Photo: Lujza Hevesi-Szabó/Telex

A group of attendees are posing for a photo at a May Day celebration in Budapest, Hungary. As the camera clicks, three of them put up their right arms in a Nazi salute.

Asked about the incident, the Vice President of Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland), the far-right movement which organized the event, says, “It would bother me more if they were littering.”

Előd Novák’s remark is a forthright illustration of the attitude towards bigotry in contemporary far-right Hungarian politics. The “observation” is a normalizing and enablement of hostile speech and acts about groups from Jews to immigrants to racial and ethnic constituencies.

These attitudes are an extreme, if unintentional, by-product of the politics of Fidesz, the right-wing party which has ruled Hungary since 2010. In their descent to power through “populism”, leaders such as Prime Minister Viktor Orbán have enabled fascist tendencies.

Hungary’s political scene has long been dominated by right-wing populist nationalist ideology. Fidesz has exploited those beliefs to assail the LGBTQ community, to constantly deride the European Union — despite Hungary being one of the largest net financial beneficiaries of the bloc — and to blame immigrants for any problems in the country.

Now there are others who seek power by being even more “radical” than Fidesz. If Orbán’s tactic has been to claim representation of those Hungarians who believe themselves unheard and under-represented, then Mi Hazánk’s is to declare that the Government is failing in that mission.

The outcome is an extremist party that backs many of Fidesz’s endeavors while challenging Fidesz. But to what end?

The Evolution of Hungarian Radicalism

In the 1990s and early 2000s, MIÉP (Magyar Igazság és Élet Pártja — Hungarian Justice and Life Party) claimed to represent Hungarian Christian values. Their successes were short-lived and minimal: when they shied away from more radical operations and stances, Jobbik replaced them. And when some Jobbik members were frustrated with what they say was a lack of action, Mi Hazánk was launched by former Jobbik Vice President László Toroczkai and his radical allies among politicians and civic groups.

In the 2022 elections, Mi Hazánk finished behind Fidesz and a coalition of six parties, but they garnered 5.71% of the vote. When they captured 3.3% in European Parliamentary elections, party representative István Apáti declared proof of “life to the right of Fidesz”.

Factions such as HVIM (Hatvannégy Vármegye Ifjúsági Mozgalom — Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement) and Betyársereg (Army of Outlaws), previously associated with Jobbik, are now more loyal to Mi Hazánk. They frequently appear at events organized by the party to provide “security” or recruit youth.

The pattern is apparent: amid an unending chain of dissatisfaction, there is exiting and “reforming” among hard-right groups. With each “evolution”, loyalty to the leadership is confirmed, and radical ideology gains strength.

The Radical Nationalism of “Greater Hungary”

In these evolutions, the core beliefs do not change significantly. Hungarian irredentism is a common thread, proclaimed on bumper stickers on cars and petitions in underground stations. Supporters want to annex the territories of Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine that were part of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

This revisionist movement was born after the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, when the Empire was split up and around 2/3 of Hungarian territory was ceded to neighbors. Mi Hazánk supports this movement — arguably even spearheads it — with its desire to create an ethnically homogeneous Hungary which includes these territories.

In 2007, Mi Hazánk leader Toroczkai founded the Hunnia movement, aimed at creating a community of Hungarians living in the Carpathian Basin to advance ethnic and racial homogeneity. At a conference in January 2024, he supported a claim to western Ukraine, home to 150,000 ethnic Hungarians, if the Russian invasion is successful.

Current governing party Fidesz is also a supporter of the irredentist movement. Those with Hungarian identities living in foreign areas can vote in Hungarian elections and receive a pension, or school fees for their children. After Fidesz’s success in the 2022 elections, one of its social media influencers declared “Greater Hungary” as the “2026 goal”.

Anti-Immigration, Racist, and Anti-Semitic

At its core, radical nationalism is tied to the idea of an ethnically homogeneous nation-state: “Hungary belongs to the Hungarians,” Prime Minister Orbán frequently proclaims. At a small demonstration on October 23, 2020 — the 64th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution — Toroczkai said Mi Hazánk is “against all forms of immigration where the given nation’s culture, identity and temperament are vastly different from [that of Hungarians]”.

Fidesz’s most popular and long-standing campaign is anti-immigration. The governing party has strongly supported the building of a wall along Hungary’s southern border to stop “illegal migration”. That encompasses most types of movement from other countries, especially that of refugees. Fidesz has also passed a more detailed foreign worker bill, limiting the influx of non-EU personnel.

“We are willing to mix with each other, but we don’t want to become mixed race,” Orbán infamously said last year. Toroczkai and
Betyársereg leader Zsolt Tyirityán praised his stance, with Tyirityán saying it is “better late than never”.

Betyársereg has organised multiple rallies against the Hungarian Roma population. It held a white supremacist gathering in 2019, “Conference of Race Protectors: The Challenges of the White Race in the 21st Century”.

Mi Hazánk has also returned to the root belief of anti-semitism. Toroczkai started his career as a journalist engaging in blood libel. In an article on a murder, he did not accuse the convicted perpetrator. Instead, he blamed Jewish businessmen, saying that they carried out the crime for ritual purposes.

László Toroczkai

László Toroczkai (MTI/Koszticsák Szilárd)

Crackdown on LGBTQ

In the populist ideal of the creation of a homogenous populace, any deviation from a traditional family model is sinful and counter-productive. Mi Hazánk often deems the discussion of LGBTQ themes in politics to be distractions from “larger issues”.

Thanks to Fidesz, the past few years have seen large-scale backsliding in LGBTQ rights. In 2020, Viktor Orbán’s catchphrase “the mother is a woman, the father is a man” was added to the Hungarian Constitution to mandate a protected institution of marriage. This spring, the phrase was used by a museum director in a decree concerning “potentially occurring interpretational questions” about who may receive discounted tickets during a Mother’s Day promotion.

The endorsement of “European Christian values” is a cornerstone of both Fidesz and Mi Hazánk, but the latter is staking out a more radical position. Its Parliamentary representative, Dóra Dúró, has made a spectacle of shredding children’s books with LGBTQ themes. In a press conference clumsily titled “Meseország nem az aberráltaké!” (“Fairy tales are not for the aberrant!”), she denounced the themes as “homosexual propaganda”. She then destroyed a copy of Meseország mindenkié (“A Fairy Tale for Everyone”), a children’s book that includes modern retellings of classic fairy tales through diversity and inclusion.

The propaganda of Mi Hazánk repackages the radical anti-LGBTQ beliefs of the Orbán-led government, but with no feigned tolerance for the community and no hiding behind the “protection of children”. They are propelling the government in its crackdown, labelling books as “homosexual propaganda” not long after Mi Hazánk made its stance clear.

Far Right v. Further Right?

The comparisons and contrasts between Fidesz and Mi Hazánk point to the potential strengthening of the “further right”: it can include many of those who fundamentally agree with Fidesz’s values, but are dissatisfied with how they are implementing policies.

Mi Hazánk has not yet had significant power in their hands, and thus have not yet been given a chance to prove themselves “worthy” of championing the far-right beliefs. But at the moment, they don’t need that chance: just by giving the discontents a platform, they are gaining followers.

If that tactic is successful at the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, it may offer one conclusion for Hungary: the far-right has never been more wrong in thinking that they are right.