Hungary’s Jobbik continues major North American campaign

The far right Jobbik party’s politicians are engaging in their first major political tour of Hungarian diaspora communities in the United States, with stops in Boston, Washington D.C. and New York City. In New York City, Jobbik Members of Parliament Gábor Staudt (who had previously given a highly controversial talk in Toronto) and István Szávay descended upon the offices of the Consulate General of Hungary, using Consul General Ferenc Kumin’s sitting room as the setting for their photo-op. Mr. Kumin, who is infamous for not tolerating any degree of criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, must have been silently fuming as he welcomed his visitors. Looking at their photos, I could not help but think that Jobbik, which told Hungarian American audiences that they were preparing to take power from Fidesz in 2018, was sending a message of strength with their appearance in Mr. Kumin’s office…to both the consul general and to his government back home.

Gábor Staudt (left) and István Szávay (right) are comfortable in Mr. Ferenc Kumin's New York office. Photo: Facebook.

Gábor Staudt (left) and István Szávay (right) are comfortable in Mr. Ferenc Kumin’s New York office. Photo: Facebook.

“We were informed  about the Consul General’s activities, including those in American Hungarian circles”–wrote Mr. Szávay on his Facebook page. It is worth noting that Mr. Staudt must have been especially interested in hearing about Consul General Kumin’s activities, as the Jobbik MP is the party’s foreign policy strategist. He was in New York, formally, to attend a forum organized by NATO. I searched the Consulate’s website for any news or information on the Jobbik visit to their offices, but could find nothing at all. The main news item on the Consulate General’s Facebook page was a new item and a photo from a Holocaust commemoration, with Kumin seated and chatting with filmmakers of a movie on Hungarian author Miklós Radnóti, who was killed during the Shoah.

Mr. Staudt and Mr. Szávay "take a stand" in Consul General Ferenc Kumin's offices. Photo: Facebook.

Mr. Staudt and Mr. Szávay “take a stand” in Consul General Ferenc Kumin’s offices. Photo: Facebook.

We wrote earlier this week about a Jobbik’s rally in NYC’s Árpád Hall. New York City and its vicinity is home to over 150,000 Hungarians. “That’s just as large as the entire Hungarian community in western Ukraine,” observed Mr. Szávay, strongly suggesting that Jobbik would be focusing on diaspora populations between now and 2018. In fact, according to a report in Magyar Nemzet, Jobbik’s “dialogue with Hungarians living in North America and western Europe will be just as intensive, as its relationship with Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin.”

“We will not let our enemies define us. Those who only know us from the media, will develop an image of us that is far from the truth,” said Mr. Szávay. Then, Mr. Staudt added that he was developing personal contacts with American politicians and is initiating private, sit-down discussions with them, in order to help them see Jobbik’s “new” and (on the surface) “more moderate” image and style. Mr. Staudt added that Jobbik was committed to engaging in a “dispassionate and factual” dialogue on the benefits and disadvantages of EU and NATO membership.

The most detailed report thus far on Jobbik’s North American tour was published by the far right website. It notes that the talk in Manhattan’s Árpád Hall was just one stop during their 10-day tour of the United States’ east coast. “We have now gotten to the point where we are stepping out of the Carpathian Basin, in order to collect experiences and information overseas,” said Mr. Szávay in NYC. “Jobbik will sooner or late win the election and we will govern Hungary. That’s why it is important for us to map out the needs of American Hungarians,” he added.

Mr. Staudt then remarked that after “opening to the East,” Jobbik is now “opening to the West.”

It is abundantly clear that by engaging in this 10-day tour and promising much  more contact with diaspora communities, Jobbik is striking right in Fidesz’s heartland. In the 2014 parliamentary elections, Fidesz won 95% of the nearly 130,000 votes that were cast by “new” Hungarian citizens in North America, western Europe and in places like Transylvania. Jobbik was a distant second with just 2.3% of the vote.

Jobbik has lots of room to grow in the diaspora…and I strongly suspect that it will. Perhaps that could be food for thought for Mr. Kumin, at his next citizenship ceremony in NYC.

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