The state of votes
Where one must choose between the easy path and the right path
Farkas Zsolt|translated by: Böröcz Dorottya
The right turned left: That’s hard to justify!
Vincze Márton| translated by: Böröcz Dorottya
Farkas Zsolt | translated by: Böröcz Dorottya | 2018. January 22. 22:00
Some might ask whether it is beneficial for a party to go against its former policy that provided loyal voters but never a victory? Would it be advantageous to reform its firm and uncompromising attitude in the context of a tight democratic race of parties, or even to renounce it completely? My answer is yes.
In my opinion, while Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary) has taken a serious blow in the political arena, this does not mean that it was utterly defeated by its governing opponent, aspiring to build a single-party state. As one can speed up the most on a sledge while racing downhill, similarly in politics, one can soar to the greatest heights from the deepest depths – this is what I believe Gábor Vona and his party, Jobbik, are doing currently.
It is evident to all that Jobbik begun its career as an unacceptable party to the „public at large”. We must acknowledge that Jobbik started out as a clearly radical party. Following the fall of the left-wing parties in 2010, Jobbik’s policy managed to get 47 of the party’s candidates into Parliament (which had 386 members at that time), yet on the long run this did not enable Jobbik to really exercise political power. Despite the fact that Jobbik’s share in the Parliament has gone up from 16,67% to 20,3% in 2014, due to the regulations redrawing the voting districts in 2011, this higher percentage only meant 23 representatives.
Although Vona and his followers could have been content with this inconsequential growth, Jobbik initiated massive changes to its profile in the parliamentary cycle starting in 2014 (it is unclear whether this initiative came from the party leader himself or from his communications staff). Even though the migration crisis starting in 2015 could have completely justified Jobbik’s further radicalization and increased their xenophobia, Gábor Vona and his party did not follow this course. At the onset of the migration crisis, Jobbik did not commit itself to the stance expected by many of its supporters – which is interpreted by many as a mistake. Maybe this is due to the fact that Fidesz has already done so and the opposition did not want to follow the lead of the governing party. It is also possible that Jobbik acted out of conviction. The point is that the party has abandoned their noncompromising idealistic politics and has stepped onto the way of becoming a people’s party.
We got back to the original question: is Gábor Vona steering his party, Jobbik, in the right direction? Was it right to leave the path laid down by the more radical Hungarians, comprising its loyal base voters? Some might say „no”, but my answer is „definitely yes”. Although I consider myself to be right-wing and conservative, I was never able to identify with Jobbik’s former nationalism, which occasionally turned into racist radicalism. In my opinion, radical political behaviour is unnecessary in a democracy. I was delighted that the party with a likeable motto („The future cannot be stopped”), but with less welcoming methods has begun its rebranding. I believe that in a democratic rule-of-law all parties should learn the art of compromise. In such states, radical political movements, rejecting all kinds of common points and agreements, have no place. Jobbik probably figured out that this is why the number of their voters remained stagnant. Radical parties can rarely ever prevail in a modern state of rule-of-law, even in Hungary. 20% of votes will not be enough to change the government, no matter how much Jobbik insists on its principles, because its pre-2015 policy is by far not popular among Hungarian citizens.
I find Jobbik’s turnaround advantageous from a political science student’s perspective too. As I have already mentioned, for a party to be successful on the long run in a democracy or to become the governing party – no matter how antipathetic it seems for the average individual -, it has to compromise. I believe that by softening its policy and by getting rid of its more radical attributes and politicians, Jobbik has come significantly closer to form a coalition able to replace the current governing coalition, even by means of reconciling leftists and rightists. Jobbik as the strongest opposition party could get the role of the coalition leader and Gábor Vona’s minister-presidency could become a reality. If somebody would be skeptical about the emergence of such a coalition, they should remember the opposition parties’ joint demonstration on the 15th of December 2017, which was initiated by Jobbik, but at the same time LMP (“Politics Can Be Different”), Együtt (“Together – Party for a New Era”) and Momentum Movement were also present, all of which possess a completely disparate political worldview from Jobbik. As Róbert Puzsér said on the demonstration „the skinhead, the gypsy and the rabbi who get together in order to save the rule of law”. This event of historical significance radiates the sense of unity and the feeling of belonging, though it cannot be called an electoral collaboration yet. If anybody after this demonstration doubts that Gábor Vona and Jobbik were right in changing their political profile, then that person might not have a place in a developing rule-of-law state.
Vincze Márton | translated by: Böröcz Dorottya | 2018. January 22. 22:00
Jobbik (meaning “Better”, short for “Movement for a Better Hungary”) came to life in 2003 as a radical far-right party, but in the past few years, it had significantly softened its policy. Gábor Vona, Jobbik's leader is now trying to form an alliance with the left-wing in hopes of a victory in the 2018 elections. Some thoughts on Jobbik’s two-faced party politics.
We were disappointed to see how the parties founded after 1990 quickly burnt out, got corrupted and empty, turning their coats and deviating from their philosophical routes.” – states Jobbik Movement for a Better Hungary's Founding Charter („Manifesto”).
Certainly, only a few will notice that the quote above is in the past tense. However, in the face of Gábor Vona's shifting to the left, one must think that choosing the past tense was intentional! The founders of the Movement were disappointed to observe the abovementioned phenomena up until they got into politics.
The question is what the party's former voters have to say about Jobbik’s turncoats. They must, with all certainty be disappointed because it is hard to explain how a previously radical party turned to the left after its failed attempt at becoming a people’s party. Especially, if we take into account other statements from the Manifesto. For example, that Jobbik aspires to be "the conscience of the current rightist government in Parliament". Conscience is a moral guideline, a set of values that serves as a permanent benchmark for determining whether our actions were right or wrong. A permanent benchmark is rarely drifting to and fro, or let's be honest, from right to left.
Browsing the Manifesto further, one can find out that "the primary challenge for Jobbik Movement for a Better Hungary is to remove the successors of the Communist party and the extremist liberals". Following the get-together in the Spinoza café with the left-wing, the voters have all the right to think that Jobbik's history is also shaped by deviations.
But let's not be so strict! Let's give one more chance to find other explanations for Jobbik's behaviour, besides their politics simply hollowing out. Let's list all the reasons that could explain to Jobbik's former voters how a far-right, radical party could join with the left-wing after failing at becoming a people’s party.
Maybe Gábor Vona has recognized that Jobbik is not abiding by its Manifesto, according to which the party wants to "show the nation's vision for the future, thus our political agenda will represent the entire nation". He has found out that racism and antisemitism hardly match the idea of representing the whole nation. To resolve this contradiction, Vona would now be willing to represent the left-wing too. The problem is that he still excludes the numerous Fidesz-KDNP (current governing coalition) voters.
Gábor Vona has recognized that he didn't manage to reach the primary goal stated in the Manifesto, namely "to remove the successors of the Communist party and the extremist liberals" from politics. He changed his tactics and tries to infiltrate his numerous enemies and disrupt them from the inside. A clever scheme - we have to admit -, but then where does this leave Jobbik's open, sincere appearance?
The real explanation is that Gábor Vona is abandoning all morals and tries to act according to consumerist logic: "If I don't like it, I will find a new one". He simply abandons his former voters, because they could not provide him enough votes. It is true, that previously Jobbik claimed to detect multiple problems in Hungarian society and by promising to resolve these alleged issues the party was able to address enough citizens to get into the European Parliament in 2009 and to the Parliament in 2010. However, since this momentum was not sufficient to get Jobbik any higher, Vona lost his interest in his voters who had supported him and managed to get his party into Parliament. He does not want to resolve problems, he just wants to rise to power. If he did not manage this with his former voters, he will find new ones. It is true that having a "better future" is a nice thing, but having the Prime minister's velvet chair is even more appealing. It is doubtful though, that if Vona could somehow, sometime be a Prime minister, what would he do with the country he is entrusted with? If his interests would dictate so, would he replace his country, like he replaced his voters?
Gábor Vona has recognized that while he was taking advantage of thousands of vulnerable people by selling false “truths” and false hopes in exchange for trust and votes, Fidesz set Hungary on the path to prosperity by tangible and professional governmental actions. It must be hard for Vona to comprehend that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has stabilized Hungary and thus finished the "regime change" by 25. April 2011, increased welfare and protected the country against several challenges (Ajka aluminum plant accident, blizzard on the 15th of March last year, migration crisis, the double standards of Brussels or the imperialistic liberal attempts) and has strengthened the national unity. It has brought us a Better Hungary. Hence Jobbik's program has become pointless.
Hungary's position was stabilized in the last 8 years, a real regime change happened in 2011 and the Fidesz-KDNP government with Viktor Orbán as its lead has created in fact a Better Hungary. The plummeting support for Jobbik indicates this, as it is well-known that a radical party can scarcely prevail in a modern rule-of-law, which Hungary is. Gábor Vona, leader of an increasingly weightless party with a futile policy is desperately holding onto power. Why? We can find the answer in Jobbik's Manifesto: "Nowadays human egoism sets the course for the world." Even if this statement is not so categorically true for the whole world, it definitely is for certain leaders of Jobbik.
Farkas Zsolt|translated by: Böröcz Dorottya
Vincze Márton| translated by: Böröcz Dorottya
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