For the past week or so it was evident that the run-off elections weren't exciting too many people in Hungary. Most people were convinced that Fidesz would receive its desired two-thirds majority. Indeed, only 46.61% of the eligible voters went to the polls. There were only three electoral districts where there was any suspense about the outcome: in two Budapest districts where MSZP politicians, Tibor Szanyi and József Tóth, had a fair chance of winning and in the electoral district encompassing the town of Edelény in the country of Borsod-Abauj-Zemplén where three right-wing candidates battled for the seat: Fidesz, Jobbik and the independent Oszkár Molnár. In the end the two Budapest MSZP politicians won, as did Oszkár Molnár thanks to a last-minute deal with Jobbik which withdrew its candidate in favor of Molnár. I assume that after the six compulsory months as an independent, Oszkár Molnár will end up in the Jobbik delegation where he belongs ideologically.
The final numbers are as follows. In the 386-member Hungarian parliament Fidesz received 263 seats (68.14%), MSZP 59 (15.28%), Jobbik 47 (12.18%), LMP 16 (4.15%), and there will be the one independent (0.26%). Although these results were not unexpected, the election is nonetheless a watershed in the history of Hungarian politics since the fall of the one-party system. No party had ever achieved such a huge victory.
Viktor Orbán's victory speech was described even by the sympathetic political scientist László Kéri as the opening salvo of a new campaign. Time and again he referred to the government as "the regime of national cooperation"; I suspect this will be the official description of the second Orbán government. The communication experts of the party came up with this (I hope) fairly meaningless phrase that will now be on the tongue of every Fidesz politician. This group-speak has been dubbed by people not friendly toward Fidesz "the parrot commando." Another phrase of the last few years that seems to have caught someone's fancy in the party is "the old regime of oligarchs." "Oligarch" is a well-known term even in English when we talk about Russia, but in Hungary this is new. LMP's leader, András Schiffer, liked the "regime of oligarchs" phrase so much that he immediately announced in his speech that his party will help put an end to the regime of oligarchs! Let's hope the Hungarian "oligarchs" don't suffer the same fate as some of the prominent Russian billionaires.
There was practically nothing in Orbán's speech that would indicate any cooperation with other parties. He again equated Fidesz with the nation itself: "Hungary won" by Fidesz's win. He emphasized the importance of these results by suggesting that with this election Hungary is showing the world the way of the future. The election results, he continued, are a stunning success (világsiker) that will shake the world. The election was "a revolution in the voting booths."
As usual, there's no consensus when it comes to evaluating this huge Fidesz win. Optimists stress the fact that there are many aspects of economic and political life that need fixing and here is the opportunity for Fidesz to tackle the problems without hindrance. Others simply don't trust Viktor Orbán and fear that all sorts of retrograde steps will be taken that will stymie the modernization process.
I was tuned into ATV's electoral coverage, at the end of which was a conversation between Gábor Kuncze, formerly chairman of SZDSZ, and László Kéri, the political scientist. Both men know Viktor Orbán well. Kuncze as a colleague and Kéri as his former professor. László Kéri used to be very critical of Fidesz but lately his remarks led me to believe that his evaluation of Fidesz and Orbán had changed. In fact, he eventually announced that it would be beneficial to the country for Fidesz to achieve the two-thirds majority. Yet tonight he said something that made me pause. Kéri said that in the last couple of years he had detected the appearance of a new Fidesz that made him hopeful that the party and its chief had changed for the better. But in Orbán's victory speech he again heard the voice of the Viktor Orbán of 1998. If he is right that's not good news.