12 April 2010
The center-right party Fidesz has won a resounding victory over the ruling Socialist Party in the first round of Hungary’s parliamentary elections, and Fidesz leader Viktor Orban is set to become prime minister. The anti-Semitic and racist Jobbik party, which set up the paramilitary Hungarian Guard in 2007, secured a record 15 percent of the vote, trailing the Socialists by only four percent. Jobbik’s surge represents the greatest political shake-up of the election and moves the political balance of power strongly to the right. Fidesz's landslide victory had been expected by pollsters and its result of 52.8 percent in the first round translated into 206 seats for now in the 386-seat legislature, giving Orban an absolute majority even ahead of the second round of voting on 25 April.
Jobbik secured 26 seats, more than three times as many as any other far-right party since the country's return to democracy from Communism in 1990. Jobbik ran on a platform blaming Gypsies and Jews for many of the country's economic and social problems. "Despite the strong headwinds, Jobbik has managed to double its voters over the past year," party leader Gabor Vona (pictured above) said. "I still feel, however, that two-thirds of Hungarians are Jobbik supporters but don't know it yet."
The Hungarian Guard, an extremist group whose uniforms are reminiscent of those worn in the 1940s by members of Hungary's pro-Nazi party, was set up by Jobbik in 2007. Last year, it was disbanded by the courts for breaking laws, but it continues to exist under a new name. The guard’s most confrontational actions have been a series of marches through small towns and villages meant to intimidate local Gypsy populations and stop what Jobbik calls "Gypsy crimes".
The Federation of Hungarian Jewish Communities, the umbrella body of Hungarian Jewry, said in a first reaction that it expected the Fidesz majority "to restrain the extremists". The statement added: "We do hope that the three democratic parties having a clear majority in the Hungarian Parliament will do their best to isolate the enemies of democracy, the ones who fan the fire of hatred and to secure Hungary standing out for the European values and human rights."
The remaining 111 seats in Hungary’s parliament will be decided on 25 April in run-off elections for the 57 constituencies where no candidate received an outright majority. Fidesz is widely expected to secure a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, which would allow it to change the Constitution.
"I can see that there is complete joy ... but at the same time I know deep in my heart that I stand before the biggest task of my life," Orban – who was prime minister between 1998 and 2002, told his supporters in a central Budapest square. "People voted for unity, order and security."
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