HOPE not hate

Political

Country in focus: Hungary

By Graeme Atkinson and Jens Breuer | August 2012


Hungary is tilting far to the right and presenting a major headache for the European Union.

The ruling conservative Fidesz Party (Hungarian Civic Union) government of Viktor Orbán wields a two-thirds majority and continues to turn the fledgling central European democracy upside down with dramatic constitutional changes tightening its grip on power and pushing to install an authoritarian and nationalist political culture.

Founded in 1988 as a libertarian, anti-communist organisation that sought inspiration from Liberal parties in western Europe, Fidesz began its shift towards hard right conservative positions in 1994. Just four years later, the party was in government, Orbán was prime minister and some of the policies now being implemented were being floated.

Fidesz’s ethnically-based citizenship policy is one example. In 2001, Orbán’s government adopted the “status law” making Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries eligible for benefits and services when they travelled to Hungary.

And, even before Fidesz’s formal takeover of government, the Hungarian Parliament decided, in May 2010, that “Hungarians living abroad” would be able to acquire Hungarian citizenship from 1 January 2011. By October 2011, more than 150,000 applications had been made.

At the next general election scheduled for 2014, these “new Hungarians” will also be allowed to vote. In January this year, the Budapester Zeitung revealed that, according to a survey of the 1.1 million eligible Hungarians living in Romania, as many 55% of them would reward Fidesz with their vote.

Of particular importance for the advance of both Fidesz and its fifth wheel, the nazi Jobbik party, were the protests against the then premier Ferenc Gyurcsány and his mainly Socialist coalition government in September and October 2006. Violent demonstrations took place for weeks, incited by Fidesz and its extreme right-wing allies.

Orbán and the extremists managed to win the streets for themselves and, in the 2010 parliamentary elections, in alliance with the Christian Democratic Party, won 263 of the 386 seats.

Since then, Fidesz has pressed ahead to railroad through a host of constitutional alterations. Using its majority, Fidesz has codified its flat-tax policy, hammered unprecedented government controls over the judiciary and the media into place, removed any meaningful parliamentary checks on legislation, and severely threatened the autonomy of cultural, media and civic institutions.

The very weak opposition is systematically sidelined and critics silenced with a new media law. Fidesz is filling important state offices, especially in the judiciary and in the cultural domain, with its own people as soon as the previous office holders or employees retire or have been dismissed.

None of this has escaped the attention of international bodies, with the EU, the Venice Commission and the US government all expressing deep concern at the developments in Hungary.

Nor has Fidesz improved Hungary’s economic plight. Battered by the world crisis, the economy is shrinking, there is a huge deficit, the jobless tally is 11.7% and Orbán is angling for a big International Monetary Fund bailout.

Sitting in the wings, with 47 seats and sometimes supporting Fidesz but mainly savouring its failure is the nazi Jobbik party. Its leader, Gábor Vona, sells it as “national-Christian”, “anti-EU” and “anti-globalisation”. Openly anti-democratic it is also virulently anti-Roma and antisemitic with links to Nick Griffin’s BNP in Britain.

Jobbik’s fixation on the Hungarian nation and the national identity is used to demarcate ethnic Hungarians from the Roma and to some extent from Jews and facilitates the party’s propaganda for a “Greater Hungary”, overturning the post-WW1 Trianon Treaty which cut Hungarian territory by 72%.

The organisation sees Hungary threatened not only from abroad, but also by enemies within: Roma, who it regards as “criminals” and “anti-social” and Jews who are supposedly the agents of foreign powers and “not welcome here”, communists who allegedly tried again to force Hungary under the yoke of a dictatorship and finally, homosexuals who allegedly try to pervert decency.

Unique among European nazi organisations, Jobbik has its own uniformed private army, the Hungarian Guard, founded by Vona in June 2007. The Guard, which uses the infamous Árpád stripes insignia of the wartime Hungarian Nazi Arrow Cross Party. The Arrow Cross collaborated with the Nazis and was responsible for the murder of thousands of Hungarian Jews in the Holocaust in which over 450,000 Hungarian Jews perished.

The Hungarian Guard was banned in 2009 but has reappeared and frequently invades Roma villages, terrorising local people. Guardists – along with supporters of the outlawed Blood & Honour network – have been implicated in racist murders of which there have been at least nine – two of them children – in the past four years.

Jobbik has international links via the Alliance of European National Movements together with the British National Party, Tricolour Flame (Italy), Republican Social Movement (Spain), National Renovator Party (Portugal), National Democrats (Sweden), Svoboda (Ukraine) and the Freedom Party (Finland). It also has relations with convicted Italian Terrorist and Forza Nuovo boss Roberto Fiore and the regime of Iranian Holocaust Denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Fascists occupy Gyöngyöspata

Fascists occupy Gyöngyöspata


Hungary key facts

Parties

There is only one fascist party with national relevance – Jobbik

Jobbik

Hungarian Party of Justice and Life (MIÉP)

Other organisations

Key figures

Media


Map of the far-right in Hungary


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