A new Hungarian opinion poll: Századvég-Forsense

Just the other day I mentioned Századvég (Fin-de-siècle) as a Fidesz think tank headed by István Stumpf, former head of the prime minister's office in the Orbán government. By the way, Stumpf was the director of the college Orbán and his friends attended as students. Századvég is also involved with opinion polls of all sorts, including the monthly polls of party preferences. It was today that they released their data collected between August 17 and September 5. The most startling result is that among those who say that they would definitely vote and know for whom they would vote if elections were held next Sunday 9% more would vote for MSZP than a month ago. At the same time Fidesz would receive 8% fewer votes than at the end of July. The gap, though still huge, has narrowed to 57% to 34% in favor of Fidesz. In the same category SZDSZ would get 2% of the votes (that is down 1% from a month ago) and MDF 4%, a gain of 1%. Of course, one must keep in mind that 28% of the people are still undecided and 20% refuse to divulge their preference.

A few more numbers. A plurality (48% versus 41%) would like to see this government remain in office until 2010. To the question "Whom would you prefer as prime minister?" the answers are especially interesting among those who are unsure of their party choice. Twenty-four percent find Gyurcsány more suitable, while 17% would prefer Orbán, but almost 50% reject both. Among Fidesz supporters Orbán is very popular at 86% and among MSZP supporters Gyurcsány polls at 85%. Among all those questioned: 27% are for Gyurcsány and 33% for Orbán while 31% don't like either. The poll divided voters into three camps–eligible voters, those who will definitely vote but are undecided in their choice of party, and those who will definitely vote and know for whom they will vote. Among all eligible voters Fidesz leads (25% to 17%); among those who will definitely vote but are not committed to a party 36% favor Fidesz and 21% lean toward MSZP; among those who have clear political views and will vote Fidesz leads (57% to 34%).

In the light of these results I can understand a little better why Gábor Horn looked so glum in this morning's Napkelte (Sunrise), the early morning political program of MTV (Magyar Televizíó). The SZDSZ leadership has known for some time that 80% of its voters support an agreement or perhaps even a renewed coalition with MSZP, but I don't think that they actually believed these results. Deep down, I suspect, they thought that by making themselves more independent, more separate from MSZP, they would not only gain support from SZDSZ loyalists but also broaden their base. And now it seems that they have lost one third of their voters. Surely this strategy doesn't seem to work. MSZP voters blame them for the "crisis" and it is unlikely that they could receive extra votes from the right as a result of their defiant behavior toward their former coalition partner. By now one doesn't know what they would like: this morning, for example, Gábor Horn didn't even want to utter the phrase "government of experts." Every day the SZDSZ spokesmen's tone is softer than the day before.

Meanwhile there is a small minority of MSZP voters who think that perhaps the crisis could be solved by Ferenc Gyurcsány's resignation. First of all, the possibility of such an outcome is close to zero because the parliamentary delegation and the top brass stand fast behind the prime minister. Last night it was decided to call together an extraordinary congress where Gyurcsány and his program will receive overwhelming support. Within the party there are only very few who think that the party should buckle in the face of SZDSZ's "blackmail." But I think that the MSZP voters/sympathizers feel the same way. The 9% gain achieved in August would be lost if MSZP caved in the face of SZDSZ's demands. Not just the 9% but more.

SZDSZ is still talking but not as loudly as a few days ago. We will see what will happen tomorrow when they get together with MSZP. As Ildikó Lendvai, head of the parliamentary delegation, said: the meeting might last only three minutes. That is, if SZDSZ insists on a government without Ferenc Gyurcsány. However, most of the MSZP leaders are certain that the meeting will last longer and that they will be discussing the contents of Gyurcsány's proposals outlined in "Compact."  I'm inclined to agree with them. However, SZDSZ's leaders have managed to paint themselves into a corner from which it will be difficult to exit neatly. The "crisis" will last a few more days.

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In the light of the forgoing I have a murky, but most likely scenario on my mind.
Just as Orban dissected the MDF, similarly Gyurcsany can also dissect the SzDSz. This is how it may happen:
The SzDSz will try to press Gyurcsany, but he may press back, saying that if you won’t come to heel I shall go for the new election. At this moment some of the SzDSz members will get the panic and decide to first, vote with the socialists against their own comrades in Palament. (This is low risk if the votes are not by roll call) This will split the party and come election next time, in addition to the single Imre Mecs SzDSz MP, a few more of them will run on the MSzP platform. There they will be welcome, meanwhile the mother party, the SzDSz will lose any chance of getting into Parlament.
The first sign of this is the group of four MPs, already willing to vote against their own party to keep the minority government in business.
They are the vanguard that’s fighting the rearguard battle first.

Eva S. Balogh

Sandor, I pretty well see the next few days (weeks?) the way you do. The only thing I disagree is that it is Gyurcsány who is destroying SZDSZ. That wouldn’t be in his interest. After all, MSZP twice managed to form a government only with the help of the liberals. SZDSZ is being ruined by its own political leaders.