By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Hungary’s outgoing Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai has condemned his country’s political climate ahead of upcoming parliamentary elections Sunday, April 11, as opinion polls show a far right political party will receive many votes. There is also international concern about the favorite to win the ballot, the main center right opposition party Fidesz, after its leader criticized a European Union deal on foreign landownership.
At a busy road in Budapest, different election campaign posters compete for attention from the Hungarian capital’s notorious drivers. However, opinion polls show most voters have made up their minds, and the center right opposition party Fidesz is expected to become the largest political force in the country.
Pollsters also say that the far right Movement for a Better Hungary, Jobbik, will enter parliament for the first time and become the third – or even second – largest party.These predictions mark a major setback for the ruling Socialists.
They were counting on more support after they made independent technocrat Gordon Bajnai prime minister last year, to help Hungary overcome its economic crisis.
The rich 42-year old businessman and economist successfully steered the country away from bankruptcy for a symbolic monthly salary of 1 forint, less than one US cent. He introduced tough austerity measures and supervised the implementation of a 25-billion dollar international rescue package.
Yet, Prime Minister Bajnai told BosNewsLife he’s worried that Hungary’s current political climate, marked by far-right extremism, nationalism and quarrels, threatens to undermine future development. “My advice is that Hungary should continue on the path of common sense policies and forget the deep division in the political arena , the Iron Curtain in the Hungarian political culture, ” he told BosNewsLife in a recent interview.
Bajnai and other politicians are especially concerned about Jobbik, whose leaders are known for making perceived anti-Semitic statements and whose campaign includes verbal attacks against Hungary’s estimated 800.000 gypsies, also known as Roma. Yet, 31-year-old Jobbik supporter Zombor Szabó, insists that his party is working for Hungary’s interests.
“Of course there are many racists among voters of Jobbik, who are anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy,” he said. “But I don’t consider myself one of them. I am not a nationalist, but I expect a politician to work for the interests of the country they are working in.”
Jobbik has also lashed out at foreigners and multinational companies.
It isn’t alone.
The man expected to be the Hungary’s next prime minister, Viktor Orbán, who leads the Fidesz party, has told applauding farmers that foreigners will never be able to own agricultural land.
He said that the future of Hungarian land does not depend on the European Union as agriculture is crucial for his country’s economic recovery. Orbán added that as long as his government is in power, “foreigners will never buy arable land in Hungary, no matter what they decide in Brussels”.
Analysts say that if implemented, his pledge could strain relations with the EU and lead to Hungary being taken to the European Court of Justice for obstructing the free movement of capital – one of the Union’s key principles.
Under agreements with the EU, Hungary was allowed to bar land purchases by foreigners until 2011 in an effort to prevent wealthy Europeans buying up cheap land.
While not addressing the land issue specifically, Prime Minister Bajnai said he hopes his successor will not bow to nationalism.
“Look at the long term interests of the country and always build political bases in order to support those long term interests of the country, instead of going for short term and populist, promises,” he told BosNewsLife.
“This is the best advise I can give and that is the success Hungary achieved during the last one year.”
For now, Hungarian voters have their eyes on this coming Sunday. A second round of voting for the 386-seat parliament will be held two weeks later.