As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly roundup on each Monday. So far, 93 parties and 13 ethnic minority groups are registered to run. EU anti-fraud office’s accusations are in the middle of debates, and opposition parties are often critical with each other as well.
The campaign for the April 8 elections officially started on Saturday. In accordance with this, a number of politicians held heated campaign opening or state of the nation speeches, including PM Orbán Viktor, ex-PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, LMP’s Bernadett Szél, and András Fekete-Győr of the youth group Momentum . You can find our summary of the speeches here.
An important mayoral election will be held in Hódmezővásárhely on February 25 . An intense campaign has been underway for weeks as MSZP, LMP and Jobbik decided not to run their own candidates against acting mayor Zoltán Hegedűs of Fidesz but instead to throw their support behind the independent Péter Márki-Zay. In mid-January, however, MSZP’s Gyula Hernádi decided to run, claiming that he received “a phone call from a close friend which drove him to change his mind”. Many critics believe that Fidesz incited him to run so as to divide the opposition and raise the chances of Hegedűs. In response, MSZP decided to kick Hernádi out of the party, as Márki-Zay will probably lose important votes because of him. János Lázár, head of the Prime Minister’s Office, has put a special emphasis on the campaign as he is from the town and was himself once its mayor.
According to the pro-government Századvég Foundation, Fidesz-KDNP holds a stable lead. A total of 35% of those interviewed said they would vote for Fidesz-KDNP if the elections were held this Sunday. For the first time in Századvég polls, LMP came in second place, tied with Jobbik, with 8% support for each party. The Socialists-Párbeszéd party alliance received 7% support, Democratic Coalition (DK) 6% and Együtt 1%. All remaining parties received a combined 5%, and 30% of voters said they were undecided. Among decided voters, Fidesz-KDNP stood at 51%.
In recent weeks, new details emerged about the EU anti-fraud office’s (OLAF) accusations of corruption against Orbán’s son-in-law . A two-year investigation has found “serious irregularities” and a “conflict of interest” related to an EU-funded street lamp project whose contract was won by a company partially owned by István Tiborcz, who is married to the Prime Minister’s daugther. This, naturally, has generated heated comments from the opposition, while Fidesz seems to be trying to downplay and ignore the case as much as possible.
János Halász, spokesman for the Fidesz parliamentary group, said that Parliament could vote on the ruling parties’ controversial “Stop Soros” bill in the first session of the new parliamentary cycle, as certain parts of the bill require a two-thirds majority to pass, which the ruling Fidesz-KDNP alliance does not currently have.
Jobbik has continued to emphasize the issue of corruption in general while highlighting and condemning scandals surrounding the Fidesz government, such as OLAF’s accusations. In a recent statement, they added that they would give a bounty to those who report a corruption case that results in a conviction.
If elected, Jobbik would introduce reforms to protect the real value of pensions and boost basic health services, the party’s leader told a press conference. The radical nationalist opposition party would link pension payments to the basket of goods specified for pensioners as well as to wages, with a view to preserving their real value, Gábor Vona claimed. He insisted that the government’s assertion that the purchasing power of pensions had remained constant was “propaganda”. A Jobbik government would selectively raise pension payments rather maintain increases across the board, he said. Further, Jobbik would allow taxpayers to divert the current 1% tax contribution paid to civil organisations to supporting their parents, he said. Jobbik would also introduce a measure allowing men to retire after 40 years of work, as is the case for women at present.
LMP has promised an across-the board wage increase and fair tax cuts if elected in the April general election, Bernadett Szél said. The party plans to introduce a three-rate personal income tax regime, with tax rates of 0, 12 and 24%, she added. She vowed to reintroduce a tax-exempt minimum wage and would double education spending as well.
LMP refused the invitation to celebrate together with socialists on March 15, explaining that they are not willing to use a National Day for campaign purposes.
The Socialist Party Congress confirmed its cooperation pact with Párbeszéd (Dialogue; PM) and Liberals (MLP). Under the agreement, dubbed “Alliance for a Fair Hungary”, the Socialists and Párbeszéd will field joint candidates and a joint party list in the upcoming elections, with Párbeszéd co-leader Gergely Karácsony running as their candidate for prime minister.
If elected to government, the Socialist-Párbeszéd coalition claims that it will launch a government scheme to keep young Hungarians in the country and to motivate those who have already emigrated to return. Gergely Karácsony said that a new state secretary’s office would be set up which would be dedicated to the scheme. The Socialist-Párbeszéd party coalition’s strategy would include “ensuring equal voting rights” for Hungarians abroad. Additionally, the coalition claims that it will finance bachelor’s degrees and launch a housing programme to motivate young citizens to stay in the country.
MSZP-PM said they would initiate a parliamentary investigative committee to look into the prime minister’s role in an alleged corruption case surrounding Elios, a company that has been investigated by Europe’s anti-fraud office OLAF. Gergely Karácsony called the Elios case “one of the most serious corruption cases of the past 27 years”.
DK decided to accept the invitation of Gergely Karácsony, candidate of MSZP-Együtt, to commemorate together the beginning of the 1848 revolution on March 15.
DK prime ministerial candidate Ferenc Gyurcsány has been among the loudest critics of Orbán and Fidesz, labeling Viktor Orbán a “thief”, insisting that a deal with Fidesz is out of question, and arguing that their system “must be wiped out”.
The party held a demonstration On February 15 on Szabadság square, protesting against the aforementioned ‘Elios-case’ and reports of government corruption. the party’s candidate, András Fekete-Győr, stated that PM Orbán and his relatives “ransack the country”.
Currently, it would seem that Momentum is reluctant concerning the approach of LMP’s candidate Bernadett Szél to form an alliance, and seem to insist on running alone for the upcoming elections.
As a prank, activists of the party placed stickers and billboards with “Hódmezőlázárhely” on it in Hódmezővásárhely, referring to the aforementioned mayoral election, and thus criticising János Lázár, who they claim, regards the town as his own property, and is intervening too intensely in the campaign.
The party has unilaterally started to withdraw their candidates nationwide in favour of the other leftist parties’ candidates in exchange for the downtown, where party leader Péter Juhász is running, and the Csepel neighborhood of Budapest. The Socialists, however, claimed that for now an agreement with Együtt is out of question, while ex-PM Gordon Bajnai has expressed his support for Együtt’s candidate in Csepel.