Gordon Bajnai, prime minister during one of the most challenging times in recent Hungarian history, established a foundation called “Haza és Haladás” (Homeland and Progress), which took its name from the title Lajos Kossuth gave to his proposal for a constitution. The goal of the foundation is to assist good governance in the interest of the public good. Twice a year they publish studies that may be useful for those who are engaged in or even just interested in politics. The study I’m going to look at describes and gives advice on how the democratic opposition may be able to win the elections in 2014.
The study is called “Átbillenteni, visszaszerezni, meghódítani” (To tip over, to win back, to gain support) and was written by Viktor Szigetvári and Balázs Vető. It is a very thorough examination of the voting behavior of 106 individual districts based on earlier elections.
The first thing we must keep in mind is that the new election law passed by the two-thirds majority of the governing party created entirely new districts primarily because the size of the Hungarian parliament was substantially reduced. Instead of 386 seats the parliament after the 2014 elections will have only 199 seats. The new districts were drawn with the interests of Fidesz in mind.
The second change is that from here on there will be only one round of voting; whoever gets the most votes will automatically win. Gone is the advantage of the second round that allowed parties to make deals among themselves. Those who trailed badly could drop out and endorse the candidate for another party, giving him a better chance of winning.
One also has to keep in mind that in addition to the 106 individual districts there will be 93 members of parliament who will receive mandates on the basis of party lists. That is, every voter will cast two ballots: one for an individual running in his district and another for his favorite party.
Before the authors begin their examination of the individual districts, they briefly describe their findings on party lists. A party would have to receive 38% of the votes in order to get 34-36 seats out of the 93. If that same party were to get 40-45% of the votes it would receive 39-43 seats and 50% would yield 46-47 seats. For a simple majority the party would have to win in 65-70 of the 106 individual districts.
According to the authors, for a democratic coalition to win the next elections is not an impossibility but it will not be an easy task. An absolute must is to reclaim the northeastern counties that were lost to Jobbik in 2010. To convince the disappointed people outside of Budapest that it is worth returning to the left. Plus, it is essential to get new voters, especially in the western parts of the country where MSZP has traditionally been weak. A tall order indeed.
Szigetvári and Vető make it clear that no party that doesn’t have approximately equal strength throughout the country can win the elections. At present, although Fidesz has lost about 1.5 million voters, the party’s support is fairly even across the country. In the southern part of the Great Plains it stands at 26%, in the northern Great Plains at 26%, in Northern Hungary at 25%, in southern Transdanubia at 19%, in western Transdanubia 24%, in middle Transdanubia 24%, and mid-Hungary at 26%. MSZP’s support is definitely not so geographically homogeneous. It has relatively high support in Northern Hungary (22%) but, for example, in western Transdanubia it has only 8% support. Thus, if MSZP is planning to be a serious contender it must somehow change these statistics. As for LMP, according to the authors, if the party ran on its own it would be able to garner maybe three to five seats.
Thus any political party under the present circumstances must think in terms of cooperation. Only one common candidate can run in any of the 106 individual districts. Otherwise, their chances are nil. That one candidate might come from a newly established party in which all democratic parties unite or form some kind of temporary alliance designed for the elections only. There are problems with this second arrangement, however, because according to the new House Rules no party can form a separate parliamentary delegation that didn’t run as an individual party at the elections.
The authors describe seven different types of individual districts: (1) districts where voters are committed to the left (red); (2) districts the left should be able to tip over in its favor (yellow); (3) districts that could be won back in mid-size and larger cities (pink); (4) districts in which Jobbik, Fidesz, and the left are fairly equally represented (dark blue); (5) districts that should be won over from Fidesz (green); (6) districts that should be won over where both Fidesz and Jobbik are fairly strong (light blue); and finally (7) solidly and fairly permanently pro-Fidesz (orange).
After a thorough study of the possible results of these 106 voting districts, the authors come to the conclusion that for a victory by a united left there need to be sixteen districts where voters are committed to the left (red); sixteen the left should be able to tip over in its favor (yellow); six that could be won back in mid-size and larger cities (pink); eleven in which Jobbik, Fidesz, and the left are fairly equally represented (dark blue); fifteen that should be won over from Fidesz (green); fourteen that should be won over where both Fidesz and Jobbik are strong (light blue), thus leaving Fidesz with 28 districts.
It is obvious that Bajnai’s think-tank published this study in order to nudge the parties and movements on the left. It is a clear signal to LMP that going it alone is not an option. It is also a warning to MSZP, which lately has been perhaps too self-confident, that without outside help it is unlikely to win the elections. Perhaps this hard-nosed study might make the party leaders and the anti-party civic movement rethink their current positions. Making a decision is a must and it should be done sooner rather than later.