In the last five years, we undoubtedly saw that Fidesz implemented several measures that were originally part of Jobbik’s program. There are several fields where the rhetoric of Fidesz and Jobbik, as well as the policies they propose, have converged.  These parallels are so extensive that it would be foolish to regard them as accidental. Fidesz essentially failed to attack its rival to the right of the political spectrum on ideological grounds, and instead practically since 2010 tried to win over Jobbik voters by incorporating Jobbik’s policies into governmental action. The government retained this strategy even after Jobbik’s electoral victory during the by-election in Veszprém in April 2014[1], in spite of this strategy clearly failing, and only leading to popularity loss of Fidesz and the rise of Jobbik. Jobbik became the second most popular political party with only a few percentage points behind Fidesz.

Trying to hamper Jobbik’s popularity rise, however, is not the only reason why Fidesz implemented some policies and adopt the rhetoric of Jobbik. Orbán did a great deal to radicalize a part of his electorate with harsh anti-communist, anti-liberal and anti-Western rhetoric even before Jobbik became a significant political force. Furthermore, Fidesz also used Jobbik as a pioneer to explore new solutions and push the terms of the political debate to increase their own room for maneuver; for example, in foreign policy Jobbik was the first proponent of ‘Eastern Opening’, currently the dominant foreign policy doctrine of Orbán’s government. Orbán’s ideology and politics are intertwined, and not only reactive steps to counter Jobbik’s rise, serving his long-term strategic goal of establishing a consolidated system. Orban’s Fidesz party does not need a radical nationalist ideology to challenge Jobbik, but rather to justify the illiberal system he is creating.

In the tables below, our goal was not providing an exhaustive list, but rather we tried to focus on the most important fields when highlighting the political parallels between the two parties.

At the same time, obvious and division lines between the politics of Fidesz and Jobbik remained. Open anti-Semitism and anti-Gypsyism, still a central element of Jobbik ideology, does not characterize Fidesz. The Orbán-government also made restrictions in the Criminal Code in order to stop the activities of the paramilitary guards close to Jobbik. While focusing on the similarities in the table below, we argue that these important differences should not be ignored.

 

1. Diminishing Hungary’s role in WWII:

Jobbik proposal

“The German occupation in 1944 diverted Hungary from her path of legal (state) continuity (…)” (Bethlen Gábor Program, 2007)

Fidesz implementation

“We date the restoration of our country’s self-determination, lost on the nineteenth day of March 1944, from the second day of May 1990, when the first freely elected organ of popular representation was formed.” (New Constitution, 2011)

2. Migration:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

Jobbik supports locked refugee camps, re-establishment of Hungarian border guards, turning back the so-called “economic refugees” from the border. The party also warns of security concerns related to migration criminality and terrorism. (10 points of Jobbik) The Hungarian government has launched a “national consultation”, a non-representative push poll by posting eight million questionnaires to citizens on whether they agreed that immigrants endanger their livelihoods and spread terrorism. Questions are obviously manipulative, as these examples indicate: “We hear different views on the issue of immigration. There are some who think that economic migrants jeopardise the jobs and livelihoods of Hungarians. Do you agree?” or “There are some who believe that Brussels’ policy on immigration and terrorism has failed, and that we therefore need a new approach to these questions. Do you agree?” (National consultation announced in April, 2015)

3. Discrimination against multinational corporations:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“We will tax the multinational corporations.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Fidesz introduced altogether 13 sectoral taxes since 2010 especially aimed at multinational corporations in several fields including the banking, energy, telecommunications, retail chain, and other sectors.

4. Nationalizations in the financial sector and the public utility sector:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“(…) by establishing a Hungarian banking sector serving national interests, we allocate development resources to the Hungarian small- and medium-sized enterprises.” “We keep or regain state-ownership in strategic sectors of public utilities and natural monopolies.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán announced in 2014 that through the state-led acquisition of MKB Bank, previously owned by German shareholders, the Hungarian national ownership rate in the financial sector has surpassed the 50% goal set earlier by the government. The government practically nationalized the assets of some Savings co-operatives. The state is setting up a national public utility holding in 2015 by repurchasing foreign-owned public utility assets that were sold in the Gyurcsány-Bajnai era, or even earlier during the period of the Horn cabinet.

5. One-sided gas and nuclear energy dependence on Russia:[2]

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“We support (…) the Paks nuclear facility’s extension with a new block.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Jobbik also supported the Southern Stream project from the very beginning. In the parliament, Jobbik was the only opposition party that supported both projects. Fidesz approved a controversial EUR 10 billion loan agreement with Russia to fund the new Paks II nuclear power blocks built by Russian Rosatom in June, 2014. The government strongly supported the South Stream gas pipeline, even adopted a new bill exempting the investment from common energy policy under EU regulations, until it was cancelled by President Putin.

6. Private pension system:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“(…) mandatory membership in private pension system will be terminated.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Fidesz on government abolished the mandatory private pension system almost entirely in 2010 and nationalized its funds, therefore practically terminated the private pension system.

7. Public works program:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“We are developing a public works program administered nationally but implemented locally.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Fidesz implemented a highly centralized public work system, at times employing as many as 200 thousand workers, of nation-wide public works program which lead to a new form of state dependence for participants, while it is not facilitating re-integration to the labor market of the formerly unemployed or underemployed.

8. Eliminating separation of church and state, while upholding segregation in the education system:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“We will make religious education or ethics mandatory (…).”“Strengthening the education of Roma youth through integration or segregation, if needed.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) Fidesz made religious or ethics education mandatory in public schools. Zoltán Balog, Minister of Human Resources stated that social development can also be achieved in segregated environments with affection, competent teachers and good methods. (Testimony of the Minister at a segregation case court hearing)

9. Death penalty:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“We will reintroduce the possibility of death penalty in the most severe forms of crimes against human life, even if it means reconsidering the relevant international treaties.” (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) "The death penalty question should be put on the agenda in Hungary," PM Viktor Orbán said, adding that it was necessary "to make clear to criminals that Hungary will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting its citizens." (Press conference, April 2015)

10. Eastern Opening and stronger ties with illiberal and authoritarian regimes:

Jobbik proposal

Fidesz implementation

“The foreign economic relations of our nation should be radically redirected eastward instead of the one-sided Euro-Atlantic integration” (i.e. towards China, India, Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Indonesia). (Jobbik’s 2010 election program) PM Viktor Orbán announced a value-free and interest-based foreign policy. The PM has also said he wants to build an “illiberal state” based on national foundations, citing Russia and China as examples. Accordingly, after 2010 the process of building stronger diplomatic ties was underway with a series of high-level visits to non-democratic countries such as China, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey. The special attention devoted to eastern orientation is indicated by the fact that China and Russia received their own department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, while the US and West European states are managed from a single department.
Sources

[1] Jobbik won its first individual constituency; reasons and consequences and described in the following analysis: http://www.politicalcapital.hu/wp-content/uploads/pc_flash_report_20150413_Jobbik_won_its_first_individual_constituency.pdf [2] Socialists on government were also supportive towards Southern Stream and the extension of Paks.