Commentary

Power Grab in Jobbik

We have reported about Jobbik leader, Gábor Vona’s surprise move to purge Jobbik’s leadership from its more radical elements, but it wasn’t immediately obvious whether it was 1) a move to sanitize Jobbik’s extreme nationalist image or 2) a power grab by Vona.

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The question seems to have settled when Vona appointed similarly radical people to replace the old vice presidents. Vona’s gamble paid off: his candidates have all been elected by the party’s congress yesterday.

Like this guy…

 

But Vona’s support has suffered. It went from a 95% at the last party congress to a 79% re-election rate last Sunday. Not so glorious, considering he was the only candidate on both occasions.

According to Péter Krekó of Political Capital Institute, Vona’s role model in PM Viktor Orbán. He had previoulsy said that “one can only learn from Orbán in Hungarian politics” and Vona’s current moves do indeed resemble Orbán’s power grab within Fidesz in the 90s and early 2000s (also resulting in no challenger for the leadership to the party).

“I don’t demonize Orbán, like the left wing does. I rather study him for things I could build into my own politics.”

– Gábor Vona, 2015

Vona has often been described as a not-too-talented political entrepreneur without major convictions – not in the same league as lead populists, Orbán and previous prime minister Gyurcsány, but a relentless learner and an analytical mind nonetheless. Non-charismatic, not impulsive, not spontaneous, and not even radical, Vona closely copies every move by Orbán and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras.

How did Orbán do it?

  1. Take over the party

    Orbán has achieved complete control over Fidesz after his election defeat in 2002.

  2. Purge the party from dissenters and non-believers

    By sending them to Brussels, setting them against each other, destroying their reputation by making them submit unacceptable proposals before parliament, Orbán has methodically removed every strongman from Fidesz. Vona also prefers to be surrounded by his own people – and would rather see dissenters outside the party. But according to Krekó it may well result in a chasm within Jobbik.

  3. Centralise the party organisation

    Orbán has set out to achieve his organisational goal after the 2002 election defeat: to have even the remotest village report directly to him – and take orders directly from Orbán. He appointed a strongman, Gábor Kubatov to oversee all the organisation – and so did Vona. By the next elections, he can hand-pick local candidates and if his progress follows Orbán’s, he will have an army of loyal but weightless MPs, who report only to him and have all their influence pending on the party leader’s favours.

  4. Bring in outside expertise

    An army of experts and committees (called civic circles) have been set up by Orbán in 2002. Not members of the party and only loyal to Orbán and his myth, these experts have been a vital life force of Orbán’s support outside the party. Vona has announced something similar with a plethora of committees, centres, and representatives appointed or planned.

  5. Withdrawing from parliament

    Orbán has left the day-to-day politics of parliamentary work to concentrate on building (and centralising) the party in 2002. It has also resulted in him being mostly absent from parliament – driving the opposition nuts. Vona has done the same yesterday.

To his critiques, who accused him of changing the face of the party Vona said that a cherry tree doesn’t resemble a cherry stone either. Can’t argue with that.

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Featured image: kakyoin cherry via Tumblr

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