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Political Capital: Jobbik’s strategy is paying off

Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona (left) congratulates László Rig on his victory in Sunday’s parliamentary by-election

Political Capital writes that Jobbik’s success in the Tapolca by-election on Sunday is a sign that a critical base of Hungarian voters no longer sees Jobbik as an extremist party.

“Jobbik’s taboos that have kept a large portion of voters away from the party have now been broken down,” writes Political Capital. “[Sunday’s by-election] underscores our earlier position that there is no limit to the growth of Jobbik’s support base. Only rival parties can stop the trend in Jobbik’s growth but there’s no sign that this is happening.”

According to the think-tank, recent municipal and parliamentary by-elections are proof that Jobbik’s new campaign of toned-down extremism has broadened the far-right party’s support base. Jobbik has been employing this new strategy for about a year and a half.

While the watered-down approach has certainly caused division between party president Gábor Vona and Jobbik’s more openly extremist movers and shakers, the new direction is helping Vona secure his position within the party.  Political Capital believes the strategy is paying off.

The think-tank writes that Vona will likely emphasize Jobbik’s position as being an alternative center-right party–one capable of dethroning Fidesz.

Fidesz has no secret weapon

Fidesz’s political strategy has largely revolved around the notion that it dominates Hungary’s “central political power base”. However, opposition parties (representing opposing sides of the political spectrum) have now proven themselves as effective in positioning themselves as strong alternatives to Fidesz. After suffering three consecutive losses in elections with significant national implications, Fidesz can no longer rely on being the “central political power base”.

Political Capital writes that Fidesz’s popularity on a national level is likely worse than what was seen in the Tapolca by-election.

It has also become clear, says Political Capital, that Fidesz no longer has a secret weapon with which to mobilize voters. Neither the Kubatov list of right-leaning voters nor Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s personal campaigning were enough to mobilize Fidesz voters in numbers sufficient to secure a victory at Tapolca.

Political Capital writes that the Tapolca by-election is proof Hungary’s institutional stability depends on the power struggle between political parties, and not the opposite. This is important to note because, despite Fidesz’s best efforts to cement its power with a new electoral system, the system they created is as fragile as a house of cards if its supporters no longer stand behind the party.  Political Capital believes Fidesz will make further changes to the electoral system, but points out that in order to do so the governing party will need to find an opposition ally in parliament because it no longer commands a two-thirds majority.

Political Capital writes that over the last year Fidesz demonstrated its inability to find the “path of self-correction”.  The think-tank speculates that Orbán will likely employ tax cuts as his secret weapon in hopes of reversing his party’s sharp decline in popularity.

According to the think-tank, Fidesz’s internal conflicts, continuous governmental failures, the “voters will understand what we are trying to do at the end of our term” rhetoric, and the collapse of Fidesz’s media and opinion-shaping influence is starting to bear a resemblance to the left’s post-2006 government political decline.

It is also clear, Political Capital writes, that Fidesz does not know how to deal with Jobbik.  After years of simply not attacking Jobbik as its right-wing opponent, Fidesz chose to employ the left’s message of stigmatizing Jobbik by referring to it as “Jobbik, the neo-Nazi party”.

(Interestingly, Fidesz only started attacking Jobbik as a neo-Nazi party after the radical right-wing party toned down its extremism).

Political Capital writes that such attacks by Fidesz against Jobbik will continue. Fidesz may try to portray itself as the only party capable of preventing a further rise of right-wing extremism, a message that will no longer have credibility in Hungary or abroad.

Referenced in this article:

A Fidesz nem garancia a szélsőjobb ellen, pcblog.atlatszo.hu; 13 April 2015.

Benjamin Novak :