The immortal saying (slightly adapted) “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the public” came to my mind when I read Jobbik president Gábor Vona’s recent announcement that he would like to depose the party’s three vice-chairmen because these gentlemen are “radicals” and would prevent Jobbik from becoming a major party.
In my opinion, Jobbik has as much chance of success as Salvador Dali would have had in front of a Cultural Revolution tribunal in Mao’s China. But before speaking of the party’s chances, the wisdom of its president or the awareness of the electorate, it is worth examining what we mean when a niche party or a party formed for a particular issue would like to expand and win over the general population for its program.
There are examples of such expansion. This usually happens to parties that are accepted by most of the population and formed around a certain task. Over time the task gains great popularity, the party expands its circle of interest and it manages to attract more and more people.
Jobbik calls itself a radical party. This self-designation might be accepted regarding certain matters but the voters are aware of the reality lined up behind the qualifier. Jobbik is an anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, racist, hungarist (the Hungarian version of fascism) formation, surrounded and supported by more violent satellites.
The different, growing but sometimes alternating “guards”, their thoughts and actions reminding us of Röhm’s SA, are inseparable from Jobbik. Vona has spoken about the significance of the various supporting uniformed gangs several times, and even now emphasises the importance of mutual support.
It remains a mystery why Vona, who wishes to raise the hungarist humbug to a national level, thinks that the voters find László Toroczkai, who led the demonstrators to the MTV’s headquarters in September 2006, and who was asked by Vona to run for vice-presidency in the party elections, or Zsolt Tyirityán, Vona’s other confidant, are less radical and more acceptable than the Előd Novák-István Szávay-István Apáti trio he wishes to get rid of.
When Tyirityán asks in connection with a potential conflict with Israel “Will we have the courage to shoot down a rotten, lousy Jew?”, don’t we hear the voice of Gábor Vona? Is there a person who doesn’t understand that the marionettes speak in the master’s voice?
What the president of Jobbik sees as the barrier to expansion, to become the “party of the people”, is the spirit of the party itself, the strength that holds together its voters. If the party’s relentless racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Romaism one day would disappear due to some miracle, then Jobbik could say goodbye to about 50% of its voters.
When Gergely Kulcsár, a Jobbik Member of the Parliament spat on a metal shoe set in remembrance of Hungarian Holocaust victims at the Danube bank, or said that “there’s a chance that someone from the Jew-hireling faction would demand that we stand up in the House to remember the victims of the alleged Holocaust lie”, it is not the action of a dishonest and unrealistic individual, but the personalisation of the party’s real and not so secret side. There is no Jobbik without the “virtues” listed above.
Naturally there are some parties where the party itself follows the road of civilisation but a few misguided souls are out of line. This in itself would not prevent the party’s expansion. But Jobbik is not such a party. It exercises history falsification and anti-Semitism at the highest level.
A Jobbik MP wants to collect a list naming the Jewish Members of Parliament. Why? Márton Gyöngyösi, MP and vice-president of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament (thus, in all likelihood, the would-be foreign minister of Jobbik), thinks it is questionable whether as many Hungarian Jews were murdered or deported during the Holocaust as the historians state, and that Israel’s policy regarding Palestinians “is identical to the Nazi system based on race hatred”.
And, of course, Israeli Jews are colonising Hungary. Zsolt Baráth, former Jobbik MP, noted regarding the shameful persecution of the innocent Jews of Tiszaeszlár that the judge was forced to pronounce an acquittal because of external pressure. So the party at all levels represents an idea, a kind of unified group hatred.
In addition to the undeniable ideology of Jobbik, there are other reasons that point to the failure of its attempt at becoming a governing party. They were a non-existing organisation a few years ago. Its present voters could be divided into three groups.
First, the well-tested, anti-Semitic, racist, partially ex-Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja (MIÉP) members about whom I wrote in the previous paragraphs. The second group consists of voters who live in regions with significant Roma population. Most of the crime there is committed by the Roma minority.
In these regions, the non-Roma Hungarians think that the work of the police is ineffective, or at least not sufficient, and the anti-Roma Jobbik, promising order and standing up to the Roma, seems to be a reasonable option.
The third major support group is made up of people who became losers after the end of the communist regime; people who fell down from the middle class, unemployed youth and leftist or even conservative-minded people facing hopelessness, who do not believe in the effectiveness of the traditional governing parties.
It would be wrong to stigmatise these people as far-right sympathisers or fascists. They simply joined the group that promised them some short-term benefits.
Regarding the first and second groups, they remain constant. There will be no more racists and anti-Semites in the short term. So these groups will not grow, and neither will Roma crime, nor the antipathy towards Gypsies.
As for the third group, as the country grows, as new jobs are created in the private and public sectors, the number of this group decreases accordingly. So it is unlikely that an increase in groups already linked to Jobbik would provide the necessary votes at election time for a major party. But then what would be the source?
Vona is not hoping for the sudden swelling of the above groups either. The new strategy, which gives him hope for more Jobbik voters, results from an incorrect assessment of Jobbik’s current positioning. Jobbik would try to seduce right-wing voters and non-voters sympathising with the right wing.
This experiment will not lead to success. There is a greater chance that at the end of the experiment we would welcome Jobbik as a minor party instead of a major one. As for the right-wing voters, for most of them the Fidesz-KDNP alliance seems to be an appropriate and comfortable place. Moreover, Jobbik is not a right-wing party.
Traditionally, both conservative and right-wing parties are believers in the Judeo-Christian ethics, and, to be honest, it is not Jobbik’s main direction to help the fallen or the minorities. It does not have to be explained that when Jobbik speaks of morality, the Judeo word is always left out.
It is unlikely that supporters of the Orbán government, after viewing the new, cute face of Jobbik, would vote for the disguised candidates of this party. Those voters of the tiny left wing, who were willing to move to Jobbik in their desperation, have been Jobbik voters for a long time now, and it is not advisable to count on the sudden conversion of the voters of other left-liberal parties.
In my opinion, Jobbik is now at the top of its power. The party formulating extreme ideas is unable to become a governing party, and banning their so-called “radicals” weakens its best bastion without being significantly strengthened with incoming prospective voters, who were held back from voting for Jobbik by the presence of some loquacious luminaries, and not the unacceptable ideas of the party.
From dwarf party to minor party, from minor party to dwarf party. This is the road I see as Jobbik’s future.
George F. Hemingway