Scenes from the Jobbik Demonstration

Arriving to Heroes’ Square on a rainy winter night: about 2,000 people, many of the same bad faces (rossz arcok) as at Jobbik demonstrations in the old days, though with the baddest faces now gone; the same old party flags with the double cross emerging from some kind of red-lidded green eyeball, though the neo-Hungarist Árpád-striped flags that used to be so many now nowhere to be seen; national rock thundering from amplifiers on the speaker’s platform, though no longer the bellicose Kárpátia mantras, but something milder, less aggressive, less threatening.

Very few cops in sight, though just 50 yards from Fidesz party headquarters, unlike the old days when there were hundreds in full riot gear.

This is the new Jobbik, the “people’s party.”

But what is really new here is the presence of the liberal opposition: around 100 people affiliated with Momentum, Together (Együtt) and allegedly Politics Can Be Different (LMP) as well, though saw no sign of the latter party. They stand in back, away from the dense crowd gathered around the platform, holding Hungarian and European Union flags as a couple of unknown Jobbik speakers cough and stutter through speeches about the wrongdoings of the State Audit Office (see Legislative Amendments on Outdoor Political Advertising) .

The opposition news website is here doing interviews and one of the people in the liberal group, a balding man in his 40s, tells the reporter with a quiver of antipathy in his voice: “I am the person at whom this crowd used to shout dirty Jew and scumbag liberal. The difference between the two [the liberals and the Jobbik supporters] is that we stand up for them, though they don’t stand up for us.”

The journalist Róbert Puzsér stands to the microphone, steadies himself with arms extended to the lectern, and begins to speak in his somewhat enervated voice. He is unaffiliated with Jobbik and can therefore talk with his customary explicitness about the party’s transformation:

I look out at the participants in this demonstration and it makes me think of the joke about the Gypsy, the rabbi and the skinhead who get together in order to save the rule of law. This coalition is surreal. Ágnes Heller, the Marxist prophetess. Árpád Schilling, the apostle of me-too and feminist ideology. The liberal icon György Konrád. The Ron Werber-led LMP. The Momentum [party] that is campaigning with its Orbán look-alike president. The Outlaw Army [Betyársereg] founder now playing border-castle captain, László Toroczkai, and all the other Jobbik politicians who not long ago were still reviling Jews and Gypsies and rhapsodizing about Putin, though who feeling Orbán’s whip on their backs have learned to like democracy. And, moreover, [Jobbik President] Gábor Vona, who used to serve the causes of racism, militarism and Horthy nostalgia with precisely the same enthusiasm and determination as he now plays the role of the angel of democracy . . .

And now Vona. The same old vehemence, though with Viktor Orbán in the role of enemy-from-within: “Like a low-down, worthless, sneaky thief he slips into our gardens at night and steals our inner freedom.”  The leader of Jobbik acclaims the new coalition that he hopes will one day make him the leader of Hungary: “I think that today is not merely an episode, I think that today is not a simple protest against some unlawful procedure. I believe that here today many different kinds of people have taken a historic step toward a just, honorable and free Hungary, toward a twenty-first century Hungary.”

The speech over, the crowd disperses. Walking down Andrássy Avenue next to former LMP leader András Schiffer the dampness on the sidewalks has assumed an icy sheen. A few stray snowflakes fall to the ground.

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Last updated: December 19, 2017.