The Orbán government likes to pretend, primarily for external consumption, that it has thoroughly distanced itself from the radical-nationalist opposition party Jobbik.
National Assembly Speaker László Kövér, Orbán’s right-hand man, told the Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hírlap in July 2013 that “Jobbik, the HSP [Hungarian Socialist Party] and the liberals are striking a single chord in terms of their conception of the rule of law and their political morals. They proclaim as one: the worse it is, the better!” (source in Hungarian).
The Orbán government does not acknowledge that since coming to power three and a half years ago it has carried out the Jobbik political program almost to the letter.
Before the first round of the 2010 National Assembly election, Jobbik published a party platform entitled “The Jobbik Government’s First 10 Measures.”
The Fidesz–Christian Democratic People’s Party-controlled government and National Assembly have implemented eight of the ten measures stipulated in the document, though specifically cited none of these in the party alliance’s 2010 electoral program (source in Hungarian).
Below is an Orange Files translation of the March 2010 Jobbik platform with notes regarding the Orbán government’s subsequent implementation of each of the specified initiatives (see original Hungarian version of the Jobbik program).
1. Parliamentary immunity: The Orbán government has not conducted a wholesale repeal of parliamentary immunity.
2. Tax and contribution cuts: The Orbán government has implemented tax and contribution cuts.
3. Conversion of foreign-currency-denominated loans into forints: The Orbán government has passed legislation making it possible to convert foreign-currency-denominated loans into forints, first announcing their consideration of this measure in March, 2013, three years after Jobbik proposed it in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
Imposition of bank tax: The Orbán government has introduced a tax on banks operating in Hungary. Prime Minister Orbán first announced this tax as part of his government’s Economic Action Plan on June 8, 2010, three months after Jobbik proposed such a tax in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
4. Utility-fee cuts: The Orbán government has conducted two centrally mandated cuts in utility fees. The government announced the first round of utility-fee cuts in December 2012, two years and nine months after Jobbik proposed such cuts in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
5. Taxation of multinational companies: The Orbán government has imposed extraordinary taxes on companies operating in the energy, telecommunications and retail sectors. Prime Minister Orbán initially announced these taxes as part of his government’s Second Economic Action Plan on October 13, 2010, seven months after Jobbik proposed such taxes in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
6. Reducing the Pensions of former high-ranking communist-party officials: The Orbán government has withdrawn the pension supplement from those “whose actions before 1990 were incompatible with the democratic system of values.” The government first made reduction of pensions for former communist officials possible in the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law adopted on December 30, 2011, one year and nine months after Jobbik proposed such taxes in the party’s election program. The National Assembly approved the law stipulating such a reduction in pensions on July 2, 2012, two years and four months after Jobbik published its 2010 election platform (source in Hungarian).
7. Tying social assistance to public work: The Orbán government has tied receiving social assistance to public work. The National Assembly approved a law requiring those who receive secondary unemployment benefits or social support to accept public work if offered or lose these benefits in July 2011, one year and four months after Jobbik suggested linking social assistance to public work in the party’s election program (see The Fluorescent Army).
8. Amendment of the Land Law to prevent foreigners from buying arable land: The Orbán government has adopted a new Land Law, which Prime Minister Orbán said following the passage of the law in June 2013 would serve to ensure that agricultural land in Hungary “remains in the hands of Hungarians” (source in Hungarian). The government began talking about the need for such a law in June 2012, two years and three months after Jobbik advocated the adoption of a new Land Law in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
9. Reconstitution of the gendarmarie: The Orbán government has not reconstituted the Hungarian gendarmarie (csendőrség) abolished in 1945 as the result of the force’s role in the deportation of Jews from Hungary the previous year.
10. Guaranteeing Hungarian citizenship for Hungarian minorities: The Orbán government has passed legislation expediting the process of obtaining Hungarian citizenship for Hungarian minorities living in the countries surrounding Hungary. The government first announced this measure on May 3, 2010, about six weeks after Jobbik proposed the measure in the party’s election program (source in Hungarian).
In addition to the proposals contained in the above Jobbik election program, party President Gábor Vona publicly advocated three further initiatives following 2010 National Assembly elections that later came to serve as cornerstones of the Orbán government’s economic and political policy.
Speaking at the annual Jobbik May Day celebration in Budapest on May 1, 2010, less than a week after the second round of National Assembly elections, Vona declared (see video in Hungarian starting at 4:18):
Hungary has not had a constitution with legal continuity from a historical perspective since 1949. We are not proceeding along a constitutional path. We live within the framework of a Stalinist patchwork constitution and nobody has talked about this in parliament over the past 20 years. Well we will.
In May 2010 the Orbán government had not yet announced that it would introduce a new constitution in place of that adopted in the second year of communist dictatorship in Hungary. In fact, Fidesz Member of the European Parliament and future president Pál Schmitt insisted between the first and second rounds of National Assembly elections in April 2010 that the party did not intend to “drastically alter” the existing constitution and would only make “required modifications” to it (source in Hungarian). Prime Minister Orbán first announced that his government would initiate the adoption of a new constitution on May 25, 2010, three weeks after Vona intimated that Hungary needed a new constitution.
Also speaking at the May 1, 2010 May Day celebration, Vona said (see video in Hungarian starting at 8:45):
Since the time of Pál Teleki, for seventy years, nobody has declared Look east Hungarian! You are an eastern people. You are the most western eastern people. If Hungary were to build strong relations in Asia, in eastern countries . . . I am not thinking of the Middle East just in case anybody should accuse me . . . it would present us with political, economic and cultural opportunities. Many countries there consider us to be brothers. We should try to benefit from this. This is one of the most important national strategies for us. The next century will be Asia’s century. And the country, Hungary, that recognizes this and has the chance to take advantage of it—that country will become the heart of Europe.
Although Orbán began to talk of strengthening relations with China while still in opposition (source in Hungarian), he did not begin to openly advocate reorienting Hungary toward the east until the late fall of 2010 and his government did not begin to refer to this shift as its Eastern Opening Policy until the spring of 2011 (source A and B in Hungarian).
Nationalization of Private Pension Funds
Finally, Jobbik President Vona made the following statement to the Hungarian News Agency MTI on September 3, 2010 in connection to the first 100 days of Prime Minister Orbán’s government (source in Hungarian):
It can be clearly seen that even with a two-thirds majority in its possession, the government does not dare to deal with questions such as renegotiation of the debt, the critical review of European Union membership, putting a stop to the tax evasion of multinationals or even the nationalization of private pension-funds.
Prime Minister Orbán did not initiate his administration’s nationalization of private pension funds in Hungary until October 13, 2010, six weeks after Vona criticized his government for failing to do so (source in Hungarian).
The Orange-to-Black Continuum
The Orbán government does not acknowledged that it has essentially implemented the policies that only Jobbik publicly advocated at the time of 2010 National Assembly elections. Prime Minister Orbán and his subordinates would like to maintain the illusion, perhaps self-deception, that their political thinking differs greatly from that of Gábor Vona and other Jobbik leaders.
Neither has Jobbik highlighted the fact that the Orbán administration has carried out its program for fear that doing so could drive the party’s voters into the Fidesz-KDNP camp. Perhaps foreseeing this prospect, Jobbik President Gábor Vona assured shortly after the 2010 general election that “Jobbik will remain a significant force even if Fidesz implements the complete Jobbik program” (source in Hungarian)
In parliamentary opposition, Jobbik has either supported the Orbán government’s policies or opposed them on the grounds that they were too moderate or failed to serve the intended objective.
Jobbik supported the government’s nationalization of private pension funds, bank and sector-based taxes, utility-fee cuts, elimination of pension supplements for former communist officials and conversion of foreign-currency-denominated loans into forints, though sometimes expressed reservations (utility-fee cuts should have been twice as high, forintization of fx loans was “aspirin for the dying”).¹
Jobbik did not support the legislation making eligibility for social assistance contingent upon acceptance of public work for technical reasons and opposed the Fundamental Law due to the Orbán government’s exclusion of other National Assembly parties from the framing process (“Fidesz embezzled the procedure of constitution-making,” Vona said).²
Jobbik vehemently opposed the Orbán government’s Land Law, not because the party disagreed with the stated purpose of the legislation to ensure that agricultural land in Hungary would “remain in the hands of Hungarians,” but because it claimed that the law would promote foreign ownership of such land. (Jobbik parliamentarians occupied the National Assembly Speaker’s rostrum holding a sign reading “Playing Hungarian Land Off to Foreigners: Treason!” before Fidesz-KDNP representatives adopted the law). Source in Hungarian.
Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik are both political outgrowths of Hungarian nationalism and its main contemporary manifestations—rejection of western culture, rejection of the western free-market and rejection of western liberal-democracy.
In terms of concrete policy, Jobbik and Fidesz are virtually indistinguishable. The only true difference between them lies in the severity of their language and proposed means of attaining common objectives and their attitude toward religious and racial minorities in Hungary.
Jobbik is simply a somewhat more radical and outspoken, explicitly anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy version of Fidesz.