Hungary’s Ruling Socialists Suffer Stinging Defeat

Pablo Gorondi, Yahoo! News, April 11, 2010

Hungary’s center-right party reclaimed the right to govern on Sunday, winning over 50 percent of the vote and handing the ruling Socialists a humiliating defeat. Extreme rightists backed by black clad paramilitary troops took more than 15 percent to come in third.

While widely forecast, the strong gain of the extreme right Jobbik party represented the greatest political shake-up of the election, shattering Hungary’s traditional post-communist status quo of a parliament dominated by the center right and the left.

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.

The governing Socialists, whom many Hungarians blame for their dismal economy, were far behind with 19.3 percent and 28 seats, followed closely by the far-right, anti-Gypsy Jobbik with 26 seats and 16.7 percent–over three times as much as any other far-right party since the country’s return to democracy from communism in 1990.

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A green party, Politics Can Be Different, exceeded expectations with 7.4 percent and 5 seats ahead of a second round on April 25 when the fate of the remaining 111 seats is decided in runoffs for 57 constituencies where no candidate got at least half the votes.

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Jobbik, which burst onto the political scene last year with a nationalist platform blaming Gypsies and Jews for many of the country’s problems, claimed that only a series of scandals about some of its candidates created by the media prevented it from overtaking the Socialists.

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Jobbik’s rise also has been aided by the popularity of the Magyar Garda, or Hungarian Guard, an extremist group whose uniforms are reminiscent of those worn in the 1940s by the Arrow Cross, Hungary’s infamous wartime Nazi party.

The Garda was co-founded by Vona, the Jobbik leader, although he is no longer an active member. It was disbanded last year by the courts for breaking laws governing the operation of groups and associations, but it continues to exist under a new name.

The Garda’s most confrontational actions have been a series of marches through small countryside towns and villages meant to intimidate their large Gypsy populations and stop what Jobbik calls “Gypsy crimes”–mostly petty thefts too numerous and considered too minor for police to deal with.

An unprecedented series of Roma killings in 2008 and 2009 claimed six lives in several villages, reflecting the depth of hatred against the minority.

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