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Elections in Hungary 2018: Weekly Party Roundup #8

Ábrahám Vass 2018.03.19.

As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly party roundup on each Monday. With less than three weeks to go, commemorations of the 1848 revolution on March 15 saw a number of keynote speeches focusing on the upcoming elections. Fidesz-KDNP’s lead seems to have slightly shrunk, while their campaign is becoming more and more concentrated on negative messages. Meanwhile, the opposition is still fragmented and divided, and will probably remain so.

Kozvelemenykutatok.hu has put together recent relevant polls and compared the aggregated results to the outcome of the 2014 elections into a graph that you can view below. It is important to note that the graph shows only the national list results and predictions. Reminder: national list votes allocate 93 parliamentary seats out of 199 in total.

For each party, alliance or conglomerate the first column shows the national list result of the 2014 elections, while the second column shows the predictions made by putting together the results of the relevant polls. Graph: kozvelemenykutatok.hu

In the single member constituencies 106 seats will be up for grabs, and according to the relevant experts and surveys, a change of government or at least opposition majority in the National Assembly after April 8 is only possible if opposition parties cooperate and mutually withdraw candidates, thus making it possible to beat Fidesz-KDNP’s candidates.

Regarding the attitude of those on the opposition towards each other, Jobbik insists on running alone, while claiming that after the elections however they are willing to cooperate or even to build a coalition with LMP. Coordination with the older leftist parties (DK and MSZP), however, is out of question, as the formerly far-right political group claims that these parties are “liable for destruction over the past 28 years”. LMP is willing to cooperate with any parties, but view DK and MSZP with distrust, likely for similar reasons. MSZP-PM and DK have already begun coordinating with each other and withdrawn candidates accordingly.

On Sunday, former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, leader of DK, invited opposition parties Jobbik, MSZP-PM and LMP to coordinate in individual constituencies. Although invited, Jobbik didn’t show up. Instead of reaching a compromise, the outcome of the meeting was rather ridiculous. Following the talks, LMP politician Gábor Vágó argued that, contrary to his previous statements, Ferenc Gyurcsány is not willing to coordinate with Jobbik; on top of this, Vágó claimed that the former Socialist Prime Minister was visibly intoxicated. In response, Gyurcsány said that his party will sue the green party for defamation over Vágó’s claim.

Hungary’s National Election Committee (NVB) granted official approval to the lists of all the country’s 13 ethnic minorities. Voters who have registered for the April 8 parliamentary election as members of the Armenian, Croatian, Bulgarian, German, Greek, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian or Ukrainian communities will have an opportunity to vote for their own national list and for an individual candidate. To send deputies with voting rights to the National Assembly, minority-lists need 5% of all the minority votes, while those minorities who will not reach the 5% threshold out of all minority-list votes, will be able to send a minority spokesperson (representative), who has the right to speak in parliament, but not to vote.

Fidesz-KDNP

The so-called “Peace March,” a rally organized by pro-government organizations, attracted an immense crowd once again. The rally ended in front of the Parliament, where the official commemoration of the revolution and war of independence was held and PM Viktor Orbán delivered his speech. He focused on migration and the “dangers” that the opposition, migrants, UN and EU supposedly posed to Hungary and Hungarians. He argued that national and democratic forces are on one side and supranational and anti-democratic forces on the other, claiming that “they want to take our country away”. Europe and Hungary are in the middle of a “civilisational struggle”, he added. Referring to the upcoming elections he said that “In a little over three weeks’ time, we will once again decide on the future of Hungary. And in this election, it will not just be four years at stake.” Turning to his usual attacks on the Hungarian-American businessman, Orbán claimed that “We have to ready ourselves to face “Soros’s candidate”. Speaking of the opposition he said that “it’s not the anemic little opposition parties we have to fight, but rather an international network that has been organised into an empire.” The opponents of the ruling Fidesz party “can only break up our camp” if they succeed in forming a bloc, he added.

In his March 15th speech, the Prime Minister at one point said that

We will take moral, legal and political revenge after the elections

against opponents, a statement which has been interpreted by many as a threat, and which has garnered international criticism as well. Gergely Karácsony argued that Viktor Orbán “crossed another line” by “threatening the advocates of change” with political and legal sanctions. Jobbik leader Gábor Vona said that PM Orbán has become

unworthy of leading Hungary.

Lat week, two scandals revealed by Magyar Nemzet have stirred up criticism towards the governing alliance. The first concerns Fidesz MP and minister Lajos Kósa, who according to a document was entrusted by someone with 4.35 billion euros, allegedly for the purpose of investing this amount in Hungarian state bonds. Mr. Kósa, however, claims that he never actually received the amount, and that he may have been duped. According to critics, the case is proof of either money laundering or Kósa’s incompetency. The second scandal deals with the luxurious hunting trips of Zsolt Semjén, deputy PM and leader of the Christian Democrats (KDNP). These trips, held in total secrecy in Sweden, were financed by a government-linked businessman who has been the recipient of multiple EU grants. On one occasion, for example, organizers rented out a full 40-bed hotel for Semjén and his friends.

On Sunday, Fidesz co-founder and MEP Tamás Deutsch posted a controversial video to his Facebook channel. The recording is similar to the one that PMO chief János Lázár made in Vienna. While walking in the Molenbeek district of Brussels, he claimed that, as a result of the policies of a socialist mayor the district saw a large influx of mostly north-African immigrants, which made the neighbourhood dangerous and a center of European Jihadism. Unemployment and cases of harassing those women who don’t wear hijab are also frequent, he claimed.

Jobbik

Gábor Vona, leader and PM candidate of radical nationalist Jobbik, outlined the government structure the party would introduce if elected into power in the April 8 general election. Vona said the structure would encompass a prime minister’s office and eleven ministries, and that there would be two deputy prime ministers in charge of general and EU affairs, respectively. The ministry of national strategy would be in charge of ethnic Hungarians abroad and Hungarian emigrants, Vona said. Hungary would also have a ministry of the interior, a ministry of public administration and justice, a ministry of education, culture and sports, a health ministry, a ministry of social policy, a ministry of economy, development and information technology, a finance ministry, a defence ministry and a foreign ministry, he added. Once in power, Jobbik would introduce e-referendum and e-consultations as a means for soliciting social feedback, he said.

Speaking at an election rally, Vona claimed his formerly far-right party would stop corruption, sort out health care and create a fair pension system. He underlined Jobbik’s pledge to keep the fence on the southern border and refuse entry to migrants “whether or not they have [bought a residency] bond”. Vona also said Hungary’s biggest problem was not immigration but emigration, adding that the government did not care about the latter. He has also told supporters that if turnout is high enough in the April 8 general election, then there would be a chance of unseating the incumbent Fidesz-led alliance.

Jobbik vowed to set up an independent environment portfolio and strengthen authorities dealing with environmental protection if elected in April. Outlining his party’s environmental policy plans, Jobbik lawmaker Lajos Kepli said that a Jobbik government would establish a ministry of natural resources which would consolidate all environment-related competencies under one roof. The ministry would also deal with ground, water and air protection and their sustainable usage, he added. The government, he said, had been watering down environmental protection since 2010. Spending on the pollution measures has been reduced, and the list of regulated areas is getting shorter, he claimed.

 

MSZP-PM (Hungarian Socialist Party- Dialogue for Hungary) 

Successive governments have made various attempts since the democratic transition 28 years ago to shrink the autonomy of local governments, the leader of the opposition Socialists told a conference. Since coming to power eight years ago, the incumbent government has been centralising their powers and resources, Gyula Molnár said. The task now is to establish a local government system that applies the principle laid down during the democratic transition, namely that local councils should have the power to take decisions on matters affecting their local communities at their own level, he added.

Promising the creation of a “free, independent and strong Budapest”, the Socialist-Párbeszéd alliance presented its election programme for the capital. Gergely Karácsony, PM candidate of the two parties, urged a “new partnership-based treaty” between Budapest and rural Hungary so that the capital can become the country’s engine of growth. He said it was in Budapest’s interest that public services that can be carried out by local councils are carried out by them.

Gergely Karácsony discussed plans to set up an anti-corruption prosecutor’s office made up of members of his shadow cabinet and other experts in Budapest. The alliance would set up an anti-fraud office, support Hungary’s accession to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office and press for rules that would wipe out corruption once and for all, Karácsony said.

LMP (Politics can be different)

“We’re not asking for a community of values with anyone, but we see that we have a common fate,” Szél said. She asked the other opposition parties to follow LMP’s example and “get out of their comfort zones”, because they can only unseat the government if they cooperate in some capacity.

LMP wants a stronger representation of women lawmakers in parliament and has therefore fielded eight female candidates among the top 20 on its national list for the April 8 general election, party MP Erzsébet Schmuck said. Women still account for just 10% of Hungarian MPs today, a proportion unchanged since the democratic transition of 28 years ago, she said, adding that the government includes no female members at all.

 

Democratic Coalition (DK)

Speaking at the aforementioned commemoration of the 1848 revolution organised by the leftist opposition parties, Gyurcsány said it was necessary to talk to Jobbik “not about election cooperation or about a joint government but about a cooperative way to pull down Viktor Orbán’s evil system in the next parliament”. “There is no point in applying tactics or being polite; we must negotiate and come to an agreement,” Gyurcsány said.

He announced that his party would unilaterally withdraw its prime ministerial candidate in favour of Bernadett Szél, the green opposition LMP’s candidate. Democratic parties should agree to field just one candidate, the one with the highest chance of winning in each constituency, he said.

 

Two-tailed Dog Party (MKKP)

The satirical party held its own peace march on March 15. The event’s goal was to mock the original pro-Fidesz march. Demonstrators thus showed up with signs containing funny messages such as: “Let the UN dictate in its own country” while often chanting “Viktor the King”.

 

Együtt (Together)

Speaking at a meeting meant to agree on a joint opposition candidate in his constituency (Budapest’s 1st), Együtt leader Péter Juhász claimed that if an agreement can not be reached through compromise, he is even ready to flip a coin to decide.