Jobbik, Hungary’s extreme right party, is well-known for its explicit anti-Semitism and anti-Roma sentiment. The party, however, is not only concerned with domestic politics: it also has a rather unusual foreign policy agenda. Republikon Institute examined some aspects of this. Jobbik is often seen as a “model” by other far-right organizations in the region; it is thus highly relevant how this party perceives foreign policy.
Some of the elements of Jobbik’s foreign policy are well known and not very surprising: their radical opinion and attitude in the questions of the EU, Hungarians beyond the borders or ethnic/religious/sexual minorities in Hungary. However, the fact that Jobbik is the only party in Hungary which persistently stands up for the dictatorial Assad-regime (that – presumably – has just used chemical weapons against its own people) reveals another face of Jobbik’s foreign policy. The following are the five most important policy elements that we have collected.
1. The organizing principle of Jobbik’s foreign policy is being against the West and mainly the USA.
The party is friendly mostly with countries that are critical of or simply against the USA – or in general of the West. In recent years, Hungarian government has also been unusually friendly with Russia, China or lately with Azerbaijan, compared to other NATO member states. In this field, Jobbik goes much further: they even consider Iran and Syria their partners despite the strong condemnation of these countries by the West. Meanwhile, according to one of their more radical statements “an American offence against the sovereignty is approaching”. Jobbik is pro-Iran and anti-USA – a dangerous mix.
2. The party makes good connections only with dictatorships.
Assad’s regime in Syria is not the first regime supported by Jobbik that is lacking in free elections and respect for fundamental human rights. Béla Kovács, the party’s MEP, said that the party would welcome the opportunity if EU member states could join the Eurasian Union. This organization now includes Putin’s Russia, Belarus, led by Lukashenko, who is known as the last European dictator, and Kazakhstan. The latter country is Jobbik’s special favourite, and according to Kovács, “relying on its own strength, it has undergone incredible development in the last ten years”. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has won every election since 1991 with more than a 90% majority, must consider the role of “own strength” similarly…
3. Brutal police and military violence doesn’t bother Jobbik – in case of friendly countries. According to the party, “the overwhelming majority of Syrian people support the Assad-regime” – which is more than an odd statement about a regime that first had to face civil protesters and then an armed rebellion. Of course, the enemies of the regime are not always innocent bystanders themselves, and have links to dangerous Islamic organizations. Still, Asad’s latest attack killed at least 1,300 people, and for most of the 100 thousand victims of the civil war, the regime is to be blamed. Jobbik is standing up for such a system.
4. Jobbik’s dictatorship-friendliness is neutral in terms of ideology and religion. While calling others “communists” is an important domestic political tool of Jobbik, it doesn’t seem to be much concerned with it when it comes to its foreign partners. The above mentioned Kazakh president for instance happens to be Jobbik’s partner despite the fact that he used to be the first secretary of the Communist party back in the Soviet times. Likewise, Christianity is not an expectation, if someone wanted to be friends with Jobbik: atheist China or secular Muslim Azerbaijan can be a partner just as much as Iran, a Muslim theocracy. Moreover, in the Azeri-Armenian conflict, the so-called “Turanian identity” was more important for Jobbik than Christian solidarity: they are standing on the Azeri side most of the time.
5. Islam-friendship is not a contingent element of Jobbik’s politics: it regularly puts in its word for Islam as a religion and for Muslim countries, as it does in the case of Arab-Israeli conflict. According to Gábor Vona, the president of Jobbik: “Islam remained the last bastion of humankind’s traditional culture… If Islam fails, the light will almost completely go out and no foe for the darkness of globalism will remain standing.” All of this cannot be conceived only as political opportunism (as its political profit is more than questionable): for instance the party submitted a decision proposal to condemn the film The Innocence of Muslims, which is alleged to have hurt the Islam religion. Some parts of the justification of the proposal would also fit into texts defending human rights: „accepting the proposal, the Hungarian Parliament expresses that without discrimination it condemns all kinds of provocative actions or manifestations which are eligible to hurt the sensitivity of any religious community.” If there were „ethnic groups” instead of „religious community”, Jobbik would hardly be happy about such a decision…
Unlike far right parties of Western Europe, which are often anti-Arab and pro-Israel, Jobbik is a party where anti-Semitism anti-Americanism result in supporting the Arab countries, Iran and Central Asian dictatorships. It is possible that other parties in the region, wishing to emulate the success of Jobbik, would also combine their Euroscepticism and domestic extremism with favorable relations to some of the world’s most repressive countries.