Author: Roland Fazekas – Glasgow Caledonian University

Radicalisation and De-radicalisation Legal and Policy Framework report in Hungary identifies the potential drivers of far-right radicalisation with a focus on how law-making and different political narratives contribute to extreme polarisation. Hungary is a special case of radicalisation with the lack of common political agenda to de-radicalise and decrease polarisation. While most countries face extremist groups or jihadist non-state actors, one of main drivers of radicalisation in Hungary is the state itself.  

The political discourse has been focusing mostly on jihadist extremism in the past ten years, even though the threat levels of terrorist attacks on Hungary are estimated low. Despite the fact that jihadist terrorism played a huge part in the Fidesz government’s anti-migration propaganda, there have been no national, state-led programmes in place specifically focusing on de-radicalisation of jihadists. On the other hand, there is a rising issue of right-wing radicalisation, which is (contrary to the jihadist extremism) not at all part of the political narrative. The above mentioned report addressed case studies that are linked to far-right violence in order to demonstrate the seriousness of “untreated” polarisation and radicalisation within the nation. 

It may indeed appear an interesting question why the Hungarian government focuses on radical jihadist movements rather than right wing extremism – however, there is a simple explanation. The deeper we mapped and investigated currently active right wing groups, the most certainly we were able to establish their link to Fidesz party itself or at least to their ideology. Understanding Fidesz politics, it need to be stated that currently Fidesz (the Alliance of Young Democrats) is the largest, most influential right-wing party of politics. They have long moved beyond their liberal, democratic past and turned to a populist narrative, basing their politics on the pillars of conservative, nationalist and Christian values. 

The report explores the beginnings of right-wing movements in Hungary and also establishes the highly polarising nature of the regime change in 1989. Shedding light on the grievances of the Communist Regime and the alienation due to the early years of capitalism, this report identifies that the Fidesz government consolidated their voter base by turning to right-wing neo-conservative politics. 

The report has identified that the legal scope of radicalisation and de-radicalisation in Hungary is extremely limited. Therefore, we focused on legislations with polarising nature in order to demonstrate that the government’s is one of the driver of radicalisation. We established that the new Constitution of 2010 (the Fundamental Law of Hungary) became ineffective in protecting human rights and led to the decline of the rule of law in Hungary. During the years of the Fidesz supermajority government, it has been widely argued that the Fundamental Law of Hungary is changed too frequently and always in line with the Fidesz policies in order to create legitimacy. In addition to the controversial constitutional amendments, the Fidesz government had also changed over a hundred pieces of legislation including cardinal laws. These changes included the ban of homeless citizens residing on public property, which not only curbed their human rights, but increased their vulnerability to police brutality and discrimination. Adding to the list of controversial legislative measures of the Fidesz government is recent anti-paedophile law, which does not differentiate homosexuality from paedophilia and aims to protect children from sexual predators and sexual minorities at the same time. The legislation was part of the long-lasting campaign of the government against members of the LGBTQI+ community, which was clearly built on Russian examples. Currently, the Fundamental Law of Hungary states that “the mother is a woman and the father is a man” and only this type of relationship can be considered a traditional “family”, while also bans same-sex couples from adopting children. 

It must be emphasised that these provocative measures by the state further deepens polarisation within the nation and contribute to right-wing radicalisation. We called Hungary a case of ‘managed radicalisation’, which refers to the control and the encouragement that the state holds in relation to radicalisation issues. In the past eleven years, the Fidesz government has targeted the EU, refugees, liberals, the LGBTQI+ community, the Roma population and all opposition parties and voters. Their propaganda campaigns led to increasing xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, Euroscepticism, discrimination and racism. On the other hand, their political activity resulted in lack of accountability, abuse of power and human rights violations. While this report also identified the legislative background of radicalisation between 1989 and 2010, past three consecutive terms of the Fidesz government legal amendments and political discourse can be considered the main driver of radicalisation and polarisation in Hungary.

It is hard to measure the current status of radicalisation in Hungary, since there are no official monitoring bodies or data that we could rely on. Generally, hate crime statistics would unfold the picture for us in mapping radicalisation, however, the Hungarian Criminal Code does not recognise hate crime as a crime itself, only as an aggravating circumstance and it relies too much upon police discretion, thus, hate crimes statistics can be misleading. 

It would be hard to estimate the damage of politically induced and incited polarisation and radicalisation. Unfortunately, with no state-led de-radicalisation programmes in place, the Hungarian society spirals deeper and deeper into alienation, polarisation and grievances. As the continuous creation of enemies by the Fidesz government is an overarching agenda to consolidate their voter base, seeing enemies within the society became an everyday norm in Hungary.