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Can Our Homeland find electoral success with a vaccine-skeptic message?

picture of protest announcement

The far-right Our Country Movement has changed its messaging: from tropes on security and policing typical of the extreme right to a focus on human rights, most notably in connection with coronavirus vaccinations. Azonnali asked analysts about the reasons for the shift, and if the party has a chance to win seats in the parliamentary elections this year.

Our Homeland held an anti-vaccine protest this past weekend without any talk of Gypsies or Jews, nor did any of the speakers at the event entertain participants with worldwide conspiracy theories targeting Hungarians.

In addition, as leaders Dóra Dúró, Előd Novák, and László Toroczkai, the party’s unvaccinated candidate for prime minister, stressed in their speeches on Sunday, they have no problem with voluntary vaccinations, but rather the “sneaky covid dictatorship.”

picture of Our Homeland protest
Előd Novák speaks at Our Homeland protest against the “covid dictatorship,” January 16, 2022

Thousands of people took part in the demonstration, marching with Our Homeland politicians from Akadémia Street to the State Secretariat for Education.

We certainly haven’t become more moderate, but now we see the development of the covid dictatorship as the biggest problem, the most important problem, so we’re mostly talking about that. But in this regard, we also mention that the Hungarian government represents the interests of multinational companies instead of the Hungarian people. This is also the case at the international level, so I can say that it’s an old topic, but unfortunately it has received new relevance.

-party MP Dóra Dúró told Azonnali when asked about the changes.

The “covid dictatorship” is the biggest problem in Hungary, according to the MP, who won her seat in 2018 while still a member of Jobbik. The party is proposing a “covid solidarity tax” on multinational companies in Hungary to benefit those who have experienced hardship due to the effects of covid-related economic measures.

They are also demanding the full disclosure of vaccine contracts to as a type of anti-globalization effort, to counter the economic interests of pharmaceutical companies profiting off of the coronavirus.

In other words, Dúró says, Our Homeland has changed its tone because the situation now demands this from the party.

Coronavirus offered a new political opening for Our Homeland

Some analysts, however, believe it is more of a conscious shift from the party.

The vaccination-critical, coronavirus-skeptical attitude of Our Country is not a new phenomenon in Europe at all. They’ve probably learned from far-right parties in Western Europe (such as the German AfD) that it’s worth focusing on the problematics related to managing the coronavirus pandemic.

-independent political analyst Tibor Attila Nagy told the news site.

Nagy believes that this is why the party revamped its messaging roughly a year ago and first began to criticize the shutdowns, then the government’s efforts to force the population to get vaccinated.

Nagy also felt that the party’s message was starting to get stale. As he put it:

In the years after it was formed, the party continued the original policy platform of Jobbik, but bringing the Roma issue to the fore did not cause as much excitement and notoriety as it did back in 2009-2010.

The coronavirus epidemic came at the best time for the party, because – like their Western European friends – they realized that it could be their chance for a big breakout. Their Sunday demonstration also proved this.

-noted the political analyst.

As a result, the party’s previous, classic far-right themes of anti-immigration, anti-globalization, and anti-multinationals have not been as prominent. The analyst stated that the Sunday demonstration “proves that Our Country wants to get into Parliament on the back of the Hungarian anti-vaccination vote.”

According to Tibor Attila Nagy, this political calculation could work out for them, as a good 30% of the Hungarian population still has not gotten any vaccine shots. Even if they can pick up just a small part of this large group of people, the party has a chance of passing the 5% threshold to get into Parliament.

Nagy believes that they have the chance to do so, adding that if Our Homeland does manage to get into Parliament, “they could even be kingmakers if the Fidesz-KDNP and the six-party opposition are roughly equal. If the balance of power is obvious, they could even create their own parliamentary caucus.”

[Azonnali]

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