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Lessons of Jobbik’s advance

April 15th, 2015

A left-wing commentator dismisses the interpretation that Jobbik’s success in Tapolca was an indication of the radicalisation of Hungarian voters. In unison with other left-wing and conservative columnists, he also calls on the Left to abandon liberal ideology for a social democratic vision in order to challenge Jobbik.

The Left’s strategy of trying to discredit Jobbik by labelling it as a Nazi party does not work any longer, Péter Pető comments in Népszabadság on the Tapolca by-election (see BudaPost April 14). Pető believes that Jobbik’s success cannot be explained by an increasing radicalization of the Hungarian public. Voters are tired of debates over Jobbik’s alleged Nazi ideology, the left-wing columnist continues. Jobbik won because it uses a simple language and focuses on problems that everyday Hungarians are concerned about, most importantly, corruption and joblessness. Pető predicts that the Left will have no chance of defeating Jobbik as long as its elite remains preoccupied with culture wars rather than addressing the daily concerns of middle and lower class Hungarians.

The Left should begin some soul searching rather than blaming Jobbik’s rise on the government, Ottó Nagy writes in Magyar Hírlap. The conservative columnist notes that while Jobbik has not increased the number of its voters in the Tapolca district since the 2014 April Parliamentary election, the Left received far fewer votes than a year ago. Nagy thinks that unless they find a better framework for cooperation, left-wing parties will become even less attractive to voters.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Gáspár Miklós Tamás contends that the Tapolca by-election is a huge blow for the Left. “The Right has won by two-thirds of the votes,” the Marxist philosopher recalls. He believes that the Left would need to abandon its liberal economic policies and become more socially sensitive in order to challenge Jobbik’s advance, which Tamás sees as a “national catastrophe”.

Although more than four million Hungarians live under the poverty line, only one third of voters support the Left, Béla Galló points out in his Mozgástér blog. Jobbik, however, capitalizes on increasing social tensions through successfully connecting with discontented voters, the political scientist remarks. He calls on the MSZP to cancel cooperation with liberal parties and embrace a social democratic vision, since the broad left-liberal alliance has not wooed any supporters from the Right.

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