May 22, 2018 / 1:21 PM / 6 months ago

Hardliners in Hungary's Jobbik demand return to far-right roots

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hardliners in Hungary’s main right-wing main opposition party demanded on Tuesday that it return to its far-right roots, once notorious for racism and hostility to the European Union, or face an internal split.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman of the Hungarian right wing opposition party Jobbik Gabor Vona speaks at a rally during Hungary's National Day celebrations, in Budapest, Hungary, March 15, 2018. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo/File Photo

Jobbik recently adopted a milder right-wing ideology to challenge the increasingly nationalist, eurosceptic Fidesz party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the ballot box. But Orban scored a third straight landslide election victory on April 8.

Orban’s triumph forced his opponents to rethink strategy and opened up divisions in several opposition parties.

Laszlo Toroczkai, Jobbik’s vice chairman and a former far-right youth leader, told reporters he had formed a new hardline platform and gave party leaders until June 23 to integrate it in party policy or risk a break-up of Jobbik.

He said the platform entailed a return to goals pursued by the original Jobbik, including an end to immigration, stemming emigration of Hungarian youth to the wealthier west of the EU, a tough line on Hungary’s Roma minority and support for ethnic Hungarian minorities in neighbouring states.

“If they don’t deal with us, or reject the platform, that could even lead to a split, greatly damaging Jobbik,” he said.

Jobbik, formerly known for its anti-Semitism, xenophobia and ultra-nationalism, emerged as the strongest opposition party in April with 20 percent of the vote but failed to increase its seat share in parliament. Moderate party chairman Gabor Vona accepted responsibility for the outcome and quit politics.

In the ensuing party leadership campaign, Toroczkai sought the top job against followers of Vona’s softer line and drew 46.2 percent at a party congress earlier this month against moderate Tamas Sneider’s winning 53.8 percent.

“That 46 percent obliges the party to engage with (our) platform, which extends to about half of the party’s members,” Toroczkai said. He added that he enjoyed the backing of half a dozen Jobbik mayors, at least one Jobbik member of parliament, with many more considering joining him.

Jobbik spokesman Peter Jakab told a news conference that the party considered Toroczkai’s platform “illegitimate”.

“(Our) party congress decided Jobbik would continue on a path that led us to try and represent the widest possible cross-section of Hungarian society, regardless of political right or left, as a socially sensitive patriotic people’s party.”

Toroczkai said the Hungarian Guard, a uniformed vigilante group that Jobbik founded and used to carry out intimidating patrols in Roma-populated towns, could serve as a model for future Jobbik politics.

“There is definite demand from voters to deal with Roma-Hungarian co-existence problems. We will see what options we have. We will revisit these towns but this time in suits.”

Toroczkai, the mayor of Asotthalom, a village by the Serbian border which Orban fortified in 2015 to keep out migrants, will formally launch his platform at a June 23 ceremony where he said he expects thousands of supporters in a show of force.

Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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