Far right veering off the rails

2010-11-16

“At this time Jobbik is the most unified party in Parliament,” said Gábor Vona, president of the ultra-right-wing party, on state television last Tuesday. On the surface this rings true: Jobbik’s leaders are not skirmishing with each other in public. But beneath this facade of unity, internal rifts are threatening to tear the party asunder.

Up in arms over Gárda

Tensions have escalated following Jobbik’s worse-than-expected performance in the 3 October municipal elections. The party was able to win only three mayoral races, just one of which – Tiszavasvári – was in a significant city. But party in-fighting had been going on for some time before the local ballot. Several members quit or were booted out of the party. Jobbik’s paramilitary wing, the Magyar Nemzeti Gárda (Hungarian National Guard), suffered a blow when a subgroup calling itself the Csend?rség (Gendarmes) broke off. What’s more, conflicts between Vona and Gárda captain József Ináncsi were made public by kuruc.info, a website close to Jobbik.

Part of establishment they hated

It seems Jobbik has been unable to cope with the “identity crisis” it has faced since winning election to Parliament last April. The party that rose to prominence on anti-establishment rhetoric has now joined the establishment; it has integrated into the very “system” it once held in contempt.

As an opposition party, Jobbik has proved oddly accommodating: its MPs voted with the governing Fidesz party 60 per cent of the time in the spring parliamentary session and they continue to support most government initiatives. By pandering to the very people it once sought to displace, Jobbik has lost its allure. It appears trapped behind the walls of parliament, no longer able to mobilise the masses by speaking on taboo topics in plain language.

The love of men in uniform

Another problem is the leadership’s decision to de-emphasise the Hungarian National Guard (the successor to the Magyar Gárda, which the courts banned in 2009). By moving away from the Guard, Jobbik is losing its main recruiting and mobilising tool.

Conflicts within

The desire to become a “normal” parliamentary party has opened conflicts between its moderate and radical wings. The “moderates” include former deputy caucus leader Lajos P?sze, a critic of the Guard who wants to move the party toward the centre. The “radicals”, such as Szeged county assemblyman László Toroczkai and MEP Krisztina Morvai, fancy themselves “freedom fighters”. Their current cause cél?bre is freeing György Budaházy, leader of a group that calls itself The Arrows of the Hungarians. Budaházy is in custody on charges of committing terrorist acts against left-wing politicians and police.

‘The compromisers & the brave’

The not-so-chummy relations between Jobbik’s factions are reflected in Toroczkai’s calumny against P?sze: “We must annihilate such politicians on our side with fire and sword,” he said in a 2 August interview with Szentkorona Rádió. “The struggle is clearly becoming increasingly tense between the so-called professional politicians… and the freedom fighters. Actually, I prefer to describe the situation as a struggle between the compromisers and the brave.”

So far Vona has managed to find equilibrium between the two groups. But in the future either the radical or the moderate camp may challenge his leadership. An 8 November article on hvg.hu reveals that hostility toward the “party elite” comes not only from the radicals but also from successful local chapters in the impoverished northeast. In percentage terms, Jobbik’s support in this region is twice as strong as in Budapest.

Momentum lost

Jobbik is facing its deepest crisis since entering parliament. The far right may fall back to its pre-2007 state: fragmented and divided, full of internal ideological and personal quarrels, and leaderless. Moreover, the political landscape has grown much less fertile for extremist ideas: Fidesz’s swift legislative tempo and its enthusiasm for symbolic nationalist measures has taken a lot of the wind out of Jobbik’s sails. Stronger public morale has reduced the appeal of its anti-establishment zeal.

This is good news for Fidesz because Jobbik’s challenge to its hegemony will grow weaker by degrees. It is also good news for the Hungarian Socialist Party, which gets a chance to strengthen its position as the main opposition group.

 

This analysis originally appeared on The Budapest Times.

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