The morning after: The Hungarian elections

Well, this was a very lopsided election although some people expected even worse results for the socialists. According to some predictions Jobbik was supposed to beat the socialists, but that didn't materialize. Barely, but MSZP managed to edge up to second place. Most of the pollsters overestimated the results for Fidesz: instead of 53% they predicted 57-59%. Even Gábor Kuncze, former chairman of SZDSZ, was expecting better results for Fidesz and worse for MSZP.

Nonetheless, for the socialists the results are pretty devastating. Just to give a few examples. There is the county of Baranya that was considered to be a socialist stronghold. In the county there are seven electoral districts, and in 2006 six out of the seven went to MSZP. In 2010 six (including the electoral districts of Pécs) went to Fidesz with more than 50% of the votes. So no no ruff-on elections will be necessary.

In the county of Békés where there are six electoral districts Fidesz was the clear winner in all six; four years ago five districts sent socialists to parliament. Even the very popular József Karsai who often went against his own socialist party received only 26.65% of the votes while his Fidesz rival got 48.93%. I don't think the final result is in doubt.

Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén in the northeast corner of the country is the stronghold of Jobbik. Here MSZP lost big. In 2006 all ten members of parliament were socialist, but now Fidesz candidates lead everywhere. More importantly, Jobbik in many districts received more votes than MSZP. In Ózd Jobbik got 32%, 10% more than the MSZP candidate; Fidesz beat Jobbik by only 8%. In Sátoraljaújhely Jobbik received 29% of the votes. In Edelény there were three right-wing candidates–Pierre Daher (Fidesz), Árpád Miklós (Jobbik) and the infamous Oszkár Molnár (independent). It was here that Fidesz did the worst. Their candidate received only 36.5% of the votes against Jobbik's 19% and Molnár's 24%. Miskolc, considered to be a socialist stronghold, was also lost. The socialist mayor received 28.5%, only 4% more than Jobbik's candidate and was 12% behind Fidesz.

In Budapest, another stronghold of MSZP, the situation is no better. In 2006 the socialists won in twelve districts after the first round of voting and eighteen after the second round. Now there is only one district where the socialist leads with 44.71% while the Fidesz candidate is trailing him by 8%. However, the final outcome even here is in question because Jobbik received 8.9% and LMP a bit more than 10%. If LMP were to decide not to run in the second round MSZP might win, but I heard about an hour ago that András Schiffer announced that they are not ready to withdraw anywhere that they ended up in third place.

Another district where things looked promising for MSZP was the XI. district where Tibor Szanyi was running against István Simicskó. Szanyi was actually leading with 41 votes at 7 p.m. But then came the onslaught of young voters who voted in Budapest instead of their permanent places of residence. They were most likely students. Interestingly enough they all got there very late in the day and they were voting until 1:30 a.m. Apparently they waited patiently for five or six hours. At the final tally Szanyi lost by 400 votes. Socialists on the spot claimed that the onslaught of these youngsters was organized by Jobbik.

Another socialist city is Szeged where László Botka, the socialist mayor, was supposed to win. Everybody claimed that he was very popular in town, and the city has done well under his stewardship. Apparently Botka did well in the city and the suburbs but lost in the surrounding villages. He ended up with 36% of the votes against Fidesz's 43%. He will have a major uphill battle in the second round because LMP received 8.8% of the votes and Jobbik 11.6%. 

As for the strength of Jobbik. In eight electoral districts in Hajdu-Bihar county Jobbik outpaced the socialists. In four districts in the the county of Heves Jobbik candidates did better than their MSZP counterparts. For example in Füzesabony Jobbik received 28% while Lajos Korózs, undersecretary in the ministry of social services and labor, got only 22.5%. MSZP was very hopeful about their chances in Hatvan but even here Jobbik beat them by 5%. In Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok county Jobbik again did extremely well. In six out of eight districts Jobbik did better than the socialists. As an example of the depth of the defeat: Imre Szekeres, minister of defense, received 18.9% of the votes, Jobbik got 24.2%, and Fidesz won the district outright with 54%. Another example of socialist failure is the case of György Keleti who was known to win in the first round time and time again ever since 1994. This time he lost to an unknown Fidesz candidate who garnered more than 50% of the votes.

Jobbik managed to beat two well known socialist ministers as well. Ferenc Juhász, former minister of defense, received  18.2% of the votes and Jobbik's candidate over 33%. János Veres, former minister of finance, got 17.65% while Jobbik's candidate received 22.89%.

And one could continue. It doesn't matter how you look at it, the election was a landslide for Fidesz and a strong showing for Jobbik, although it is possible that Jobbik politicians expected even better results. The big surprise is the performance of LMP, a party about which we know very little. A lot of former SZDSZ liberals voted for them, but not everybody is convinced that LMP is as liberal as those who supported them think. These votes certainly came from the left, and it will be a real disappointment if LMP in parliament cooperates with Fidesz as some people fear. In that case MSZP will be quite alone on the battlefield.

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whoever
Guest

I don’t think this sort of election result in a national election is normal for a European country.
Out of 176 constituencies, the MSZP led in only one. I cannot imagine a situation where, say, in France, the right-wing win in all the poor suburbs, or in Austria, where the left win in all the wealthy mountain villages. It just wouldn’t make sense.
What it says to me, is Hungary’s democracy is immature, prone to massive mood-swings and histrionics. And a multi-party system has not taken root to any deep extent – it sits there on top of cultural detritus and patronage.
Grim.

Isti
Guest

I’m sure one also “cannot imagine” a situation where Socialists could have committed so many massive gaffes – and made themselves so unpopular.
This says more about one particularly corrupt, narcissistic party than anything.
What is grim and tiresome is the western holier-than-thou attitude towards Hungary.
I think you will all be pleasantly surprised by Fidesz.

John T
Guest

Whoever – I think you sum up the general Hungarian temperament to a tee. I’d also say the voters are incredibly fickle and have little loyalty to the parties, hence the big swings. And I hate to say it, but I think people are suckers for slogans and sound bites and don’t consider the issues in depth.
Still, the MSZP deserved to lose and maybe this is the shock to the system that the country needs. Orban has a massive mandate now and he can blame nobody but his party for the future course of events. I think he’ll also get his two thirds majority.

John T
Guest

“What is grim and tiresome is the western holier-than-thou attitude towards Hungary.”
Isti – funny, I tend to find it’s the other way round myself. Still, I have a British sense of humour which helps me to cope 🙂

NWO
Guest

Among the many things the election shoes is that despite what some were claiming, the strength of Jobbik came from the traditional left wing MSZP voter. The Jobbik voter wants socialist policies without the corruption and tarnished reputation of the MSZP. It also shows that the poor and poorly educated represent the core of the Jobbik vote and are the ones who have finally abandoned MSZP. Given that movements like Jobbik tend to flame out when exposed for a length of time to responsibility and power, the MSZP (or preferably a real center left) can reemerge one day is they shed the last vestiges of the old regime and more importantly that class of politicians that have talked for years “red” but acted in private for their own interests very “black.”

John T
Guest

NWO – Agree with most of what you say. But by voting Jobbik, they are also giving credibility (whether it was their intention or not) to the more unsavoury elements of the Jobbik programme. I’m also not so sure Jobbik that Jobbik are a one election wonder. If they play their cards right, they will get stronger – they seem to have a strong enough youth element which is worrying. If they get the 40+ seats I’m expecting, they have got their foot in the door and will have forward momentum. And I suspect (though I don’t wish it), that Fidesz are going to let their voters down rather badly. I mean, the guy is already talking about early tax cuts, when the country is broke. What planet is he on?

whoever
Guest

Isti, no-one is saying that the MSZP have done a great job – what for me is unprecedented, and unimaginable in most contexts, is the way in which Fidesz have won, everywhere, overwhelmingly, when no-one really has a clue about what they will do. Not only that, but the total failure of the MSZP to self-regulate also itself represents a breakdown in “normal” electoral behaviour.
Holier than thou? Well, if the 2002 is any guide, when state broadcasting became an arm of Fidesz propaganda – yes, holier than thou. Damn right! Hungarians DO have to learn how democracy works and come up with a system which delivers and is representative. Hungary’s only had 20 years so far.
This of course allows the possibility of a one-party state, similar to Japan’s for the period 1945-2008. And that is still democracy, albeit a managed one, and a version which would not fit easily into an EU country.
As for Jobbik – they are in parliament, will now get state funding, they will win big in September, and get funding from local government, and take over local authorities. They are here to stay.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Isti: “I think you will all be pleasantly surprised by Fidesz.”
The problem is that Fidesz had a chance already and the majority of the voters were not at all pleasantly surprised. It is possible that the situation will not be terribly different. What should it be? Eight years made Fidesz politicians even more aggressive.

Mark
Guest
whoever: “I don’t think this sort of election result in a national election is normal for a European country.” Majoritarian electoral systems always produce lop-sided results. And sometimes parties win over 50% of the vote, though it is rare. Furthermore if you look at elections where the winning party had a margin of 20% or more over their main opponent – the French 1993 legislative elections springs to mind – then similar things happen. Nor is the FIDESZ victory too surprising – the MSZP is discredited, the SZDSZ is discredited and has disintegrated to boot, MDF’s open advocacy of neo-conservatism has placed it beyond the mainstream, Jobbik are too radical for the voters, LMP (one they’ve got beyond the question of whether they’ve heard of them) an unknown quantity. And FIDESZ has established itself in large parts of the public mind as the “social alternative” with its promises of lower gas prices, and its success in de-railing health charges. And this is going to be its problem, because the country is still in a highly precarious situation economically, and it will be forced to take steps which for many people will be painful, and it is far from clear how… Read more »
John T
Guest

Mark – Potentially the first “powerplay” will take place if Gabor Vona turns up to Parliament wearing a Garda uniform. He can play the game and see how Orban reacts. If Orban does nothing, then Jobbik will exploit the situation still further, I’m sure. If Orban stands up to him, then it gets very interesting. I wonder if Orban has the bottle to take on Jobbik + Garda.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “the country is still in a highly precarious situation economically, and it will be forced to take steps which for many people will be painful, and it is far from clear how far it believes in being a “social”-minded party (I don’t believe it for a minute).”
Neither do I. By the way, someone said not long ago that Fidesz is very successful in opposition. Much less so in governing. Or as Lech Walesa said of Lech Kaczynski: great at destroying and only after destroying something he begins to think what to build instead.

Matt L
Guest

Isti, from what I remember of Viktor Orban & Fidesz’s last time in office, the results were mighty thin. The three main successes I can recall were:
1. the establishment of the now defunct “National Image Office.”
2. Moving the crown of St. Stephen from the National Museum into parliament as a symbol of the nation’s sovereignty. (Funny that. I always assumed that in a Republic sovereignty belonged to the people, not a piece of jewelery that used to belong to a king).
3. Sinking a pile of start up money into a fast food chain that would serve authentic Hungarian cuisine to a hungry European audience.
Now you’ll forgive me while I step out to “Mc Rakosi’s” for a Becsi szelet szendvics and a Dobos Torta frozen desert.

Mark
Guest

Éva: “By the way, someone said not long ago that Fidesz is very successful in opposition. Much less so in governing.”
Much like Haider and Berlusconi from whom FIDESZ have copied their campaigning techniques.

whoever
Guest

I would (moderately) disagree with Mark here, as the results, with a first-past-the-post system. would have resulted in 175 vs 1. That for me is a very strange result for any European country. And it makes me wonder if the LMP’s celebration is at all warranted, given the smaller parliament that will soon be on offer.
Secondly, we can underestimate the extent to which the rise of Jobbik still presents an opportunity for Fidesz, and reinforcing their power in a “one and a half party” system. Whilst I disagree with Eva on quite a few things, when it comes to Fidesz, I suspect she is right more often than wrong. Here’s an analysis, much of which rings true for me.
http://mebal.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=611:az-orbanizmus&catid=936:sajtonyilatkozatok&Itemid=153

Mark
Guest

whoever: ” given the smaller parliament that will soon be on offer.”
Call me cynical but everyone promises smaller parliaments in opposition! And there are going to be, most probably, 264 FIDESZ deputies some of whom will know they have to vote for Christmas, and are going to have to bought off.
As for the election results, the system a country uses makes a difference to voting behaviour which makes it quite misleading to try and extrapolate what the results would have been in another system. FPTP (first-past-the-post) encourages tactical voting among supporters of small parties (and sometimes big ones too). And remember to that had Hungary FPTP there would be more than 176 constituencies. This too would affect the result.

whoever
Guest

Maybe its the gloom of the weather, but a 70% majority for the right and far-right, including 1 in 6 who voted for a paramilitary organisation… that doesn’t taste good, and it doesn’t seem like a “normal” result to me.
It is, frankly, frightening. And set to get worse, as September sees Jobbik take their first town councils (which will also benefit from EU projects).

Gábor
Guest

whoever: “which will also benefit from EU projects”
I would not be so sure, there will be too many Fidesz ruled councils to satisfy their demands in a country where the distribution of EU money (especially in case of larger projects) is almost entirely political. I would rather conclude that Fidesz mayors will quarrel over the money as many of them will have to accept much less then they are envisaging now.

Paul
Guest

as the results sink in, attention turns to the second round.
if the socialists really want to stop fidesz from getting a 2/3 majority, they would withdraw from any constituencies where they came in 3rd place, and advise their supporters there to vote for jobbik. in these places, (Ózd, Sajószentpéter, Tiszavasvári, Heves in particular) the mszp can either help fidesz get their 2/3 majority (by standing), or help jobbik get a few extra seats (by withdrawing). in areas where mszp does not have a realistic chance of winning, its a bitter choice for them indeed.
at this stage it seems most likely that mszp WILL contest these seats, and thereby help fidesz to get its supermajority.
i am yet to see some statistical analysis on possible scenarios should this happen. politics can be a funny game!

John T
Guest

Paul – an interseting dilemna. To trust Fidesz to behave responsibly with a 2/3rds majority. Or give Jobbik a bigger foothold. Crumbs, what a mess!

Steve
Guest

@whoever
Are you serious in linking a page with a red star on top which writes about “product of capitalistic class system”? (stopped reading it there)
I think Fidesz will govern very well. The main strength will be the European cooperation. Fidesz has access to competence of other EU countries, an area which MSZP wasn’t using (or wasn’t using strongly).
@Matt L
There may (or may not) be such “awkwardness” again, but conservatives had a hard time in the last 8 years, so its time for them to have say again.
Some may have felt uneasy about moving St. Stephen’s crown, but believe me, conservatives felt the same kind of unease about the pride-parade marching on Andrassy’s street.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Steve: “Some may have felt uneasy about moving St. Stephen’s crown, but believe me, conservatives felt the same kind of unease about the pride-parade marching on Andrassy’s street.”
I wouldn’t too proud of this. It just shows where they are as opposed to the rest of the world.

whoever
Guest

Fidesz has access to competence of other EU countries, an area which MSZP wasn’t using (or wasn’t using strongly).
I’d definitely agree with you on this. The MSZP, despite being pro-European on paper, has consistently failed to draw from best practice, particularly in regards to regeneration. Maybe the one exception to this is the “Red Bastion” – Jozsef Tóth’s Angyalföld?
As for the MEBAL link – yes, I was serious – no, it’s actually a White Star, same as Converse Trainers, and finally, it is worth reading as it attempts to explode the myth about the “social” elements to Fidesz’ programme. A part of me expects the rushed privatisation of education, health, etc etc. We will see – let them be judged by their actions.

GDF
Guest

John T: ” I think you sum up the general Hungarian temperament to a tee. I’d also say the voters are incredibly fickle and have little loyalty to the parties, hence the big swings. And I hate to say it, but I think people are suckers for slogans and sound bites and don’t consider the issues in depth.”
Why would they be different from the American voters (hope, change)?

John T
Guest

GDF – I certainly wouldn’t rule out that the swing is down to people wanting new hope / change, but I didn’t sense the positive vibe that accompanied Obama, or Blair in 1997.

GDF
Guest

John T: “I certainly wouldn’t rule out that the swing is down to people wanting new hope / change, but I didn’t sense the positive vibe that accompanied Obama, or Blair in 1997.”
Well, I didn’t either (in Orban’s case) but I didn’t either in Obama’s case ;-)) (I am not that familiar with the UK’s politics). I guess the vibe’s sign (positive or negative) is in the eye (or what) of the beholder.

New Jordans
Guest

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