It is hard not to realize that something went very wrong with the Orbán-Matolcsy-Németh foreign policy efforts even before the government had time to implement them. Out of the two Hungarian parties in Slovakia Budapest strongly favored MKP and completely ignored Most/Híd. The former did so poorly at the elections that for the first time it will not have parliamentary representation. The latter did fabulously well and most likely will be part of the ruling coalition that will be formed soon. Even the slavish Fidesz media is forced to recognize, even if gingerly, that plans didn't work out the way Hungary's new government imagined. As far as I can ascertain, the plan's main points were Fico's removal from power, a strong showing of the favored Slovak Hungarian party MKP (Magyar Koalició Pártja), and thus the formation of a robust right-of-center coalition in which MKP participates. With such a happy outcome Budapest hoped to bury the hatchet with Bratislava, extract more concessions for the Hungarian community, and build a north-south political and economic axis from Poland to Croatia. All of these hopes were dashed on Saturday.
They were dashed because the Fidesz politicians completely misread public opinion, both Slovak and Hungarian, in Slovakia. The Hungarian government threw its full weight behind Pál Csáky's MKP. To the last minute Hungarian politicians were actively campaigning on its behalf and
Csáky and his team followed the Hungarians' advice to turn against the other Hungarian party, Most/Híd, headed by former MKP chairman Béla Bugár. Apparently, Csáky's party followed the Fidesz tactic of "full-court press" that consists of relentless attacks on the opponent without paying much attention to verbal niceties. That kind of strategy was coupled with Hungarian exclusiveness. While four years ago, still under Bugár's leadership, the party also displayed Slovak-language election posters, this year they were printed only in Hungarian. In spite of the fact that in the past some of MKP's voters were Slovaks.
The attack against Most/Híd concentrated on this new party's decision to include Slovaks who are mindful of minority rights in the leadership. Therefore, critics say, Most/Híd is not really a Hungarian party. Some MKP politicians even called Bugár and his fellow Hungarians traitors who sold the interests of the Hungarian minority down the river. The other accusation from Budapest as well as from MKP was that Most/HÍD is not really a right-of-center (polgári) party but a liberal one. And, according to the Hungarian right, "liberal" is a curse word, and the greatest sin any man can commit is to profess liberal ideas.
So Orbán & Co. miscalculated again because, as far as I can see, they have no strategy in this new situation. Instead of leaving the door open for the possibility that Most/Híd might win and MKP might lose, again they put all their eggs in one basket. They refused to do anything with Béla Bugár. The snub was repeated over and over again. When János Martonyi visited Bratislava and had his ill-fated meeting with Miroslav Lajčák, he visited the headquarters of MKP but ignored Bugár's party. As if it didn't exist. According to people in the know, orders were given out to the Fidesz press to report about the Slovak elections in such a manner that Most/Híd wouldn't even be mentioned. As if neither Bugár nor Most/Híd existed. And what a surprise. KMP didn't even manage to reach the minimum 5% of the votes in order to have parliamentary representation.
As it stands now, Robert Fico's Smer received the largest percentage of votes. Its coalition partner, Ján Slota's Slovak National Party, which is considered to be extremist and chauvinist, barely managed to get into parliament. The third party of the present coalition, Vladimír Mečiar's People's Party–Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, didn't even reach the magic 5%. According to election mathematics Fico and Slota cannot form a government because between them they have only 71 seats in the 150-member Slovak parliament and the other four parties refuse even to negotiate with Fico. Thus, it is very likely that Fico and Slota will end up in opposition.
Almost everybody, with the exception of the right-wing press, blames Fidesz's strategy for MKP's failure. This cartoon sums it up nicely. Csáky is looking at Orbán trying to find out why they didn't win. Orbán explains: "because we f–cked up." However, one must realize that it takes two to tango. Pál Csáky, who has moved MKP farther to the right, was a willing partner of the great strategist, Viktor Orbán. The MSZP László Kovács, former foreign minister, naturally blames the Hungarian government's bad timing of the dual citizenship law as the cause of MKP's failure. Those analysts who sympathize with Fidesz see it differently. According to them Fidesz managed to weaken Fico to the point that it is unlikely that he will be the next prime minister of Slovakia. This argument sounds hollow to me. In fact, the ultra-nationalist parties' weakening shows, in my opinion, that the Slovak people refuse to follow the kind of nationalistic policies that Viktor Orbán and his government advocate.
Leading Fidesz politicians emphasized yesterday that after all there is a silver lining in this unfortunate turn of events: instead of a socialist government (if you could call Fico a socialist) there will be a right-of-center coalition with whom Budapest will have a cozy relationship. I think they are mistaken. First of all, the Slovak right-of center government will not resemble the kind of right-of-center Viktor Orbán has in mind. There will be a fairly strong liberal party in this coalition in addition to Most/Híd that is more liberal than conservative. And finally, make no mistake, this coalition will also defend Slovak national interests and will not put up with the kind of "regional cooperation" János Martonyi and Zsolt Németh are dreaming of.
Hungarians and Slovaks voted for cooperation, not for nationalistic strife. It should be a warning to Budapest, but I'm not sure that they are ready to listen.