Unlike his opponents at the opposition primaries, Péter Márki-Zay was not a well-known person in Hungarian politics- until now.Continue reading
What are the chances and what is the potential Achilles heel of the joint opposition’s freshly-elected prime ministerial candidate and newcomer, Péter Márki-Zay, against incumbent Viktor Orbán? Most of the relevant Hungarian political analysts highlight the fact that his victory could not have been foreseen and he comes outside of the establishment, which may be dangerous for the ruling side and Orbán. On the other hand, many pinpoint the difficulties he would have to encounter within the opposition alliance.
Besides pointing out that opposition voters appeared to not only want a change of government but a change in the opposition as well, Gábor Török says that the “Márki-Zay scenario” may conceal dangers for Fidesz’s campaign.
While pro-government “propaganda” will easily convince committed voters that he has always been Gyurcsány’s man (despite the fact that he eventually ran and won against the former PM’s wife in the last round), for many, however, this will definitely be less credible, making the governing side’s campaign more difficult than if Klára Dobrev had emerged winner, Török thinks. While this may only be a matter of communication, a bigger problem is the strategic side of the issue, in his view, as Fidesz hasn’t been preparing for this scenario at all.
Of course, this isn’t something necessarily bad for the governing side, Török also points out, highlighting that Márki-Zay, similarly to all “fast-emerging political stars,” won’t be a seasoned opponent; therefore, he may well make mistakes in the future and some unpleasant details about his past may come to the surface too.
But there’s also the chance that his momentum will last for another six months, or even strengthen further along in a race that currently seems neck-and-neck, endangering Fidesz’s victory, or even potentially resulting in Viktor Orbán finding himself at the wrong end of a voting booth revolution (Török referred to the expression PM Orbán used after Fidesz-KDNP’s first two-thirds victory in 2010).
According to liberal-leaning Medián Institute’s leader, usually proving to be the most poignant pollster in Hungary, Márki-Zay’s success doesn’t only mean that a significant mass of voters are fed up with the “past thirty years” of policy-making, or that the majority doesn’t want any more revenge politics, but that they also want a greater role for civilians.
The most important lesson and opportunity is in fact that the forces behind him can finally fill the political center, an area void for a long time now, Endre Hann argues, explaining that this ‘New Center’ may come under the Hódmezővásárhely mayor.
“‘Gyurcsánying’ may be rendered meaningless following Márki-Zay’s victory, and Fidesz risks failure if it goes on with this strategy. One of Fidesz’s fundamental problems is that the leader has no self-awareness at all- no one dares to tell him that things are going in the wrong direction,” the former MP of liberal party Free Democrats (SZDSZ) and Fidesz (without party membership) argues.
Péter Tölgyessy, however, also foresees difficulties for Márki-Zay in keeping the alliance together and in settling those tense inner debates still to come on the opposition alliance’s joint party list for the elections, for example.
In reference to Márki-Zay being an outsider and ‘anti-elite’ in politics, Tölgyessy argues that “if there is anywhere where anti-elite politics can be played out, it is through the prime minister himself, who has been playing this role for almost 20 years now and is trying to do the anti-elite elite, but Márki-Zay has weapons in his hands that are dangerous for Orbán.”
Besides admitting that Márki-Zay is indeed a novel challenger, leading analyst of Fidesz-linked Nézőpont Ins. argues that the first reason predicting his failure is MZP’s alliance with Ferenc Gyurcsány: while until now he had been campaigning with anti-Gyurcsány stances, now they have to form an alliance and appear together, which can discredit him too, Ágoston Sámuel Mráz argues.
Being an outsider in party politics is the second reason, according to the pro-Fidesz analyst, as it may result in a lot of difficulties when party infrastructure and relevant politicians would be needed on-board. The third is what he calls the “Karácsony orphans’ support,” sarcastically meaning the untrustworthiness and unreliability of Gergely Karácsony and of those allied with the Párbeszéd co-leader.
The fourth reason is DK’s “desire for revenge,” Mráz writes, arguing that the left-liberal party will not easily forget offenses made during the campaign, and that it was Márki-Zay, who after Karácsony’s “failure,” prevented the opposition from being united (for now) under DK’s leadership. Márki-Zay’s “hyperactive self-righteousness” will be the fifth point of friction in the pro-Fidesz expert’s opinion, specifying Márki-Zay’s difficult personality and his unwillingness to compromise.
featured image via Márki-Zay’s Facebook