As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly party roundup on each Monday. In the wake of the midterm mayoral election of Hódmezővásárhely, last week’s politics was dominated largely by the actions and reactions to Fidesz’s defeat against a joint opposition candidate as both sides put a special effort into the campaign.
The atmosphere among those on the opposition side is definitely more optimistic; opposition leaders are urging coordination and agreements on joint candidates. While major changes in governing Fidesz-KDNP’s election campaign can not be expected, smaller modifications are possible.
According to the latest poll of the left-liberal Republikon Institute, Fidesz still leads without a major contender; however, according to the Institute, in comparison to the January results, Fidesz support decreased from 53% to 48%, while MSZP-PM-Liberals gained 3%, and Jobbik gained 1%. LMP and DK are still on the margin of the parliamentary threshold despite gaining 1% respectively. It may be surprising that Momentum hasn’t gained any support in recent times.
The EU anti-fraud office’s (OLAF) accusations are still in the centre of debate and criticism towards the ruling alliance. OLAF has found “serious irregularities” and a “conflict of interest” related to an EU-funded street lamp project whose contract was won by Elios, a company partially owned by István Tiborcz, PM Viktor Orbán’s son-in-law. The opposition Socialist, LMP and radical nationalist Jobbik parties have set up a non-parliamentary “alternative committee” to look into public lighting procurements connected to the company Elios because, according to them, the authorities have been “reluctant” to deal with suspicions of corruption raised by OLAF.
Today (March 5) is the deadline for collection of recommendations in the single-member constituencies. In each one, 500 recommendations are needed in order to officially put forward a candidate. Under Hungary’s election rules, only parties that field at least 27 candidates in at least nine counties and the capital can put together a national list. The deadline for announcing the national lists is 4pm on March 6.
It is also confirmed now that PM Orbán will not have a public debate with prime ministerial candidates of the opposition parties.
On the heels of last Sunday’s defeat in Hódmezővásárhely, there have been signs that Fidesz-KDNP may scale down its ‘Stop Soros‘ campaign; however by now this is rather unlikely to happen. Please find our analysis on the subject here.
The pro-government Civil Union Forum (CÖF) announced that they would once again organize a so-called “Peace March” -a rally in support of the Orbán government- on March 15. The walk will be held before the Prime Minister’s speech.
According to both PMO chief János Lázár and Orbán, migration will be the main topic of the April 8 parliamentary election, and what’s at stake is whether Hungary becomes an “immigrant country” or it ‘remains Hungarian’. “Everybody must notice what’s at stake at the April ballot”, János Lázár said. The election will decide whether there will be “[a government formed by [US billionaire] George Soros or by Hungarian people who are against migration,” he added.
According to a February poll conducted by pro-govt Századvég Institute, Hungary’s ruling parties maintained their lead over the opposition parties, with 53% of decided voters in favour of the Fidesz alliance with the Christian Democrats. Taking the electorate as a whole, 36% of the vote would go to the Fidesz-led alliance.
Jobbik seems to insist on running on their own in the constiuencies rather than coordinating on the withdrawing of candidates with other opposition parties. György Szilágyi of Jobbik argued that “local voters will know who is the strongest candidate to replace the government.” Nevertheless, the party claimed that cooperation with LMP or Momentum is “imaginable”; with the socialists however it is “out of question”.
As a response to Fidesz claims that the election’s stake is whether Hungary becomes an immigrant country or not, Gábor Vona told that the true stake is whether or not Hungary becomes a “source of emigration” claiming that “if the incumbent government remains in office, further hundreds of thousands will probably leave Hungary”. Paying a trip to Transylvania, Vona said that Jobbik would retain all achievements of the Orbán government towards Hungarian communities abroad, including the voting rights of dual citizens and Hungarian government support for ethnic Hungarian schools, universities, business, churches and institutions. Vona said Jobbik would continue to support the Hungarian communities’ autonomy endeavours, too. Vona expressed optimism about the chances of resolving Hungarian-Romanian disputes as well.
If elected to govern, Jobbik pledged to join the European-level consultations on the common values and future of the European Union initiated by French president Emmanuel Macron. It is rather “shameful” that Macron had to single out Hungary last week as the only EU member country that rejected the initiative, a lawmaker of the party, Andrea Varga-Damm said.
LMP (Politics can be different)
LMP will discontinue the “accommodation crisis” and ensure that nobody is left without a home if it enters power after the April 8 parliamentary election, the party’s PM candidate said. LMP plans to make accommodation a basic right, set up a social housing organisation, launch a programme to subsidise natural gas and firewood, and build rented homes for those in need, Bernadett Szél told a press conference. The government has done nothing in the past eight years to put an end to the accommodation crisis, Szél insisted. LMP candidate Gábor Vágó added that the social housing organisation will make use of some 150,000 currently vacant homes around Hungary and rent these out under state guarantee.
On Thursady Bernadett Szél said “the future lies in education” and promised to spend every fifth forint on education. “The difference between ruling Fidesz and LMP is that the current ruling party steals every fifth forint, whereas LMP will recoup the stolen money and invest it in education,” she told a press conference. She said Hungary’s Fidesz government had harmed education more than any other, which has been reflected in the deterioration in Hungary’s PISA results. Centralisation has proved to be failure, she added, referring to the government’s policy of taking over the key functions of running schools from the local authorities.
MSZP-PM (Hungarian Socialist Party- Dialogue for Hungary)
Hungary is suffering from a “welfare crisis”, while the country’s “anti-social” government is reluctant to resolve related problems, Gergely Karácsony, PM candidate of the allied Socialist-PM parties, said. Karácsony insisted that “all areas affecting the everyday life of people are in a critical state” and mentioned health and welfare services, pensions and high public utility prices as such areas. The Socialist-Párbeszéd election alliance, if voted into power on April 8, will start building “a true social democracy” and replace “all sources (the government has) cut in recent years”. “We must reverse the tendency of pensioner impoverishment; we need a fairer pension system,” Karácsony added. He said his party alliance would cut “pensions in the million-forint range” and double the minimum pension, as well as reintroduce the 13th month pension. A MSZP-PM government would also introduce a guaranteed pensions programme, Karácsony said.
If elected, the party promises that a comprehensive wage increase scheme will be implemented, 13th month pensions will be introduced, and public utility fees will be cut; the alliance would also institute double base pensions and gradually ensure than no pensioner receives less than 100,000 forints (EUR 320) per month, Karácsony said. He also promised to make quality health care accessible to all and implement a comprehensive reform of education, including free first diplomas and more recognition for teachers.
If MSZP-PM alliance forms the next government they will immediately suspend the payment of European Union funds and review each winning bid, the PM candidate of the two parties said on Sunday. “Today over half of EU funding is getting stolen in Hungary while the other half is being spent on silly projects,” Gergely Karácsony told a press conference in Budapest. “We’ve had enough of light railways, fountains, horse-wellness and vanity projects in Hungary, and we’ve had enough of funds being distributed for projects among the cronies of ruling Fidesz,” he said. Karácsony pledged to direct EU funds towards improving energy efficiency and social security, and reforming health-care and education. He also pledged to set up an authority to investigate and prosecute corruption.
Democratic Coalition (DK)
DK promised to increase teachers’ wages by 15% on average in the event of winning power. “Young teachers at the start of their career will get a 30% increase” and teachers of people with disabilities or with a disadvantaged background would get 20% more than their current pay, DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány told a press conference on Thursday. The former PM also promised to reform the entire system of public education and higher education.
The opposition Momentum Movement is prepared to “cooperate with anyone” to replace those in power, party leader András Fekete-Győr said. He highlighted again, that his party is ready to support any candidate in the April 8 general election who is as personality “credible, sincere and integrative”, and has a chance to defeat ruling Fidesz. Further, the other opposition parties should also withdraw in favour of that candidate, he added. In reply to a question, Fekete-Győr said Momentum is even prepared to cooperate with candidates of the radical nationalist Jobbik party.
Two-tailed dog party (MKKP)
As a response to Fidesz activists’ Peace March, the satirical party has also announced to organize their own ‘march, on the same day in order to mock the original one.