2019 will be a year of frustration and hope

He has put his busiest and toughest year behind but he feels it was worth it. He does not think that the government can be toppled from the streets but he does believe they can set a limit as to how far the central power can go and even crack the authoritarian-leaning regime next spring and autumn. How? You can find out if you read our year-end interview with Jobbik president Tamás Sneider. 

We’ve been through a very busy year with so many events that would even be enough for 2-3 years. What was it like for you and Jobbik?

This is perhaps the end of my busiest year so far. The election campaign was more intensive and turbulent than usual but I kept reassuring myself that we could have a little rest at the end. Well, I was wrong. The bulk of the work just came afterwards and we had to start as soon as the April elections were over. We’ve not stopped ever since. With four children and two elderly parents who needed special care at times, it was not an easy task – but it was worth it. It was a tough but successful year. Jobbik’s position was solidified and Hungary’s second strongest party is ready to take on the Orbán regime in 2019. Not least because we are over a hard but necessary purification process which resulted in the supporters of the current regime leaving our ranks. 

And what was the year 2018 like for Hungary?

This spring brought a two-third governing majority for the third time, which I believe is a disaster. The past eight years saw the establishment of an arrogant and corrupt system which can now go on for another 4-year term. Not only is this regime dishonest, it’s extremely harmful, too. Never have we had so few Hungarian children born as in the period since 2010, and the declining trend continued this year as well. If you look at this one indicator, especially if you take the massive brain drain into consideration, you can see the image of a nation taking huge steps towards destruction. That’s the real balance of the System of National Cooperation, as the Orbán regime calls itself.

The end of the year echoed with the most vehement anti-government protests so far. Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel for 2019?

The events of the past few weeks clearly show how fast winds can change in politics. For quite a while, I’ve been emphasizing that the opposition was in complete apathy after the spring of 2006 yet the nation did make a move in the autumn. Now it seems I was right. The spectacular events take place in the streets but, just like 12 years ago, the truly important changes are going on in people’s souls. I don’t expect this wave of protests to topple the government but that’s not where its true importance lies. The Gyurcsány government was not removed from office in the autumn of 2006 but the events launched the process that led to the fall of the corrupt and anti-national power four years later.

At that time, the protesting crowd was more or less homogeneous in terms of political views; they were mostly pro-right. However, the picture is much more complex this time.

The latest protests were triggered by certain specific laws and measures as well as the intolerable government practices. The various groups of the demonstrators have very different world views and concepts for the future but we are all connected by the fact that we are Hungarian and we are worried about our country. No matter what isms the protesting crowds follow, they surely agree on three things: they don’t want a dictatorship, they don’t want exploitation and they are fed up with corruption. If these were Fidesz’ goals, we would be demonstrating alongside them. We may have radically different ideas about family policy, homosexual marriage or even the ethnic Hungarian communities living beyond our borders – if there’s no democracy and rule of law, we can’t even begin to conduct a debate about these issues. Dictatorships allow for only one opinion, and that’s where Hungary is going right now. It is our common interest to stop this process. 

The pro-government propaganda outlets are now criticizing Jobbik for demonstrating against the current regime alongside the forces that were involved with Hungary’s earlier corrupt and anti-national governance you mentioned. Has the world turned so much?

We took to the streets alongside many young people, some of whom indeed have pro-left or liberal views, but they’re certainly not responsible for the governance experienced 10-15 years ago. But I don’t want to avoid your question: both in the crowd and on stage, we saw some faces familiar from before 2010, and we can’t be happy about them. I think the solution might be if the pro-left and liberal sphere finally went through a generation change, and the figures who played a role in the previous government finally retired from politics. We would certainly have major theoretical debates with the new generation, too, but it’s much easier to find common ground with politicians whose hands are clean.

The government says 2019 will be the year of families. What kind of year do you think is ahead of us?

It’s going to be a year of frustration but hope, too. The government’s propaganda instigates Hungarians against each other, digging ever deeper trenches in our society. The latest wave of protests is likely to make them try to max out these efforts. They feel they’re in trouble. Not because you could topple this government from the streets. I don’t believe you can. What I do believe is that if you make an assertive, uncompromising stance, you can set the limits for this power, you can make them understand: stop and go no further! But the slavery act is not the only issue that requires such a stance. Together with Hungary’s economic disadvantage, Viktor Orbán’s policies may lead to our country being either expelled from or leaving the European Union, even in the short run. No matter how differently we see the state and future of the European Union, we must join our forces to prevent that. 

2019 will certainly be the year of two elections: EP and municipal. What are your expectations?

The EP elections offer Hungarian voters a great opportunity to correct the two-third predominance they handed out to Fidesz this year. I think many pro-government voters already regret that. As far as Jobbik is concerned, polls show that we may increase our three EP seats to four or even five if the best-case scenario plays out. 

But which parliamentary group will these MEPs join? Or do you insist on being independent even in the third term?

As of today, there’s no clear answer for that yet. The European political arena is going through a radical change as a whole, which will likely show in the composition of the new EP. New alliances and new groups may be formed. When that is clearly over, we can make a responsible decision as to who we want to cooperate with.

Then it will be followed by a truly serious domestic political contest: the municipal elections. Can you pose a tough challenge to Fidesz in the villages?

If anyone has a chance to do that, it’s Jobbik. I am convinced that the reason why the unprecedented ignoble smear campaign against our party and politicians just went on without a pause even after April is because the elections revealed that we had significantly improved our standing in the towns. We got the highest number of votes in more than thirty towns and we were a very close runner-up behind the governing party in thirty others. Orbán’s people think forward and they know what threat they may have to face next fall. If they lose one third or half of the Hungarian towns, the whole regime will be shaken in its foundations.

To that end, is it possible to create an alliance of the whole opposition? This need seems to have been increasingly articulated in the recent demonstrations. 

This is a kind of spiritual process I was talking about before. Instead of the opposition parties joining in an all-out embrace however, this should be manifested in bringing down the walls between the various pro-opposition voter groups so that everyone can conscientiously vote for the best opposition candidate even if they don’t run under the banner of their favourite party. The real power lies in the alliance that Hungarian people can make with each other. Of course, formal cooperation will also be needed in many places. However, I don’t necessarily mean political parties as there are local NGOs and patriotic organizations running in the elections in many towns and villages, too. In each case, we’ll have to make a locally-driven decision as to where and how we can work together with them. What is certain is that the Socialist Party, the Democratic Coalition and, according to the current standing, Momentum will not be listed together with Jobbik.

Pro-government propaganda outlets have been running the story that the demonstrators “desecrated the spirit of Advent and Christmas”. What do these celebrations mean to you, an “anti-Christmas demonstrator” in the orange universe (editor’s note: orange is the colour of governing party Fidesz)?

When Fidesz politicians say things like that, I always remember the Christmases I had to spend away from my family in the late 1990s as I was working abroad at the time. If there is such a thing as anti-Christmas spirit at all, it must be the politics of the past eight years which led to shocking social injustice and drove hundreds of thousands of people away from Hungary. Many of these families can’t be together even during these holy celebrations. I don’t think the demonstrators have anything to feel ashamed about that in this regard. As far as I’m concerned, these days help me regenerate, I try to spend as much time with my family as possible. On the other hand, I believe it’s very important to think about those who don’t have a chance to spend Christmas with their families. Let’s knock at the door of the old lady living in the neighbouring flat and ask her if we can help her, or just exchange a few nice words with her. It means a lot to them and helps us understand how lucky we are to be surrounded by the ones we care so much about.

 

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