As July came to a close pollsters conducted their end of the month surveys on the popularity of political parties. Within the last few days three polls appeared with very similar results. All analysts agree that MSZP hit rock bottom in April when between Fidesz and MSZP there was a huge 24% difference. By June this figure was only 13%, reflecting news of Viktor Orbán’s ideas about Hungary’s future during a friendly chat with a group of young political scientists. Fidesz suddenly lost 7% of its followers. That was a major hit, and apparently the party leaders took this very much to heart. Ever since they have been increasing their attacks on the “minority” government. This adjective is always added whenever there is any mention of the government.
Admittedly, it is hard to imagine that Fidesz attacks could accelerate because normally Fidesz politicians shoot at anything that moves. But they’re finding or creating more and more moving targets. For instance, lately they demanded to know exactly how much the government spent on the government quarters that at the end had to be scrapped. When the accounting showed that the government didn’t lose a penny because in the meantime the market value of the property the government purchased for that purpose had increased, the Fidesz “expert,” a former MDF minister of justice, announced that such price appreciation was impossible because nothing had been done to the property. As if the price of a piece of property couldn’t go up simply because real estate prices in general went up or because nearby some desirable development took place. In another salvo a Fidesz politician pretty well accused the minister of finance and his MSZP undersecretaries of stealing extra income due to inflation and pouring it straight into MSZP coffers. The latest charge, leveled by HírTV, is that a close associate of the minister of finance hired someone to plant cocaine in the cars of two of the station’s reporters. So there is something every day and yet the July results didn’t change. Yes, Fidesz still leads by a mile, but it’s lost momentum.
Is the glass half full or half empty? MSZP optimists claim, not without reason, that the very fact that the party managed to hold its own in the last month’s polls is a positive sign. What makes the new results even more significant is that while a few months ago MSZP sympathizers were so down in the dumps that only 20% of them thought the next election could be won, today that number is 37%. Zoom.hu reported this news under the headline: “Socialist voters are optimistic without reason.” With or without reason, optimism is contagious. Moreover, optimism among socialist voters is not completely unfounded. Szonda Ipsos reported that while a month ago 33-35% percent of the respondents said that under no circumstances would they vote for MSZP that figure today is only 27%.
So silly season (in Hungarian cucumber season) or not, voter sentiment may be continuing to shift, however slightly. What the socialists need is an uptick in consumer confidence, answering the Reagan question “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” in the affirmative. There are some indications that within half a year or so there might be a noticeable change for the better in voters’ pocketbooks. If this comes to pass, I predict that the gap between the two parties will continue to narrow.