Final polls before the Hungarian election tomorrow

This morning an editorial appeared in politics.hu by a former senior editor of the internet paper who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Liverpool. The title of his opinion piece is “Forget rigged elections, Fidesz will win because there is no viable alternative.” The core of his argument is that with the exception of Tímea Szabó “the top four politicians are all from the Socialists’ eight year corruption run.” He is not the only one who is convinced that Hungarian politics needs an entirely new cast of characters. András Schiffer of LMP, for example, just yesterday announced that “voting for Gyurcsány is voting for Orbán.” I guess he is offering himself as the only pristine Hungarian politician of the future.

I think it would be high time for these people to learn that one cannot just produce brand new, ready-made politicians out of thin air. One of the handicaps of the first Hungarian democratic government of József Antall was that it was made up entirely of people with no political experience. The other strongly held notion is that just because the leading politicians of the Unity Alliance held office prior to 2010 they are forever unelectable. They should simply disappear, never to be seen or heard of again. I wonder where the Unity Alliance would be standing if they had obliged. I would guess somewhere close to where LMP is today.

I also doubt that the problem of the opposition is that they can offer no viable alternative. If that were the case, why was it necessary for the government and Fidesz to do everything in their power to prevent the opposition from delivering that nonexistent message to the electorate? Why do they need the votes of Hungarians from Romania where, according to the latest poll taken in the Partium, areas closest to the Hungarian-Romanian border, 66% of the voters are Fidesz sympathizers, 13% would vote for Jobbik,  and only 2% for the Unity Alliance? And why does Fidesz need an electoral law that dramatically reduces the democratic opposition’s chances?

Practically all the English- and German-language articles I read are certain of an overwhelming Fidesz victory. Their predictions are based on the numerous public opinion polls that have appeared in the last few months. By now there are mighty few people who believe in the possibility of victory for the democratic opposition. But some suggest that the results will be closer than current polls indicate. They are convinced that in the last four years the political fear that Hungarians were accustomed to during pre-democratic times returned. People who were always somewhat suspicious of poll takers by now are genuinely fearful that the information they share with the pollsters will end up at Fidesz headquarters and that soon enough they or their relatives will lose their jobs as teachers, doctors, or civil servants. Or, if they are small businessmen, that they will no longer receive government orders. Unity Alliance activists claim that they frequently meet people who actually lied to the pollsters because of their fears of the present ruling party. If the final election results are substantially different from the generally predicted ones, perhaps there is something to this explanation.

We may never know how many people misled the pollsters, but we do know that it is very difficult to convince people to answer their questions. Reluctance to participate in a survey is not a new phenomenon, but lately the polling companies are in real trouble. In order to find 1,000 willing participants they have to canvass about three times that number, sometimes even more. Surely, this fact says something about the Hungarian population’s present psyche.

Unity Alliance activists report full houses at their gatherings. They claim that their tables, set up alongside Fidesz posts, have long lines of interested people while Fidesz activists are not at all busy. This description might be a reflection of their bias and wishful thinking but one thing is sure: this morning  the square in front of Debrecen’s Great Church was not even half full during an event Fidesz organized as the last, triumphant stop in Viktor Orbán’s campaign. Is it possible that Fidesz voters have also become apathetic? Are they possibly disappointed? Or perhaps too sure of a Fidesz victory?

But let’s return briefly to the two latest polls. Medián shows unusually high percentage of committed voters (62%), larger than in 2002 or 2006. If these people actually go and vote, that fact itself might help the Unity Alliance, which benefits from high turnout. On the other hand, it was highly disturbing that 2% of these committed voters actually opted for the “Együtt 2014 Párt,” which was created to confuse voters. It is especially easy to mix up the two parties since Együtt 2014 Párt occupies the sixteenth place on the ballot while the Unity Alliance in which Együtt 2014-PM is listed is seventeenth. The Zöldek Pártja (Party of the Greens) received 1% of the sample’s votes, most likely from people who actually wanted to vote for LMP.

szavazo fulke

Ipsos, although it predicts a large Fidesz victory, also saw signs that confuse the issue. For example, it is very difficult to judge what the voters will actually do once they are in the voting booth. For example, there are 250,000 Fidesz supporters who think that they might vote for Jobbik while about 100,000 Jobbik voters think they might support Fidesz after all. There might also be some last-minute changes within the anti-Orbán forces. 150,000 Unity Alliance supporters are contemplating switching to LMP and a goodly number of current LMP supporters are thinking about voting for Unity after all. About 10% of the electorate is still undecided and another 10% refuses to divulge. Endre Hann of Medián also points out in his article that one must keep in mind that in the by-elections the opposition did considerably better than in 2010.

And finally, those who are keeping fingers crossed for the democratic opposition call attention to what happened to Slovak prime minister Robert Fico who a week ago was still leading in the polls by a margin of 10%. The next day he lost his bid to become president to a newcomer to politics, Andrej Kiska, a businessman, and not by a small margin. Kiska received almost 60% of the votes against 41% for Fico.

It would be a miracle if something like that were to happen in Hungary tomorrow, but there is a possibility that the Fidesz victory will not be so overwhelming as everybody thinks. As a Hungarian commentator said this morning, if Fidesz won with only a simple as opposed to a two-thirds majority, under the circumstances it would actually mean a victory for the opposition. Tomorrow, after all, might be a more interesting day than the current polls indicate. Let’s hope so.

249 comments

  1. Paul :

    Taking Kim’s figures at 91% counted, Fidesz are actually DOWN 6.3% in votes and 2% in seats, whilst Unity (compared to MSzP in 2010) are UP 7.3% in votes and 3.8% in seats.

    Jobbik have fallen foul of the new system and, whilst their vote is 4.9% up, their seat percentage is almost exactly the same. LMP’s vote is 2.1% down and their seats 1.6% down.

    So, despite the feeling of disaster for the left because they came nowhere near performing the impossible, they have actually had the sort of result that, on a more normal election night, might have put them into government.

    Given all the gerrymandering and fiddling Fidesz have been up to, and their total control of the media, the left managing to increase their vote by over 7% is actually a bloody good result.

    It’s just not the miracle we hoped for…

    I read your comment after I had written my short post today. I agree with you. Let’s not be so negative! There is no reason. Given everything it is not that bad.

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  2. Paul :

    Eva S. Balogh :
    Re Mesterházy. Unspeakable reaction. I don’t quite know what to say.

    What did he do/say?

    Since I was writing my post I learned it only from one of the comments that he apparently said that this kind of results they could have achieved without Bajnai, Gyurcsány, and Fodor. I.e. MSZP should have gone ahead alone..

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  3. Not counted yet:
    1.
    Nomadic domestic voters 120,000 (counted 0)
    2.
    25,000 votes at foreign embassies (counted 0)
    3.
    unknown, perhaps 100,000 votes for Transylvania and the like (counted 54,000)
    95% for Fidesz unbelievable number!
    4.
    regular voters (not counted 70,000, 1.48%* 4762826)

    counted regular voters (98.58% processed)
    4,721,500 – 4,722,300

    Fidesz 43.7%
    Opposition 26.2%
    Jobbik 20.7%
    LMP: 5.3%

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  4. Louis Kovach :
    It is not their liking of Fidesz and partly the Jobbik that caused this, but the people’s Dislike of your heros.

    4 or 8 years from now, your home country will become a dirt poor, feudalistic, theocratic, Russian satellite state. Then you will pat yourself on the shoulder. The communists are defeated. Well done Kovach!

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  5. Mutt,

    That’s really pathetic on the part of Egyenlítő, I just saw their Facebook post and I’m disgusted. Small wonder that so many people of my generation feel that MSZP has no credibility and that it pays nothing more than lip service to the socially liberal values of inclusion.

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  6. Kirsten :
    Paul: “the left managing to increase their vote by over 7% is actually a bloody good result.”
    At least the potential for more is there, and Orban should not be too confident. In particular as more people can start to question what in addition to utility prices has he really done for them (and the utility prices will have to be paid by taxes anyway). That is why, I would not be desperate after these elections, it is better than what I expected in any case. But it needs a better programme, better strategy and not least a better team to mobilise more people.

    Right on Kristen.
    However, without fully understanding the importance of adequate communication – propaganda if you like – and acting upon, utilising every opportunity to deliver your message it will never work. People can not support something what they can not relate to, let alone understand, or at least, as in the case of the Fidesz propaganda, they think they do.
    The whole problem is far more complex, but it can be handled properly if only the participants finally be able to leave the old communications routine behind.
    In this respect the opposition stood mostly clueless, while Fidesz used and utilised communication for full effect.

    There was at least a dozen game-changer opportunity, what in any other place would have resulted that the mayority of the people would have turned agains their oppressors and chased away them long ago, still in Hungary it went by mostly unnoticed – due to the opposition’s inability to drive home the message. Yes, I know all about their lack of media surfaces, but even what they had used poorly.
    I tried many times to call attention for this problem, but everyone else knew better, obviously.
    The result speaks for itself, though.

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