Talk of split premature; Jobbik absorbs rivalries
Jobbik is not free from internal conflicts and local power struggles – so far that much can be said with certainty regarding the fact that the county chairman of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, MP Zsolt Endrésik, was removed from the post and then excluded from the party. But while the consequences of the case can undoubtedly damage Jobbik politically, we can hardly speak yet about a national crisis of the right wing or the party splitting.
When the struggle for local power in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén County in northeastern Hungary between Jobbik deputy chairman and MEP Csanád Szegedi and county chairman and MP Endrésik degenerated, the party’s national chairmanship and parliamentary party group decided on 25 April to exclude Endrésik from the group. The ethics committee then went on to expel the politician and his associates from Jobbik itself.
According to the reasons given, Endrésik and local government representatives András Kisgergely and Zoltán Nagyházi “were seeking to divide the party using false information”, to which end they sought the help of Lajos Põsze, earlier excluded from the party and currently an independent MP.
Endrésik then announced that he was setting up a new movement named Szent László (Saint Ladislau), which he claimed would be supported by several smaller far-right organisations. In tandem with these developments Jobbik began the reshaping of the county organisational structure: of the 75 member organisations in Borsod, some 20 were discontinued by 8 May.
Sources’ sour grapes
In connection with the events, stories appeared in the press suggesting that conflicts within the party had also become exacerbated, and conflicts had developed within the leadership, which is preparing to elect new officials. However, since such information is primarily spread by those excluded from the party, its credibility is highly doubtful and several misconceptions have seen the light of day.
The first such is the interpretation that the case is evidence of an internal conflict dividing the national leadership, as a consequence of which Gábor Vona’s position as party chairman could be shaken. In reality it is a county-level conflict, behind which lies a struggle for power, and the swift management of the case, i.e. Endrésik’s exclusion, demonstrates precisely the unity of the leadership. Csanád Szegedi himself denied the news that he would run for the position of party chairman against Vona. Even Põsze, who has regularly predicted since his exclusion that Jobbik will fall apart, has said the influence of Vona, Szegedi and Elõd Novák is unquestionable in the current set-up. Incidentally, lesser or greater disputes and splits are not without precedent in Jobbik’s history. In 2007, during the period of the far right’s extraordinary rise, several founders left the party. After Jobbik entered Parliament, pronounced tensions were present within the organisation, resulting in Pősze being excluded. After the Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard) was banned its successor organisations split into several parts on several occasions. One early deputy chairman, József Tibor Bíber, left and founded a new movement called Fõnix Mozgalom (Phoenix Movement), which, however, has not been able to establish itself as a serious rival to Jobbik. So far such internal problems have not once seriously threatened Jobbik’s unity. According to opinion polls the party experienced its deepest crisis at the end of 2010 but since then has tended to gain in support.
Location, location, location…
The other misbelief ascribes particular importance to the fact that the internal conflicts have developed precisely in the northeast, often referred to as Jobbik’s citadel. According to some, this can result in the extreme weakening of the party. However, it needs to be seen that Jobbik is not a regional party. While it is true that its greatest support is in the northeast (roughly a fifth of its voters live in those counties), in reality the party can be described as relatively strong nationwide.
Finally, the way in which Jobbik’s political rivals, i.e. the other parliamentary parties, relate to Jobbik can also be described as a strategy based on a misconception. In connection with the current conflict, the non-extremist parties seem to have been strengthened in their belief that Jobbik will dissolve of itself and thereby cease to be a problem to them. But experiences so far tend to show that the Jobbik leadership is capable of managing internal conflicts. It is very probable this will be the case this time. However, the other parties, if they would really like to weaken Jobbik, can hardly save themselves the work of developing an effective political strategy against the far right.
Thia analysis appeared originally on The Budapest Times.