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Extreme right leader elected village mayor

December 19th, 2013

Pro-government commentators accuse former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány’s DK party of being ready to cooperate with far right organizations to beat Fidesz. Some liberal commentators agree that the DK’s anti-Orbán rhetoric may have strange side-effects, others point out that local DK leaders acted without the knowledge of the centre and were kicked out of the party immediately.Ásotthalom lies in a very poor region close to the Serbian border. Local voters have consistently supported Fidesz in general elections but the formerly Fidesz-backed mayor, who had held office for 15 years, fell out with the local Fidesz leadership after he complained about cutbacks in municipal financing. Meanwhile, the local Socialists opted for the DK, and decided to back László Toroczkai,  leader of the 64 Counties group, an organisation more radical than Jobbik itself but allied to it. Toroczkai was elected County Council member on Jobbik’s list in 2010. He is also known as the organizer of a couple of extreme rightist groups, including a banned paramilitary one, and led a violent demonstration against the Public Television HQ in 2006, following the leak of Gyurcsány’s Őszöd speech.
No nationwide party had official candidates running for the post and no left-wing or liberal party has a local presence apart from the DK. Toroczkai beat the embattled Fidesz mayor with two thirds of the vote. DK initiated a disciplinary procedure against the local DK leader who allied himself with Toroczkai, and he will most probably be expelled from the DK.

Mandiner’s Ákos Gergely Balogh says the defeat of the former mayor is a surprise, considering that Ásotthalom has a strong record of voting for Fidesz candidates and lists. He points out that incumbent mayors are usually difficult to beat, especially by an opponent “with a past as murky as that of Toroczkai”. He says the defeated mayor might have lost the backing of Fidesz, and the “anything-but-the-Fidesz” rhetoric of the opposition was a contributing factor – showing the potential of a left-extreme right allience.

Magyar Nemzetalso accuses the opposition of opportunism: for all the anti-fascist rhetoric, writes Szabolcs Szerető, their strategy is about beating Fidesz at any price. If they actually believe in their rhetoric, why didn’t they ask their supporters to vote for the lesser evil, i.e. Fidesz? – he asks. No disciplinary measures of the DK can change the fact that, the local DK, a group that crossed over to the DK from the Socialist Party a month before the election, sided with the extreme right. The left-liberal opposition lost all credibility, he argues, after having “used all their anti-fascist ammunition against Fidesz and earlier against the MDF” (the right-wing ruling party from 1990 to 1994). The only positive result of this election, Szerető adds, is that due to the new electoral law, Toroczkai cannot become a member of parliament.

Zsolt Gréczy, a columnist and leading DK member, draws very different lessons from the Ásotthalom election. In his Hírhatár blog he claims “the democratic opposition had no candidate and could not have one”, because the Socialists and Together-PM have no presence in the settlement. He argues that Toroczkai is a local employer and his employees as well as their families voted for him “either spontaneously or under pressure”. He adds that the Toroczkai vote was also a voice of opposition to Fidesz. In any case, he says, if Toroczkai had been indicted for his participation in the “attempted coup” in 2006, instead of being pardoned by Fidesz, he would have lost his right to run for office. (In 2011, Parliament passed a general amnesty for participants in the riots of 2006, as dozens of innocent people were charged with assault on public officials  and it was difficult to establish the actual facts five years after the events.)

In Népszabadság, a liberal leaning analyst says the DK’s “civil war rhetoric” might have some strange offshoots but it would be a mistake to overlook the local circumstances. Gábor Filippov, of the Hungarian Progressive Institute suggests that the “anarchic” left could not capitalize on the internal strife within the local Fidesz’s, but it would be unfair to accuse the DK of cooperation with an anti-Semitic, racist and violent figure, as they immediately announced the local DK leader will be expelled from the party. In any case, he concludes, if a local DK group can go against the party line, doubts emerge about the effectiveness of the nationwide DK organization.

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