Hungary: Right make gains

Issue 

Hungary’s nationalist Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) party has won 17% of the vote in national elections, placing it third after the right-wing Fidesz party and the incumbent governing Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP).

Hungary's nationalist Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) party has won 17% of the vote in national elections, placing it third after the right-wing Fidesz party and the incumbent governing Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). Fidesz's result of 52.8% in the first round translated into 206 seats in the 386-seat legislature.

The MSZP, which has imposed regressive austerity measures in return for loans from the US-dominated International Monetary Fund, was far behind with 19.3% and 28 seats. Jobbik won 26 seats and 16.7% — more than three times as much as any other far-right party since 1990.

In late 2008, the MSZP administration received a standby loan of 20 billion euros from the IMF and other institutions. In return, it unleashed a savage wave of public-sector cuts and other austerity measures to reduce the budget deficit.

Jobbik capitalised on a resurgence of anti-semitism and anti-Roma sentiment linked to mass unemployment — currently running at 11.4%. It campaigned on a populist platform of "self-determination" and opposition to the unfettered capitalism favoured by the IMF and the European Union. Jobbik, which is allied to the far-right British National Party in the European Union, was formed by veterans of the 1956 revolution and right-wing students in 2003.

It has a paramilitary wing, the Magyar Garda, whose uniforms are reminiscent of those worn in the 1940s by the Arrow Cross, Hungary's infamous wartime Nazi party.

The Garda's have held a series of confrontational marches through small countryside towns designed to intimidate their Roma populations and stop what Jobbik calls "gypsy crimes" — mostly petty thefts.

A series of murderous attacks killed six Roma people in 2008 and 2009. Hungarian Academy of Sciences sociologist Pal Tamas said that Jobbik was appealing to largely rural unemployed voters who, he argued, were projecting the ongoing economic crisis onto minorities.

Tamas said: "The party has played on the country's sense of wounded pride to make Roma and Jews the scapegoats for everything that has gone wrong, even if many Jobbik voters have never even seen a Jew." [Reprinted from the Biritish Morning Star.]

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