of the deplorables is difficult to understand by us liberals etc – just as I could never really understand what makes people so religious when they see what their religious leaders have been doing …

wrfree
Guest

And if by any chance there is some modicum of introspection sometimes it comes down to having the weird and imaginary to utterly show the dark realities coursing through a society. HB pretty much has it covered when it comes to ‘deadly’ sins.

wrfree
Guest

Re: the parties… Fidesz and Jobbik

Who knows right now if the crocodiles will eat the rats. But if it happens the left in a way should hope for the sickness to manifest itself in the body ‘patient’. When you are sick and you eat unpalatable things it puts a finite outlook onthings.

One cannot be so out of touch to know a linkup between the two will exacerbate the worst we’ve already seen in the guvnors’ political stewardship. It is then that perhaps the country will truly see in high relief the continued results of the politics of stoking hatreds. That will be a double-barreled prognosis of things to come.

David North
Guest

It makes perfect sense for Jobbik to move towards the centre, which is why Fidesz is doing what it can to undermine the process. Equally, if the nutcases reassert themselves in the party, it will lose its new support. The fact is that a lot of people I know are desperate to be done with Orban and daily mourn the posturing leaders of the centre-left who are incapable of getting their acts together.
Parenthetically a note of thanks to Eva Balogh. I know how difficult it must be to get up every day and research and write the blog. But it is wonderful to receive these regular insights into what is going on.

petofi
Guest

Jobbik only does what PUtin/KGB tell him…

tappanch
Guest

Nov 10, 2017:
“Fitch Revises Hungary’s Outlook to Positive; Affirms at ‘BBB-‘”

“Foreigners owned 38% of central government debt in August 2017
(including 22% in foreign currency and 17% in local currency) versus 56% in 2014.”

https://www.fitchratings.com/site/pr/1032177

Let us look at the official Hungarian numbers,
2017-08 vs 2014-08.

First remark: the 22% is actually 22.59%, which should be rounded to 23%.

(“deviza” debt + other, non-forint debt)/(total debt as reported by AKK):

(22.59% +1.63% = 24.22%) vs (40.46%+0.45% = 40.92%), so
indeed, this looks like a tremendous improvement in the foreign exposure.

But look at the value of the debt in euros:

(foreign reserves of the central bank)/ (value of the non-forint debt):

(22.226/20.379 = 1.091) vs (35.535/31.751 = 1.119), and this ratio actually shows deterioration !

At the same time, the EUR value of the HUF debt has grown by 39.1% in the last three years.

In billions of euros:

HUF debt: 63.773 vs 45.848
non-HUF debt: 20.379 vs 31.751
foreign reserves: 22.226 vs 35.535

tappanch
Guest

“In mid-July this year the EU’s Committee on Monetary, Financial and Balance of Payments Statistics (CMFB), an advisory committee to the European Commission and the European Central Bank, released an opinion classifying Hungary’s state import-export bank, Eximbank, as a “captive financial institution controlled by government.””

“Eximbank –
is 100% owned by the state,
has limited autonomy in its main corporate policies,
acts on behalf of the state for public policy purposes […],
is constrained regarding its assets and liabilities, and
is a non-market producer.”

“If Eurostat included “Eximbank’s debts in the state budget it would necessitate a retroactive adjustment to Hungary’s 2016 year-end GDP to public debt ratio, increasing it by as much as 2-2.5 percentage points.”

https://budapestbeacon.com/cmfb-calls-hungarys-state-owned-eximbank-a-captive-financial-institution/

petofi
Guest

@ Tappanch

re: 38% of debt owned by foreigners

I’d be willing to wager that a huge portion of that foreign debt is held
by persons in New York/Jersey with a Russian patronymic…

Helpful, the Russkies, ain’t they?

petofi
Guest

Did anyone say Mikhail Prokhorov?
A Russian spending billions to live in Jersey (rather than Miami)?
No kidding…

petofi
Guest

Have you heard? The Hungarico tourist operators are offering 1/2 price holidays to Madagascar…

tappanch
Guest

EximBank+MEHIB liabilities on December 31, in billions of HUF

Financial statements in Hungarian [in English]
2009: 216.404 + 11.088
2010: 194.696 + 11.151
2011: 196.413 + 11.962
2012: 261.712 + 13.769
2013: 400.352 + 15.620
2014: 627.034 + 14.393
2015: 843.197 [827.439] + 13.230
2016: 940.864 [928.646] + 17.661

https://exim.hu/rolunk/kozerdeku-adatok/eves-jelentesek/eximbank
https://exim.hu/rolunk/kozerdeku-adatok/eves-jelentesek/mehib

tappanch
Guest

Eximbank (only) liabilities as % of GDP

2009: 0.82%
2010: 0.72%

2011: 0.70%
2012: 0.91%
2013: 1.33%
2014: 1.94%
2015: 2.48%
2016: 2.69%

tappanch
Guest

Closer to the truth, Debt/GDP
(not counting the December 31 manipulations)
(not counting the effect of the new calculation of the GDP since September 2014)

2011-05: confiscation of private retirement accounts by the state
2013-12: total consumption of the confiscated accounts

Headline “Maastricht” debt + Eximbank liabilities + consumed confiscated private retirement accounts
on December 31 of each year

2009: 77.84+ 0.82 = 78.66%
2010: 80.48+ 0.72 = 81.20%
2011: 80.67+ 0.70+ 8.03 = 89.40%
2012: 78.20+ 0.91+ 1.29 = 80.40%
2013: 76.60+ 1.33+ 1.05 = 78.98%
2014: 75.66+ 1.94 = 77.60%
2015: 74.72+ 2.48 = 77.20%
2016: 74.05+ 2.69 = 76.74%

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