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Nyirő as a battlefield in the culture wars

May 31st, 2012

A centrist analyst believes that symbolic political debates have real political importance, and should not be seen as something completely irrational. He notes, however, that the government seems to sacrifice its centrist stance in the current culture war.

In times of swift political changes, symbolic politics help to keep political camps together by reaffirming the political identities of their members, Gábor Török comments on the recent fierce debates surrounding the reburial of the writer József Nyirő (see BudaPost May 30).

Gábor Török believes that as the government has to adjust its policies to face economic realities, it needs to reaffirm the core ideological values of its supporters. For such purposes, culture wars are the most obvious tools, since they provide a way for parties to easily reconnect with their sympathizers, even when party programs change significantly. If political divides become blurred, culture wars can accentuate the cleavages between the left and the right, and thus symbolic politics is neither completely irrational nor futile, Török believes.

He wonders, however, why Fidesz chose such a controversial figure as Nyirő to mobilize its supporters. The only possible answer is that the governing party wants to take the wind out of the sails of the radical Jobbik, Török believes. He admits that Fidesz has so far successfully fended off the far-right challenge, and as a result, Jobbik has not managed to lure supporters from the centre-right governing party.

This strategy, however, may in the long run undermine the strategic aims of Fidesz, he warns. After its landslide victory at the 2010 elections, Fidesz seemed to aim at becoming a moderate centre-right catch-all party. By embracing symbolic projects which are more in line with radical rhetoric, Fidesz upsets that original aim, Török contends. By pre-empting radical initiatives in the hope of keeping fringe voters who lean to the far-right, Fidesz risks losing the centrist and moderate constituency, he concludes.

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