Thursday, May 13, 2010

Politics week - Part 3: Hungary

So, the UK now has a Tory prime minister and basically a Tory government. (On a side note, I discovered yesterday that I am older than both halves of Britain's new conjoined prime-ministers. This is obviously the next stage in feeling ancient, after many others - being older than some professional footballers--> being older than all tennis players--> being older than all professional footballers--> and now being older than not just the PM but the mini-me version too). Who knows how it will all pan out, but looking at the cabinet it looks very dicey. Have you seen Michael Gove's views on education for example? Shudder)

And Romania has a government which seems destined to shatter even the Thatcher government's worst excesses. See Bogdan's comments adding to my post on Monday for more details.

However, these two countries pale into insignificance when we look at Hungary. Like the UK, Hungary also recently had a general election, and like the UK it previously had a very unpopular sort-of-but-not-really-left-wing-party in power. However, whereas in the UK the mainstream right-wing party didn't really take full advantage of this, in Hungary they (FIDESZ) swept to power with a huge majority. Now as I think I've said before I think FIDESZ are a pretty dodgy bunch, with a number of dodgy people involved (not least their leader Viktor Orbán).In common with many other mainstream right wing parties they tend to play the "we're not racist, but" game - not being openly racist or having openly racist policies, but not really speaking out against racism (and as we'll see in a couple of paragraphs time, there is a lot of racism in Hungary that really needs to be spoken out against).

In theory FIDESZ's election ought to be reasonably good news for people round here since they do tend to go in for the "let's support our poor oppressed Magyar brothers isolated from us by the evils of Trianon" rhetoric, and in previous periods of government they funded a fair amount of activity here in Székelyföld. Though with Hungary as bankrupt as everywhere else in Europe seems to be, such financial support looks a bit further off this time. There is a suggestion that as they have such a huge parliamentary majority now which allows them to alter the constitution, that they will resuscitate the attempt in 2004 to award Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians from outside Hungary. Personally I think that if they do, everyone here ought to reject it, since (a) in theory now both countries are in the EU there is basically no difference which passport you hold; and (b) it seems like it would just play into the hands of hardcore nationalist Romanians who think Hungarian Romanians should "go back" to Hungary. I can imagine it might open doors for Hungarians in Ukraine or possibly Serbia, but for people here it just seems like a poisoned chalice. Still it's not really for me to say. The other possible effect it might have here would be to shake up the Hungarian Romanian political scene, since FIDESZ created and supported the MPP, a party which appears to have all but disappeared recently, and which provides a more right wing nationalist alternative to the nationalist soft right RMDSZ (UDMR) party which represents the Hungarians in Romania (and hence runs essentially a one-party state here in Harghita County). Who knows what will happen there. [One question that does arise with the possible award of Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians from outside Hungary, is that anyone taking the passport will have to have a vote in Hungarian elections, and of course those that accept the passport will likely to be predisposed to the party that gave it to them, which means that one could see the whole thing as a cynical vote buying grab]

The really big disaster of the Hungarian election though is the rise of Jobbik. Now people on the left often (and occasionally with good reason) get criticised for calling anyone on the right a "fascist" or a "nazi", and it is clear that these terms are extremely overused. But Jobbik are genuinely a Nazi party. By that I don't mean they have strong views on immigration or integration a la Le Pen or Bossi for example. By that I mean they are openly anti-semitic, vehemently anti-Rroma with the threat of violence against that community never far from the surface, aggressive, racist bastards. They even have their own paramilitary force the Magyar Gárda, who have been likened to Hitler's Brownshirts. (As an aside you will see from that article, FIDESZ have been pretty complicit in Jobbik's rise).

In this election Jobbik got 16.67% of the vote, which translates into 47 parliamentary seats (just under 7% of the whole). Next to figures like that Thatcherite politics in Romania and the UK seem like merely a small problem.

The only positive to come out of the election (and I mean the only positive) is that a 4th party (basically a green party) called "Politics can be different" (LMP) got 7% and 16 seats.

Some references in case you want to immerse yourself further in this deeply depressing set of results:
Hungary Lurches to the Right (Der Spiegel)
"Hungary has turned into a grubby hive of nationalism" (Der Spiegel)
Hungary party to follow European extremism's move away from fringes (Guardian)
Head of far-right Hungarian party Jobbik vows to wipe out ‘Gypsy crime’ (The Times)


Katharine said...

Unfortunately, a right-wing rise is almost always what happens in a recession.

I have observed that this is what happens when great numbers of people are uninformed morons who are inadequately informed enough to do things that are disastrous.

I've started being openly discriminatory against right-wingers in the United States. And yet it's not nearly as bad here as it is in Hungary or Romania.

This all makes me very, very misanthropic.

Ken Wilson said...

I seem to remember years and years ago, when Hungary and Romania and several other countries were applying for EU membership, some EU standards committee expressed concern about racism/attitude to gays etc in both countries, and in others who were applying. It seemed at the time that facing up to these and other issues might be a serious condition of membership. Do you think anything ever came of this? And what happens from an EU point of view when governments change as radically as the Hungarian one has?

Andy H said...

Hi Ken

Can't speak for Hungary, but in Romania EU accession was mostly pegged to dealing with corruption. Which the government at the time made steps towards which were quickly shelved once membership was obtained.

As for what the EU might do about Hungary, well technically the new government is "centre right" (which to me means right), and not necessarily one that would invoke any EU sanctions. Jobbik are in opposition. (Though as those articles point out, there are strong links between Fidesz and Jobbik) Perhaps a guide could be when Haider came to power in Austria when the EU did react reasonably well and basically forced him out.

Anonymous said...

What possible harm can do a double citinzenship? On the other hand, I was living in Budapest when the referendum took place, it happens to know that although most of the people complain about Trianon etc. they couldn't be bothered to go to vote that day. So much hypocrisy!
Not to mention I found their attitude towards magyars from Transilvania to be quite condescental, but maybe that was only an impression..


Andy H said...

I don't think there is any great harm in double citizenship to be honest. However, given that the Romanian nationalist line is that Hungarians should "go back to Hungary", having a Hungarian passport sort of adds a (very thin) veneer of half-logic to that otherwise nonsensical statement.

I also think that Transylvanians having the vote in a Hungarian election is a bit ridiculous honestly, so dual citizenship without voting rights would be my preference. (I think it's also ridiculous that I get to vote in a UK general election when I don't live, pay taxes, use the education and health systems etc there, while I don't get to vote in the Romanian one)

The impression you got is one that pretty much everyone I meet has. People here do feel patronised by Hungarians from Hungary (hence my "poor oppressed Magyar brothers" comment. The Romanian nationalist fear is that Transylvanian Hungarians want to make Transylvania part of Hungary again, but to be honest I have never met anyone who wants that in the slightest.

Anonymous said...

You have to be patient (..sigh..) with Romanians, there's too much insecurity going on. There are people who never left their country and believe everything is said on TV. But, and a big BUT, there are lots of Romanians living abroad, or who have lived abroad and opened their eyes in respect of multiculturality and diversity and can't be fooled anymore. The first cathegory it will gradually loosen, hopefully.
Having lived in both countries, Romania and Hungary, I would say in the respects mentioned above these two nations do not differ significantly.
I still recolect the surprise I've encountered when telling that I'm learning Hungarian, although I'll leave the country in 2 years, and the reply, oh, but I thought Romanians were bad and hate us..sigh..
Don't know how long it will take till our peoples will reach a degree of maturity and civility when relating to each other...another 100 hundred years? :)