The new ray of hope for the opponents of hard-liner right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is Péter Márki-Zay, the mayor of the Southern Hungarian town of Hódmezővásárhely and a Catholic father of seven – writes MIMC Organization founding member and historian László Bernát Veszprémy on the Times of Israel blog section.
Márki-Zay became known nationwide when in 2018 he became mayor of his hometown, which was previously considered a stronghold of the ruling Fidesz party.
Since the Hungarian opposition has formed an alliance to run together against Orbán, Márki-Zay, who won the opposition primaries in October 2021 with 56% of the votes, will likely be the only enemy of Orbán during the April 2022 elections. An unlikely candidate, as he is known for his strongly conservative views – but perhaps the Hungarian left things that you need fire in order to fight fire.
But as a strongly right-wing politician, what does Márki-Zay think of Hungarian Jews and other minorities?
His record on minority-related issues is, in fact, not bright.
In September 2018, Márki-Zay took a picture with Tamás Sneider, then president of Jobbik, a former skinhead known for having performed Nazi salutes at his own wedding, and who confessed to beating a Roma person in 1992 in an allegedly racist attack. Márki-Zay shook Sneider’s hand on the picture, and launched into a controversial speech in which he suggested that the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda) be resurrected. The Hungarian Guard was a neo-Nazi formation banned by the Hungarian government.
It is worth noting that Márki-Zay’s political movement, the Movement for a Hungary for Everybody (Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom) has previously supported outright neo-Nazi politicians from the party Jobbik, like Lajos Rig, an MP who at one point called Romani people “the biological weapons” of Jews, used to exterminate Hungarians. Márki-Zay has also personally supported László Bíró, a Jobbik politician who called Jews “flea slides” and who called Budapest “Judapest”.
When the so-called Pegasus scandal broke out in July 2021 – the gist of which is that a number of Hungarian journalists were supposedly spied upon using Israeli technology – Márki-Zay attacked the Orbán government with a Facebook post on which Orbán was shown standing in front of an Israeli flag and a Menorah. While the Star of David was partially blocked from view, the Menorah was clearly visible.
The message was obvious: the Jews, allied with Orbán, are spying on the Hungarian people.
In October 2021 it was revealed that Márki-Zay’s campaign was assisted by the World Alliance of Szeklers (Székelyek Világszövetsége), a far-right organization headed by Barna Csibi. Csibi has previously placed a placard in the Romanian town of Miercurea Ciuc (Csíkszereda) with the text “you should be ashamed of yourself, again you have bought at a Jewish shop”.
One month later, Márki-Zay gave an interview to BBC, in which he suggested that Jews vote for the neo-Nazi Jobbik party “with good heart”.
Also in October 2021, Márki-Zay gave an interview in which he stated that “half the Hungarian government is gay”. Of course there are no known homosexuals in the Hungarian government, and even if there were, “outing” is considered a serious crime by the LGBTQA community. This, however, did not deter Márki-Zay from repeating in December 2021 his belief that there were gay people in the government, and he urged these people to reveal themselves.
Here Márki-Zay was obviously trying to attract homophobic voters, and he was clearly using the term “gay” as a swear word, meant to alienate voters from his political enemies.
A homophobe and in my opinion, an antisemite, Márki-Zay is no man to be upheld as the saviour of democracy and liberalism in Hungary. The question is not whether the Hungarian opposition can beat Orbán with a homophobe and an antisemite at the helm, but should it?
Photo: Péter Márki-Zay. Source: Facebook