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Hungarian Press Roundup: Left-Jobbik Alliance Under Fire

Hungary Today 2019.02.18.

As PM Orbán and the President of the World Jewish Congress express mutual dismay over the prospect of an electoral alliance between the left-liberal side and Jobbik, commentators reassess the chances of that co-operation.

Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu

Background information: in his State of the Nation address earlier this month, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán described the rapprochement between the Socialist Party and Jobbik as a case of ‘political pornography’, while WJC President Ronald Lauder condemned those left-wing leaders who plan to co-operate with Jobbik, although the formerly radical right-wing party, he claims, has not clearly repudiated its early anti-Semitism.

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In his Figyelő editorial, political analyst Tamás Lánczi mentions the affair as one of the three points Prime Minister Orbán scored last week. The first was his ‘baby boom plan’ which was presented as an alternative to what the government claims are pro-immigration policies, designed to fill the gap created by demographic decline in Europe. The second point the Prime Minister scored, according to Lánczi, was a visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In the pro-government editor’s interpretation, it turned out that Washington doesn’t view the issue of the Central European University ‘as a cardinal matter’, while Mr Pompeo’s meeting with NGOs ‘described as belonging to the Soros network’ was a gesture to the Senate Democratic majority, ’more than anything else’. As to Mr. Lauder’s communiqué, Lánczi wonders what the President of the World Jewish Congress would say about the left-wing candidate for mayor of Budapest, who told a TV reporter that preparing lists of Jewish people in politics was not anti-Semitic. When asked whether he would accept support from Jobbik in his bid for the post of mayor, and whether he considered Jobbik vice president Márton Gyöngyösi’s proposal six years ago ‘to survey Jewish MPs who represent a national security risk’ a Nazi stunt (Gyöngyösi meant dual, Hungarian and Israeli citizens), Gergely Karácsony said such an idea was ‘not in itself Nazi’. Later on, he excused himself for having made ‘a grave mistake’.

In Demokrata, Péter Bándy writes that the incident put an end to ‘the great dream of the opposition’ to unite and face Fidesz together. In Hungary’s first past the post electoral system, the opposition cannot hope to defeat Fidesz as long as it is divided. Jobbik became increasingly accepted by the left-wing in the past year and especially during the protest rallies in December. The accusation of anti-Semitism has always been a major weapon of the left-wing opposition against conservative governments, which makes the acceptance of Jobbik as an electoral ally totally inconsistent, Bándy believes: He thinks that neither of the two elements of last year’s opposition ‘master plan’ will come true this year – Jobbik and the Left will run separately for mandates in the European Parliament in May, and they will not have a joint mayoral candidate in Budapest next autumn, he predicts.

168 óra’s Zoltán Lakner recalls that in last year’s parliamentary elections about one out of four Jobbik voters in constituencies where their party stood no chance of winning cast their votes for left-wing candidates, while left-wing voters were even more inclined to reciprocate. This is how in several rural areas support for the Socialist party sank below 10%. The problem is that as a result of such electoral alliances, the Socialist party might disappear from rural areas altogether. In other words, Lakner thinks Jobbik, apart from being a potential ally, is also a competitor for the Left. Fidesz owes its three consecutive electoral victories to the divided nature of the opposition and the current rapprochement between the Left and Jobbik potentially threatens the long-term dominance of Fidesz. On the other hand, Lakner thinks the Left cannot sincerely cooperate with Jobbik without the latter unequivocally repudiating exclusionist policies. But even setting those difficulties aside, he worries that such a strange alliance might leave ‘lasting traces on the already distorted political profile of this country’.