The gloom is palpable. The greatest disappointment is in SZDSZ. Gábor Fodor, who usually is optimistic and rosy-cheeked, looked positively sick on election night. Tamás Bauer, one of the founders of the party, gave an interview tonight on József Orosz's Kontra (KlubRádió) that sounded more like an elegy. He wasn't surprised at what most people think is the end of the Hungarian liberal party. He was only very, very sad. Bauer said that the handwriting had been on the wall for at least fifteen years, but the absolutely erratic political moves of the last three years that practically no one could follow really did them in. As Bauer said, the supporters of SZDSZ fell out of love. MSZP is obviously in big trouble. After all, it barely surpassed Jobbik at the polls. MSZP received 502,607 votes while Jobbik got 427,213. And Fidesz isn't sitting on its laurels. It is true that it received 56.37% of the votes, but it managed to mobilize only 1,630,482 voters. It didn't seem to matter that Fidesz tried to convince people that this election was all-important because if Fidesz wins big the government will fall. Orbán had said that too many times before and nothing happened. It didn't seem to matter that every poster told them that it was "Enough!" and urged them to go and vote; only about half of Fidesz supporters did so. The other reason for the disappointment must be that the main thrust of Viktor Orbán's strategy, criticized by many earlier, failed spectacularly on June 7. The slogan was "One camp, one flag." That meant an absolutely unified right represented by Fidesz alone. It turned out that the right is anything but unified. Orbán tried his darndest to incorporate the moderate, conservative MDF and wanted to be the representative of the extreme right as well. It didn't work. MDF is hanging in there and, although MIÉP is only a shadow of its former self, there is the "new force" as Jobbik calls itself.
And now let's take a look at the actual breakdown of the election results. In order to make it a little easier I attached a map of Hungary that shows the counties. Jobbik did best in the northeastern corner of the country: in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén (22.88%), Szabolcs-Szatmár (18.49%), Hajdú-Bihar (18.68%), Nógrád (18.68%), and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok (19.02%). Most analysts claim that the reason for Jobbik's success in this region is the high concentration of Romas in these counties. However, in Baranya where there are also a lot of Gypsies Jobbik didn't do well at all (10.7%). I couldn't find detailed breakdowns of voter turnout, but in the poor counties of the northeast participation is usually very low, so this may have pumped up Jobbik returns. Fidesz, as usual, did very well in the westernmost counties: Győr-Moson-Sopron, Vas, Zala, Tolna and Bács-Kiskun, the only county lying east of the Danube. All others are situated in Transdanubia. To clarify further, I'm reproducing a series of maps of the spread broken down by parties. Those who claim that Jobbik took votes from MSZP base their assertion on the results of the 2006 elections. MSZP was strong in the eastern counties while Fidesz triumphed in counties close to the Austrian border. They point to the fact that in the EU elections Jobbik did worse in Fidesz territories than in the country as a whole. However, there is a fairly powerful argument advanced by Zoltán Somogyi (Political Capital) which makes sense to me. Pollsters were wrong about the chances of Jobbik and Fidesz. But they were spot on for some time before the elections about the MSZP numbers. They steadfastly maintained that the party would send no more than four representatives to Brussels. At the same time they predicted sixteen or seventeen seats for Fidesz. Jobbik would get one, at most two. Since their predictions for MSZP turned out to be accurate, most of the Jobbik votes must have come from Fidesz. Of course, neither Somogyi nor I claim that no former MSZP supporter voted for Jobbik on Sunday, but I think that by and large Jobbik's gain was Fidesz's loss.
Although Viktor Orbán allegedly told his associates not to spend their time worrying about Jobbik because their win was so spectacular, he immediately convened a two-day pow-wow to "analyze the results." One doesn't need a vivid imagination to figure out the main topic of the meeting. Even István Elek, a staunch supporter of Fidesz in the past, wrote an analysis in Népszabadság in which he called Fidesz's performance a failure (kudarc). Success, according to Elek, would have been a two-thirds majority instead of 56.37%, and it would have been a source of great satisfaction if Jobbik hadn't been able to send a single delegate to Brussels. Fidesz's message to voters on the right not to "waste" their votes on Jobbik seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Some people predict that Jobbik will build on its success in the EU elections. According to some analysts 10% of Fidesz voters sympathize with the radical right, and that is a big chunk. What if at next year's national elections more former Fidesz voters defect to Jobbik? The question now is what Fidesz is planning to do.
According to Elek, Orbán has no choice but to move toward the middle. After all, if he wants to be accepted by the Western European Christian Democratic parties he cannot join Gábor Vona's and Krisztina Morvai's Jobbik. As it is, a lot of people in liberal and socialist circles blame him for the strong showing of Jobbik. After all, it was he who picked Gábor Vona as a promising young man and took him under his wings. Krisztina Morvai has a more checkered ideological past, but her strictly political career began under Fidesz tutelage in the fall of 2006 when she, together with Zoltán Balog, a Calvinist minister and member of parliament, began a frontal attack on "police brutality." Critics also mention that Fidesz introduced a political culture (if one can call it culture at all) to Hungarian public discourse that led straight to the language Krisztina Morvai and Gábor Vona use. As Tamás Bauer said, everything that Jobbik's leadership says today was already said by Orbán and Fidesz but they did it more carefully and not in such a vulgar manner.
Some people argue that Jobbik's success is simply part of a European trend and highlight the British and Dutch examples. But the extreme right-wing parties of Western Europe focus most of their attention on immigration. Jobbik, by contrast, is racist and increasingly antisemitic. Krisztina Morvai has managed to stir up antisemitism among those who used to spend their time celebrating the glory of pagan Hungary and intimidating Gypsies. Morvai has reframed the debate. Her favorite comparisons are to Israel and Palestine. Jobbik "will not allow Hungary to become a second Palestine," and "Hungarians will not be second-class citizens in their own country." No foreigners will be allowed to buy cheap Hungarian land as happened in Palestine. Morvai's most recent "not for prime time" performance took place on the Internet. As it turns out, there is a conservative Hungarian political discussion group to which Morvai belongs. On that list a man who called himsef a proud Hungarian Jew objected to something Krisztina Morvai said. Morvai answered: "I would be glad if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews in their spare time would play with their tiny little circumcised tails instead of abusing me. Your kind expect that if you fart our kind stands at attention and caters to all your wishes. It's time to learn: we no longer oblige! We hold our heads high and no longer tolerate the terror your kind imposes on us. We are taking our country back!" In Morvai's language, of course, "our kind" means Christians and "your kind" means Jews. Well, our conservative gentlemen were horrified! Géza Jeszenszky, foreign minister under József Antall and ambassador to Washington under Viktor Orbán, was flabbergasted: a woman! How can she? A woman? That's not the real problem, is it? (A footnote for those who don't know: Krisztina Morvai is married to a Jew and they have three daughters. Relations between the couple are obviously strained; as she said recently, they believe that "the best thing for the children is when both parents are there for them, but we no longer live together as a couple. We live in the same house, but in two separate households.")
In today's Népszava a cartoon appeared that says a lot about Fidesz's predicament. The background is as follows. About a year ago Viktor Orbán after having a few glasses of wine became expansive and described his "real" plans to a group of young political scientists, students of László Kéri. It was a revelation. While in public he never talked about an austerity program, he told the students that the future under Fidesz would not be as rosy as he was leading people to believe. Then a student asked him what he was planning to do with the Hungarian Guard and the extreme right. He jokingly said that he would do the same as Miklós Horthy, governor of Hungary between the two world wars, did: he would slap them around a bit and that would take care of things. When Orbán's private conversations with the students leaked out, Fidesz's support dropped precipitously. At least for a couple of months. Commentators at the time pointed out that Orbán's knowledge of history left something to be desired because it is a well known fact that in the end the Hungarian Nazi party, the Arrow Cross Party, came into power in the fall of 1944 with German help. Horthy's slapping them around didn't work. The caption reads: "Er! How did our Father Horthy handle this situation with a couple of smacks in the face?" Well, indeed. It's a dilemma.