The most intriguing battle of the general election regarding the individual constituencies was clearly in Hódmezővásárhely. It is the 22nd most populated town in Hungary. Here, the opposition candidate for prime minister, the mayor of the city, Péter Márki-Zay, went against Fidesz strongman and former head of the Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár. Just as Fidesz won with a landslide victory in the whole country, it was also able to defend the district of Hódmezővásárhely, defeating the opposition candidate, who has twice in a row won the mayoral election.
At the age of 27, János Lázár already became a Member of Parliament here in 2002, which is perhaps Fidesz’s most devoted district since the regime change. Ever since, Lázár has won every parliamentary election in the constituency in the past 20 years. Also in 2002, Lázár was elected mayor, winning the next two mayoral elections as well, holding the position until 2012. After having been group leader of Fidesz for two years, in 2012, Lázár was appointed Secretary of State of the Prime Minister’s Office. As a result, he resigned from the office of mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. The fast-emerging Fidesz politician was promoted to Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office following the 2014 parliamentary election, a position he held until the 2018 election. Since then, he has only been serving as an MP, partly due to Fidesz’s repeated failures in the local elections.
And these Fidesz failures are all connected to Péter Márki-Zay’s emergence. A newcomer in Hungarian politics, Márki-Zay ran as an independent candidate at the 2018 mayoral by-election with the support of the opposition parties. At that time, it was unprecedented that all opposition parties would back one single candidate against Fidesz. However, Márki-Zay distanced himself from the parties, stressing his independence and describing himself as a devoted Catholic and a disappointed Fidesz voter. To the surprise of many, especially Fidesz, Márki-Zay won the mayoral seat just two months before the 2018 general election, after which many started to expect a surprise outcome at the general elections as well. This did not materialize. However, in 2019, Márki-Zay won the local election once again against Fidesz, after which Lázár got into a very delicate situation.
The following years were marked by a number of verbal clashes between the two politicians. It has long been certain that after the failure of the mayoral candidates close to Lázár against Márki-Zay, Lázár himself would clash with the opposition politician in the parliamentary elections. Márki-Zay, before the opposition primaries, had already decided that he would run as an individual candidate in the Hódmezővásárhely-Makó district as well, even if he won the opposition primaries, which he later did.
The press also wrote a lot about the outcome of the election, saying it could be crucial concerning Lázár’s future career in politics, after he was pushed into the background after 2018. The stakes were later raised by the Fidesz politician himself, stating that if he was defeated, he would end his political career and leave politics.
Before the election, both politicians were optimistic. Márki-Zay trusted that after his two mayoral victories, he would also win the parliamentary election in Hódmezővásárhely as an individual candidate. Meanwhile, a few days before the election, Lázár predicted that by Sunday night, Márki-Zay would be a “political corpse,” losing both the district as an individual and the election as prime ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance.
Lázár’s prediction certainly proved to be successful in the sense that Márki-Zay lost both the constituency and the national election. In the Hódmezővásárhely-Makó district, with 98,17% of the votes counted, 52,24% supported the Fidesz politician, and only 39,71% percent supported Márki-Zay. However, for the time being, it is highly questionable whether this marks the end of Péter Márki-Zay’s political career, as he remains mayor, leads the opposition alliance’s joint list, and therefore wins a seat in the Parliament. He has also previously announced the formation of a new, “truly conservative and Christian” party.
Featured photo by Tibor Rosta/MTI