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.
Hungary key facts
There is only one fascist party with national relevance – Jobbik
- Membership approximately 13,000
- 2009 European Parliament election 2009: 427,773 votes, 14.77%, 3 seats
- 2010 Hungarian Parliament election: First round, 855,436 votes, 16.67%. Second round, 141,323 votes, 12.26%, 47 seats.
- Jobbik’s newspaper is the weekly Barikád – circulation 10,000-11,000.
- The party’s youth organisation, Jobbik Ifjúsági Tagozat (Jobbik Youth Division) was formed in 2011.
Hungarian Party of Justice and Life (MIÉP)
- Established 1993 by well-known playwright István Csurka. Claims to be radical, nationalist, conservative and anti-globalist. In 1998 it passed the parliamentary threshold with almost 250,000 votes (5.5 %). In the 2002 elections, it dropped out of parliament. MIÉP gained only 0.03 % of votes in the 2010 elections. Csurka’s recent death is likely to spell its end.
- Hungarian Guard. Founded August 2007 – Banned December 2008. Since the ban the 700 strong organisation has splintered into numerous “Guard” organisations.
- Blood & Honour. Nazi skinhead organisation founded in 1998 and banned in 2005.
- Hungarian National Front (MNA). A nazi group founded in 1989 in Gyor. The MNA organises illegal military training.
- Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement (HVIM). Named in memory of Greater Hungary, HVIM is a fascist, antisemitic and racist youth organisation. Founded in 2001 by László Toroczkai, today an elected representative of Jobbik at county level, its honorary leader is György Gyula Zagyva, a Jobbik MP. One of its leaders, Béla Incze, was recently arrested for desecrating Soviet and Holocaust memorials in Budapest.
- Pax Hungarica. Re-established in 2008 after being banned in 2005, along with its forerunner organisation, Blood and Honour Cultural Association (B&HCA). The current leader of the movement is Endre János Domokos, formerly the leader of the outlawed B&HCA. Members sport Arrow Cross uniforms.
- Army of Outlaws (Betyársereg). A loose alliance of right-wing extremist groups. Founded by László Toroczkai, circa 2008, its the most prominent personality is Zsolt Tyirityán.
- Hunnia. Established in 2007 by György Budaházy and László Toroczkai, it was behind the “Arrows of the Hungarians National Liberating Army, against which various terrorism-related charges have been filed.
- György Budaházy. Flamboyant nazi leader of the Hunnia movement. At the end of May, 2012, György Budaházy, leader of the Hunnia movement, was fined for vandalising Budapest’s Soviet war memorial. He still faces terrorism charges.
- Lóránt Hegedüs Jnr. Rabidly antisemitic Calvinist priest and Jobbik member, Hegedüs blessed Hungarian Guard paramilitaries at a rally in Budapest in 2008. He is an admirer of Dezso Szabo, whose call to physically exterminate Hungary’s Jews in 1921 preceded Hitler’s, and hosted David Irving’s 2007 visit to Budapest.
- Gábor Vona. Leader of Jobbik since 2006, he is avowedly anti-democratic and openly anti-Roma and antisemitic. Wore banned nazi Hungarian Guard uniform in parliament and addressed nazi pogromists in Gyöngyöspata last year.
- Krisztina Morvai MEP. Elected to the European Parliament in June 2009 on the Jobbik ticket, and wore Hungarian Guard-style garb at her first appearance there. Morvai is infamous for her anti-Jewish outbursts.
- Magyar Hírlap. A right-wing daily that publishes antisemitic and anti-Roma articles.
- Kuruc Info. Kuruc. info is one of the most significant hate outfits operating in Hungary. Its main activity is the production of its “news portal” propaganda publication.