Arriving at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport the other day I made my way to the pick-up zone.
A silver taxi with the Hungarian flag painted down the side and the words “Jobb-taxi” on the bonnet drove past me. A minute later another Jobb-Taxi drove by and then another.
When I met the driver who was picking me up, I asked him about “Jobb-Taxi”. He casually informed me that Jobb-Taxi was owned by Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom – yes Jobbik, Hungary’s very own Nazi party.
As we made our way to the Central European University my driver told me that the taxi company was very popular among students. I later discovered that Jobb-Taxi’s slogan is “Nationally minded citizens call us”.
During my visit I also discovered that Jobbik controls Budapest’s biggest strip club and a nightclub in the city of Pecs.
The idea of a Nazi party running a major taxi firm and clubs is truly shocking, but not as shocking as Jobbik’s recent electoral success.
Radvany Balint an anti-fascist activist, says:
Hungary is sliding into authoritarianism. It is no exaggeration to state that Jobbik could win in 2018.
Just to reinforce Radvany’s point a political shockwave hit Hungary on Sunday 12 April.
Lajos Rig, a member of Jobbik, won a byelection in the constituency of Tapolca. Rig won 35.27% of the vote, beating Zoltán Fenyvesi of Fidesz (the ultra conservative party that is in government) on 34.38%. The social democratic candidate Ferenc Pad came third with 26.27%.
Rig is a hospital worker and one of the leaders of Jobbik’s trade union. He is an unreconstructed Nazi. On his arm he has a tattoo of German SS insignia. His Facebook posts are riddled with anti-Semitic and racist poison. In one post he argued that the Roma were the “biological weapons in the hand of the Jews”.
This is the first time Jobbik has won a constituency seat in parliament directly, rather than through the national list system. In the aftermath of Jobbik’s victory, its leader Gábor Vona said:
Our victory in Tapolca is the dress rehearsal for the 2018 general election.
This is no idle threat. In the country’s 2014 parliamentary elections Jobbik came second with 1,020,476 votes (20.3%) gaining 23 MPs. The Tapolca victory means they now have 24.
According to an Ipsos poll conducted in March 2015, Jobbik was backed by 18% of the respondents, or 1.5 million people, second only to Fidesz, which was favoured by 1.7 million people or 21% of respondents. The nearest left-wing party was the Social Democrats, with 1 million supporters.
Jobbik’s support increases with every new poll, while that of Fidesz shrinks and the social democrats stagnate.
The Hungarian and European press have reacted to the rise of Jobbik with dismay but at the same time they downplay its racism. The Budapest Times stated:
Research does not indicate rising anti-Semitism and racism in Hungary as the driving force of Jobbik’s current rise and success.
Jobbik is growing for a number of reasons: the weakness of the left, the corruption of the mainstream parties, but most of all it taps into the anti-Roma racism and anti-Semitic hatred that is eating away at the heart of Hungarian society.
It was research into the growth of racism that brought me to Hungary. While most of the surveys I have looked at are of little interest to readers of this blog, some of the raw data we have accumulated make for depressing reading.
• In a survey of nearly 1,000 students, 52% said they would not sit next to a Roma student.
• 58% of those surveyed agreed with the statement: “The Roma are responsible for most of the crime in Hungary.”
• 61% agreed with the statement: “Unemployment levels are high among Roma communities is because they are lazy.”
There are around 700,000 Roma living in Hungary — about 7% of the population.
• In a survey of 18-30 year olds only 4% knew what the Holocaust was.
• 64% agreed with the statement Jews are too powerful in business.
• A poll released last week claimed that between 15 and 20% of Hungarians could be considered to be “extreme anti-Semites”, and up to one third of the population hold prejudices against the Jewish community.
• A poll conducted on behalf of the European Parliament discovered that 19% of Hungarians accept Holocaust denial theories.
• Of those polled it was found that anti-Semitism was stronger in the capital Budapest than rural areas and more prevalent amongst students than manual workers (C2).
There is considerable debate and discussion about the number of Jews in present-day Hungary. Estimates range from as high 120,000 to as low as 35,000.
Jobbik both feeds off this racism and encourages it. It also benefits from a wider virulently racist, nationalistic culture. This culture is being cultivated by the Fidesz government — a government that is using racism to break the spine of Hungarian democracy, one vertebra at a time.