Hopes and fears in Hungary: Elections of 2010

A few days ago József Debreczeni wrote an opinion piece in Népszava (May 13) entitled "After Pécs–Before Mohács." Even a cursory knowledge of Hungarian history and current politics is enough to figure out Debreczeni's message. He wrote after the huge Fidesz victory at the mayoral elections in Pécs (May 17). And Mohács was the scene of an overwhelming defeat for the Hungarian forces against the Turkish invaders in 1526. Mohács for Hungary is what Kosovo is for the Serbs.

Debreczeni, who is often accused of having an Orbán phobia, is pessimistic about the political future of the country. He is certain that Orbán's instincts are undemocratic and that if his party wins a two-thirds majority of the seats in parliament Hungarian democracy is in jeopardy. The provision that was supposed to ensure consensus and stability in Hungarian politics, requiring a two-thirds majority for some types of legislation to pass, has a dark side in the event of a political landslide. The constitution can also be changed by a two-thirds majority. After Pécs, where Zsolt Páva (Fidesz) received a two-thirds majority in a socialist stronghold, Debreczeni envisages a parliament in which there will be a Fidesz two-thirds majority which will enable Viktor Orbán to do whatever he wants. Theoretically, Fidesz could abolish the republican form of government and turn Hungary into a kingdom. Well, that's unlikely, but there have been talks in Fidesz circles about widening the powers of the president. Perhaps lengthening his term of office from five years to, let's say, eight. And he would be elected by the people rather than by parliament.

Over the last three or four weeks Orbán has sent mixed messages on the question of the potential two-thirds majority. Before Pécs he tried to minimize the possibility of such a huge victory. He kept saying that "it was impossible to win that big" in the Hungarian system. As the matter of fact, the opposite is true. The winner is favored. The party receiving X percent of the votes usually ends up with greater than X percent of the seats. Everybody assumes that Orbán desperately wants to get more than 66% of the seats but he is afraid to talk too openly about his dreams because of a possible backlash from the other side. The socialists and liberals might get frightened and go out to vote not so much for MSZP or SZDSZ but against Fidesz. After Pécs Orbán changed tactics. He didn't mention the magic "two-thirds" but rather talked about a "strong and stable majority." It was clear that what he had in mind was a win that would allow the party to make fundamental changes. He emphasized the unity of the right that would re-create a victory such as Páva achieved in Pécs. Here Orbán was talking to those radicals who had voted for Fidesz in earlier elections but who by now are thinking of voting for Jobbik. The message is: don't vote for Jobbik, vote for Fidesz because it is Fidesz that is capable of achieving the two-thirds majority that would make that "regime change" you people are hoping for.

The reaction was immediate on the other side, but Orbán didn't fine tune his message. The only "constant" variable was the probability of winning a two-thirds majority. A few days later he gave an interview in Népszabadság in which he said that he "saw no possibility" for a two-thirds majority, but if his party achieves such a feat "he will take advantage of it." Tibor Navracsics, head of the Fidesz caucus, tried to allay fears by saying that if Fidesz wins a two-thirds majority they will use the opportunity "to strengthen democracy and the republic." Navracsics was vague but István Stumpf, nowadays "independent political scientist" but formerly minister running the huge prime minister's office, offered a few concrete examples. For example, a radical decrease in the size of parliament. Of course, this is a good idea but until now the parties have been unable to agree on the numbers because each party tried to cherry-pick the number of seats and the method of elections that best suited its own chances. If Fidesz had the necessary two-thirds majority they could pick the size of parliament that would serve its purposes and its alone. Stumpf even mentioned the possibility of creating a second house, perhaps made up of appointed members of different interest groups. (This sounds like a clone of the largely fictitiously-based body that make decisions on the media.)

Debreczeni is not alone in his fears. By now even MSZP politicians are worried. Attila Mesterházy, the new head of the MSZP caucus, for the first time used really, really strong language. Unusual for MSZP. He said: "People, please wake up because an entirely new world is awaiting us unless we do something." Several times he repeated Orbán's slogan: "We have had enough" of what Fidesz is doing. But one doesn't have to go as far as MSZP. Tamás Bauer, a former SZDSZ member of parliament, is convinced that Orbán will use the opportunity to change Hungary's constitution to his own advantage. Bauer contends that a Fidesz two-thirds majority "would pose a serious danger to Hungarian democracy." According to him, Orbán in this case would have greater power than János Kádár ever had.

Political observers have offered a list of possible changes Fidesz would make to the constitution. They would definitely widen the power of the president, they would perhaps introduce a second house, they would give citizenship to Hungarians living in the neighboring countries that would ensure a Fidesz victory for a long time to come, they would pick their own chief justice of the supreme court and the judges of the constitutional court, they would reduce the size of parliament, they would change the boundaries of electoral districts, they would change the form of financing of political parties, and they would most likely suspend the immunity of parliamentary members from criminal prosecution. After that the show trials could come. It is the last point that makes people so nervous and lends credence to the other hypotheses. Because if Orbán is sure that MSZP politicians are criminally liable for the impoverishment of the country, he and his fellow Fidesz leaders could turn to the prosecutor's office and ask for an investigation right now. Why wait?  References to criminal investigations once Fidesz comes in power makes some people apprehensive.

Of course, it is possible that Fidesz will not receive such an overwhelming number of seats and, even if it does, perhaps it will not use its power ruthlessly. However, Tamás Bauer remembers vividly that his Fidesz colleagues during the period between 1994 and 1998 when the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition actually had a two-thirds majority laughed at them. Not taking advantage of it? Using restraint? "You are stupid," they said. Perhaps they were.

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Istvan Palotai
Elections of 2010-Let the citizens decide! First of all comparing a future possible Fidesz victory to Mohács seems to me unfair. Fidesz is not a foreign invader, but a Hungarian democratic party, who plays by the rules. Also comparing Kosovo to Mohács is illogical. The ethnic Albanians are not foreign invaders. Basically, Debreczeni is questioning the right of a democratic party to win a democratic election, in a democratic country with whatever percentage. “After Pécs, where Zsolt Páva (Fidesz) received a two-thirds majority in a socialist stronghold, Debreczeni envisages a parliament in which there will be a Fidesz two-thirds majority which will enable Viktor Orbán to do whatever he wants.” As a matter of fact Páva did not win a two-thirds majority. “Theoretically, Fidesz could abolish the republican form of government and turn Hungary into a kingdom.” This is hilarious. And who will be the king? “The winner is favored. The party receiving X percent of the votes usually ends up with greater than X percent of the seats.” Nobody seemed to care about this in 2002, when Fidesz, as party, won the biggest number of votes. “We have had enough” -Indeed we have had enough. You can’t trust anymore… Read more »

There were several important battles at Kosovo. The “Serbian Mohács” was in 1389. The battle of Kosovo in 1448 was the second battle, and it was a mainly Hungarian force under John Hunyadi versus Murad II, referred to as “Rigómező” in Hungarian. The Turks won this one too.

Istvan: I believe the issue of granting citizenship and voting rights to ethnic Hungarians not living (and most likely having never lived in present day Hungary) is really one of magnitude and proportion. I don’t remember the exact numbers but if there are approx. 1.5-2 million ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries to Hungary this would mean Hungarians able to vote but not living in Hungary would constitute approx. 15-16% of the total voting populace (I assume there is the same proportion of voting age Hungarians inside and outside of the country). If these people will not move to Hungary proper and will not pay taxes in Hu. (which is very likely as why would one choose to pay Hu tax instead of Slovak or Romanian tax but at the same time they will be able to collect social transfer payments from the State), one is creating a significant pool of voters with perverse incentives and are at the same time limiting the democratic rights of those Hungarians living in Hungary who will continue to be burdened with the full consequences of decsions made by others. In some ways, this would be somewhat analagous to the current situation in the… Read more »
hungarian voter

Ohhh… 🙂 It’s so sweet! ^^ The socialists are scared! And they’re right: the time is almost up! They can’t hang on forever their velour seats.

Erik the Reader

NWO is pretty wrong and misinformed.
In Hungary only those have right to vote who are living in Hungary (e.g they have a Hungarian address or are resident). Citizenship does not necessarily come with voting right. Fidesz will give the neighbouring Hungarians citizenship and they will have the right to vote if they are living/working/studying in Hungary.
See? It’s simple.


too much politics makes my stool loose :)))
politicians are the same in all the countries, and i have seen a few countries
they want the money and the fame and don`t give a damn about anyone else
if you enter this stupid game “i am liberal-democratic-pacific-messiahic-conservative, but you are right-left-middle wing extremist”, you basically play the power in their hands and alienate all the so-called normal, and maybe slightly more successfull people in your enviroment, and you`ll be alone in your own little puddle, like a frog, believing that your sounds are beautiful music, but actually they are a giant banner for a predator “come and eat me, i`m weak, stupid, alone and no one will be bothered” :)))))
i`m just wondering, with china on the “global throne” now, how much will our ideas of democracy shift in this century

direct response

Let’s see what will happen when the election begins. I hope it will be peaceful as I thought.
Daniel Ferris