Dissolution of the Hungarian Guard may radicalize and mobilize the far right

2009-06-14

Key findings

  • The dissolution of the Hungarian Guard by the Tribunal of Budapest could be an efficient tool for the law enforcement bodies to fight against extremism in Hungary, as the Guard was Jobbik’s most efficient instrument for mobilisation and recruitment. The Hungarian Guard was a main factor behind the success of Jobbik at the EP-elections (catching 15% of the votes).
  • However, the binding decision has not yet created a legally unequivocal situation and the organisation will continue to exist in a semi-illegal or completely illegal form. Moreover, the inconsistency in the actions of law enforcement bodies may further popularise Jobbik’s rhetoric criticizing state institutions because of their failure to maintain order. The ongoing attacks against the police confuse the organisation and their contradictory decisions encourage the far-right which already communicates its actions as a “victory over dictatorship”.
  • The court’s decision might also fuel the devotion of former members of the Guard, radicalising even more. This can push Jobbik further to a more extreme position in their attempt to maintain the control over the already illegal and increasingly autonomous organisation.
  • Jobbik is facing a dilemma after its dissolution. By taking the Guard’s side the party risk the alienation a part of their voter base which is against unlawful acts. The coming months will thus test not only the strategy of Jobbik and the illegal Guard but also the ability of the state to hinder extremism and the voters’ reaction to radical tools that violate the rules of legal political actions.

 The political effects of the dissolution

  • The far-right Hungarian Guard movement will not cease to exist after the court’s decision. We have already warned in a previous analysis that even if the judgement of the court of first instance comes into force, the actions of the police against them will continue to stir controversy. Demonstrations can be held on the request of an individual and as we saw on the 4thand 11th of July demonstrations against the dissolution, the former members’ commitment has not wavered since the court’s decision.
  • Falling out of legal control. The verdict to dissolve the association removes one of the most important factors that could keep it in line: judicial process. With the absence of judicial control, the individual members of the Hungarian Guard will most likely become more extreme, holding more demonstrations and trying to pose as victims of unnecessary police brutality. The inconsistencies of the actions of law enforcement are also fuelling the daring of the Guard. While the police definitely broke up the demonstration of Jobbik and the Guard against the court decision, they idly stood by during the unlawful protest on the 11th of July which was celebrated as Jobbik’s victory over the state.
  • Jobbik leaders’ running after the Guard. The demonstration on the 4th of July was probably not the idea of far-right Jobbik’s leadership. Party leader Gábor Vona’s has no choice: he has to maintain control of the Hungarian Guard in order to integrate those favouring radical, even illegal actions and those agreeing with Jobbik’s goals but disapproving of unlawful acts. This dilemma will probably make Jobbik’s rhetoric more radical in their effort to keep their constituency together.
  • An unresolved contradiction on the far-right. Until now, Jobbik has been proposing radical solutions to existing problems, while presenting a legal and not reactionary formation to voters. In fact, the most important difference between radical groups has been about their attitude to the constitutional system and laws. So far, Jobbik has respected that, but  recently they had to follow Hungarian Guard on a route that goes beyond legal political solutions. For Jobbik, Hungarian Guard has worked as an integrating tool holding together a very diverse far-right constituency. This was clearly demonstrated by the results of the 2009 European Parliamentary elections where Jobbik catched nearly 15% of the votes, surpassing all expectations.
  • A dilemma for FIDESZ to handle Jobbik. The leading opposition party, FIDESZ is still unable to decide how to take the challenge. During the EP campaign, FIDESZ attacked Jobbik aggressively. However, according to the  election results, the strategy to marginalise them did not bear fruit. After this fiasco, the party’s attitude toward Jobbik remained ambivalent. After the demonstration on the 4th of July, FIDESZ questioned the lawfulness of police’s actions thus taking sides with Jobbik. The idea of cooperation was forcefully ruled out by the leaders of FIDESZ and the party also avoided direct confrontation while trying to sway Jobbik’s voters by bringing up similar topics.
  • A chance of radicalisation of the entire political system. A possible growth of Jobbik’s public support would imply that a large number of voters have such a strong distrust in police and courts that in a conflict between Jobbik and the officials they would take sides with the former. This may fuel the continuous radicalisation of Jobbik and may also prove assumptions that describe a public becoming more and receptive to extremist ideas. This may also move the entire political system and other political actors into a more radical direction and may also generate competition with Jobbik in the dimensions of the far-right agenda and tools.

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