The World From Berlin 'Hungary has Turned into a Grubby Hive of Nationalism'

Media commentators in Germany are alarmed at the emergence of the far-right Jobbik party as the third-strongest force in the Hungarian parliament. Europe should pay more attention to the vicious xenophobia and political polarization wracking the country 20 years after it gained its freedom, editorials say.

A member of the controversial Hungarian Guard, wearing a paramilitary-style uniform, looks on while listening to the election results in the election center of Jobbik, Hungary's far-right wing party, in Budapest.

A member of the controversial Hungarian Guard, wearing a paramilitary-style uniform, looks on while listening to the election results in the election center of Jobbik, Hungary's far-right wing party, in Budapest.

The people of Hungary shifted to the right in their general election on Sunday, evicting the Socialists from government after eight years, handing the center-right Fidesz party of Viktor Orban a strong mandate to form a government and making the far-right Jobbik party the third-strongest force in parliament.

The Socialist government, led by technocrat Gordon Bajnai since April 2009, was punished for making painful budget cuts to rein in the deficit under a bailout led by the International Monetary Fund. Orban too will need to implement reforms to keep the country on track for growth.

Fidesz won 206 of the 386 parliamentary seats in Sunday's election and stands a good chance of reaching the two-thirds threshold in a second round of voting slated for April 25.

German media commentators are worried about the resurgence of nationalism in Hungary and wonder whether its political system is strong enough to cope with the hate-filled polarization that has swept the country. The Jobbik party got some 17 percent after campaigning on a deeply xenophobic platform. Commentators said Jobbik makes the Freedom Party of the late Jörg Haider, the Austrian populist, and Dutch right-winger Geert Wilders seem moderate.

Left-wing Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Twenty years after the end of the collectivist dictatorship, Hungary has turned into a grubby hive of nationalism in which far-right blood and soil ideologies are flourishing, pseudo-democrats are hailing the glorious history of the Magyars and militant racists are fighting against an allegedly 'overflowing' number of foreigners and ethnic minorities living in the country by parading around the streets with machetes and Molotov cocktails."

"The sentiment first expressed after 1990 in poisonous graffiti such as 'Don't Elect Jews' has become a veritable storm tide 20 years on. The right-wing extremists of the Jobbik party and their militant followers from the New Hungarian Guard have been engaging in unabashed badgering of homosexuals, Roma and Jews. They raid districts where Roma people live and are campaigning for the restoration of Greater Hungary by demanding the incorporation of all the provinces of Romania, Slovakia, the Ukraine and Serbia in which Hungarian ethnic minorities live."

"The nationalist-populist Fidesz party has maintained a discreet silence about all this and thereby boosted the rise of the far-right hate preachers. In their missionary zeal to force the Socialists from government after eight years they did nothing to counter the nationalist rhetoric of the Jobbik party."

"On the contrary: The incoming prime minister, Viktor Orban, and his Fidesz party themselves espoused nationalist populism and gave the right-wing extremists the feeling of being secret allies in the fight against the post-communist Socialists, and the sense that they may even one day be allowed to join government."

"When Jörg Haider's Freedom Party joined the government in Austria there was an uproar in Europe. The Hungarian Fidesz party is even more right-wing than Haider's people in many respects. Europe has ignored this development far too long. It's time to take off the blinkers."

Business daily Financial Times Deutschland writes:

"The former model country Hungary is a prime example of what can go wrong if reforms are carried out too late. The good news is that the new government leader, Viktor Orban of the conservative Fidesz party, has a strong majority which gives him ample room for maneuver to lead the economy out of the crisis with unpopular measures. But he must at the same time resist some dangerous temptations, especially about what to do about the far-right Jobbik party which makes right-wing populists like Jörg Haider or the Dutchman Geert Wilders seem moderate. Orban has been susceptible to populism in the past. That's the bad news."

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"Hungary has been unable to escape the clutches of a difficult history that has been laced with defeat and has therefore fuelled national resentments. It's worrying that more than two-thirds of Hungarians have opted for parties that either toy with right-wing populism or are openly reactionary. The crisis, which is not just economic, has brought the ghosts of the past back onto the political stage. The propaganda of aggressive self-pity has worked, and last Sunday was a black day for minorities such as the Roma. Europe can only hope that the electoral success of the right-wing extremists will serve as a warning to the new prime minister, Viktor Orban. He must now clearly distance himself from the ghosts that he himself has helped to awaken."

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Hungary hasn't developed a sense of democracy or any enthusiasm for the parliamentary system. The biting hatred with which the opposing parties have fought each other in recent years testifies to this. Even the great financial crisis didn't push Hungary's political forces to act together."

Berlin daily Tagesspiegel writes:

"The victory of the national conservative Viktor Orban and the entry of the far-right protest party Jobbik into the Budapest parliamrent are a desperate and resigned reaction to a miserable economic situation, a rapid rise in debt and increasing social dislocation in the country. They are of course also a punishment for the Socialists, who ruled for eight years and destroyed themselves as a serious political force, and who were blamed for the necessary rigorous policy of cutbacks in recent years. It's also the consequence of years of political confrontations and polarization of the parties and camps that ruined the political climate in the country."

"Central Europe is part of the whole of Europe once again. But its political structures aren't stable enough to withstand the severest political quakes. Hungary is in the process of putting the new era of freedom and self-determination to a dangerous test."

David Crossland


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