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Jobbik elects new leader

February 17th, 2020

On the pages of a liberal weekly, the new chairman of the formerly far right party suggests that opposition parties should face the next elections with joint candidates for individual constituencies, but two separate party lists nationwide (the Hungarian electoral system combines both to elect a Parliament of 199 deputies). A pro-government weekly believes that after abandoning its former radical right-wing self, Jobbik now depends on the left-wing for survival.

Péter Jakab was elected Chairman of Jobbik in January on a ‘Christian conservative’ platform. He later told the Guardian that his party is not what it was five years ago. In its headline, the Guardian asked whether electing a leader with Jewish roots proves as much.

In Heti Világgazdaság (print), Péter Jakab expresses his readiness to ally his party with the left-wing opposition in order to chase out the incumbent government which he calls ‘Viktor Orbán’s criminal gang’. Over half the Members of Parliament (106) are elected in individual constituencies where, he writes, Fidesz candidates can only be defeated by a united opposition candidate, therefore Jobbik is ready to support rival opposition candidates and accept outside support for its own in other constituencies. As for the party lists, from which the remaining MPs are elected, he suggests two separate alliances should run in the next elections scheduled for 2022. Analysing the results of the latest regional elections, he shows that the disparate forces of the opposition running on united lists get less votes than their individual candidates combined. In rural areas, he explains, many people who are dissatisfied with Fidesz also reject the left-wing parties. Therefore, he believes, the traditional left-wing parties should run on one list, while the newly established parties, regardless of their positions along the left-right continuum, should run on another.

In an analysis of Jobbik’s falling popularity in Mandiner (print), Gergő Kereki and Dániel Ábel Pálfy recall that in 2014, at the last parliamentary elections before its shift towards the centre, Jobbik was supported by 20% of the electorate. Despite abandoning its earlier far right rhetoric, it still won the support of 19% of voters in 2018. However at last year’s European Parliamentary elections a mere 6% voted for it. Pollsters now put Jobbik’s popularity at 9 to 10% among decided voters, but the two authors report that local officials, elected city council members and the rank-and-file continue to flee the party. Although on paper, two thirds of the membership – over 13,000 people – still belong to Jobbik, in reality most just didn’t bother to announce their decision to quit, the authors suggest. Losing local activists throughout the country could be fatal for a movement which hopes to put forward candidates in individual constituencies, Kereki and Pálfy continue, and they believe this is why Jobbik depends more and more on cooperation with left-wing parties which used to be its nemesis. Such alliances however, may further bleed out the party base and eventually Jobbik might depend on left-wing support for its mere parliamentary survival, they conclude.

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