Monday, April 12, 2010

Hungary's Far-Right Jobbik Wins Big At Polls

The people have spoken in Hungary in weekend elections.  And their message is sending chills through Europe.  The far-right Jobbik party won a very impressive 16.7 at the polls.  That's just a few points below the lame duck Socialists, who were kicked out of power by the center-right Fidesz.  Bubbly with success, Jobbik leader, Gabor Vona, vows “very distinct and very spectacular politics”. He said that Jobbik would work on “a solution to the problems around Gypsy-Hungarian coexistence. That means eradicating Gypsy crime”.   The Gyspies, or Roma, were a major plank in Jobbik's "patriotic" platform.  A message that strikes a cord with not only Hungarians, but many in Europe where Roma live.

With his party's success at the ballots, Vona is in no mood to compromise.

Confrontational to the max, Vona said that he would wear the uniform of the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), Jobbik’s banned uniformed wing, at the opening of Parliament.

The Garda garb, and its Nazi sartorial sensibility, has been banned in Hungary and police have arrested its members at public gatherings.

Hungarians not sympathetic with the party's message, fear Jobbik will deal Hungary a p.r. black eye at a time it is struggling to deal with the blow administered by the global economic crisis. 

But as the Times reports, Jobbik are demanding their ideas be heard. 

Zsolt Varkonyi, a Jobbik spokesman, told The Times: “Even within the present political system there is a lot more room for manoeuvre than the previous Hungarian political forces have used so far ... We have to be part of the system to some extent to find out where those walls stand. We are convinced that lots of steps can be take before we reach that point.”

The Garda has been implicated in attacks and even murder of Roma, according to this Respekt piece.

Shortly after midnight on February 23, 2009 in the Roma village of Tatárszentgyörgy, an unidentified attacker set fire to a house using a petrol bomb. When the residents of the house attempted to leave the burning building, the attacker opened fire, killing a father and his four-year-old son. Since last November, there have been five murders of Romas, and every week brings fresh news of further attacks on Roma villages. The police have acknowledged that the attacks were organized by the Hungarian Guard.

Last November, Garda members clashed Roma residents in the northeast Hungarian town of Sajobabony, according to Hungary's MTI news agency

On their website, (in English, French, German and Russian), Jobbik complains they are being painted as Nazi-wannabes by the MSM.

Jobbik claims the Western press is missing the reasons for the party's success.

It can’t possibly be that Jobbik is the only party dedicated to tackling the endemic corruption that costs Hungarians 3 billion Forints every single day. No! We must be extremists.

It can’t be, at all, that Jobbik is popular because it was the only Hungarian party to raise such taboo subjects as renegotiating the national debt, extending our arable-land sale moratorium, or questioning the role that unrestricted cowboy-capitalism has played here. No! We must be anti-Semitic.

Jobbik’s success in rural Hungary can’t have anything to do with how we suggested both tackling the crime that exists there, through a Gendarmerie, and tackling the causes of that crime through educational and social-security reforms. Not to mention how we promote the restructuring of the agricultural sector to be the rural economy's backbone. No! We must be anti-Roma racists.

Jobbiks is tapping into frustrations of average Hungarians over the dim economic prospects.

Unemployment is 11.4, one of the highest in eastern Europe. 

To deal with the crisis, IMF-prescribed bromides -- internal devalution in order to lower wages to make them 'competitive' -- are squeezing people further.

For example, Hungary now has Europe's highest VAT tax at 25%.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has less than rosy economic prognostications for the eastern European region for years to come. 

“The consequences of the world economic crisis will burden this region more than the rest of the world in coming years,” declared the chief economist of the EBRD, Erik Berglöf.

In its Transition Report, issued at the beginning of November, the EBRD examined the reasons why central and eastern Europe had been hit particularly hard by the crisis. One of the main problems identified by the ERBD was the manner in which economies in the region had been financed in those years when they experienced sustained growth.

This growth was made possible almost entirely by foreign direct investment. As a result, many national economies in eastern Europe collapsed when foreign investment suddenly stopped following the eruption of the global financial crisis. The EBRD expects that in the coming months the current outflow of capital from the east back to western banks will continue.

Given the backdrop it's no wonder the far right is making inroads in eastern Europe.

According to data from Political Capital Research, Bulgaria with the highest degree of far right support at 25%. Hungary is next at 21%, followed by bankrupt Greece at 15%.

As this policy paper spells out, the far right is cashing in on fears over globalization and migration among other taboo topics among more 'mainstream' political parties.

The rise of the new radical right partly reflects the insecurity and instability brought about by rapid social and economic changes and a technological revolution that has resulted in the re-structuring of the world economy.

As the global gap between rich and poor widens, far right parties like Jobbik will find more and more people willing to listen to their message.

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