Scapegoat-Based Policy Making in Hungary
Qualitative Evidence for How Jobbik and its Mayors Govern Municipalities
The far-right has been widely studied in the last decades, but little attention has been paid to its local activities. Nonetheless, in countries without far-right national government records, like Hungary, this might be the only way to explore the aims and characteristics of the former parties. This study sets out to explore the activities and main policy initiatives of local far-right leadership in Hungary that are driven by ideological scapegoating mechanisms. The research this paper is based on employed qualitative techniques – in-depth interviews and content analysis of local sources – to grasp the patterns of the local governance of Jobbik. The main foci of the fieldwork-based research are the manifestations of enemy images and ideological scapegoating in the field of symbolic politics, Roma – non-Roma cohabitation, social policy, the public work scheme and public safety – fields where (Jobbik) mayors have substantial room for maneuver, and also areas to which the party’s ideological predisposition and scapegoating can be traced back. The paper also examines how local enemy images relate to national ones and to the political strategy of Jobbik during a period when the party underwent important changes such as moderation and de-radicalization, having lost their ownership of the migration issue and witnessed the government take over the monopoly on enemy images. The analysis reveals how Jobbik-mayors employ conscious strategies for enemy-making and scapegoating with respect to – chiefly, but not exclusively – the Roma population, and how this drives the policies they try to implement. The research also sheds light on the remarkable tension between ideological and pragmatic considerations, and on how the former limits the enforcement of scapegoat-based policies.
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