Scare-mongering marches, stomping boots, uniforms, neo-Nazi symbols, antisemitism. This is the image circulating in the Western press of the Jobbik for Hungary Movement (in short: Jobbik), and because of this, many believe it to be some far-right hoofed devil. It has been the political interest of the Hungarian left-liberal circles and now also of the current government to portray Jobbik as a dangerous far-right party. But the reality is that Jobbik is the strongest opposition party, and the second strongest party in Hungary. This doesn’t mean though that far-right ideologies are gaining in strength in Hungary. The Orbán government, which has been in power since 2010, perfected the corruption mechanism of the left-socialist governments, centralising power with a clique of party cadres. The Jobbik for Hungary Movement has become the government-replacing alternative which could take the place of this new elite.
The President of Jobbik, Gábor Vona defines his party as a modern conservative one, and started a “real national consultation” about health care, corruption and education. It’s a less known fact for the Western press that Jobbik was the first to warn of the dangers of migration and urged a strong, strict border control.
But the Orbán government needed migration like a breath of fresh air. Jobbik celebrated a big victory after it won its first individual mandate in the by-election in Tapolca on April 2015 and its rise was broken only by the heightening migration in the summer of 2015. The party quickly realised the danger threatening the country and Europe. László Toroczkai, the mayor of Ásotthalom – who back then was only close to Jobbik, but who now has been elected the party’s vice-president – had urged the strengthening of the Hungarian-Serbian border and the building of a fence even before the migration crisis became a mass phenomenon. Perceiving that migration was reaching a critical level, Jobbik suggested the government commit the army and re-establish the border guard. But Prime Minister Viktor Orbán hesitated for a long time and acted only after the busiest train stations of Budapest were flooded with migrants, shocking the public. The government decided to put up the border fence and commit the army, but is still adamant about not re-establishing the border guard despite Jobbik’s demands.
The Orbán government still managed to sell itself both in Hungary and abroad as the guardian of the borders and this contributed a lot to the fact that they could break Jobbik’s strengthening, cover up the rapid enrichment of pro-government oligarchs and institutionalized the corruption that is permeating the whole Orbán system. Both the referendum against the mandatory resettlement quota and the amendment of the constitution started as suggestions of Jobbik. The government rejected them in the beginning, but later propagated them as their own standpoint. In the end, they lost the referendum against the mandatory resettlement quota, because even though the majority rejected the quota, it was invalid due to the low turnout. As the government had started propagandising its success, it put the blame on Jobbik for the invalidity. In fact, the reason for the low turnout was rather the government’s lack of credibility and its embarrassing corruption cases. The constitutional amendment, which was aimed at protecting against the mandatory resettlement quota, also failed. Jobbik was unwilling to support a proposition that didn’t scrap the government’s residency bond scheme. The opposition party stuck to its opinion that “neither poor, nor rich migrants” could settle in Hungary. The Orbán government rejected the compromise and since the first parliamentary vote in November 2016, it has twice thrown out the constitutional amendment proposition of Jobbik, which would have made any relocation impossible.
“We always have to be where the people are”, says Gábor Vona, the President of Jobbik. In addition to the fight against corruption, he has deliberately made it the program of his party to solve the problems that concern Hungarian society the most. In the framework of “real national consultation”, the party initiated a discussion with the representatives of the mentioned areas, heads of institutions, doctors, teachers, trade union leaders and also sent questionnaires to all Hungarian households. Gábor Vona is so serious about having contact with people and getting to know their everyday problems, that he announced that during the 18 months that are left until the next parliamentary elections in 2018, he will make a personal commitment each month. For all his commitments, he will tour the country “incognito” and spend a day “on the ground”. First, he visited the southern border with the field guards in the border town of Ásotthalom. During his previous tours, he worked as an ambulance man, a shop assistant, a waiter, a bricklayer, a keeper of a market stall, a caregiver for elderly people, a public works labourer, a logger, and he also took part in loading and distributing social firewood. Jobbik’s president has stated several times that the goal of his tour is not to lose touch with people and reality as a politician and to understand the problems of the sectors by working in them. This is the main thing that distinguishes him from Viktor Orbán, who is surrounded by billionaires and whose powerful clique is increasingly diverging from everyday life.
Today Gábor Vona is obviously the biggest challenger of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and in the last six months has turned the Hungarian parliament into an arena for their battle of words. After their increasingly inflamed fights, it’s especially interesting to read again the words of Viktor Orbán from 2003, when – as the most influential leader of the opposition – he gave his opinion about the university-educated youths that had formed Jobbik.
“I think I see an honest, decent youth who are committed to the national interest and are looking for a deeper meaning of life. I really wish for them to be successful in life and for their public endeavours to be crowned with success.”
It’s not unimaginable that the present Viktor Orbán remembers now his already 13-year-old words, because Jobbik is preparing to replace the government in 2018 and for the first time in its history, it has a realistic chance to do that.