Ruling Fidesz party politician, Simon Song, is half Japanese but that has not stopped him from campaigning against foreigners.
A Hungarian politician in one of Budapest’s suburbs has said he wants to ban immigrants from “foreign cultures” from entering Hungary, a common refrain for members of his Fidesz party.
However, there’s something different about Simon Song: he’s half Japanese.
Song made the statement on his Facebook page, which appears to serve as his online presence for his campaign for local council in Budapest’s Kispest district ahead of October 13 elections.
Budapest is divided into 23 districts, split between the historic cities of Buda and Pest. Song is running as the fifth name on the ruling Fidesz party’s list in Kispest, which is found in the southeast of the Hungarian capitol, encompassing the city’s 19th district.
The district council hopeful previously shared a post in April showing two men of Arab descent leaving the devastating blaze engulfing the iconic Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. One of the men appears to be smiling.
“This picture speaks for itself. While Christian Europe follows events in shock, the two Middle Easterners have fun”, Song wrote.
Though the image was shared by many who said it showed Muslims invading Europe and laughing at the burning of a symbol of Christianity, the two men told the AFP news agency they were architecture students studying the fire.
When French police asked the two men to leave the safe zone, one was hit in the face with a safety rope, causing him to laugh, according to the interview.
To some Hungarian observers, Song’s rhetoric reflects that of the country’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, who has said Hungary is no place for migrants.
Orban has been PM since 2010, when his party swept into parliament with a constitutional majority. Orban and Fidesz have subsequently won similar majorities, albeit with smaller shares of the vote.
The 2018 national elections saw Fidesz win another two-thirds majority, but with slightly less than 50 percent of the vote.
The party has been accused of gerrymandering, consolidating media under its control and engaging in unfair elections by critics. But perhaps most notably, Fidesz and Orban have been the target of accusations regarding their use of “anti-immigrant” rhetoric, especially after the 2015 refugee crisis.
Fidesz has led campaigns against migration and painted Hungarian-American financier George Soros, a champion of liberal causes throughout the world, as funding pro-migration efforts to threaten Hungary’s “Christian” character and culture.
The government even paid for billboards across Hungary that alleged Soros was working with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to encourage migration ahead of May European Parliament elections earlier in 2019.
For Jun Miyazaki, another Japanese-Hungarian running for council in Budapest’s sixth district, Song’s rhetoric is an example of “party politics” expanding to local elections, where politicians can do little about migration policy.
“Mr Song - as many Fidesz candidates around the country - echoes this central xenophobic propaganda [from national Fidesz politicians] in his local campaign.
Miyazaki, a candidate from the Democratic Coalition, several parties ranging from the left to the right that have banded together to unseat Fidesz, told TRT World that the “Fidesz government intentionally conflates immigration and refugee issues in their xenophobic propaganda and creates fake news in government-controlled media around it.”
A broader trend?
Fidesz nor Song replied to TRT World’s request for comment.
But Song is not the only Fidesz member with roots outside of Hungary. Safar Ahmed, originally from Lebanon, has been a Fidesz representative in the town of Siofolk, near the since 2014.
Ahmed told Hungarian news site Index that “I have lived in Hungary for 42 years, which I consider to be my second home”, saying he found Hungarians to be welcoming.
Since the 2015 refugee crisis, Index noted, Fidesz’s rhetoric has changed. Ahmed said he would remain on the Fidesz ticket.
“With regard to illegal immigration,” he continued, “I fully share the Government's position. It is also my opinion that each country can decide for itself who is allowed in and who is not. It's no different in my homeland, Lebanon.”
To Miyazaki, the anti-immigrant rhetoric is Fidesz “trying to distract the voters’ awareness from the real local issues.”
These include cost of housing, deteriorating public health and issues with public transportations.
“In most districts Fidesz mayors had almost nine years to answer these challenges. Instead of results we receive this xenophobic propaganda”, Miyazaki concluded.