As the popularity of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz wanes, the country’s far-right Jobbik party say they will clean up their image and prepare for power.
Hungary’s surge to the right was bolstered last year when voters returned Victor Orban’s ruling Fidesz party and gave the far-right Jobbik party 21 per cent of the vote.
Jobbik had made their initial breakthrough in 2010 with 15.9 per cent of the vote to become the third largest group in parliament. They went on to defy expections that their populist vote would collapse and now hold 23 seats in parliament, 3 EU seats and 81 country assembly seats.
Reports now suggest that Jobbik’s leader Gabor Vona is maneuvering to clean up his image.
In 2007 Vona founded a uniformed neo-fascist militia to accompany the party named the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), who paraded through Roma villages and staged large militaristic rallies in Budapest.
Vona even arrived for his first day in parliament in 2010 decked out in the uniform of the Magyar Garda militia; black boots, black trousers, black vest and a black cap – despite the group being proscribed.
A number of more radical uniformed militias still organise events jointly with Jobbik across the country – lining the streets to protest the World Jewish Congress with the party and providing security at events.
In 2013 Channel 4 News visited Budapest and spent time with leading party members and the pseudo-paramilitary militias.
The party has controversially singled out Hungary‘s Jewish community and Roma – holding a protest against “Zionism and Communism” outside the World Jewish Congress in 2013.
Jobbik led intimidating protests through the Roma part of Gyongyospata in 2011 when hundreds of black-shirted militia members began to patrol the streets, ostensibly looking for Roma criminality.
Read more: On the streets with Hungary's far-right
Party members hosted rallies outside the homes of gypsies and there were violent clashes. A Jobbik mayor is now in charge of the town.
Party leader Vona claims he will now draw a line under the party’s past: “Our opponents may say this is only a media hack or a false turn, but time will tell.”
“I honestly want to transform Jobbik into a people’s party and to do that I know what is necessary. I know when and where to draw the line.”
Mankind’s last remaining bastions of traditional culture – experiencing the transcendent in everyday life – is the Islamic world
Gabor Vona, Jobbik Leader
Unlike many European far-right movements Jobbik hold no animosity towards Islam, Vona has praised the religion as “mankind’s last remaining bastions of traditional culture”.
Jobbik view Iran, Turkey and Russia as their future allies and support the creation of a Eurasian union.
Hungarian flags and torches, this is an anti-Jobbik rally in Budapest pic.twitter.com/EJjmRA6Wh4
— Brian Whelan (@brianwhelanhack) April 3, 2014
The town of Tiszavasvari – the “Jobbik capital” – has even been twinned with the Iranian city of Ardabil in what has been dubbed by critics as an “anti-Semitic alliance”.
Support for the party is estimated to have risen by as much as 50 percent in the past year as the ruling Fidesz party records a steep loss.
Hungary’s Socialists have been sidelined following a major election defeat in 2010.
Jobbik’s support is currently put at 18 per cent against 21 for Fidesz – with another 40 per cent undecided. However, Jobbik is polling better among under-30s.
In recent years Hungary has also seen a number of statues erected depicting the anti-Semitic war time leader Miklos Horthy.
A recent poll showed that anti-Semitism has begun to decline in Hungary from a high of 38 per cent of the population in 2013 to 31 per cent in 2014. Anti-Semitism is a stronger presence in the capital Budapest than rural areas,