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Jobbik is doing a bad makeover job

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November 24, 2016 23:28

Could extremist party Jobbik be transforming itself into a credible right-wing force?

In April, the Hungarian party won a constituency seat in a by-election — a major breakthrough for a party that has long sought to get a foothold in mainstream politics.

Following the victory, party leader Gabor Vona seized on the chance to distance Jobbik from its antisemitic traditions. Mr Vona spoke of certain “wild offshoots” in his party that would be suppressed, and that there was no place for those seeking “Nazi romances”.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Mr Vona claimed: “With time, the [extremist] elements of Jobbik you may see as prevalent will fade because they no longer find their calling here.”

This attempt at detoxification, à la National Front in France, has convinced few observers, however. Political analyst Peter Kreko says: “The hardcore antisemitism, the hardcore anti-Roma sentiments, are still present in Jobbik, they simply display it less prominently.”

As part of its deliberate makeover, the party appears to have realised that there is no worse stigma than antisemitism in international politics, said Mr Kreko, adding that the failings of ruling party Fidesz had given Jobbik an opportunity. “Jobbik can win a lot more voters from the centre, which is left free at the moment by Fidesz, because as Jobbik’s politics becomes more tempered, Fidesz has become more radical.”

Despite his new rhetorical direction, following his interview with Reuters Mr Vona claimed that he had been mis-represented and that he “never stated that the nationalist, radical-minded people in the party must leave”.

In addition, Mr Vona recently labelled Pazmany Peter Catholic University’s decision to make Holocaust history compulsory a “provocation”.

Jobbik’s make-up has changed very little, with MPs such as Marton Gyongyosi, who has been expressing antisemitic and anti-Zionist sentiments for years, remaining in the party’s leadership.

Given that recent polls show a 250 per cent increase in the popularity of Jobbik in the past three years, its makeover project is all the more worrying.

November 24, 2016 23:28

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