Election results in brief

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.

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Vándorló
Guest

@ESBalogh: He has said elsewhere that he will not work with Jobbik or MSZP, but may consider LMP. Obviously, the people have told him they prefer him to take care of everything for them.

Mark
Guest

“Another phrase of the last few years that seems to have caught someone’s fancy in the party is “the old regime of oligarchs.””
It is clearly a good phrase, and not inaccurate – Hungarian politics has been oligarchic. But, I suspect looking at all the speculation that surrounds the identities of the various ministries, and especially the suggested identity of the proposed new Minister of Property Managament that FIDESZ will regret using this phrase. If the speculation is borne out it will be very difficult for them to avoid the charge that they are replacing the MSZP-SZDSZ “oligarchs”, with more their own. Plus ca change …..

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “But, I suspect looking at all the speculation that surrounds the identities of the various ministries, and especially the suggested identity of the proposed new Minister of Property Managament that FIDESZ will regret using this phrase.”
There was quite a bit of joking between Kuncze and Kéri about “your oligarch,” “my oligarch.” In fact, the richest men are in Orbán’s camp.

Alias3T
Guest

“If the speculation is borne out it will be very difficult for them to avoid the charge that they are replacing the MSZP-SZDSZ “oligarchs”, with more their own. Plus ca change …..”
Yes, but who’s going to be making that charge? Public television? Magyar Nemzet? Class FM?
Where’s the opposition media that will make that point? Nepszabadsag is for sale, no prizes for guessing what camp the likely buyers belong to, and look at this story:
http://index.hu/kultur/media/2010/04/26/a_fidesz-miniszter_volt_cege_bevasarolta_magat_az_rtl-be/

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Alias3T, this is a very good point. The media that used to be leaning to the left by now is decidedly serving the right. The meager left-liberal media that is left is in financial straights and their situation will be even worse in the future. The right-wing media never ever wrote a critical word about Fidesz policies or politicians and I don’t think that they will be any more critical in the future.

Vándorló
Guest

@Alias3T: And owner of weekly Heti Válasz has bought TV channel RTL Klub changing its political leaning from left to right http://bit.ly/bDNObl
I wouldn’t even bother getting into trying to eek out a living in the media if you are not a Fidesz puppy. Most people, including journalists, have no morals or standards so are easy to buy. Why fight the apathy when people don’t want choice or control, they just want to be taken care of.

Vándorló
Guest

@Alias3T: Just looked at your link and we are both struck by the same news about RTL. It will at least be interesting to see what will happen to the once burgeoning far right media, particularly on the internet.

Mark
Guest

Alias3T: “Yes, but who’s going to be making that charge? Public television? Magyar Nemzet? Class FM?”
We’ll see. FIDESZ has not noticed the change in the media landscape in the world beyond Hungary; the rise of the new media and the recession is causing huge difficulties for commerical print media and traditional commercial television. In some ways it has never been more difficult for governments to control media outlets than now; the opposition simply need to show sufficient imagination.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mark: “the opposition simply need to show sufficient imagination.”
You’re very right. For example, they have made very little use of the Internet. And look around: Jobbik everywhere. Even in English. By now even Google news carries something called Hungarian Ambiance where they are talking about show trials of the captain of the Hungarian Guard!! Every village cell of Jobbik has a website.

Alias3T
Guest

Mark: “the rise of the new media and the recession is causing huge difficulties for commerical print media and traditional commercial television.”
I’ve got quite enough of experience of this of my own. You don’t have to remind me 😉
But there’s no point in pretending that Nemzet or Hirlap are profit-making operations. They’re party vehicles paid for by owners who are looking for a political reward. Such papers don’t have to worry about market conditions so long as the state spigot is open.
“In some ways it has never been more difficult for governments to control media outlets than now; the opposition simply need to show sufficient imagination.”
Again, fair point: some of the best reporting is taking place on blogs like vastagbor and fideszfigyelo. But who’s reading them? Budapest. What are internet penetration rates in the villages? More or less zilch. Where is Fidesz’s core vote? The villages. Where do they do worst? Budapest.
Radio and TV will remain the most important opinion-formers outside Budapest for a very long time to come, and they are not going to be winning any prizes for fearless journalism.

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