Yet another new party structure for Fidesz?

I no longer remember how often Fidesz has been reorganized over the years. Too often. From the outside it is difficult to decide whether these reorganizations were necessary, but every reorganization–and it doesn't matter where it occurs–usually entails a certain disorganization, if not chaos. At least initially. Why Orbán feels compelled to make these changes I'm not sure. He claims that the reorganization is necessary because of the European Parliament (EP) elections this year and the national elections next. Fidesz's party chief looks upon the EP elections as a dress rehearsal for the national elections where Fidesz victory is considered to be absolutely essential for the survival of the party and perhaps Viktor Orbán as well. I can't imagine that Orbán could remain at the head of the party if Fidesz loses a third national election. Therefore, I'm certain that he will do his utmost to win.

As things stand now few people would put money on an MSZP victory. Those who declare their party preferences overwhelmingly support Fidesz. It's true that the gap between the two parties has narrowed somewhat in the last three months, but Fidesz's lead remains impressive. Although one cannot predict the future, it is highly likely that the economic crisis will hit Hungary hard in 2009. If so, that should strengthen the party currently in opposition. Surely, this is the hope in Fidesz circles: the crisis will be very deep, the government will have to resort to  "brutal" austerity measures, and therefore supporters of the government will not grow but decrease. Perhaps there will be such a smashing Fidesz victory that, unlike in 1998, Fidesz will not need another party's help to form a government. (Moreover, the party that helped Orbán in 1998 is long gone. Fidesz made certain that it would disappear from the face of the earth.)

But there are other signs that bode less well for the party. The actual size of the Fidesz voting bloc has not grown in the last two or three years. The paper gain is due to the high number of undecided voters who three years ago voted for MSZP and now don't quite know what to do. The question is whether they will be willing to cast their votes for Fidesz or, when the chips are down, they will after all, even if reluctantly, vote for MSZP. Some polls indicate that more than half of the undecided voters  trust the current government in handling the crisis. Considering that Orbán refuses to reveal his party's future economic policies, this result is not surprising: his remedies most likely would be just as "brutal" if not more so than the current ones.

And then there is this troublesome Jobbik that may take a chunk out of the Fidesz votes. According to polls about 20% of the population find radical right-wing ideology attractive. Jobbik's strength is growing. Two or three months ago pollsters were unable to measure the size of its followers. By December they registered 3% and, given the country's economic prospects, that number could go up. That is one reason that Fidesz's rhetoric has become more shrill of late. Kövér, who had been relatively quiet in the last few months, suddenly became active, I believe in response to Jobbik's growing popularity. Fidesz wants to hang on to its more radical voters.

There are several scenarios. The first is that Fidesz wins and Jobbik gets into parliament because it manages to get over five percent of the votes. In this case there are two possibilities. (1) Fidesz needs Jobbik's help to form a government. That wouldn't be a desirable outcome for Fidesz. (2) Fidesz wins an absolute majority and Jobbik gets over five percent of the votes. Fidesz is in an ideal position. Orbán will be able to get Jobbik's support from the outside. A very bad outcome would be if Jobbik received a little less than 5% and thus wouldn't get parliamentary representation but would have taken away almost five percent of possible right-wing votes. So, all in all, I think that Orbán is taking the situation more seriously than the polls would seem to warrant at the moment.

Orbán was secretive about the reorganization plan that will be made public on February 1. He indicated that everything will be different, including the work of the presidium (chairman and four deputy chairmen). The party will be entirely reorganized, with different people. Different people? From the brief description it is not clear whether the personnel changes will affect the top leadership or only the team assisting Orbán and his closest entourage. Whatever the changes, they are not reflected in the Fidesz list for the EP elections. The new list is not radically different from the old one. There are a couple of new names but most of the old candidates remain. János Áder, speaker of the House between 1998 and 2002, was added to the list as was Tamás Deutsch, an old college friend of Orbán with whom Fidesz doesn't know what to do.

Otherwise it was announced yesterday that Viktor Orbán will visit Austria, Germany, and France where he will meet politicians and deliver speeches. Tuesday in Germany he will speak at the cabinet meeting of the Thuringian provincial government. His topics will be European security and energy policy. Wednesday he will travel to Vienna where he will give a speech to the region's financial gurus, including representatives of national banks and ministers dealing with economic matters. Apparently the Hungarian National Bank will also be represented. I'm really curious what will happen in Vienna because financial and economic matters are not Orbán's strength. Finally, in the second half of the week he will go Paris where he will make a speech at the UMP's (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) opening salvo for the EP elections. According to Fidesz's spokesman Orbán will meet François Fillon, the current prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the former prime minister and currently head of the senate, and other "leading politicians." Maybe yes, maybe no; Fidesz likes to exaggerate. Recall Orbán's American trip when very little materialized from the promised meetings with important American politicians.

István Nyakó, MSZP spokesman, used biting sarcasm about Orbán's "continental tour" wondering what kind of advice he will be able to give western politicians about handling the crisis. Or if this is a fact finding trip then he is only four months too late. I am looking forward to the details and reaction from the other side.

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Ricsi
Guest

Congratulations,you finally agree that 2009 will have serious consequences here,lost your previous optimism ? or just beginning to realise which way the wind is blowing now?
I will agree on one point,you are correct to say that we have a large body of unsure Mszp supporters,usually ex-miners,steel workers and pensioners,totally reliant on help from Mszp policies, this naive block could still help drag Hungary down yet further with its love of communism/socialism or whatever you call it these days.
Hard times ahead for sure.

Mark
Guest
I think you are entirely right to suggest that the key question for 2009 isn’t the number of people who switch from left to right (this group will be very small), but differential turnout (who is more likely to vote). I can also see why FIDESZ are worried …. one only has to engage in some plausible speculation to see why. 20% do support radical right-wing ideas, but the numbers prepared to support a radical right-wing party, I guess, are much lower, and most likely are no greater than the c.300-400,000 who turned out for MIÉP in 1998 and 2002. To get into parliament with this level of support Jobbik needs a turnout level of around 65% or less; lower than in 2002 or 2006. Unfortunately for FIDESZ this is also the turnout at which they have the best chance of a clear lead over the MSZP (because large number of the MSZP’s supporters don’t turn out). They then will have to face a second round, in which the MSZP will use the threat of a FIDESZ-Jobbik coalition to mobilize their supporters between the two rounds (they probably wouldn’t win under such a scenario, but could prevent FIDESZ from winning… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
Mark I was interested in your comments about the ‘do not knows’ and the levels of turnout. Both you and I know about ‘tactical voting’ where in an unimportant election people will stray from their ‘normal’ voting habits and vote against their usual preferences. I do not know if ‘tellers’ are used in Hungary. In the UK sometimes known party supporters will be asked by their party’s’ tellers to vote for an extreme party to spoil the chances of another party. In this case where the MZSP vote was low the MZSP tellers might well ask the known party faithful to vote Jobbik to rattle Fidesz. The local party HQ would know the turnout was low and the results would be invalid so why not boost Jobbiks vote. Fidesz should regard the European Elections as a guide to the 2010 general elections with great caution. Most of the ‘do not knows’ may well not show up as it is not that important. At a General Election the ‘do not knows’ often turn out in force. Where a party seems to be out of favour locally (bad press and all that) many party supporters will say ‘Do Not know’ to avoid… Read more »
dave
Guest

Professor! Please, mention in your blog that a highly significant event occured in Hungarian politics: Gabor Kuncze started to comment daily news on a Hungarian portal!
http://www.propeller.hu/profile/KunczeGabor/comment
Instead of dealing with the rather sick characters in Fidesz, let’s breath some fresh air with Gabor!

Ricsi
Guest

Please tell me how Kuncze is ‘highly significant ‘

Ricsi
Guest

Éva,
What is happening here , selective comments ?,I already asked you why the threats ? my question was sincere, have you lost your previous optimism ? Are you beginning to realise this is the not too soon death march for the Mszp gang ?? Honesty please !

dave
Guest

Ricsi, Gabor Kuncze is one of the most significant politicians in Hungary. Although he formally retired, he still has huge influence over his party, the SZDSZ. SZDSZ has crucial role in securing the progressive government whether in the government or not.
I can assure you that Gabor Kuncze is more of a factor in Hungarian political life than any of those Fidesz monkeys, including Orban himself.

Ricsi
Guest

Dave
Has I have often mentioned here, Mr.Orban interests me not one iota ,however I would never consider an Szdsz man to be an honest factor in politics,a factor yes,but with an agenda .

Ricsi
Guest

Éva
I meant exactly what I wrote,for that is what I was beginning to perceive,however thanks for your explanation,you are clearly staying with the sinking ship.
No insult intended,when I want to insult I will come out straight,you also know that.

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