Protesting alongside Jobbik is a risky move for the liberal opposition

There is no doubt that Jobbik, once a party of the far-right, now appears to be a more palatable choice for moderate conservatives than Fidesz, which today occupies the extreme right in both its rhetoric and policy. Whether the rejection of the far right represents a genuine change of heart on the part of Jobbik or merely a cynical move is, however, open to question. On Friday, Jobbik will hold a protest against a clearly politically motivated action on the part of the State Audit Office, which if not overturned, will bankrupt the party and make it unable to contest elections in 2018. “Let’s protest against the construction of the Orbánist dictatorship,” notes the promotional material for the upcoming demonstration. The small Együtt, Politics Can Be Different (LMP) and Momentum parties have all pledged to participate in the Jobbik protest out of solidarity, even though each party falls on the liberal or the centre-left side of the political spectrum. The liberal opposition needs to exercise caution when deciding whether to march hand-in-hand with Jobbik.

Gábor Vona, a Hungarian flag and the words: Viktor Orbán has not only attacked Jobbik, but also Hungarian democracy.

Jobbik will be using torches during their Friday evening march. For me, this brings back memories of Jobbik from its hard right days, when it unleashed the Magyar Gárda paramilitary group on the country. I remember watching a torch-lit Jobbik march in the streets of Budapest in 2009, as well as seeing photos of similar marches by the uniformed Magyar Gárda, striking fear in Roma communities. Gergely Márton of writes about the dangers for Gábor Vona, Jobbik’s increasingly soft-spoken and moderate leader, in tomorrow’s march. If symbols of the party’s far right past rear their ugly heads at the Friday protest, Mr. Vona will lose much credibility in arguing that Jobbik is, indeed, a bona fide and respectable conservative force. I would argue that the impact on parties like Együtt that march alongside Jobbik would be equally devastating and would probably further disenchant an already unmotivated liberal and left-centre voting base.

Even if Jobbik no longer had any extremists in its voting base, it would take next to no effort for a handful of Fidesz party youth to show up with extremist symbols, pretending to be fascistic Jobbik supporters.

Mr. Márton notes that Mr. Vona’s challenge on Friday seems almost insurmountable. He must at once draw a massive crowd in support of the party, so as to demonstrate that pollsters have been underestimating Jobbik support (which is currently languishing at around 15%, well below their 2014 election result). And whilst drawing a massive crowd, Mr. Vona must also ensure that embarrassing extremists stay home. Yet the larger the crowd, the greater the risk that someone will show up in an old Magyar Gárda uniform, with an anti-Semitic placard or some other relic of the far right.

On Friday evening, Jobbik will march to Fidesz party headquarters in Budapest’s Lendvai utca. This is a relatively narrow street and tight space, so a smaller-than-expected crowd will not look as discouraging, as if Jobbik would have decided to protest in the expansive Kossuth Square outside Parliament. During the party’s October 23rd commemoration, held on a rainy and cool day, the crowd was very small. Mr. Vona must hope that Friday, his call will have resonated with a much broader demographic and, indeed, with the right people.


  1. The fallacy of those on the Hungarian Left, who advocate going into bed with the Jobbik is a multidimensional sore. Another way of saying this is thatHungary’s democratic opposition is bleeding from many wounds. What if they win with Jobbik? Have they thought through how they would govern with a group, many of whose members are to the right of sanity and Attila the Hun? Winning is not the only thing that matters. Governing is the challenge, and to need to bring Hungary’s political culture into the 21st century. The governance challenge facing Hungary is enormous. The human capital for meeting that challenge is abysmal.

    Short term gain for long term pain is not what the people of Hungary need. But perhaps what is most disturbing about this greedy, opportunistic tactic is, that it demonstrates the persistent unwillingness of the Hungarian democratic elite to roll up their its sleeves and establish a national network, based on institutionalized presence in every voting district. This opportunistic marriage smells of the same ill advised pact, the Liberals made with the former Communists in 1994. Instead of working for their keep countrywide, they just went for the shortest route to the pork-barrel, to satisfy their appetite for power. While I respect the elderly Ágnes Heller as a philosopher, I find the strategic political advice given by her and the Budapest Left-Liberal intelligentsia, not only deplorable but catastrophic. The had 7 years to organize themselves, and blew it. Clutching at Jobbik straws now is the last straw.

    • This is so disheartening. I have a great deal of respect for people like Heller, but why are they so reckless and naive? Jobbik is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I can’t understand how intelligent people who have lived through the horrors of the twentieth century don’t see that.

  2. Is Hungary going to dis-integrate even before the EU, just like the Soviet Union ? Why not ? What else could they think of doing ?

  3. Oh, so Jobbik is suddenly worried about democracy and Orbán’s dictatorship, now that they may be next in line for extermination?? Too late, too bad.

  4. The fallacy of the argument above is that the issue here is the action of the regime, not the Jobbik, not the NGOs, not Altus/Dobrev/Gyurcsány nor any other particular entity threatened, harassed or repressed by the regime.
    The no-solidarity argument simply substitutes the issue and goes on to discuss the nature of Jobbik/the victim.
    Following this fallacious logic in the case of second time offenders we don’t have to strictly follow legal procedure because they are felons. From ancient Romans through John Adams to modern law they all disagree. Me too. I’m going this afternoon to protest against the Orban repression.

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