BUDAPEST — With 99 percent of Sunday’s electoral ballots counted, Mi Hazank (Our Homeland) is poised to become the most extreme far-right party to gain parliamentary representation in Hungary since World War II. Its unexpected ascendency in the voting booths is causing Hungary’s diverse — and often squabbling — Jewish community to unanimously worry.
Having captured just over six percent of the popular vote, Mi Hazank is the third-largest party in parliament, following incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party, which took nearly 55%, and United for Hungary, a broad coalition of parties from across the political spectrum that had hoped to oust Orban, which took 34.5%.
Mi Hazank was formed shortly after the last parliamentary elections in 2018, when party founder Laszlo Toroczkai launched a failed coup against the leadership of the far-right Jobbik party (today the largest contingent in United for Hungary), to which he belonged at the time.
Toroczkai, the staunchly anti-immigrant mayor of the southern Hungarian village of Asotthalom close to the Serbian border, argued that Jobbik had strayed from its ultra-nationalist roots in an attempt to reach more mainstream voters. In the end, he was ejected from Jobbik and proceeded to found a new party, bringing some of Jobbik’s most extreme elements along with him.
Toroczkai’s gambit proved successful. Despite the removal of the party’s 80,000-strong Facebook page in 2020 due to community standards violations and a severe handicap from Hungary’s mostly Fidesz-allied media, this election saw Mi Hazank snatch votes from jurisdictions that voted for Jobbik in 2018, and win seven seats in the National Assembly.
The party platform consisted of a demand for the unconditional lifting of all COVID restrictions, along with anti-Roma, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGTBQ vitriol.
Rabbi Slomo Koves, director of the Chabad-affiliated EMIH community, says that “Mi Hazank and Jobbik are the exact same breed.”
In the past, says Koves, both parties “openly had racism and antisemitism on their agenda.”
“Both at this point are not openly making antisemitic statements, but they’re very dangerous. And the real problem that I see is that since the left joined Jobbik [to oppose Fidesz], if in the future anyone else in the government would want to cooperate with Mi Hazank — not that it seems necessary for any reason — but it would be very hard to argue why they shouldn’t do it.
“Throughout this whole [opposition building] process there’s been a legitimization of these extreme-right neo-Nazi groups,” says Koves.
Andras Heisler, president of Mazsihisz, an umbrella organization affiliated with the progressive Neolog denomination of Judaism, says that Mi Hazank’s entry into parliament triggered an emergency meeting of the organization’s 14 board members Monday night.
“The rise of Mi Hazank is frightening for the entire board and we are looking for ways to express our concerns,” Heisler says. “We can’t remain inactive — the views proclaimed by Mi Hazank are eerily reminiscent of a previous dark period in history, after which we all know what happened.”
Mi Hazank’s leadership boasts a long history of bigoted behavior and rhetoric from the top down, and some individuals have had past affiliation with groups such as the now-defunct neo-Nazi Pax Hungarica movement. The party has also officially participated in events and demonstrations together with groups such as the ultra-nationalist Betyarsereg — a menacing militant organization made up largely of former police and military members.
A mentor in the party’s youth group was exposed by Hungarian media for taking a selfie performing the Nazi salute together with some of the teens. He was subsequently expelled from the party, but a photo of Toroczkai himself performing the Nazi salute at a soccer game in Rome was revealed around the same time.
The party is also highly critical of Israel. In a 2018 interview, Toroczkai said that the Jewish state was responsible for destabilizing countries in the Middle East and North Africa, which were previously able to help prevent illegal immigration into Europe.
Incoming Mi Hazank parliamentarian Elod Novak has, among other things, minimized the Holocaust, described the Oscars as “the greatest holiday of the Jews,” and called for a holiday honoring the Hungarian “martyr heroes” who fought on the side of the Nazis during WWII.
Novak’s wife, Dora Duro, also on the incoming parliamentary list, publicly shredded a children’s book dedicated to inclusivity of groups such as Roma, the LGBTQ community, the elderly and the disabled.
In October of last year, Budapest’s Eighth District voted to evict the party from its local headquarters after a poster was hung on the building’s exterior that said, “We Can’t Be a Country of Gypsies.”
The threatened eviction apparently avoided, the office was still occupied and buzzing with activity two days after Mi Hazank’s Sunday victory when The Times of Israel arrived. At a folding table set up amid stacks of boxes of election materials sat Atilla Nagy, president of the party’s Budapest chapter, meeting one-on-one with the rank and file. Nagy agreed to speak with The Times of Israel. The following interview has been edited for clarity.
The Times of Israel: How are you processing your unexpected victory?
Atilla Nagy: It was a victory for us that we managed to get into parliament at all, but that was our true goal — we couldn’t have done things any other way. We got in with 6.2% [of the total vote], which was difficult because for the last two or three years we weren’t given representation in the government-controlled mainstream media. Our largest anti-COVID dictatorship protest wasn’t covered in the [government-aligned] mainstream media, and interestingly, the left-wing media reported on it even more.
There are many claims of antisemitism in the party. How do you respond to this?
Yes, well, we don’t feel it that way. In the world of today, we don’t feel that what we do is racist or antisemitic. To liberals, anyone attempting to act to defend their country, they’re automatically Nazis or fascists. So, whoever acts for their country and doesn’t serve the globalists’ liberal world, they’re a Nazi or a fascist or a racist — for example those who don’t want to have continent-occupiers coming to Hungary.
What do you mean by “globalists”?
We agree with the government that international organizations and big money like [George] Soros shouldn’t gain influence here.
For example, in the village of Gyongyosoroszi, Soros’s lawyers riled up the families of Gypsy students who were disrupting school and so were taught in separate classes. They filed a lawsuit and the Hungarian government had to pay 100 million forints ($290,000) to those Gypsy families that were segregated — but the reason they were segregated into classes was because they were making it impossible for the other students to learn.
We are the only party that’s willing to say that those children made it impossible to have a normal education — and this needs to be said, most of those children were Gypsies. We alone are the only ones who say that most of the ones who disrupt the classes are Gypsies. Those are the children who are not willing to learn, they’re not willing to follow the rules, and there’s many, many schools like that. Those kids can’t be controlled, you can’t tell them what to do. And when, as a last resort, they came up with a solution to put the Gypsy kids in one class, and to put the kids who wanted to learn in another class, they ruled that to be segregation.
Another example — in Hungary, they were having a Jewish Olympic games in Budapest. And our party said don’t do this from the Hungarian people’s money, because the Hungarian government gave 3 billion forints ($8.7 million) to support the project. This was a purely racist game — only Jews were able to take part. You had to bring documentation and prove you were a Jew in order to play. [Author’s note: Nagy is presumably speaking about the Maccabiah Games of 2019. The Maccabiah website describes the games as “the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition.”]
Members and leaders of Mi Hazank have been accused over and over again of making offensive gestures like Nazi salutes, and time and again there are transparent excuses for it — such as that they are performing the ancient Roman salute. Why not just openly admit what their intentions are?
Mi Hazank doesn’t believe that the party movement should be guided by the feelings of local or international Jews. We’re not saying we hate the Jews, but their feelings don’t determine what we do. There are many more important things to consider.
Your party isn’t known for its pro-Israel stance.
We know that the reigning government has the tightest relationship with Israel since Hungary became a democratic country. Our foreign ministers have met many, many times. We would want to loosen those relations somewhat. We wouldn’t put Israel on a pedestal — we’d treat them as any other country.
And your party leader Laszlo Toroczkai said that Israel is responsible for all the instability in the Middle East.
We don’t say that Israel is responsible, but we know that the Arab community there is treated like second-class citizens.
Do you still have relations with Jobbik, and can your two parties ever reconcile?
Mi Hazank had to be established because Jobbik betrayed its voters and joined the other side. We will never cooperate together — they’re traitors; in order to improve their own position and financial standing, they betrayed the voters. In this four-year term in parliament, our aim is to offer a corruption-free right-wing alternative for the voters.
We do work with the Betyarsereg, which helps protect the countryside from the Gypsies and all the people unwilling to adhere to the shared societal rules — but only with their presence, not with physical violence.
Betyarsereg and Mi Hazank have been accused of having admiration for the Arrow Cross.
To my knowledge, displaying the Arrow Cross is forbidden under the criminal code, but using similar symbols is no problem.
[Note: During the Holocaust, members of the Nazi-allied Hungarian Arrow Cross party were responsible for the murder of thousands of Jews and Romani, and aided the deportation of hundreds of thousands more to Auschwitz.]
I’m not talking about the symbol. Some members of your party have called members of the Arrow Cross party martyrs and heroes — do you agree?
Not really. They weren’t heroes, they were victims.