notohatepolitics

CEU (but no exclusive) community dedicated to disclosuring hate politics in Europe

Month: February, 2014

Jobbik – Movement for a Better Hungary

Jobbik, the Hungarian far right party was founded in 2002 by a few undergraduate students. Soon they became a widespread social movement, whit the aim of not letting Hungary to be owned by foreign investors and bankers (sic). They became a political party in 2003 and allied with MIÉP, the former, first far right party of Hungary.

The political crisis in 2006 provided an excellent opportunity for Jobbik to quickly emerge to the position of the third most popular party in Hungary. They won 3 seats at the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, which indicated the first milestone in their (must say) political success. The 2010 Hungarian Parliamentary elections proved that Jobbik has a substantial number of voters in the state, who made 47 seats out of 386 available for them.

But who vote for them? Well, one might assume that the majority of supporters come from disadvantaged and neglected groups of society, such as unemployed people, or those, who live in the countryside, and have no real perspectives of the future. Reality shows the complete opposite. Jobbik’s voters are composed of young (between 20-35), educated people, who obtain university diplomas and have jobs. This is a frightening and sad pattern. Young adults were yet to choose a sympathetic political party due to their age, therefore, it was easy to Jobbik to gather them around their cause.

Jobbik’s propaganda is composed of anti-EU, anti-Roma and pro-death penalty rhetoric. Also, they are implicitly speaking against the Jewish community. Truth must be told, they favor agricultural and industrial developments in the country… but out of that? Image

Jobbik’s politicians burn the EU flag during a street protest in 2012 (source: http://www.hetivalasz.hu)

No far right party but deep rooted hate politics

In Romania at this point there is no particular political party that could be identified as radical right wing. The Great Romania (PRM) was the hideous party to play this role until the 2008 elections when they did not even make the electoral threshold and did not got any place in the Parliament. This party had it all: xenophobia, antisemitism, radical nationalism, populism, conservatorism and even denied the Holocaust untill 2004 when suddenly changed its mind. Here is a sample of the involuntary humour these guys used to produce: “The Romania government is run by the Hungarian Jew George Soros from the USA”. Their charismatic leader was kicked out of the party and he is now a MEP. 

Today’s populist is PP-DD who state that they are of no political doctrine; they are a weird animal of sort-of-left-wing, nationalism and surrealism. However they are no match to PRM’s hate politics.

The overall public speech has not improved too much since the populists went down the drain. We still have individual discharges of hate politics ranging from 2007 President’s name calling “filthy gypsy” on a journalist to the fact that there is difficult to identify more than one MP at this point that would sustain in public the civil partnership between couples of the same sex. 

Romania President and the “agenda setters”

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Populists Getting more Comfortable at the European Political Table

EU flag 

Radical politicians are seen as either coming from a dystopia[1] or as eyes opening genuine saviors. I for one reserve the right to distribute them in the first bin and find their rhetoric as a fantastic over-simplification of the social and economic conditions. Add up as a disturbing factor how populists (far right especially) report to morality and rights in relative terms: for them it is more a survival in the fight between good and evil that seems to condense politics to a battle against conspiracy.

The National Front in France, United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in UK, the Freedom Party (PVV) in the Netherlands, Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, Vlaams Belang in Belgium’s, Italy’s Northern League in Italy, Finns Party in Findland and Progress Party in Norway are just the top of a list of populist and radical parties in Europe. Not only they make the news (although they have few leaders) but make it in their national parliaments. Their electoral straight is even estimated to increase in the forthcoming European Parliament elections (for EU member states).

Is grass root populist bad?

I agree that these parties represent the will of some people, especially of those dissilussioned, confused and anxious about to what they belong to, where their country is heading, and whether their leaders can do anything about it, as Dominique Reynié puts it. These voters do not hold an inner drive for extreme politics nor are they manipulated. On the contrary, as the case of Jobbik’s supporters shows, these voters are predominantly young men and a significant proportion of them (22%) have a university or college education. The common denominator for these supporters is the translation of economic hardship or perceived status challenges into positions against a range of things depending from where the party operates. For the Western European parties the speech focuses on anti-immigration, anti-Islamisation, preserving national wealth (hence anti-EU). For the Eastern European parties the scapegoats are Jews, Roma and minorities. National and religious values rather than wealth are to be preserved for the latter case (hence Euroscepticism).

These parties do not bring new topics on the political scene but popular and symbolic myths, identity politics and over-simplification.

What will happen in the EP elections?

Some estimate that another thing populists have in common at least for this EP elections is that they are scoring high in the polls. The overall seats they will gain in the EP can even increased to 3 times. These figures can be filtered in  two ways: the pessimists think that the populist radical right politicians will overwhelm the European Parliament. They will organize in parliamentary groups and influence policies against the big three group (the EPP, S&D and ALDE groups). The sceptics articulate that the radical populists will sit in the non-attached section (the Front National and the PVV) or in the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group (Lega Nord and the True Finns). They will be numerous but will do politics as usual. Politics as usual in these two groups means basically – according to Doru Frantulescu – less cohesion in comparison to the big groups and more nominal power (number of seats) than real power (the percentage of winning votes in the Parliament which a group is part of).

Counterpoint’s report says more or less the same thing: it is speaking time that is of real importance for populist radical right MEPs and not policy drafting. They tend to use the plenary time as a platform to espouse their views to the wider public rather than policy drafting.

Suppose the predictions are right: the increased number of populist in the EP will not lead to a reshape in EU public debate for the next five years. Suppose a coalition can be built in EP and either integrate the populists or make them stay in a beautiful isolation. Having these in mind what is still worrying is the spillover effect of what the populist preach. The velocity of their electoral gains from one mandate to another and the economic context that does not seem to get better any time soon raises the question: “how much more time until the populist will become a critical mass and their electoral score will have a say in EU policies?”


[1] A dystophia is the oppose of utopia. Dystopias are often characterized by dehumanization, totalitarian governments, environmental disaster, or other characteristics associated with a cataclysmic decline in society. Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dystopia

Why Populist Parties are Bad for Europe

EP

The rise of far right parties in Europe dates back to the euro crisis of 2008. Many Europeans got disappointed in politics and in the concept of the European Union. This political gap provided an excellent opportunity for populist parties to gain disillusioned voters over. Especially young, educated, easy-to-pursue adults joined them. It paved their way to national Parliaments, which ensures a legitimate forum for them to spread their ideas.

The message they communicate is usually composed of Euroscepticism, strong nationalism and explicitly or implicitly expressed hate toward immigrants and other minority groups living in their countries. Far right parties’ popularity is of great concern especially nowadays, since the Old Continent is preparing for the European Parliamentary elections held in May, 2014. Due
to numerous newspaper articles and political forecasts, it is probable that a significant number of Parliamentary seats will be taken by radical parties. Their high representation in the EP might impose an obstacle on debates over EU enlargement processes and integration policies. The fundamental problem is that they question the functioning and legitimacy of the EU’s institutional system.Their notion of supporting national sovereignty and independency is not compatible with the EU’s integration endeavors in their view.

Not long ago, both the British Prime Minister and leaders of the Hungarian extreme-right Jobbik party suggested the necessity of a referendum to ask citizens whether they wish their states remain members of the EU. Imposing restrictions on the number of immigrants arriving to the UK is another emerging debate in Britain. Switzerland, which belongs to the Schengen zone and member of EFTA, went further this week, since people have voted in favor of restricting immigration to the country. These events undermine the fundamental principles and freedoms of the Union and Europe itself. It debilitates the picture of an open, inclusive European Union, rested upon the aim of an economically and politically unified Europe. Xenophobic voices and anti-immigration attitudes disrupt the European community, and threaten the EU’s good connections with foreign allies. Nevertheless, it throws back its credibility on international platforms.

The current integration stage of the EU and its status in the world might be destructed by loud and provocative populist parties. It is likely that their off-color members makes the EU look ridiculous and light-minded in the eyes of international community. One might assume that young and aspirant politicians of far right parties would refresh the EU by setting new goals and apply different perspectives beneficial for the community. However, the rhetoric they use points to the opposite direction and projects the picture of a disintegrating Europe. The fight of clashing interests and differing opinions ideally leads to a comprehensive consensus between parties.

The continuous critique of the EU’s institutions and its functioning foments more thoughtful policy-making processes. It necessitates a respectful and intelligent way of debate, which is endangered now, with regard to the emerging popularity of far-right parties. The majority of EP seats will most probably go to moderate European parties in May, therefore, decision-making in the EU will not depend on populist lobby in the next five years. The harsh rhetoric used by the far right is appealing to many voters – and frightening to others.

The question emerges whether for how long will the EP’s composition remain similar to its current state. There is no guarantee that far right parties will always be on the verge of EU-level debates. If their support gradually increases over time, Europe might face a majority of extreme right representatives in Strasbourg in the future. Overall, this spring will be an exciting season in the life of Europe and the European Union, as well.