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Jobbik’s Horthy memorial march

November 1st, 2013

Népszabadság suggests that the far-right party is celebrating the rule and person of Admiral Horthy in order to provoke condemnation and thereby find a place on the TV news.

Jobbik staged its second Horthy commemoration ceremony in two weeks on Sunday 17th November, when a few hundred loyalists marched to Gellért square where Admiral Horthy made his first speech in the capital in November 1919, after the Hungarian Bolshevik dictatorship, the Republic of Councils was crushed by invading Romanian troops. Horthy pressurised parliament to elect him Regent in 1920 and ruled until the Hungarian Nazi (Arrow Cross) takeover in October 1944, when he was deported by the Nazis to Germany. In the foreign press he is often described as Hitler’s war time ally, but historiography paints a more nuanced picture of his career. The most controversial issues are whether he could have averted Hungary’s entry into the Second World War on Hitler’s side and whether he could have saved the over 400 thousand Hungarian Jews who were deported to Nazi death camps in 1944, after Hungary’s invasion by Nazi Germany. On November 3rd, several Jobbik MPs attended a ceremony where Horthy’s bust was unveiled by the extreme right-wing pastor of a Budapest Calvinist church. (See BudaPost, November 7.) The ceremony was held while party chairman Gábor Vona was on a lecture tour in Turkey. He did not attend Sunday’s memorial march either.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság believes Jobbik knows that the cult of Horthy is bound to generate widespread protests at home and abroad, and this is precisely why its politicians go to such lengths to celebrate him. It is in fact extremely difficult for non-government politicians to be shown on the mainstream news programmes, and one possible way to get there is through extravagant initiatives. Sometimes MPs of smaller parties, including Jobbik stage loud demonstrations during sessions of Parliament, risking heavy fines, while on other occasions the far right party just “plays the Horthy card”, and their appearance on TV is guaranteed. Such initiatives, Népszabadság continues, lend Jobbik a well distinguishable political profile, but say nothing about what the party would do if it ever won the elections. Népszabadság admits that the governing centre-right forces dissociate themselves from Horthy’s celebrations, but believes that their resistance to the construction of a Horthy cult is rather subdued. The left-wing daily accuses the ruling parties of having no other historical models than those offered by the interwar era. József Antall (1932-1993), the first democratically elected (right-wing) Prime Minister, Népszabadság recalls, chose his models from among 19th century conservative liberals, but Fidesz leaders have parted with his heritage. (Horthy’s remains were brought back from Portugal, where he died in exile in 1957, in September 1993, and were reburied in a private ceremony, attended by several cabinet ministers, leading pro-government politicians and even members of József Antall’s family.)