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ELECTIONS IN HUNGARY 2018: WEEKLY PARTY ROUNDUP #5

By Abraham Vass // 2018.02.26.

As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly roundup on each Monday. The campaign officially started on last Saturday, while collection of recommendations is underway from Monday. In each single-member constituency, 500 recommendations are needed in order to officially put forward a candidate, the deadline for which is March 5th. 

A number of party leaders held keynote speeches, and day by day we can read new announcements of programmes. As per the latest analysis of Závech Research, in the last three months major changes in preferences couldn’t be detected. Nevertheless, ratio of those who want a change of government increased from 40% to 43%, while there are approx. 1 million voters who are still undecided and will potentially make a decision during the campaign.

Party preferences among the total population (above 18 years old) in the last 3 months (at the bottom ‘nincs pártja’ means that they either don’t intend to vote or don’t know yet to whom). Image: Závech Research Ins.

 

As mentioned in last week’s roundup, an important midterm mayoral election was held in Hódmezővásárhely, where joint opposition candidate won against Fidesz, with a considerably high turnout; you can find our analysis of this electoral upset here.

Fidesz-KDNP

PM Viktor Orbán officially started campaigning in Eger (a city in northern Hungary) last Monday.

As early as on Tuesday, Fidesz-KDNP declared that they successfully collected the 500 required signatures of recommendation in all the 106 single-member constituencies.

Minister for National Economy, Mihály Varga claimed that, if Fidesz-KDNP wins again in April, tax cuts can be expected; as an example he mentioned that they intend to push VAT -which is at the moment 15%, to below 10%.

On Sunday in Kiskunhalas (south of Hungary) a midterm municipal election was held in an individual constituency due the death of the former representative, a vote which received considerably less attention than Hódmezővásárhely’s mayoral race. Fidesz’ candidate György Juhász won with a two third majority (68%) over an independent independent (31%) and a Munkáspárt (Labour- a far left/communist party; 1%) candidate. Turnout was 28.65%.

Jobbik

Promising the establishment of an anticorruption agency and a border guard as well as measures aimed at curbing emigration, the radical nationalist Jobbik party officially revealed its election manifesto in Budapest on Tuesday. Presenting the programme at a press conference, Jobbik leader Gábor Vona said his party was the only opposition party capable of ousting the Fidesz-led government and holding its members accountable. If elected into government, Jobbik promises to sign a strategic agreement with Hungarian small and medium-sized companies. It also pledges to introduce a home creation and rental housing programme with a view to supporting young people and keeping them in Hungary. The scheme would involve the renovation of 10,000 used and construction of 10,000 new homes each year. Further, the manifesto sets the goal of raising Hungarian wages to the European Union average. Vona said Jobbik also wants to resolve the situation of troubled forex loan holders. It would allow men to retire after 40 years of work, an option already open to women. In the manifesto, the party also vows to improve health care and modernise the education system. Concerning the election campaign, Vona said the left-wing opposition parties were focused on fighting themselves rather than on ousting the government in April. He said those parties had no organizational, professional or moral basis for replacing the current government.

Jobbik is setting up a map and other materials on their website with a view to helping Hungarian residents living abroad with participation in the April general election, Jobbik lawmaker Dóra Dúró told a press conference. Very few Hungarians living abroad have registered to vote so far, Dúró said. The site of the national election office contains only “rudimentary, badly organized information” on the voting sites, Dúró insisted. The past 8 years of the Fidesz government have resulted in the emigration of 700,000 Hungarians, families torn apart and a “consequent demographic catastrophe”, Dúró insisted. Jobbik sees it as of strategic importance to “call these families home” and to help their welfare in their homeland, Dúró said.

LMP (Politics can be different)

On the occasion of the Memorial Day for the Victims of Communism, LMP leaders announced that they would again submit a law package for the disclosure of the files of agents and informants during communism (before 1990). Since 2010, this is the 17th time that they have submitted it, while the Fidesz majority has always refused to debate the issue.

If the opposition LMP party were to form Hungary’s next government, it would use 300 billion forints (nearly 1 billion euros) to raise wages in the public sector, Bernadett Szél, the party’s co-leader and prime ministerial candidate said. Szél insisted that some 18,000 municipal employees have not received a pay hike for the past 10 years, and suggested that low pay for municipal employees in small towns could lead to the collapse of those municipalities. Concerning migration, Szél said that her party would “similarly to the government, enforce the Geneva convention”, but they would sort migrants before they enter the country and “establish who is a refugee and who is coming illegally, even with a shady purpose.” Control over immigration is a national competency, she said, and insisted that Hungary’s parliament should pass relevant laws. “We do not support the (EU) migration quota; we could not dismantle the border fence, and I personally would restore the border guard,” Szél said.

If LMP wins power in the April election, its government would “pay its first visit to Moscow” and terminate the “Orbán-Putin pact”, an agreement, according to LMP, which serves as the basis for Hungary’s upgrade of the Paks nuclear plant, party leaders told a press conference. Bernadett Szél said that “the second visit” would be made to Brussels to protest against the European Union’s idea of a two-speed Europe. “Hungary must be in the foreground of Europe,” Szél said, and insisted that her party would “make Hungary successful among conditions of the 21st century”, while she called the diplomatic views of PM Orbán “paleolithic”. She also insisted that the government’s Eastern Opening strategy has “locked the country up in a bad situation” while Hungary should orient itself towards the West. Party board member Péter Ungár said the “Paks loan” from Russia benefited Russian President Vladimir Putin alone, and called on the government to stop spending money on the upgrade project.

MSZP-PM

If the Socialist-Párbeszéd (Dialogue) alliance were to win power in the upcoming election, it would raise wages in Hungary’s health care by 50%, Gergely Karácsony, PM candidate of the two parties, told a press conference marking the Day of Hungarian Nurses. Karácsony said that the government had “forgotten about nurses”. Referring to Viktor Orbán’s recent state-of-the nation speech, Karácsony said that the prime minister’s not even mentioning health care “shows how uncomfortable the subject is” for the government. On another subject, Karácsony said the government’s recent “Stop Soros” draft law package was a “stupid legislation aimed at harassing civil groups”. “It is not George Soros that needs to be stopped but Viktor Orbán,” he insisted.

Following comments made by DK’s Gyurcsány, Karácsony announced as well that his coalition vows to cut utility prices if they come to power. The MSZP-PM alliance will cut the monthly price of gas by 30% for average consumption, of electricity and district heating by 10-10%, respectively. The alliance’s progressive utility prices scheme has been designed to support average households, he added.

Democratic Coalition (DK)

If elected to government, the leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) would immediately terminate the agreement providing pension and health care for Ukrainian and Russian citizens in Hungary, a party spokesman told a press briefing on Tuesday. In January, DK launched a signature drive to scrap the eligibility for Hungarian pension of Ukrainian and Russian citizens who, according to the party, have registered in Hungarian border villages with the sole purpose of taking advantage of the related Hungarian-Soviet interstate agreement of 1963.

The Democratic Coalition (DK) will grant two cubic metres of water, 15 to 20 cubic metres of natural gas and 50 KWH electricity free of charge to every household, if it comes to power after the April 8 general election, the leader of the opposition party, former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, said. He criticized the government’s utility price cuts for having benefited large consumers alone.

Momentum

After hesitation, András Fekete-Győr announced on last Wednesday that his party has accepted LMP’s Bernadett Szél’s invitation to held talks on the potential coordination for the April 8 elections.

Momentum’s PM candidate declared that the party is only willing to withdraw its candidates in the single-member constituencies on three conditions: the favored candidate should be trustworthy and authentic, he or she should have mathematical chance to beat Fidesz’ candidate, and the other opposition parties should be willing to withdraw as well on the basis of reciprocity.