Extremist Party Poised to Gain Seats in Hungarian Local Elections
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today expressed concern over reports that Hungary’s antisemitic, anti-Roma Jobbik Party may win control over a number of municipalities in local elections scheduled for this weekend. Local governments in Hungary have broad influence over citizens’ lives, particularly in their policies for administering education and welfare befits to vulnerable minorities.
“Jobbik is not a movement of skinheads; it’s a well-organized fascist party whose leaders have won re-election after making virulently racist, antisemitic statements and promising to crack down on the Roma,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron. “A strong showing next week in the third election this year would solidify Jobbik’s position in Hungarian politics and reinforce its record as one of the best-performing extremist parties in Europe.”
Jobbik won 20 percent of the vote for the national parliament in April and took three seats in the European Parliament in May. In Sunday’s local elections, pollsters are predicting that Jobbik could place second in a number of main district regions outside of Budapest and win 20- 30 mayorships in small towns and villages. Other candidates, including from the ruling Fidesz Party, are also reported to be running overtly anti-Roma election campaigns.
“Prime Minister Vikor Orban’s Fidesz Party is expected to win by a large margin, but Jobbik is running 265 candidates and could win a number of local races on the strength of rising anti-Roma sentiment in some areas,” said Sonni Efron.
In the city of Miskolc, all three of the major candidates have been exploiting anti-Roma sentiment to win votes. The incumbent mayor of the ruling Fidesz party has posted Facebook photos of dirty homes allegedly occupied by Roma citizens and promising to evict them. Denying it is an antisemitic party, Jobbik has fielded a candidate whose mother is an ethnic Jew, and who supports evicting Roma from a settlement in the city. The mayoral candidate backed by the left is a former police-chief who has previously made remarks connecting Roma ethnicity to criminal behavior.
Human Rights First’s recent report, “We’re not Nazis, but…The Rise of Hate Parties in Hungary and Greece and Why America Should Care,” details the growing threat to human rights posed by the rise of Jobbik. It also documents the Hungarian government’s actions over the past four years that have violated religious freedoms, curtailed judicial independence and media freedom, and failed to combat a rising tide of violent antisemitism. These actions have led to a series of rebukes by the European Union, the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and from Hungary’s own Supreme Court.
Last month, Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino spoke before the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, arguing that Orban’s authoritarianism poses a threat to the rights of Hungarians and legitimizes Jobbik. She noted, “In Hungary… Orban is playing a dangerous game. While ostensibly opposing Jobbik, he has tapped into the very hatred that is its lifeblood. He condemns antisemitism; yet he names as his ambassador to Rome a well-known anti-Semite. The government’s growing authoritarianism legitimizes Jobbik and itself poses a threat to the rights of Hungarians.”