More Rights Protections Needed as Anti-Roma, Antisemitic Party Scores Gains in Hungary
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today said more scrutiny from the European Union and United States is needed to protect human rights in Hungary following this Sunday’s local elections, when the fascist Jobbik Party won mayorships in 14 towns and villages and increased its strength in municipal councils.
“The majority has spoken, but it’s now up to the Hungarian central government and the European Union to ensure that the inalienable human rights of vulnerable minorities, particularly the Roma, are not trampled on,” said Human Rights First’s Sonni Efron.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party won the majority of towns, but Jobbik also gained ground with an election campaign that focused on cracking down on the Roma. Jobbik placed second in 18 out of 19 counties. The party is now in a position to exert more influence over citizens’ lives, particularly on education, housing and welfare issues.
“It’s also important that leaders of the Fidesz Party speak out against the anti-Roma, antisemitic views that are on the rise in Hungary – instead of continuing to try to appeal to extremist voters,” Efron said.
Jobbik won 20 percent of the vote for the national parliament in April and retained its three seats in the European Parliament in May. In Sunday’s race, in addition to winning 14 mayorships, Jobbik took 469 council seats around the country. With these results, Jobbik has now solidified its position as the second party in Hungarian politics and shown itself once again to be one of the best-performing extremist parties in Europe.
In towns across Hungary, members candidates expressed anti-Roma views to attract voters. In the city of Miskolc, the incumbent mayor of the Fidesz party was reelected after posting Facebook photos of dirty homes allegedly occupied by Roma citizens and promising to evict them, beating out the anti-Roma candidate from Jobbik. However, Jobbik lost the town of Gyöngyöspata, where Jobbik and other ultranationalist groups “occupied” the town and terrorized the Roma population.
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 anti-Semitism, 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.”