This morning the government cleared the first hurdle before the final acceptance of the budget. Parliament voted on important figures and details, and the minority government had no problems whatsoever. It was already clear yesterday that the entire SZDSZ parliamentary delegation would vote in favor of the budget, and therefore not much excitement accompanied the three-hour-long vote. The procedure took that long because Fidesz insisted on voting openly, by name. One by one. There were 210 yeas and only 168 nays. Actually the SZDSZ votes weren't even necessary because seven members of the opposition were absent and three independent representatives voted for the budget. Without SZDSZ the government would have had a victory of 191to 187. Thus Gyurcsány will not have to walk to the Sándor Palace and tender his resignation to the President.
The other good piece of news for MSZP and the government was this month's first poll. Századvég-Forsense is usually the earliest of the polls and I may add that, although it is a think tank close to Fidesz, its results are normally quite reliable. I read several descriptions of the results of the poll. They more or less agreed on its findings, but the headlines are telling. Magyar Nemzet's is "The mood of the country further deteriorated." Gondola, an internet site close to Fidesz: "The mood of the electorate reached bottom." Origo, another Internet paper, claims that ""MSZP is the winner of the crisis." Stop emphasizes that "Most people want MSZP to continue governing." All these claims can be found in the report of Századvég but what a different emphasis depending on the political coloring of the publication.
An interesting picture emerges from this poll. Most of the changes occurred in the Fidesz camp. Between mid-October and mid-November they lost another 4 percent of their supporters. In the past year and a half–that, is since the summer of 2006, this is the low point in the party's popularity: only 24% of eligible voters back them. That is only six percentage points higher than the 18% support for MSZP. MSZP's voting bloc hasn't changed in the last month, but what is telling is that the percentage of those who are unsure of their choice has grown by 6%. There is another thought-provoking item: among those who are uncertain how they would vote, 75% are dissatisfied with Fidesz while only 69% are dissatisfied with MSZP. If we factor in the 4% drop in the Fidesz camp and consider that among uncertain voters the dislike of Fidesz is stronger than it is of MSZP I think we can safely assume that the growth in uncertain voters favors MSZP. Both SZDSZ and MDF have only 1% of all the votes. Fidesz also lost big (6%) among those who claim that they would definitely vote if elections were held this Sunday. MSZP's figures in this category didn't change. Another consideration in evaluating the results is that Fidesz voters are more dissatisfied with their own politicians than are those who would cast their votes for MSZP: 25% versus 10%. Although the percentage of people who would like to see new electionsis substantial, the percentage of those who would like to see MSZP continue is higher. It is also a fascinating change that Gyurcsány and Orbán are now considered equally fit to lead the country. That certainly wasn't the case even a month ago.
So Gyurcsány has reason to be happy. SZDSZ is rather unhappy because Gyurcsány in his blog indicated that today's vote on the budget represented not only the victory of the government but also the failure of the opposition. Although I understand the euphoria the situation is still very difficult. Some commentators claim that the financial crisis was actually a godsend to Gyurcsány and MSZP, but I wouldn't go that far. MSZP plans envisaged an economically successful 2009 on the basis of which they could launch a strong election campaign. But those who read the financial tea leaves are predicting a gloomy year. And in the midst of the doom and gloom will come the election to send representatives to the European parliament in Brussels. It's not immaterial how MSZP will fare under the circumstances. Let's not forget that Péter Medgyessy had to leave office after a disastrous vote for the European parliament in 2002.