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Fidesz and the challenge of the radical right

March 10th, 2012

Centre-right Fidesz is walking a tightrope, trying to distance itself from the radical right-wing Jobbik party in order to strengthen its democratic and pro-EU image, without alienating radical leaning right-wing voters, a liberal weekly argues.

“Jobbik is both a challenger and a possible ally for Orbán,” the liberal weekly Magyar Narancs writes in its regular editorial, in a comment on recent gestures by the Fidesz government to symbolically distance itself from Jobbik.

On Monday, March 5, Jobbik leader Gábor Vona attacked the government for signing up to the European Financial Pact. He proposed that a referendum be held to decide whether or not Hungary joins the Pact, and indeed whether it should remain a member of  the EU. PM Viktor Orbán in his reply underlined that his government wants to cooperate with the EU without compromising the interests and sovereignty of Hungary.

Magyar Narancs believes that such statements are only intended to calm the EU by suggesting that the government is fighting against the anti-EU and “proto-Nazi extremist” Jobbik. Fidesz, however, more often follows a completely different strategy, the author believes: it wants to woo the radical leaning right-wing voters by implementing some of  Jobbik’s proposals, and by using its radical rhetoric.

To make matters even more complicated, while competing with Jobbik for the votes of the radical constituency, Fidesz also needs to maintain a good relationship with the radical party, Magyar Narancs speculates. The new electoral system may compel Fidesz and Jobbik to cooperate at the next election. (Typically, left-wing critics blame Fidesz for having construed an electoral system with which it can win a parliamentary majority even with only a minority of the electorate behind it. See BudaPost, November 23 and 30, 2011. A counter-argument is that the new system forces leftist opposition parties into an alliance, which might muster enough votes to defeat Fidesz.) According to the new system, which also creates a Parliament barely half the size of the present one, if right-wing voters are divided between Fidesz and Jobbik, candidates supported by a broad left-wing opposition may win, even if they are supported by less than half of the electorate. And if Fidesz wins the election without getting enough seats to secure a majority in the House, it may need to form a coalition government with Jobbik.

“The bottom line is that Orbán cannot afford to alienate Hungarian radicals. He will need either the radical party or its voters,” in order to stay in power, Magyar Narancs concludes.

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