By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Lawyer Krisztina Morvai is a beautiful blond mother who smiles on campaign posters of the far-right party, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik). However the red, lipstick smile, of Jobbik’s primary candidate for the European Union Parliament soon disappears when asked about her views on Hungary’s estimated 800.000 gypsies, who prefer to be known as Roma, and Jewish people.
Opinion polls suggest that Jobbik will successfully march to the European Parliament, in close cooperation with its paramilitary ‘Hungarian Guard’, or Magyar Gárda, in the Hungarian language.
Jobbik is among several perceived extremist parties that are expected to gain seats during Europe’s ‘Super Sunday’, June 7, when most of the 27 member states of the European Union will vote in the world’s largest multi-national vote, with 375 million people allowed to participate.
Voters in Britain, Netherlands, Ireland and Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, already went to the polls this week, followed by Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and Slovakia on Saturday, June 6.
The continent’s leaders are concerned that Hungary’s Jobbik will be part of far-right parties that are expected to capture at least 25 of the European Parliament’s 736 seats, allowing them to create a formal voting bloc.
Human rights groups, including the Budapest-based European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), fear especially Jobbik’s Magyar Gárda, whose members wear uniforms and carry flags that were used by Hungary’s pro-Nazi regime during World War Two. About 600.000 Hungarian Jews and thousands of Roma were killed during the war.
Magyar Gárda recruits have marched through Roma villages and settlements, helping to create an atmosphere of hatred at a time when people search for scapegoats for Hungary’s deepest recession in decades, according to ERRC investigators.
At least seven Roma have been killed in recent attacks, including a young father and his small son who were shot dead as they tried to escape the flames of their torched home, police and rights groups say.
Yet, Morvai, 45, claims Roma killed each other and strongly supports the Magyar Gárda. She says the group protects Hungarians against what her party calls “Gypsy crime”, including murder, after a Roma mob allegedly lynched a teacher.
“They were yelling: “Kill the Hungarian!” And what was the reaction from Hungarian community? Founding the Hungarian Guard who says Hungarian life is valuable,” she tells BosNewsLife.
“Even if the police do not protect people, we are going to protect our own people. We are going to carry out some kind of crime prevention. We are going into the villages to show ourselves,” warns Morvai, a former human rights lawyer in Strasbourg and United Nations expert.
Her party also wants to establish “gendarmes” and re-introduce the death penalty in Hungary, meaning the end of the country’s membership of the Council of Europe, which has made no executions a key condition for states to join the human rights organization.
In addition, Jobbik has signed an agreement with a radical group within Hungary’s police force, ‘The Trade Union of Hungarian Police Prepared for Action’ (TMRSZ), which has anti-Jewish and anti-Roma views in publications.
At least one of its affiliated writers has even asserted that “anti-Semitism is the duty of every Hungarian homeland lover” and that “Hungary must prepare for armed battle against the Jews” as well as “a Hungarian-Gypsy civil war…triggered by Jews.”
Morvai, who also accuses Israel of buying up Hungary and killing thousands of Palestinians, reacts angrily when asked by BosNewsLife about these statements.
“You are so disturbed by the fact that there are some political powers now in Europe and around the world who stand up and say “no” to those guys who you protect, the multinational companies, the multinational capital,” she says. Jobbik, she says, has “enough of the terror of multinational capital and multinational companies.” Morvai’s suggestions to close or re-nationalize companies and crackdown on imports can put Hungary on a collision course with the EU and World Trade Organization, critics warn.
It remains unclear whether another interview with Morvai and other party officials will be possible. Jobbik now demands journalists to sign extensive media enquiries that include the writer’s nationality and a demand to see texts at least 48 hours before publication.
Reporters are also required to give a “generous contribution” of a “minimum amount for freelancers of 100 Euros” and “for companies 250 Euros is requested…since by assisting your work we also provide material to be exploited commercially…” As a general policy, BosNewsLife does not pay for interviews.
Morvai has not said how much she will donate to Jobbik if elected from her expected monthly European salary of roughly 7,665 euros from EU taxpayers, much more than the wage of Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, an economist, who has vowed to just take “one symbolic Hungarian forint” per month as he deals with the economic crisis.
Jobbik’s Morvai and other European parliamentarians will also get a flat-rate monthly allowance to cover office expenses and travel in their home country of 4,202 euros, according to published figures. That’s on top of their daily allowance of 298 euros, from July, just for attending parliamentary sessions.
Morvai and her elected colleagues can also claim for travel related to their official duties in Brussels and Strasbourg, as well as business class on air, or first class on rail.
Despite controversies, surveys suggest Jobbik will come third and win at least one European seat in Hungary’s vote, behind the expected winner, the center-right Fidesz opposition party, and the governing Socialists, whose support has plunged to an all-time low, amid unpopular austerity measures they say are needed to avoid the country’s bankruptcy.
A road builder in his 40s, who identifies himself as Attila Buhoc, says he won’t vote for Jobbik, but supports them anyway. “Jobbik works in the interests of ordinary Hungarians. I pay taxes but get little in return from the state. Hungarians like me can barely survive.”
Yet, on the streets of Budapest not everyone backs Jobbik. “For me it’s too extreme” says Mártha, 28, who recently became a mother. “I don’t really like them, they are so aggressive,” she adds, as she puts a pacifier in the mouth of her baby. “I don’t think I will vote for them.”
Analysts say extremism in Hungary and other European nations has been fueled by Europe’s worst economic crisis in recent memory and disappointment in the political process. However opinion polls also make clear that over half of Hungarians plan to stay away from the polls, including 39-year-old translator Gábor Básti.
“I don’t really feel like voting for any party really. I am somewhat disillusioned with all political players presently,” he explains.
Hungary joined the EU in 2004 with nine other mainly former Communist nations, followed by Romania and Bulgaria in 2007.
Básti suggests that people in the region have often high expectations that EU membership will improve domestic troubles overnight.”Probably everywhere in Europe, but in Hungary in particular, the whole election campaign is now centering around domestic issues. People are somewhat misled into believing that voting for this party or that party will somehow change something…” (Parts of this BosNewsLife News story also airs via Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster and affiliated networks).