An optimistic assessment from a Hungarian liberal and the trends

János Kis, the first chairman of the liberal SZDSZ (Association of Free Democrats), is considered to be an emblematic figure in Hungary although he withdrew from politics a long time ago. He is a philosopher, originally a student of György Lukács. One doesn't often see his name in the Hungarian media, so I was happy to discover that he had written a fairly lengthy piece in HVG (December 22, 2009). The title of the piece is "The Crisis of the Republic." It is a thoughtful and, I think, by and large accurate description of what has happened to Hungary in the last twenty years. Kis's conclusion is optimistic, unlike that of József Debreczeni who is certain that with Fidesz's electoral victory, especially if it is a landslide, we can start writing the obituary of Hungarian democracy. Kis's two final sentences are: "The crisis is not the end, only a condition. A time when it becomes clear whether the patient dies or begins on the road to recovery. It is not the time for a final farewell but for an assessment of possibilities and action."

At practically the same time that János Kis was writing his article Medián, one of the many companies that publish monthly polls on the popularity of political parties, came out with its December figures. The usual question is: "For which party would you vote if elections were held this coming Sunday?" According to their latest poll Fidesz's support continues to shrink. Support for the party has been declining for the last four months. In the first three months the voters who abandoned Fidesz simply moved over to the "undecided" column, but in the last month the number of MSZP supporters actually grew at the expense of Fidesz. The gap between the two parties narrowed by 5%, which is significant. MSZP's gain is not spectacular, but the party's electorate has grown two months in a row. At the same time, Jobbik's popularity is withering. Medián measured only 9%, considerably under the figure of a couple of months ago. One must also keep in mind when looking at the current situation that 32% of the voters are still unsure about which party they would support. Most pollsters claim that in that 32% there are more hidden MSZP than Fidesz voters.

The lower figures for Jobbik certainly will inspire its leadership to redouble its efforts to entice Fidesz voters to move over to Jobbik's camp. According to Kis, 10-15% of the traditional Fidesz voters are already contemplating switching their votes to Jobbik. That is, if they receive the right messages. Jobbik a couple of days ago announced that their candidate for prime minister is Gábor Vona. So far so good; after all, MDF, MSZP, and Fidesz have their own men for the job. What was different in the case of Jobbik was that the party also announced their choice for the post of president. Who else? Krisztina Morvai.

Vona is now trying to outdo Viktor Orbán's rhetoric. If Orbán wants to introduce "accountability" of politicians for their political mistakes, Vona must trump him. As Népszabadság said, "A new expression in the Jobbik vocabulary, 'Soon complete accountability.'" The "complete" signifies Jobbik's determination to get rid of the right of immunity of parliamentary members. That would mean that a member of parliament would be absolutely defenseless against politically motivated prosecution. After that, is it worth it for Viktor Orbán to pursue this line? I doubt it.

Vona also announced that he will walk into parliament next spring in the uniform of the Hungarian Guard. Let's assume that Fidesz wins the elections. What will Viktor Orbán do in this case? Have Gábor Vona led out of the chamber? Or let him wear a forbidden uniform? In any case, Fidesz is in a bind. Squeezed between MSZP and Jobbik. And the official campaign hasn't even started.