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Hate speech in the Hungarian election campaign

The Hungarian election campaign has turned toxic after a Fidesz party politician posted a photo of a slaughtered pig with George Soros' name on it. Ahead of the vote in April, the rhetoric has reached a new low.

Janos Pocs, a parliamentarian from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz party, thought it was funny — but the joke was outrageous. He posted a photo of a slaughter on his Facebook page, showing a group of people with a dead pig at their feet. Someone had carved the words "O volt a soros!!!" in its skin. The term is a word play and could either mean, "He was next in line," or "He was Soros." Pocs' comment under the photo simply read: "One pig less," and was followed by a smiley emoji.

The photo and Pocs' comment caused a public uproar in Hungary. More than 1,000 Facebook users posted messages condemning the politician. Pocs exclaimed that he had no idea what the problem was, the photo, he said, had nothing to do with George Soros, the US billionaire against whom Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been leading a long and relentless public attack campaign.

Read more: Hungary: War of words between George Soros and Fidesz heats up

Screenshot from the Facebook page of a right-wing Hungarian politician showing a slaughtered pig, with the words This is George Soros carved into the animal.

A screenshot of the Facebook page of Fidesz politician, Janos Pocs

'Officially accepted anti-Semitism'

The feigned innocence of the denial only served to further enrage a portion of the Hungarian population, including many conservatives. Meanwhile, some 120 renowned Hungarian intellectuals, among them writer Gyorgy Konrad, philosophers Agnes Heller and Gaspar Miklos Tamas, and filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi have called for Pocs' resignation. Soros' Open Society Foundation has also protested vehemently: "This is a shocking attack on George Soros. The photo Mr. Pocs decided to publish is in a long and dark tradition of anti-Semitic imagery dating back to the Middle Ages. It is another example of officially accepted anti-Semitism in Viktor Orban's Hungary."

Read more: Hungary's European Parliament member Bela Kovacs charged with spying for Russia

Fidesz's parliamentary group leader Gergely Gulyas told reporters at a press conference that such criticism was simply part of "Soros' anti-Hungary campaign." When asked about the affair by reporters, Viktor Orban dryly replied that, "issues pertaining to slaughtering pigs" are not in the government's purview. Janos Pocs did not respond to numerous DW requests for comment.

The affair illustrates just how toxic Hungary's political climate has become under Orban. The hateful rhetoric used by the majority of the government's representatives borders on right-wing extremist propaganda and has become a part of everyday life for Hungarians. In light of the fact that elections will be held in April of next year, one can only assume that things will get even worse over the coming months.

Read more: In Hungary, Viktor Orban's favorite mayor goes on a shopping spree

Two campaigns against Soros

This year, the government launched two campaigns against Soros within the framework of so-called "national consultations." The first campaign used old anti-Semitic tropes to portray Soros as a puppet master as well as the head of an anti-Hungarian conspiracy, under the motto: "We won't let Soros have the last laugh!" In the second campaign, citizens were asked to voice their criticisms of a non-existent Soros plan, in which the billionaire supposedly planned to flood Europe with millions of refugees.

Read more: Two against the EU: Hungary PM Viktor Orban visits Poland

Ungarn Wahlplakat der Jobbik Partei zeigt Viktor Orban und Lorinc Meszaros (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/P. Gorondi)

This political billboard for the far-right party, Jobbik, reads: “Jobbik: On the people’s side. You work, they steal - that is why salaries are low.”

Soros, who is Jewish, was born in Budapest in 1930. Since the end of the 1980s he has used his Open Society Foundation as a vehicle to donate billions of euros to social and legal projects in Eastern Europe, giving over 350 million euros ($412 million) to Hungary alone. Viktor Orban, who received a Soros stipend himself, declared the US billionaire an archenemy two years ago and has never missed an opportunity to attack him since that time.

But Orban is not just against financial speculators and global capitalists that he says are out to get Hungary. Repeated calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty, homophobic slogans and thinly veiled attacks on Roma, who are stigmatized as criminals who don't like to work, all belong to the rhetoric regularly used by Orban and politicians in his ruling government. For instance, when the discussion turns to Roma and the social problems they face, the prime minister likes to say that everyone in Hungary has to work, no one can be allowed to choose crime as a model of existence. Orban also likes to hurl nasty homophobic slurs at Gabor Vona, the head of the formerly right-wing extremist party Jobbik. Vona has been trying to establish Jobbik as a moderate national conservative party since 2014.   

Jobbik politicians refraining from racist rhetoric

Ironically, it seems as if political roles in Hungary have been reversed. Orban and his Fidesz party now hold much of the political spectrum that was home to Jobbik before 2014 — namely, the far right end of it. Orban has successfully robbed Jobbik of almost every one if its issues and has been largely successful in implementing them — such as with social policy that lets municipalities use especially drastic legal guidelines that punish the poor to directly discriminate against Roma dependent upon state financial aid.

Meanwhile, Jobbik politicians avoid using racist language, and Vona is trying to lead the party toward the center of the political spectrum. Although his plan has been strongly criticized by the party's radical wing, Jobbik has become Hungary's strongest opposition party and Vona hopes to win more voters in the center than he will lose to Fidesz on the far right. Vona was self-reflective when speaking with DW, saying that although he used to be skeptical about liberal democracy, Orban's anti-democratic transformation of Hungary has provided an important lesson for him and his party.

Now Jobbik is experiencing the dismantling of democracy and rule of law in Hungary first hand: It seems that Orban's concerns about Jobbik making a good showing in April's election have led the State Audit Office to slap a controversial two million euro fine on the party for accepting an irregular contribution. The odd thing is: the Audit Office did not even bother to look into an almost identical case involving Fidesz.

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