"Pollsters Forsense and Századvég have found that 59% of their 1,000 respondents were satisfied with or even happy about the outcome of European elections held on 7 June in Hungary. Far-right nationalist party Jobbik secured three of the 22 available seats in the European Parliament. Nearly half of those polled said this is good for Hungary.
Hungary's main opposition party Fidesz won a landslide victory over the ruling Socialist Party (MSZP) in European Parliamentary elections on 7 June, gaining 14 EP seats, while the Socialists secured only four.
Turnout was 36.3%, smaller than in 2004 (38.5%) and the EU average (43.1%), which turned out to be favourable for radical far-right party Jobbik, which can delegate three members to the EP. Minor opposition party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) also reached the 5% threshold and so it will have one mandate in the EP, while the liberal Free Democrats (SZDSZ) did not make it.
In the Századvég-Forsense survey, 42% of the respondents revealed which party they voted for in the EP polls and the responses tells us a similar story than the outcome of the actual election was.
59% of the respondents said they voted for Fidesz (vs. actual 56.4%), 18% said they supported MSZP (vs. actual 17.4%) and 14% cast their ballot on Jobbik (vs. actual 14.8%).
Only 11% of those who went to the polling booths on 7 June and also disclosed their choice said they made up their mind about who to support only a few days before the election or only on the election day. About the same ratio of the respondents said they knew who they would vote already a few weeks earlier, while 54% of the respondents noted they had a clear idea which party's members they want to send to Brussels a year earlier. The latter group comprised mostly Fidesz and MSZP voters, while most of those agreeing with far-right Jobbik's messages made up their mind only a few weeks before 7 June.
The pollsters found that 59% of the respondents were either satisfied or most content with the outcome of the election. The corresponding figure among devoted Fidesz voters is 96%, 94% among Jobbik fans, while only 19% among the supporters of the Socialists. Regarding the latter group, 79% of them said their were disappointed or most dissatisfied with the results.
Good or bad?
46% of the respondents said Jobbik gaining three seats in the European Parliament was a good thing for Hungary, while 38% of them said nearly 430,000 votes for the far-right party was not OK. The majority of Fidesz voters (56%) consider Jobbik's surprising advance as a positive development. The majority of even those who did not vote on 7 June or held their party affiliation for themselves said Jobbik's presence on the political palette and Europe was rather good than bad.
At the same time, 72% of the respondents were unable to name a single theme Jobbik used in the campaign to woo voters with. There were two subjects relatively a lot of them remembered as being addressed by the party, namely a promise to defend Hungarian farmers and land and the “Roma question".
Lubos Palata at Transitions Online described Jobbik as an “extremist, anti-Semitic, xenophobic" party and Markus Salzmann at the World Socialist Web Site downright called them “neo-fascist". (The World Socialist Web Site is published by the International Committee of the Fourth International, the leadership of the of the world socialist movement, the Fourth International founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938.)
In the European parliamentary polls, the far-right vote was little bigger in Central and Eastern Europe than in some west European states with much longer democratic traditions. Jobbik's 14.7% made headlines and so did the National Party's 5% in Slovakia and the Greater Romania Party's 8% in its home country. But France's National Front won 6.5%, Italy's anti-immigration Northern League 9.6% and Austria's far-right Freedom party 13.1%.
Stefan Wagstyl of the Financial Times said on Friday that these parties “combine nationalist rhetoric with verbal assaults on minorities. In the west, the targets are mostly non-European immigrants and their descendants. In the east, the extremists focus on indigenous minorities."
He noted that while anti-Semitism is not generally a core element - not least because of the international condemnation it generates - it still “lurks in the political undergrowth and sometimes breaks cover, as with obscene anti-Jewish remarks recently posted on Jobbik's website."
Wagstyl believes the extremists in Hungary are far from a breakthrough. “Rather they, and Fidesz, have gained from a huge swing against the ruling party, with the socialists accused of incompetence, corruption and deceit."
He believes, though that “there are dangers". “A sizeable extremist vote in eastern Europe is a bigger social threat than in the west. [...] In eastern Europe, racist slurs often pass unremarked unless highlighted by western media," he added.
PM also condemns Jobbik
Hungary's mainstream political parties should distance themselves from the extremist far right, Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai told Dow Jones Newswires.
“The Hungarian government clearly and definitely rejects Jobbik's views and messages," Bajnai told DJN in an interview on Wednesday.
"It should be the duty of every Hungarian democratic parliamentary party, regardless of their fights with one another, to unanimously draw the line as to what is acceptable and what is not to say and do. Because the views of Jobbik and its extremist allies are harmful to Hungary internally and externally," Bajnai added.
He believes “it is harmful to Europe that such a party got into the European Parliament".
Jobbik's message centers around "Gypsy crime" and nationalism. It describes itself as pro-Hungarian and nationalist, frequently describing "Gypsy crime" as a menace to Hungarian society. Its sympathizers and literature also have been hostile to Jews. Its ally is the Hungarian Guard, a paramilitary group, which is openly hostile to Jews and Gypsies.
"The government condemns these views and will take all steps legally possible to stop them being spread," Bajnai added.
Analysts have said that growing support for some populist fringe parties in Central and Eastern Europe, including Jobbik, has been the result of the economic troubles the region is facing. Hungary's economy will slump 6.7% this year, the government projects, partly due to the strict fiscal austerity measures the country needs to implement to regain investor confidence.
The rise of extremism, one of the results of economic troubles in the region, also points to the mainstream parties' persisting negligence of reforms and social issues, the PM added."
Source: Portfolio Online Financial Journal