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Jobbik may look different to its corporatized Western European counterparts, but it's being lifted by the same underlying forces: fears of invasive foreign cultures and of global competition, and a profound disaffection with mainstream politics. The excitement with which Hungarians embraced multiparty politics after the fall of Communism has curdled, with confidence in mainstream parties damaged by their perceived failure to tackle the country's economic woes. "It is a kind of vacuum," says Attila Pok, a historian with the Institute of History at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest. "A great number of voters do not believe in the established élite, either on the right or left. They voted for the newest, loudest and most clearly speaking platform."
Jobbik's platform is plain and simple: it is distrustful of outsiders, opposes foreign ownership of agricultural land and is proudly Christian. After the group was founded in 2003, it erected crosses across the country in protest against the foreign commercialization of Christmas. "We provide the most authentic and clearest answer for problems," says Vona. "And we express the wish of a lot of people that Hungary should belong to Hungarians."
France Goes Its Own Way
The Front National is the big beast of Europe's far right. It was France's third-largest political party for much of this decade, and its leader Jean-Marie Le Pen was runner-up in the 2002 French presidential elections. So in June the party might have expected to harness the perfect storm of rising unemployment, economic insecurity and the racial tensions that have disfigured French society to sail to a historic victory in the European elections. Instead, the FN's share of the vote tumbled, reducing its tally of seats from seven in 2004 to three. "Times of unhappiness tend to favor extremist parties," says Dominique Reynié, director of Paris-based think tank Foundation for Political Innovation. "This time people judged the crisis as sufficiently grave that they stuck with mainstream parties they felt best placed to move things ahead."
But there's another reason why support for the FN has fallen. President Nicolas Sarkozy has cut the ground from underneath the far right by taking a tough stance on issues such as integration and immigration, while presiding over the most ethnically diverse Cabinet that France has ever seen. Sarkozy set an annual target for deportations of illegal immigrants; last month he criticized the burqa as "a sign of subservience" that he said is not welcome in France. That has helped him reclaim turf that the FN has long monopolized. "He speaks unapologetically of battling illegal immigration ... He talks about national identity and French tradition," says Reynié.
Many opponents of the far right even those on the center right are queasy at the idea of defeating extremist upstarts by moving into their territory. "I don't think you can beat the BNP by pandering to their views on immigration, though there are some siren voices," says Pickles. That hasn't stopped the Conservatives and other centrist parties from falling into bouts of my-policy-is-tougher-than-yours posturing. The Conservative Party also raised eyebrows with its choice of allies in the European Parliament: a new right-wing grouping chaired by Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, a former member of two hard-right parties. But Pickles says the key to winning the argument against extremism is to take it back to grassroots. "The only way to deal with [the far right] is by local politicians championing their neighborhoods and being very proud that they represent their electors," he says.
Localism matters, as Hénin-Beaumont illustrates. Just three weeks after the European elections, the former mining town, a traditional fiefdom of the French left, bucked the national trend to give the FN a convincing lead in the first round of municipal elections. The party was boosted by the presence on the trail of Marine Le Pen, the 40-year-old daughter of FN leader Jean-Marie and widely tipped as his successor. This thoroughly modern incarnation of the far right supports equal rights for women, is pro-choice on abortion, and talks of creating a "French Islam" to integrate France's Muslim community. Just as mainstream politics can co-opt the rhetoric of the far right, Le Pen shows that the far right is learning to wrap itself in the language of reason.
Just how powerful might the far right become? Such parties are now in a position to influence European legislation, though most advocate withdrawal from the European Union. Addressing a Jobbik rally last year, the BNP's Griffin invoked the memory of Hungary's 1956 revolution, suppressed by Stalinist troops. "Where is the power hunger and the corruption of the Soviet kleptocracy now? ... It is in Brussels," he said. "The European Union is a threat to all the free peoples of Europe."
Politicians who feed off antiforeign sentiment at home can find it hard to cuddle up to foreigners abroad. The BNP's attempt to establish a far-right bloc in the Parliament foundered. The largest far-right party in the Parliament, Italy's Lega Nord, which serves in Silvio Berlusconi's coalition government, chose to throw in its lot with a medley of Euro-skeptic parties, while the PVV refused to enter any alliance. Opponents would be unwise to take comfort from this apparent disunity. Far-right parties view the European Parliament primarily as a platform from which to launch runs for their domestic legislatures. Their expanding ambitions will bring new pressures: closer attention and the need to recruit more and more plausible candidates. They may yet overreach themselves. But hoping that they do is not a policy adequate to the threat they pose.
With reporting by Leo Cendrowicz / The Hague, Bruce Crumley / Paris and John Nadler / Budapest
Party: British National Party
Policies: Advocates repatriation of "nonindigenous" Britons, stopping immigration and barring asylum seekers unless citizens of France, Ireland or the Faroe Islands
Quote: "Berlusconi has to be one of the great political geniuses" Griffin admires Italy's premier, whose coalition includes the far-right Lega Nord
Marine Le Pen
Party: Front National
Policies: Like her father, Jean-Marie, she argues for halting immigration and restoring the death penalty. Diverges from him by supporting women's rights, abortion and the creation of a "French Islam"
Quote: "I have a very social vision of politics, and there are leftist voters who identify with my positions" Le Pen explains her popular appeal
Party: Party for Freedom
Policies: Focuses on ending immigration from Muslim countries and forcing Muslims already in the Netherlands to become more "Dutch." Would ban the Koran
Quote: "It was a speech of appeasement, of ignorance" Wilders on President Obama's address in Cairo in which he praised "civilization's debt to Islam"