Péter Jakab: “Our job is to coordinate those who can strive”
Alfahír interviewed Jobbik’s parliamentary faction leader Péter Jakab on such issues as
•the local elections,
•a diverse town leadership,
•growth and development,
•the dying rural areas,
•the dried pasta future,
•and an important pledge.
The registration of candidates is now officially over and, unlike in other elections in the past, many Jobbik supporters will not be able to vote for Jobbik-delegated council members and mayoral candidates or even a list of county candidates with an independent Jobbik logo on it. Is the glass half empty or half full?
This is a historic election! This time it’s not just parties competing with Fidesz; it’s credible public figures facing a discredited regime. In this struggle, Jobbik backs all credible candidates and we ask our voters to do the same.
When it comes to local elections, many citizens tend to shift their focus from party colours to such considerations as who would be a good caretaker of their district; who could take care of the people living there; who would fight for road constructions or who would reallocate the tax money from spectacular but useless projects to buying new instruments and equipment for the local hospital, as Jobbik’s councilman Péter Balassa has done in the town of Szombathely recently.
How did Jobbik perform in this new system so far?
The past year was focused on clearing the field so that there could be one opposition candidate facing each representative of Fidesz’ System of National Cooperation. Jobbik contributed to these efforts by providing credible public figures. In certain cases however, we had to ask some of our candidates to take a step back so that the community as a whole could take two steps forward. Jobbik’s strength is shown by how our candidates were willing to make a sacrifice for their communities, without any complaint. We are truly convinced that Hungary cannot progress without personal sacrifices of our own. Fidesz does not make any sacrifices, they take money from the nation’s cash and keep looking for ways to further enrich their own clientèle.
Now that you mentioned Fidesz’ relations with the communities: Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás already implied that if István Tarlós doesn’t win, Budapest may lose certain development funds. Is this the future for the country, too?
No. That’s a myth. Wherever their performance is not good enough, this dishonest government attempts to instigate fear. Also, since Fidesz’ mayoral candidates are allowed to run by Viktor Orbán’s grace, they feel they should be grateful to him and they indeed are: they will never go against his will. Not even for the interest of their voters. The most they do is to thank the regime for dropping a few crumbs on their town’s table. On the other hand, opposition candidates elected by the will of the local people are only held accountable to their communities and they are ready to confront the government for the interest of their towns. Thanks to the dedication of local patriots, opposition-led councils often perform better than those who do nothing except wait for the coming of the central funds.
There are fewer opposition candidates this year. This can mean that truly the most prepared people are running and their programmes are more diverse, too.
There’s one thing the Orbán regime certainly taught us: how to deal with people who have different views than us but we still believe it’s important to find some common understanding about the future of our towns. Fidesz has never asked for common understanding, Fidesz just makes declarations. No matter how stupid an idea they conceived, they nonetheless carried it out because there has been no proper checks and balances. Finding the common grounds in the interest of our town: now, that’s what I call progress. A diverse town council can act as a fail-safe mechanism to warn a mayor or a vice mayor if they happen to get carried away.
One way or another, Jobbik, for the first time in the party’s history, has a chance to delegate a mayor of a county seat (Eger – Ádám Mirkóczki), a city with county seat rights (Dunaújváros – Tamás Pintér), and a district of Budapest (District 23/ Soroksár – Miklós Bereczki ), too. How does Jobbik specifically focus on these campaigns?
We treat all 3200 settlements as a priority but certain electorates are highly important for us because they enable us to show that Jobbik’s mandate is not to shout loudly at the sidelines. Now it’s our chance to prove that we can go on the field and score goals, too, in the interest of the people. By the way, we provide as much help from the party centre as the candidates require because what you need to emphasize locally is not the party political efforts but the local issues.
Your campaign trail takes you to the small villages, how orange is provincial Hungary (orange is the colour of ruling party Fidesz – the ed.)?
The villages are not at all orange but they put their cross in Fidesz’ box for the sake of their livelihood or often under pressure. They keep hearing that if they don’t vote for Fidesz, they will not get jobs from the village’s only employer, i.e., the municipality. In the current system it’s almost impossible to make any progress; wages are below the frog’s bottom, many villages have no GPs or schools; provincial Hungary is practically dying. In the meantime, they are looking for a helping hand that could show them the way out of their current situation and manage their town.
This country will set out on the road of progress when the people of Hungary finally stop seeing each other as enemies and step up together so that the government would have no choice but to serve them, or otherwise face collapse.
As you suggested earlier, some local business groups may take a community as hostage. Do you think the opposition’s helping hand can be enough of an assistance in a situation like that?
The fact that political and public figures with such diverse backgrounds are able to cooperate, should encourage our citizens. They are not alone, they are not few, they have groups to join and there will be someone to protect them! That’s how you can pick up the gauntlet and confront the local oligarchs.
You got a bag of dried pasta, too. Was it worth it?
That’s exactly what I wanted to achieve with my dried pasta act: to reach out to the young generations and actively involve them in politics. The dried pasta game helped me in that, too. The guy who brought a bag of pasta to my local rally did this to send a message to Viktor Orbán that his future was not for sale. So I put that bag on the Prime Minister’s desk on his behalf, too. Hungary’s future is not for sale.
Talking about local rallies, what does it mean to live in the small Hungarian subregions which are considered as some of the poorest areas of the EU?
For some, it means a total lack of prospect, for others, it means the willingness to strive. Our job is to coordinate those who can strive and give hope to the disheartened. The problem of the underprivileged and impoverished rural areas affects all of us. For instance, masses of eastern Hungarian workers migrate to the city of Sopron, I visited the district called Little Miskolc there (by the way, the Sopron opposition’s campaign focused on the hidden immigration to the city - the ed.). Many regions offer no prospects at all. Even if there are some jobs, you don’t really have alternatives to choose from: you either work at one assembly line or another, but you have to travel two hours in buses and on roads that are almost unserviceable. That’s why country people don’t want anyone from Budapest to tell them what Hungary’s reality is.
They expect someone to go and visit them and encourage them that it’s worth staying, it’s worth striving and it’s worth becoming active in politics. This is the first step. What they are interested in is not ideology, it’s their survival to the next day. “Let me survive this day, let me live to see tomorrow,” they say, and they expect politicians to help them in that.
However, the great payrise ended in Electrolux getting rid of 800 of its employees in the town of Jászberény. That’s what the Fidesz-delegated mayor said, at least.
It’s the government’s liability that multinational companies can basically do as they please in Hungary. These corporations are never held to any standards while Hungarian SMEs are taxed to death. The foreign big business gets an average subsidy of HUF 15 million for each new job created. Imagine what Hungarian small and medium enterprises could do if they got that kind of money from the government!? They could increase wages, develop and modernize their businesses. And when an economic crisis hits, they would stay here while a multinational company, if the business environment is no longer preferable, leaves the country in a heartbeat. This government kills competition while subsidizes the slave owners even if they dismiss their slaves.
Talking about Miskolc, they say that Bosch might leave and Tobacco announced downsizing, too. Are we really so vulnerable?
The government may bury its head in the sand but employees can see that if a shift is discontinued in a factory, workers are soon out in the street. It just doesn’t make sense that when Bosch’s top manager announces that the coming recession may entail downsizing, the Hungarian government just shrugs it off claiming they were not informed of that. Is this really the Orbán cabinet’s Economy Protection Action Plan? The Hungarian government should have been prepared for or, rather, prevented our economy from almost completely becoming a colony of the German automotive industry. However, this kind of colonial existence seems to be comfortable for Viktor Orbán since Angela Merkel often praises him for using the EU funds perfectly. And she has a good reason for that.
Orbán made a pledge to provide cheap labour for the German economy. In return, German politicians tolerate his every move even when he tramples upon Hungarian democracy. The price of the deal is ultimately paid by Hungarian labourers, anyway.
Typically enough, the downsizing was announced in Jászberény in three languages: Hungarian, English and Ukrainian.
Yes, but there’s another telltale sign: when there’s a strike, foreign guest workers are always brought in to break the strike and prevent Hungarian labourers from using all their legal means to enforce their interests. This is also part of the deal. Viktor Orbán’s promise was to provide cheap labour, so as long as he can keep it, they don’t care where the cheap guest workers come from. But the bottom line is always clear: keep Hungarian wages low. Jobbik’s initiative for a European Wage Union would have changed this situation. Western European workers are also uneasy about the masses of labourers coming from the semi-peripheral countries and pushing the wages down in the west. No wonder there is a German union working in Hungary for increasing the wages here.
There’s an apparently justified criticism against Jobbik: even though you had an innovative idea, the European Wage Union, you let it go. But you, as the leader of the parliamentary faction, are now talking about closing the wage gap.
The European Wage Union was an innovative step which needs to be followed up, especially because there’s a huge wage gap within Hungary, too. People rightfully feel they are treated unfairly when a provincial worker makes less money on the same job as another in Budapest, sometimes even employed by the same state-owned company. Not to mention the false but stubborn stereotype which says that life is more expensive in Budapest: on the contrary, food, utilities and even petrol often costs more in the country. In the meantime, people pay the same for train tickets and other means of transportation even though the difference between their salaries amounts to many tens of thousands of HUF. The demand for closing the gap is justified but the state capitalizes on the poverty of the country people instead.
How can Jobbik-delegated council members and mayors help?
The best way for them to help is to take a joint stance and support each other in standing up for an amendment to the Labour Code so that it could truly become the code of labourers rather than those who exploit the workers. If we jointly demand the wage gap to be closed and we stand up for a real representation of workers, then even this government will have to bow down to the will of the people if it points in one direction.
So have you just made a pledge that Jobbik will remain a partner in that even after October 13?
Not only will Jobbik be a partner, Jobbik will be the driver of this struggle. We will not let go of the wage gap issue until the government takes significant steps in this direction. However, it’s very important that Jobbik should not be the only one to back this initiative. We want municipalities to realize the need for progress in this matter, otherwise rural Hungary will be depopulated.
What result do you expect in the municipal elections?
I don’t want to play with numbers. I will be satisfied if I see that citizens realize in this election that the change of the government begins in the local councils. Let’s not sit at home on October 13, let’s take the first step on the road at the end of which we, the Hungarian people can once again say what we have said so many times in our history: we have ousted this regime.
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Photo: Balázs Béli