As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly party roundup on each Monday. With less than one month left until the elections, the atmosphere in Hungarian politics is definitely getting more tense. Fidesz-KDNP’s by-election defeat in Hódmezővásárhely has apparently set off the alarm bells for the governing alliance. Among those on the opposition side, the main topics are cooperation and coordination, which, however, are going slowly and bumpily.
A latest survey conducted by the Jobbik-friendly Iránytű Institute conducted among the entire population (of potential voters) shows that Fidesz-KDNP’s advantage has slightly shrunk, probably due to recent scandals such as the Elios-case. Important to note, however, that, as can be seen in the last column of the graph, almost one-third of the population is still undecided (or doesn’t intend to vote at all).
As for the opposition, at the moment it seems that new alliances will not be formed ahead of April 8; however, there definitely will be cooperation and withdrawals in favour other opposition candidates in single-member constituencies, and talks are underway in this regard. Under the current Hungarian electoral system, there will be only one round of voting instead of the earlier two. 106 seats will be obtained in single-member constituencies, while the remaining 93 seats will be allocated by proportional representation from national lists. Thus, voters will have to place two “X” marks on the ballot paper, the first one for one of the candidates in the single-member constituency and the second one for the national list of one of the parties.
‘The Country for All Movement’ (KOM), an organization hoping to coordinate the activities of Hungary’s opposition parties, is continuously undertaking surveys in different constituencies in order to find out which opposition candidates would most likely become the best challenger of Fidesz through collecting opposition votes.
So far, more than 24,000 Hungarians have registered to vote abroad. The process of casting a ballot for those working outside of the country, but still possessing Hungarian address, is a topic of debate as well, since contrary to the voting rights of ethnic Hungarians (such as those in the Carpathian Basin) who lack a permanent address, they cannot vote by mail, but rather have to show up at a predetermined place (such as an embassy) which makes voting more complicated for them. At the same time, ethnic Hungarians who don’t have an address in Hungary can vote only for the national list, thus their votes are worth far less. You can find our blog post on the issue here.
Following the surprising defeat in Hódmezővásárhely, Fidesz-KDNP slightly scaled back its ‘Stop Soros‘ campaign; however, they have definitely geared up their campaign against migration and those criticizing the government’s attitude towards migrants and refugees, claiming that only Fidesz-KDNP can “defend” Hungary from being an “immigrant country”. The government’s new bill board campaign takes aim at the United Nations, attacking what it claims is the UN’s plans regarding the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis while in a controversial video, PMO chief János Lázár can be seen walking the streets of Vienna, claiming that the city has become “dirtier,” “poorer,” and less white since “migrants have moved there.” In an event held at the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Orbán claimed that economic growth can only be maintained “if Hungary is protected”.
The government announced that, in the second quarter of the year, 12,000 forint (38,5 euros) will be credited onto the accounts of households heating with gas or using district heating; in addition, pensioners will receive Erzsébet vouchers worth 10,000 forint (32 euros) again in light of the fact that “this is permitted by the state of the economy”.
Contrary to the aforementioned survey, the government-funded Nézőpont Institute found that support for Fidesz hasn’t decreased among decided voters (52%) following the by-election defeat in Hódmezővásárhely. Jobbik: 17%, MSZP-PM: 10%, LMP: 9%, DK: 6%, Momentum: 4%. They also polled voters on their expectations concerning Hungary’s next PM: 66% expect Viktor Orbán to become Hungary’s next PM; both Gábor Vona and Gergely Karácsony reached 5%, while Bernadett Szél reached 2%.
Radical nationalist Jobbik has vowed to “put up a genuine fight” against mass migration if elected to government in the April election, as opposed to what it called the government’s “communications war” on the issue. Jobbik deputy leader László Toroczkai told a news conference that, unlike ruling Fidesz, all of his party’s 106 individual candidates would work to stop migration if elected. They will not take in any migrants in secret or for money, he added. On another subject, Toroczkai rejected press reports claiming that his party was in talks with the leftist opposition Democratic Coalition on potentially cooperating in the election.
Jobbik seems to be reluctant to coordinate (and potentially withdraw some candidates) with the other opposition parties in the single-member constituencies; they insist, that they are willing to cooperate, but only after the elections; more importantly, they are open for coordination only with the parties that were founded in the 21st century, thus excluding the Socialists and DK. After working hard to distance itself from its racist, anti-Semitic past, attempting to transform Jobbik into a people’s party, and through this having lost a number of supporters, party leader Gábor Vona is probably afraid that a cooperation with the leftist parties would result in further alienation of the party’s core support.
Another survey conducted in February by Iránytű Institute found that, among active Facebook users, Jobbik is the most popular party.
LMP (Politics can be different)
Bernadett Szél has urged Jobbik and MSZP to start talks and put aside their grievances in order to foster coordination among opposition parties. She added that, if the other opposition parties are willing to cooperate, then her party is ready to withdraw certain candidates. However, she set March 19th as a deadline to reach an agreement.
LMP, together with MSZP-PM, has proposed convening a special session of parliament to reintroduce the 13th month pension and a fair and sustainable utility cost cutting system, MSZP-PM prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karácsony told a press conference. He called for a 13th month pension equivalent to the average pension, “roughly 120,000 forints (EUR 385)”. The session would also discuss the alliance’s proposal for comprehensive utility cost cuts, which the Socialists have submitted multiple times, he said. The proposal includes a 30% gas price cut for households.
Unexpectedly, Ron Werber, the party’s campaign chief, resigned. LMP has been often criticized for employing Mr. Werber, who had previously managed MSZP’s negative 2002 campaign.
MSZP-PM (Hungarian Socialist Party- Dialogue for Hungary)
The MSZP-PM alliance presented the members of their shadow cabinet in Budapest on Sunday. Gergely Karácsony, the alliance’s candidate for prime minister, said the members of the shadow cabinet shared a clear set of values but were independent of any political party, and they had already done much for the country in their areas of expertise. He promised a government that serves the people, rather than one that puts the people in the service of those in power, if the Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance achieves victory in parliamentary elections on April 8th. Zoltán Komáromi will take the healthcare portfolio in the shadow government, Gábor Daróczi the education portfolio, Éva Orsós Hegyesi the social portfolio, Tamás Mellár, the finance portfolio, László Andor the employment portfolio, Ada Ámon the environment portfolio and Tamás Wittinghof the local government portfolio.
Gergely Karácsony promised to get the Istanbul Convention ratified, and to guarantee equal wages for men and women, if he wins the upcoming general election. If Socialist-Párbeszéd come to form the next government, they will introduce effective measures against domestic violence, improve infant and kindergarten care, and increase the wages of women working in créches, he said. Families will get a chance to decide how many children they want, and women will not have to choose between a family and a career, he added.
Hungary has to extend its policy towards Hungarian communities abroad to those who left the country over the recent period so as not to lose contact with the emigrating families, Gergely Karácsony said. Speaking of his visit to Manchester on the campaign trail, Karácsony said the “bare minimum” would be to facilitate voting for those living abroad.
Democratic Coalition (DK)
DK is launching an information campaign to advise voters which boxes for “democratic” party candidates to tick in individual constituencies to ensure “the strongest democratic opposition” outcome, DK politician Gergely Arató told a news conference. Arató insisted the ruling Fidesz party had created a single-round election system skewed in such a way that it could win even with fewer votes than the opposition. But ever since the upset in the Hódmezővásárhely election, the ruling party has realised this strategy would not work, he said, adding that now Fidesz would resort to dirty tricks such as spawning multitudes of tiny parties with similar names to the major opposition parties “like mushrooms”.
The leader of the liberal Momentum has proclaimed his opposition party to be ‘nationwide’ after having obtained the relevant number of supporting signatures in 97 constituencies. András Fekete-Győr told a news conference on Monday that fully 61,295 voters around the country had put their confidence in “a new political generation that has brought new thoughts, impetus and sincerity into public life”.
Momentum joined Bernadett Szél in urging Jobbik and MSZP to start talks on cooperation.