'The Monster at Our Door' Hungary Prepares for Shift in Power

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Part 3: 'Chimneysweeps Wear Black, Too'


Orbán long held an undisputed role as the country's most talented tightrope walker. In his younger years, he was courageous in demanding the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary. Later, he worked to have the role of Miklós Horthy, Hungary's regent through most of World War II and a supporter of Hitler, cast in a gentler light by historians.

Budapest's "House of Terror" museum, opened while Orbán was in office, devotes most of its exhibition space to the socialist dictatorship. As a result of such policies, today only 4 percent of eligible voters under 30 understand the term "Holocaust." At the same time, a collective yearning is growing for Hungary's former days of greatness and the thousand-year rule of the Kingdom of Hungary.

"Viktor Orbán is our favorite politician and we're his favorite paper," says András Bencsik, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Magyar Demokrata. Bencsik stands to become one of the most powerful journalists in the country under the future government.

Bencsik is one of the founding fathers of the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, which was legally banned in 2008 -- and then reformed as the New Hungarian Guard Movement. When asked whether the black uniforms worn by this Jobbik-backed entity evoke those of the SS or even the Arrow Cross Party, he responds: "That's a joke. Chimney sweeps wear black, too." The fact that Orbán, a vice president of the Christian Democratic-oriented European People's Party, doesn't shy away from contact with people like Bencsik is disorienting even for conservative Hungarians.

'We Saw Ourselves as the Immaculate Generation'

Magyar Hirlap, a newspaper affiliated with Orbán's party, printed an appeal in 2008 that Jewish journalists should no longer be "allowed to piss and blow their noses in the country's pool." Instead the paper called for closing ranks and keeping Jews out.

That text was written by Zsolt Bayer, a 1988 founding member of Fidesz. Bayer's name can be found fifth on the list in the original party membership register and, as he says, he still has the boss' ear. "We saw ourselves as the immaculate generation," Bayer says in retrospect. "We wanted to get rid of the old tensions in society between the capital and the provinces, and between Jews and non-Jews. But we didn't succeed." Now he sees the continuation of the Hungarian nation as the main concern. "Sooner or later," Bayer says quietly, "the patience of the majority of society will run out."

If Viktor Orbán and his party achieve their aim of a two-thirds majority in parliament, then he would have a free hand to make groundbreaking changes to the country's laws. Immunity for members of parliament could be revoked and criminal proceedings initiated. Orbán has said he would issue passports to millions of Hungarians living in neighboring countries and election law reforms would be possible as well.

Orbán says he dreams of Hungarian politics "not being determined by a dual force field in the next 15 to 20 years" -- driven not by endless quarreling between Socialists and Conservatives, but by politics with "constant governance as its goal."

It's a goal that is still familiar to older Hungarians -- from the Communist era.

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Bob from Brooklyn, NY 04/11/2010
1. This is very scary!
Zitat von sysopOpposition leader Viktor Orban, who spurred the populist politics that have led to the rise of the far-right in Hungary, believes his party is set to win a two-thirds majority after Sunday's parliamentary elections. But it is the right-wing extremist Jobbik party that is setting the hateful tone of the campaign. http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,687921,00.html
I'mm an American with a long-standing interest in world affairs and history. I thought that open and acknowledged governmental anti-Semitism was gone forever. Wow, was I mistaken! The rise of a real, genuine Nazi Party in modern Europe was a huge shock!
BTraven 04/12/2010
2.
Poor Hungarians. It is quite strange given the emergence of a nazi party and retro-Arrow-Cross-Militia but the chef of the Wiesenthal centre thinks a conservative government could bring the most wanted war criminal to court. The conditions necessary in the author’s opinion have been meet – the Alliance of Free Democrats can reign without the help of Jobbik, so it do not need to take care of the neo-nazis. It is a interesting constellation. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/09/jobbik-hungary-election-nazi-war-criminal
mae 04/13/2010
3. On another planet?
Zitat von Bob from Brooklyn, NYI'mm an American with a long-standing interest in world affairs and history. I thought that open and acknowledged governmental anti-Semitism was gone forever. Wow, was I mistaken! The rise of a real, genuine Nazi Party in modern Europe was a huge shock!
Where were you when Len Pen won 2 million votes and contested Chirac in the presidential elections? And this was in one of the most affluent countries in the world. Where were you when Haider's party consistently won seats in parliament and became one of the most influential politicians in modern Austria, again another affluent country. Surely you know that scapegoating the Jews & gypsies was a time honoured custom in Europe that always worked well for political parties. Throw in the immigrants (the latest group which is bearing the brunt of Europe's intolerance of difference) and you shouldn't be surprised at the success of fascists/neo nazi parties in Europe.
BTraven 04/14/2010
4.
Zitat von maeWhere were you when Len Pen won 2 million votes and contested Chirac in the presidential elections? And this was in one of the most affluent countries in the world. Where were you when Haider's party consistently won seats in parliament and became one of the most influential politicians in modern Austria, again another affluent country. Surely you know that scapegoating the Jews & gypsies was a time honoured custom in Europe that always worked well for political parties. Throw in the immigrants (the latest group which is bearing the brunt of Europe's intolerance of difference) and you shouldn't be surprised at the success of fascists/neo nazi parties in Europe.
That is wrong – Le Pen has never been a nazi, in his youth he even wanted to join the Maquis to fight the Germans however was rejected because he was just 16 years old. He is an one of the most conservative politicians in Europe. Haider was a populist who managed to take advantage of the xenophobic tendencies many Austrians seem to have preserved from a time when they ruled over an area bigger than Germany. Despite having been among themselves for more than 80 years Austrians still fear its neighbours which is difficult to explain. Perhaps they have the feeling the offspring could take revenge on them for way their ancestors were dealt by the emperor’s bureaucracy. It has been the first time since the end of WWII that a neo-nazi party has gotten so many votes, however, the most fearsome is the emergence of an paramilitary organisation which supports its activities.
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