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Elections in Hungary 2018: Weekly Party Roundup #9

Ábrahám Vass 2018.03.27.

As elections are approaching, Hungary Today is publishing a weekly party roundup on each Monday. Governing Fidesz-KDNP continues its anti-Soros, anti-immigration campaign amid revelations of new scandals. In addition, campaigning on each side of the political spectrum is growing more and more negative as election-day approaches. 

According to a survey by the centre-left leaning Závech Research conducted among the entire population (of potential voters), Fidesz-KDNP’s support hasn’t changed, while Jobbik has gained 3% compared to the Institute’s February poll. It is important to note, that according to Závech, political activity has considerably increased: compared to last month, the rate of those who claimed their intention to vote has increased from 46% to 56%.

Graph: Závech Research Ins. via kozvelemenykutatok.hu.

According to a growing number of critics, neither the opposition, nor the government have a credible vision or programme and instead are focusing on criticism and negative messages. According to liberal publicist László Seres, governing Fidesz-KDNP’s “demagogic” messages are only concentrating on George Soros and migration, while the opposition’s sole message is that they want to replace Fidesz.

The well-known, independent analyst Gábor Török has argued that broader withdrawals in favor of other opposition candidates is not likely because for a number of reasons. For example,  parties whose candidates withdraw would definitely lose considerable amount of subsidy money, fractional votes, and would probably also lose important national list votes as well, he claims. It is also doubtful, he adds, whether so-called tactical voting could work, which could mean that a rightist opposition voter should vote for a leftist candidate and vice versa in single-member constituencies.

Fake parties and those running only for profit have again become a topic of debate. There are a number of parties who run only to collect the state subsidy: according to electoral law, if they won’t reach 1% of the overall votes, they have to pay back the subsidy, a law which is, however, hard to enforce. In addition, fake parties might confuse voters with similar names and steal important votes from the real parties; according to critics, this trend favors Orbán’s ruling alliance. For instance, in at least two constituencies, signatures collected by the With Momentum for Hungary (Lendülettel Magyarországért) party (not to be confused with the Momentum Movement), whose list is headed by former Socialist MEP and minister Katalin Lévai, were suspiciously similar to the ones collected by Fidesz. According to some, the signatures were just copied from one another. Reminder: in each single-member constituency 500 signatures of recommendation had to be collected per candidate, but one voter can recommend more than one candidate.

Fully 92% of European Union funds available to Hungary for the 2014-2020 funding period have already been awarded, a move for which ruling Fidesz-KDNP has received heated attacks. According to critics, the government is thus tying the hands of a potential next government, forcing it to work according its own priorities.

Fidesz-KDNP

In another controversial video similar to the ones that Tamás Deutsch and PMO chief János Lázár made, István Hollik, candidate of  Budapest’s 1st district (Downtown), can be seen walking and speaking with a lady, who allegedly just moved back from Sweden to spend pension years in downtown Budapest which she claims is considerably safer than Sweden, which according to her has become a lot more dangerous recently. In the video then we can see scenes of violence allegedly committed by migrants in Sweden.

Magyar Nemzet recently published documents showing that prominent Fidesz politician Károly Szita, who is currently the mayor of Kaposvár (a city in southern Hungary) and who is reportedly a close friend of Orbán, worked for the communist Kádár regime as an informant. Rumours had been circling to this effect for long time, but after Magyar Nemzet’s article the politician apparently no longer denies the allegations. According to the document, Szita was a rather keen informant who was ready to provide communist authorities intelligence even on his close relatives. Fidesz, contrary to its anti-communist image, has always refused to discuss or approve the disclosure of agents and informants of the communist era. Nevertheless, they have often used this as a political weapon against other parties.

According to the government-funded Nézőpont Institute, the vast majority of Hungarians (82%) support the border fence, and 68% think that Fidesz-KDNP is the most strongly opposed to immigration. 50% of the respondents think that some of the left-leaning opposition parties support immigration. The survey thus suggests that the governing alliance’s campaign strategy (negative messages, anti-Soros) is working.

On Friday, a new potential corruption case emerged: Fidesz MP’s Zsolt Szabó allegedly has an off-shore (Belize) bank account with almost 5 million euros on it. To date, however, he has denied the allegations.

Jobbik

In a controversial phone conversation recorded last week, a Jobbik candidate can be heard offering to compensate LMP’s candidate if she withdraws in favor of him in their constituency (Bács-Kiskun’s 4th). Jobbik has since claimed that their nominee was just “joking”.

Jobbik has accused Fidesz of employing double standards when it comes to messaging on the issue of migration. László Toroczkai, the opposition party’s deputy leader, said that while the ruling party had focused the 2018 election campaign on its message that it was protecting Hungary from migration, on Thursday it voted in Brussels for a funding package for 2019 that would help migrants settle in all EU member states. “This funding will support the housing of migrants in Budapest,” he added.

On state television, Ádám Mirkóczki, MP and Jobbik spokesman, spent the five minutes hammering Hungary’s public media for orchestrating “character assassinations against opposition politicians,” “failing to invite opposition party representatives to speak,” and “deliberately misinforming the public.”

LMP (Politics can be different)

In lieu of an overall cooperation agreement between parties of the opposition, the green LMP has decided “not to launch further talks”, the party’s two co-leaders said last Tuesday. Bernadett Szél and Ákos Hadházy, however, added that their party was open to negotiations and did not exclude the possibility of LMP withdrawing individual candidates to support other parties. They added that mobilising voters would be in the party’s focus in the next couple of weeks.

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

It is inevitable that a basic income will have to be introduced in Hungary and throughout Europe, opposition Gergely Karácsony, Socialists-Párbeszéd’s prime ministerial candidate said. Within ten or twenty years, a basic income will become a reality almost everywhere in Europe. He added that a Socialist-led government would first increase family benefits and the basic pension so as to guarantee “the level of security provided by a basic income” to people above working age and a guaranteed minimum wage benefit to people of working age.

Democratic Coalition (DK)

In another controversial video posted to party leader Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Facebook channel, ethnic Hungarian pensioners in Cluj-Napoca (Kolozsvár) with their faces un-blurred can be seen claiming that they would vote for Fidesz-KDNP on April 8. Revoking the voting rights of those ethnic Hungarians from beyond the borders is one of DK’s main campaign message for which Gyurcsány and his party has been harshly criticized by almost all sides.

DK has turned to Hungary’s data protection authority (NAIH) with a request that it investigate how content from a government database containing the personal email addresses of Hungarian citizens came into the possession of the ruling Fidesz party, as according to the party, “many people” had received unsolicited emails from György Bakondi, the prime minister’s chief domestic security adviser.

Momentum Movement

Momentum withdrew 3 of their candidates last week: one in favour of Jobbik, one in favour of MSZP-PM and one in favour of LMP. Then, thanking the withdrawal of Péter Juhász in Budapest’s 1st, which is the constituency of party leader András Fekete-Győr as well, they withdrew their candidate in Csepel (Budapest’s 17th) as well in favour of Együtt’s candidate.

Speaking on State TV, Momentum’s Miklós Hajnal used his party’s 5 minutes of airtime to excoriate Fidesz and PM Orbán.

Együtt (Together)

Party leader Péter Juhász unilaterally decided to withdraw in his constituency (Budapest’s 1st) a move which was designed to “set an example for other opposition parties”. It must be noted, however, that due to scandals surrounding Juhász that were aired by pro-government media outlets, his popularity has considerably decreased over the last months.

Two-tailed Dog Party (MKKP)

In an interview on state TV, the representative of the satirical MKKP turned up dressed in a chicken costume and “answered” questions by clucking, a move intended to mock Hungarian State Television, which critics argue has almost completely ignored opposition views to date.