Why is the population of Budapest declining?

Right-wing extremism

Keno Verseck

Keno Verseck (born 1967) has been a journalist since 1991 with a focus on Central and Southeastern Europe. From 1991 to 2000 he worked as a correspondent in Hungary (Budapest) and Romania (Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Csíkszereda). Since 2000 he has been making regular research trips to Central and Southeast Europe. He works for print, radio, TV and online media. He has been a north-east correspondent since 2010.

The shift to the right that has taken place in Hungary in recent years cannot be overlooked. The Hungarian government is openly raising the mood against European unification. Many liberal and pro-European Hungarians are now withdrawing into private life - or are leaving the country.

Major demonstration in Budapest in January 2012 for Viktor Orbán's Fidesz government. The European Union is seen as an enemy: "We will not become a colony!" (Front banner). Back slogan: "Democrat with heart and soul" refers to a right-wing extremist Hungarian weekly newspaper: the "Magyar Demokrata". The EU Commission had previously initiated three rapid proceedings against Hungary for violating the EU treaties: Among other things, Brussels objected to a new law that affects the independence of the Hungarian central bank. The attacks on the freedom of the press in Hungary also repeatedly attracted criticism from at home and abroad. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

"A significant part of the gypsies are unsuitable for living among people," wrote the author. Then he made a proposal to solve what he called the "Hungarian gypsy question": "They are animals. These animals should not be allowed to be. In no way. That has to be solved - immediately and no matter how."

There are a lot of horrific things to read in Hungary's right-wing extremist media. There is a very active right-wing extremist scene in the country, especially on the internet, as Hungary has one of the most successful right-wing extremist parties in Europe - Jobbik (The Better), which won 21 percent of the vote in the elections at the beginning of April this year. But the cited, barely veiled final solution proposal did not appear in a forum of Hungarian right-wing extremists, and the author was not some insignificant fanatic either.

The leading article was published under the heading "Who shouldn't exist" on January 5, 2013 in the Budapest government-affiliated newspaper Magyar Hírlap, a paper that clearly distinguishes itself from relevant right-wing extremists. The text was written by none other than Zsolt Bayer - one of the oldest political friends of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and a founding member of his Fidesz party (Association of Young Democrats).

Bayer, who once served Fidesz as press officer, has long been without a party function and is essentially active as a journalist. And yet he does a great service to Viktor Orbán and his two-thirds government majority as a mobilizer of the party base and voters: he organizes the so-called "peace marches" in Budapest, in which since 2012 tens or even hundreds of thousands of Hungarians show their solidarity with the Orbán - Proclaim government and demonstrate against "Brussels coup and colonization attempts".

Anti-European course is consensus - the ruling party

The article sparked great outrage among the liberal-minded part of the Hungarian public and abroad - but hardly anyone in the Fidesz party leadership took public offense. Only the Justice Minister Tibor Navracsics, who is considered to be comparatively liberal but without influence, managed to cautiously criticize Bayer - such positions would have no place in the party. However, Bayer was not expelled from the party.

His "final solution journalism" (his article from January 2013 was not the first of its kind) is no exception, but just one of the most blatant examples that anti-human, right-wing extremist ideas in Hungary are now considered acceptable in the right-of-center political establishment. "In many areas the ideological boundaries between the ruling party Fidesz and the Hungarian right-wing extremists are blurring," says the Hungarian writer György Dalos.

The right-wing extremist job bike

Founded in 2003, Jobbik, the "Movement for a Better Hungary", was originally a reservoir for disappointed young Fidesz supporters for whom Orbán's party was not radical enough. Although Jobbik has only been represented in the Hungarian parliament since April 2010 - she managed 17 percent in the elections at the time - the party already determined a significant part of the political discourse beforehand. It established the term "gypsy crime" in large parts of the social center of Hungary. With the founding of paramilitary vigilante groups such as the Hungarian Guard, which for years marched in allegedly unsafe Hungarian cities and communities, it recommended itself to the public as a factor of order. After the financial crisis of 2008, it made a significant contribution to fueling xenophobic sentiments among part of the population with its campaigns against foreign investors, "international financial capital", the EU and the USA.

In consideration of the parliamentary and European elections, Jobbik politicians have deliberately refrained from using aggressive anti-Semitic, antigypsy and exaggerated anti-European rhetoric for some time. They no longer use irritating words such as "gypsy crime", they no longer demand "lists of Jews", no longer light European flags - the style is broadly compatible. In terms of content, however, the party does not compromise: In its program, for example, it still calls for the forced internment of so-called "integration unwilling" Roma children in state homes, the reintroduction of the death penalty, the investigation of Hungarian politicians and civil servants for dual, i.e. Hungarian-Israeli citizenship, the restriction of the rights of welfare recipients with many children (meaning Roma) or the exit from the EU.

In contrast, much of the content that is disseminated by the Hungarian media close to the government - besides Magyar Hírlap, primarily newspapers such as Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Demokrata, Lánchíd Rádió and the television stations HírTV and Echo TV [1] - differs from that of the right-wing extremists, at most in nuances . In summary, the agenda of these media is as follows: Hungarians for Hungarians, an end to the predatory extortion of the people by foreign corporations. Liberal democracy - a failed mistake. Europe - destroyed by the demon of liberal atheism, the EU - occupying Hungary, colonial rulers and stooges of international finance capital. Jews - so-called "foreign-hearted" [2], who demand excuses for the Holocaust from Hungarians for all eternity, commanders and tone givers of the left-wing liberal Hungarian media, which is treacherous to their fatherland. Roma - criminals, rats and existences unworthy of life.

Right media agenda reflects national consensus

Publicists and intellectuals close to the government often only express in pointed form what is largely consensus among the nationalist-ultra-conservative government majority from Fidesz and the small Christian Democratic party KDNP affiliated with it. [3] One of the main ideologues is the current President of Parliament, László Kövér, also a Fidesz co-founder and Orbán friend from studying together in the mid-1980s. In March 2013, Kövér presented his theory on the right-wing conservative Budapest television broadcaster Hír TV how the world had conspired against Hungary: international capital, the EU and the USA had chosen Hungary as the "symbolic location of their Cold War" because the Budapest government had both in political as well as in economic terms had brought about a "serious departure" from the "liberal compulsory route".

Fidesz-affiliated cultural politicians often go particularly far with their statements. The Prime Minister's cultural commissioner, Imre Kerényi, is an avowed gay hater. Shortly before the contract of the director of the National Theater, Róbert Alföldi (who is homosexual), expired in the summer of 2013, Kerényi said at a press conference that in future the theater will "no longer be about fagots, but about love, honor and loyalty". György Fekete, the chairman of the Hungarian Art Academy (MMA), an unofficial culture ministry with far-reaching powers, demands that "no academician should lack the genetic feeling of nationalism" and regrets that Hungarian writers with Jewish roots are still considered Hungarians abroad would.

The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán himself often takes up ideas from the far right in a milder form in public:

  • In July 2012, Orbán said at a highly acclaimed press conference on his government's new Roma policy: "The Roma also have to work. You cannot live on crime. You cannot live on social welfare either, or at least only much worse than on work."

  • When a large Turul monument was inaugurated in the southern Hungarian town of Ópusztaszer in September 2012, the mythical bird that is said to have brought the Hungarian tribes to the Carpathian Basin more than a thousand years ago, Viktor Orbán said in his celebratory speech: "The Turul bird is the archetype Hungarians. It belongs to the blood and to the homeland. It is the symbol of the national identity of all Hungarians living now, all dead and all future-born Hungarians. So that we can form a strong political community, we must strengthen our cohesion. We, the Hungarians of national cohesion, with our love, our willingness to serve and our cheerfulness, we have to push all bad and all disagreement out of Hungarian life. "

  • On October 23, 2013, the Hungarian national holiday, Viktor Orbán gave one of the harshest anti-European speeches of his political career. Traitors and internal enemies of the nation, he said, had pacted with hostile foreigners to deliver Hungary and its people to the bureaucrats of the European Union, speculators and the international financial industry. But the nation decided to no longer live in captivity abroad: "We have repulsed the colonization attempt."

  • On May 10th of this year Viktor Orbán took the oath of office as head of government again in parliament. In his subsequent programmatic speech, he listed the values ​​that were decisive in the Hungary he ruled: "Work instead of speculation, mutual responsibility instead of liberalism, struggle for preservation of national independence instead of submission to global forces, education of children to love their homeland instead Internationalism, consistent, dignified order instead of all-tolerant disorder. "


Is Fidesz just fishing on the right fringes for tactics?

Most Hungarian observers attest Viktor Orbán that he is neither an explicit anti-Semite nor an antiziganist himself. Orbán's rhetoric is more about binding right-wing voters, says the writer György Dalos. "He and his party need right-wing voters because left-wing voters run away from them because of their poor social policies."

But it's not just about rhetoric. Partly toned down, partly unchanged, Orbán and his government majority have implemented part of the right-wing extremist Jobbik program in recent years:

  • In memory of the Trianon Peace Treaty, through which Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory in 1920, the Orbán government declared June 4, when it took office in May 2010, to be the “Day of National Cohesion” for all Hungarians around the world.

  • Statues of alleged communist traitors were razed and - with the participation of Fidesz politicians - those erected for the imperial administrator Miklós Horthy, who as the Hungarian head of state in the interwar period was jointly responsible for the Holocaust against the Hungarian Jews. Many intellectually influential figures from the Orbán Party camp, such as the historian Mária Schmidt, who heads the "House of Terror" in Budapest, demand that Horthy assess not only on the basis of his responsibility for the Holocaust, not only "one-sidedly with negative adjectives "should be stamped" (so Schmidt in an interview with the author), but one has to consider his rule in a nuanced way. The Horthy era is being glorified in parts of Orbán's ruling party, and Fidesz politicians initiated or supported the erection of Horthy statues at the local level. The constitution, which has been in force since 2012, evokes the spirit of the Horthy regime in its preamble. Reference is made there to the "millennial Hungarian state", embodied by the "historical constitution and the Holy St. Stephen's Crown", the "spiritual and spiritual unity" of a "nation torn to pieces", the duty to preserve the unique Hungarian language, the Hungarian population and the Hungarian national culture. The preamble also states that Hungary's sovereignty ended with the German occupation on March 19, 1944, indirectly denying responsibility for the Holocaust against Hungarian Jews.

  • The National Basic Curriculum (NAT) recommends several anti-Semitic writers from the interwar period to read, including Albert Wass, a war criminal sentenced to death in absentia in Romania, and József Nyírö, a blood-and-soil writer and influential ideologue of the National Socialist Hungarian Arrow Crossers. Today Wass is an unofficial national poet in Hungary, dozens of Wass statues are in the country, erected by local administrations from taxpayers' money. In April 2008, today's Foreign Secretary Zsolt Németh and today's Budapest Mayor István Tarlos inaugurated a statue of Wass in the Budapest district of Csepel. At Pentecost 2012, the President of Parliament László Kövér and the then Secretary of State for Culture Géza Szöcs took part in a reburial ceremony for József Nyírö in Romania - although the Romanian authorities had banned this. Hungarian state officials had previously smuggled the urn containing Nyírö's ashes to Romania, as Szöcs later proudly announced.

  • The social welfare legislation has been tightened drastically. The obligation to do community work for social welfare recipients has been greatly expanded, local authorities have the right to cancel the right to social welfare for beneficiaries, if disorderly and unsanitary conditions or neglect of the children are found during order checks in apartments. The relevant provisions are broad. Overall, the measures are aimed primarily against Roma, as the proportion of them who receive social assistance is disproportionately high compared to the population average and they also mostly live in extreme poverty and in completely impoverished circumstances.

  • The rights of paramilitary vigilante groups were strengthened, the right to armed self-protection on their own land was introduced, a concession to Roma haters. In addition, the Orbán government introduced one of the strictest criminal codes in Europe, including tightening penalties for many offenses and reducing criminal responsibility for serious crimes to the age of 12.


Orbán's party has also opened up to the right ideologically

Orbán government officials have repeatedly complained that they are equated with the right-wing extremists at Jobbik. Gergely Pröhle, State Secretary for European Affairs in the Foreign Ministry and often the interlocutor of foreign journalists, points out that the Orbán government has often distinguished itself from right-wing extremism, that it does a lot to remember the Holocaust or to fight anti-Semitism. "The projection of right-wing extremists onto a bourgeois-conservative government is a well-known left-wing tactic from world history," says Pröhle.

In fact, the Orbán government majority declaratively again and again clearly distinguish itself from right-wing extremism. Observers such as the historian Krisztán Ungváry, who sees himself more as a conservative, describe this as "window dressing". "If the government introduces anti-Semites like the writers Wass and Nyírö into the curriculum or honors them, it cannot at the same time claim that it is credibly differentiating itself from anti-Semitism," says Ungváry. "Fidesz is a two-faced party, it wants to win over right-wing voters at home, but at the same time it wants to present itself well to foreigners."

The fact that Viktor Orbán's party is opening up far to the right in domestic politics is a development that goes back around two decades. After the Hungarian reunification in 1989/90, Orbán tried to give his party a center profile with rather moderate success. After an election debacle in 1994, he ordered Fidesz to take an abrupt, sharp turn to the right. The rhetoric of Orbán and his party has since been characterized by increasing nationalism and Hungarian-centrism.

Orbán created an atmosphere of verbal civil war as early as the 1998 election campaign.After his first term in office from 1998 to 2002, Orbán commented on his electoral defeat in the spring of 2002 with the words: "The homeland cannot be in the opposition." It was the first time that he declared himself and his party to be congruent with the Hungarian nation and its interests.

Another turning point was the events in autumn 2006, when a secret speech by the then socialist head of government Ferenc Gyurcsány, in which he admitted fraudulent election promises, led to a week-long siege of parliament by demonstrators and ultimately to serious street riots in Budapest. The leaders of the riots were right-wing extremist groups. In the hope of driving the socialist-liberal coalition from power, Fidesz allied itself with the right-wing extremists at the time - a legitimation that was one of the starting points for Jobbik's rise to a 17 and ultimately a 21 percent party.

Three years later, in September 2009, Viktor Orbán announced his vision of the future Hungary in a speech that was later made public: He hoped that Hungary would be governed by a single ruling party, of course his own, a "central one" for at least two decades Kraftfeld ", which is about a ungarocentric perspective - Hungary must become a" Hungarian country ".

Eight months later, Orbán had reached his goal - his two-thirds victory in the elections paved the way for the radical transformation of Hungary. And there is some evidence that Orbán's dream of twenty years of reign will come true.

The population withdraws into private life

The left philosopher G. M. Tamás offers a complex explanation of how the former model reform country Hungary was able to change so radically in the first place. It was precisely the socialist and left-liberal parties that had been pursuing classic neoliberal politics in Hungary for years, according to Tamás. As a result, broad social classes are completely impoverished, for them the post-communist transformation has failed completely, especially in the lower middle class, the panic of the crash is very pronounced. "Right-wing extremist thinking in Eastern European societies is also an expression of the rebellion of the middle class," said Tamás. "Everywhere in the region there is a state-dependent middle class whose situation is very uncertain, which threatens to lose its position and prestige and which is fighting ever harder for the state's ever-smaller resources."

However, Tamás warns against equating Orbán, his government majority and his supporters with the attitude of the whole of Hungarian society. In fact, surveys in recent years show a contradicting picture: anti-Semitic sentiments among the population have declined slightly, but are still very widespread compared to the time before Orbán came to power. Roma, Romanians and Blacks are among those who meet with the greatest opposition. On the other hand: Most Hungarians are more pro-European - their trust in the EU is even slightly above the European average. Overall, many Hungarians are reacting to the political situation with a retreat into private life, at the same time the number of young, well-educated people who are leaving the country has skyrocketed in recent years: According to official information, around 500,000 Hungarians have emigrated in the past four years - that would be 5 percent of the population.