General elections around the world tend to be covered in more detail than ever before, yet by-elections receive far less attention than they deserve. In particular, this was the case for Hungary’s by-elections this April in the region of Tapolca, which culminated with a frankly quite terrifying result.
It was the first time the radical right-wing party, Jobbik, had won a parliamentary mandate in an individual constituency. In itself, this doesn’t sound that awful; all countries seem to have their own, local Clacton. What does render things unpleasant though, is that whilst UKIP is still generally unpopular despite their win in Clacton, Jobbik managed to become the main beneficiary of protest votes in Hungary, as the Eurosceptic party known for its nationalist foundations is no longer perceived as extremist.
The newly elected MP, Lajos Rig, however, does not come across as overly prone to moderate views; sharing a conspiracy theory on his Facebook page about “Jews using Gipsies as biological weapons to conquer Hungary” seems not to raise any red flags. He is not alone. Some members refer to the Holocaust as the “Myth-o-caust”, whilst others demand the listing of MPs of Jewish origin.
Clearly, these are acts to be condemned – but who is there to condemn them? The Prime Minister, who wants to keep the question of the death penalty on the agenda? It appears that whilst Jobbik tries to shift towards the centre with their new, so-called ‘cuteness campaign’, the ruling coalition, Fidesz-KDNP, is moving towards the right.
Although the result in the western part of the country has shocked many Hungarians, a national trend is emerging. “It is worth pondering about what the situation could be in eastern Hungary” were the ominous words of the party leader after their victory, referring to Jobbik’s stronghold. As a nationally representative study conducted by Ipsos this March indicates, Jobbik – with support rising to 18 per cent – has become the second most supported party in the country, only 3 per cent short of Fidesz.
The increasing dissatisfaction with the current government should thus not necessarily be welcome, since the only significant contender appears to be Jobbik. Moreover, the pro-Russian party does not merely want to reshape domestic issues – their geopolitical initiatives reach beyond Hungary. The party leader is not afraid to call the EU “treacherous”, and one of their MEPs even supported the invasion of Crimea.
With Jobbik in power, which is becoming a more and more realistic nightmare, Hungarian minorities would not be the only ones with reasons to fell threatened. None of the members of the European Union have ever had such a radical party in government. The Conservatives may have more bargaining power when it comes to negotiations, but underestimating the potential harms Jobbik could cause to a vulnerable EU would be unwise.