Saturday

16th Feb 2019

Landmark win by Jobbik poses challenge to Hungarian PM

  • The Jobbik party has toned down its inflammatory rhetoric and sought to get rid of its image as a racist party in a bid to woo disillusioned Fidesz voters.
 (Photo: Leigh Phillips)

Hungary's far-right Jobbik narrowly won a by-election on Sunday (12 April) and is set to take on prime minister Viktor Orban’s ruling Fidesz as the largest opposition force in the country.

The constituency win - the far-right candidate beat the Fidesz challenger by just 300 votes - is a first for Jobbik and presents a major challenge to Orban and his right-wing party ahead of general elections in 2018.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“The mood is set for a change of government in Hungary and in Jobbik there is a force finally that can change the government,” party leader Gabor Vona told a cheering crowd of supporters in the town of Tapolca.

Jobbik has capitalised on the political landscape in Hungary where the left-wing opposition is fragmented and remains weak after consecutive election losses against Orban.

Meanwhile the Jobbik party has toned down its inflammatory rhetoric and sought to get rid of its image as a racist party in a bid to woo disillusioned Fidesz voters.


Support for Orban’s party has plummeted steeply in recent months amid general discontent about corruption or anger about ad hoc policies such as a proposed Internet tax.

According to a March poll, Fidesz has 21 percent support but Jobbik is snapping as its heels with 18 percent, and it is already the most popular party among voters under 30.

Meanwhile a fifth of Jobbik supporters say they voted for Orban’s party at last year’s general election, another poll found. 


Fidesz lost its all-powerful two-thirds majority in parliament at a by-election in February. Although it has ruled out working with Jobbik, the government has been borrowing some of its policy ideas, like building closer ties with Russia and introducing a public works programme.

Spy on the stand?

Jobbik has been repeatedly accused of being a proxy for the Kremlin and of having received funding from Russia, something the party has denied.

The suspected link between Russia's meddling in European politics and Jobbik was highlighted a year ago when one of Jobbik's MEPs, Bela Kovacs, was accused by the Hungarian authorities of having spied on the European institutions for Russia. 

Kovacs has denied the allegations and is to tell his side of the story on 16 April before a European Parliament committee that will then decide if the evidence is strong enough to lift his immunity.

It is unclear what Kovacs did to raise the suspicion of the authorities. But rumours had long been circulating about his ties with Russian intelligence, to the extent that he already had a nickname – KGBela, in a reference to the Soviet Union's KGB agency.

There have also been suspicions that Orban's Fidesz party leaked information about Kovacs to the press just ahead of last year's EU elections in order to damage Jobbik's campaign.

 Andras Dezso, a journalist with Index.hu news portal who has covered Kovacs's story extensively told this website that most of the evidence is likely to be circumstantial.

“For instance meeting Russian diplomats in a conspirative, secretive manner,” he said.
 
The evidence sent to Brussels by the Hungarian authorities is classified.


Meanwhile Hungarian media reported that OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud office, is also investigating Kovacs on suspicion of misusing funds provided for hiring assistants.

Focus

Jobbik MEP accused of working for Russia

Hungary’s Prosecutor’s Office has requested the European Parliament to waiver the immunity of far-right Hungarian MEP Bela Kovacs amid allegations he is working for Russia.

Orban gives Putin warm welcome

Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban on Tuesday became the first EU leader to receive Russian president Vladimir Putin for a bilateral visit since last June.

Hungarian PM defends death penalty debate

Orban faced down stinging criticism in the EU assembly on Tuesday, saying it's "democracy" to discuss the death penalty, while calling EU migrant proposals "insane".

Chemnitz neo-Nazis pose questions for Germany

UN human rights commissioner urged EU leaders to condemn violence that recalled the 1930s, but the local situation in former East Germany does not apply to the whole country.

News in Brief

  1. Spain's Sanchez calls snap election on 28 April
  2. 15,000 Belgian school kids march against climate change
  3. May suffers fresh Brexit defeat in parliament
  4. Warning for British banks over Brexit staff relocation
  5. Former Italian PM wants Merkel for top EU post
  6. Antisemitic incidents up 10% in Germany
  7. Italy's asylum rejection rate at record high
  8. Hungary will not claim EU funds for fraudulent project

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Latest News

  1. Sluggish procedure against Hungary back on table
  2. Could Finnish presidency fix labour-chain abuse?
  3. Brexit and trip to Egypt for Arab League This WEEK
  4. Belgian spy scandal puts EU and Nato at risk
  5. EU Parliament demands Saudi lobby transparency
  6. Saudi Arabia, but not Russia, on EU 'dirty money' list
  7. EU agrees draft copyright reform, riling tech giants
  8. Rutte warns EU to embrace 'Realpolitik' foreign policy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us