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The Election Chances of the Opposition

Dénes Sályi 2019.04.23.

Hungary’s local government elections will be held in autumn. In Budapest – the most important area where the fiercest struggle is expected – the opposition seems better organized and prepared than in the past. They are sure to achieve a better result now than they did in 2014 when Fidesz won 17 out of the 23 districts. According to well-informed sources, the coordination talks between the four opposition parties (the Socialist Party [MSZP], the Democratic Coalition [DK], Párbeszéd (Dialogue) and Momentum) are progressing smoothly.

The Left is strong in the capital, and although István Tarlós, the incumbent Mayor of Budapest supported by Fidesz, is popular and has a good chance of preserving his position, opposition politicians are likely to do well in the districts. If the leftist and liberal parties can pursue a strong campaign, they may finally gain success after so many years of failure. The downtown districts in Pest will probably go to the opposition, just like some of the outer districts traditionally inhabited by working class people. The biggest question mark is Buda, the wealthiest part of the capital, a primarily middle and upper-class area. Originally an important stronghold for Orbán, it has shifted towards leftist and liberal political forces to some extent in recent years. The outcome of the mayoral elections is of great importance because they will largely determine the composition of the General Assembly of Budapest. If the opposition were to win enough seats, they could form a majority in the assembly, making Tarlós’ position more difficult in the case he is reelected.

However, there are several factors that may emerge as problems for liberal and leftist politicians. LMP, an eco-social, Green party, is willing to choose its mayoral candidates in agreement with Jobbik. The opposition parties in Budapest do not appear to be on the verge of cooperating on a large-scale anytime soon, however. LMP and Jobbik have nominated a joint mayoral candidate, Róbert Puzsér, who is rather critical of the Old Left (DC and MSZP). To make matters worse, a parking scandal has just broken, revealing a local alliance in the 14th district between representatives of Fidesz and MSZP based on corruption.

Even though Fidesz has massive support in the country, there are several cities led by opposition parties. In fact, others may join them after the self-government elections. Agreements have been made between Jobbik and the Left in several towns, where only one strong candidate will compete with Fidesz. Out of the most important 23 provincial towns, two currently have Socialist mayors and two have independent mayors. Opposition candidates are expected to win 8-10 mayoral seats in autumn.

March 15: United Opposition Demonstrates against ‘Orbán’s Tyranny’

Since the Hungarian political system is centralized with a focus on the national legislative body, it is the parliamentary elections that truly count. Still, if the opposition parties are able to strengthen their position at the local level, their chances for the general election in 2022 could very well improve. Although Fidesz is favored to triumph in the municipal contest, the opposition may obtain new seats. Even so, no experts expect there to be a major breakthrough. At the moment, the majority of the population does not seem eager for a change of that magnitude.

On the featured photo: opposition speakers at a demonstration. Photo by Márton Mónus/MTI