Hungarian Conservative

A New Party in the Hungarian Political Landscape: 2RK

Gábor Vona in 2017.
Gábor Vona in 2017.
Wikimedia Commons
2RK, the newly established centrist political party, is headed by the former president of the once radical right-wing Jobbik, Gábor Vona.

Albeit a somewhat unusual acronym for a political party, 2RK stands for Second Reform Era, the name of the most recently established political party in Hungary. The motto of the self-professedly centrist party is ‘live and let live’.

An eponymous foundation was registered by Gábor Vona, the new party’s president and the former leader of Jobbik, already back in 2018 after the parliamentary elections in which Jobbik came in second, losing to Fidesz by a large margin. In early September 2023, Vona announced that the foundation would be transformed into a new political party under his leadership. In his opening remarks at a press conference, he introduced the party as an attempt to bring a ‘new reform era’ to Hungary, an age when the country had respect for itself. The founders of the party, Vona underscored, are inspired by the 18th century reform era and by the idea that

Hungarians could work together across the political spectrum for the betterment of the homeland,

just as conservative and liberal politicians did it back in the Era of Reform in 19th century Hungary under the Habsburg Empire. As Vona put it, the Era of Reform is not just an ideal for the new party, but a recipe.

In its programme, published on the party’s website, 2RK emphasizes nine issues: youth, health, kindergarten care, family businesses, workers’ rights, online referendums, municipalities without parties, the fight against synthetic drugs, food supply and agriculture.

Gábor Vona, who led Jobbik for 12 years, was the party’s prime ministerial candidate three times in a row. Under his presidency, Jobbik underwent a gradual shift to the centre—while in the early 2000s Jobbik was known as

a radical right-wing party, infamous for its antisemitism and anti-Roma sentiments,

with ties to some paramilitary groups (Vona himself used to be involved with the radical right Hungarian Guard), worked on transforming the party into a more mainstream force. Although Vona as a Jobbik MP at one point wore the Hungarian Guard’s vest to parliament even after the organisation was legally banned, over the years Vona, who has a degree in history, has rebranded himself as the liberal conservative face of a former radical party.

Overall, Jobbik grew strong under his leadership: between 2014 and 2018 Jobbik was the second strongest party in the Hungarian parliament. Vona genuinely seemed to hope that his party would win the 2018 elections, so the election defeat prompted him resign as president and he also temporarily stepped out of public life, and even gave up his seat in parliament. Soon after his departure the real radical core of Jobbik left the party, too, and established the Mi Hazánk Movement. Vona did not hide for long that he has political ambitions left in him, however. In recent interviews he expressed his eagerness to return to politics, which he did with the transformation of his former foundation into the 2RK party.

Due to Gábor Vona’s tainted reputation, at 2RK’s first press conference the party’s determination to attract new people to politics was much emphasized, while

Vona also distanced himself from some of his earlier public statements and actions

as Jobbik president. As the Jobbik under his leadership was infamous for its dysfunctional relationship with the Hungarian Roma, Vona emphasized that 2RK’s Roma policy focuses on integration. When the Second Reform Era was still a foundation, it proposed to celebrate the day of Roma heroes, Vona reminded at the press conference.

Very ambitiously, the party pledged to run in the European Parliamentary elections that are to happen in less than a year. 2RK’s EP list will apparently be made public in October this year. The party is not planning to field candidates in the municipal elections that are also scheduled for 2024, however. The commitment to run for and participate in the work of the EP also led to some questions from the press, as in 2012 Vona was one of the main speakers at a demonstration that demanded a referendum about EU membership, and also burnt the EU flag on stage. Maybe in an attempt of divert attention from the party leaders’ controversial record to this effect, EU-related issues were primarily discussed by one of the party’s vice presidents, Emese Pekár Farkas, a graduate of a British university and a newcomer to Hungarian politics, which is partially explained by her young age—she is still in her twenties. As of now, it seems that the party’s pledge to bring new faces into politics might be an attempt to appeal to the younger generations.

2RK, the newly established centrist political party, is headed by the former president of the once radical right-wing Jobbik, Gábor Vona.