Monday, April 12, 2010

Extreme right to enter Hungarian Parlialent

You're unlikely to know it if you rely on the website of The New York Times, but Hungary held elections yesterday, and the extreme right had a powerful showing, winning 17% of the vote.

As some of you know, I lived for several years in Hungary, and still report from the region once or twice a year. In recent years I've been following the rise of Jobbik and their uniformed paramilitary arm, the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Garda.) The latter marches around in intimidating formations in Roma neighborhoods sporting symbols favored by Hungary's fascist Arrow Cross during the Holocaust. The former won seats last year in the European Parliament, where one of their delegates arrived wearing the Magyar Garda uniform. The party advocates reopening the Trianon Treaty, which set the region's borders and created Slovakia. Roma leaders liken it to Nazism, though the party's slick, English-speaking communications staff claim they are merely patriots.

Sunday, nearly a fifth of the Hungarian electorate cast votes in support of Jobbik, which will now occupy 26 seats in the Hungarian parliament. Wednesday they're introducing the foreign press corps in Budapest to their candidates for ministers of economy, finance, and foreign economy. It remains unclear whether the party will be marginalized or coddled by the election's big victors, Viktor Orban's center-right Fidesz, which took 53% of the vote.

Watch closely to see what Mr. Orban says or does not have to say about Jobbik in the coming days and weeks.

[UPDATE, 13:11 EST: Orban just pledged to remove the "political and economic landmine" that strong support for Jobbik represents, the Associated Press reported minutes ago.]

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