The Hungarian election: A day after

I’m in the middle of reading a slim volume by György Bolgár, the “Dear Mr. Bolgár” of the call-in program “Let’s Talk It Over” on Klubrádió. His latest book is Poligráf, a word that needs no translation. In every short chapter he refutes another lie of Viktor Orbán.

If Bolgár had waited a month or so he could have added another chapter to the book: Viktor Orbán’s claim of “national unity.” In his acceptance speech Orbán said that what his party achieved is “a European record. This is a fact that gives us the right to say, and not just to say but also to be proud of the fact that Hungary is the most unified country in Europe.”  First of all, that “record” is nothing to be terribly proud of. In fact, in comparison to Fidesz’s most successful showing in 2010, the party lost over twenty percent of its voters. As 444‘s reporter pointed out, in 2002 and again in 2006 Fidesz lost the election with more votes than it got this time around. Others remarked that the last time Fidesz did so badly was in 1998.

As for “national unity” here are some figures. Fidesz won 44.36%, Unity Alliance 25.89%, Jobbik 20.46%, and LMP 5.24% of the votes. Do these figures suggest that Hungary is “the most unified country in Europe”? Surely not. The super majority that Fidesz may (probably will) achieve is the result of a cleverly devised electoral law, not the popular will. Unity? No, electoral manipulation. That’s the reality behind this fantastic European record.

Source: Index

Source: Index

A Fidesz super majority naturally means a system that discriminates against other parties. Both the Unity Alliance and Jobbik ended up with much smaller parliamentary representations than their actual performance would have warranted. In part that was achieved by the split between seats won outright and seats allocated on the basis of party lists. In any event, a totally unrepresentative parliament will convene after the formation of the third Orbán government.

It is now time to talk about Jobbik, the neo-Nazi party. Yes, it gained about 130,000 new voters. At the moment there are close to a million Jobbik voters in Hungary. Most of these voters came from Fidesz, which lost all told about 700,000 voters. Many people are very concerned about the growth of Jobbik. Some foresee a Hungary which will soon be run by neo-Nazis. The people who seem most concerned about Jobbik are also certain that the Hungarian Left’s poor showing will result in their total disappearance from the political scene. They envisage a second Poland where the Left was pretty well left for dead.

I’m a great deal less gloomy on the subject. First of all, in the twentieth century Hungarian extremist parties didn’t have long life expectancies. One year the Arrow Cross party had at least a million voters but a year later they lost most of their support. Moreover, these extremist parties have a tendency to splinter. A number of Jobbik members of parliament have already left the party for ideological reasons. In my opinion, Jobbik’s recent rise in the polls has two main causes. One is that the party leadership toned down their racist propaganda. And second, Fidesz made no attempt to curb their activities. Fidesz’s propaganda was directed against the Unity Alliance and specifically against Ferenc Gyurcsány; Jobbik remained untouched by the Fidesz propaganda machine. Although Jobbik did well at the polls, its leadership is still dissatisfied. Party chief Gábor Vona himself lost to a Fidesz candidate in one of the strongest Jobbik strongholds in northeastern Hungary. Moreover, his unreasonably high expectations for Jobbik’s performance might prompt a serious debate within the party about the efficacy of the new ideological line which didn’t bring about the desired results. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some serious disagreements about the future course of the party.

Finally, let’s talk about those who are ready to condemn the whole nation for voting for autocracy, semi-dictatorship, and servitude. Again, let’s see the figures. Out of the whole electorate only 27.30% voted for Fidesz, 17.87% for Unity Alliance, 12.31% for Jobbik, 3.23% for LMP, and 2.61% for other smaller parties. And yes, 38.81% didn’t bother to vote at all. It is true that almost two-thirds of those who did vote cast their votes for the Right–that is, for either Fidesz or Jobbik. But that is still not the whole country. And at least a vote for Jobbik was not a vote for autocracy.

One problem is that Hungarians’ attitude toward democracy is ambivalent, due mainly to ignorance and undereducation. Instilling an understanding of the importance of democracy should be the first task the democratic parties to tackle. Without a democratically-minded population one cannot build a democratic society.

Finally, let’s see what the International Election Observation Mission of OSCE had to say about the election:

The 6 April parliamentary elections were efficiently administered and offered voters a diverse choice following an inclusive candidate registration process. The legal framework for these elections was amended substantially in recent years. While some changes were positive, a number of amendments negatively affected the election process, including important checks and balances. The main governing party enjoyed an undue advantage because of restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage and campaign activities that blurred the separation between political party and the State.

The Fundamental Law (the constitution) and a large number of cardinal laws, including electoral legislation, were passed using procedures that circumvented the requirement for public consultation and debate. This undermined support and confidence in the reform process. A number of aspects of this legal overhaul undermined checks and balances, such as a reduction of the oversight powers of the Constitutional Court.

In a widely welcomed change, legal amendments reduced the number of parliamentary seats from 386 to 199, necessitating alteration in constituency delimitation. The legal requirement to have constituencies of a more equal size is positive. However, the need for a two-thirds majority for redrawing of constituency boundaries may make it difficult to change the boundaries in the future. The delimitation process was criticized by several OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors for lacking transparency and inclusiveness. There were allegations of gerrymandering; it remains to be seen how this translates into results.

Well, by now we know how all this translated into results. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Embassy in Washington wrote to “Friends of Hungary” that “during the course of the election, monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) said they were satisfied with the voting process.” Surely, if we think of process as “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result,” then the Hungarian government isn’t telling the whole truth. The Election Observation Mission’s report didn’t express complete satisfaction with the process and the final word will be coming only when the results are final. I assume that, after analyzing the votes and how they got translated into seats, the final report will contain serious reservations about the “process” carefully devised by Fidesz to retain a super majority far into the future.

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petofi
Guest
petofi
April 7, 2014 4:40 pm

One has to marvel at the Felcsutian.
He so obviously relishes the bald-faced lies he dishes out to the West; which is swallowed whole and digested with nary a comment by the sycophantic, ass-kissing, Hungarian media.

petofi
Guest
petofi
April 7, 2014 4:56 pm

I had forgotten to input the quote for the above. Here it is:

“In his acceptance speech Orbán said that what his party achieved is “a European record. This is a fact that gives us the right to say, and not just to say but also to be proud of the fact that Hungary is the most unified country in Europe.”

Vera Molnar
Guest
Vera Molnar
April 7, 2014 5:05 pm

When the head of the OSCE delegation, Adao Silva was asked about the elections on Sunday, he did in fact say that they were satisfied with what they saw so far. See:
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140406_Az_EBESZmegfigyelok_eddig_elegedettek

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
April 7, 2014 5:11 pm

Vera Molnar :
When the head of the OSCE delegation, Adao Silva was asked about the elections on Sunday, he did in fact say that they were satisfied with what they saw so far. See:
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140406_Az_EBESZmegfigyelok_eddig_elegedettek

Go to the source…
They are not satisfied too much:

“Although …, ruling party enjoyed undue advantage”

http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/117200

csoda.peter
Guest
csoda.peter
April 7, 2014 5:16 pm

vDear Éva,

Like most except the trolls I am reluctant to criticise your analysis. But let me contribute an alternative analysis.

The statistical results of this election demonstrated the importance of the first-passed-the-post system in Hungary.

In such a system it is vital that the opposition vote is consolidated. If not the largest minority shares of the popular vote will trounce the opposition. Every time. Independent of the level of education (etc) in the country.

The lack of natural trust between people here inevitably make for a divided opposition. As demonstrated by some of the Unity’s post-election comments.

So we have a situation in which the system not only favours the incumbent but also favours the party which is most able to get its supporters to vote.

In short, Mr Orbán has not only pulled off a short-term victory, he has proved that his changes to the electoral system will favour his party in the long term too.

One can only hope that now he has that evidence, he will concentrate on making genuinely good economic and other policy (such as encouraging investment), rather than on populistic and other short-term measures.

Paul
Guest
April 7, 2014 5:34 pm

More than half of those who voted voted against Fidesz, the ‘unifying’ party.

And, despite every trick that Orbán pulled, despite a massively pro-Fidesz media, despite an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, over 30% of those who voted voted left/liberal/green.

If Orbán thinks that is a success after 4 years in total control, God alone knows what he would consider a failure.

Istvan
Guest
Istvan
April 7, 2014 5:39 pm
I think it is not wise to try and down play the Jobbik vote, 20.4% of the vote is very significant. In 2012 the Golden Dawn in Greece received 7% of the popular vote, enough for the party to enter the Hellenic Parliament which shocked many people. The French National Front in the 2012 presidential election won 17.9% of the vote. In the municipal elections held in 2014, lists officially supported by National Front won Mayors in 12 cities: Beaucaire, Cogolin, Fréjus, Hayange, Henin-Beaumont, Le Luc, Le Pontet, Mantes-la-Ville, Marseille 7th sector, Villers-Cotterets, Beziers and Camaret-sur-Aigues. Following the municipal elections, the National Front has, in cities of over 1000 inhabitants, has 1546 and 459 councillors at two different levels of local government. Poland’s RN, plans on making a run in the 2014 European Parliament elections. On the other hand the Slovak National Party (Slovenská národná strana, SNS) faded in the Slovak parliamentary election, 2012, SNS failed to meet the 5% electoral threshold. So the reality is sometimes the far right makes electoral gains and those fade and no momentum develops. But unfortunately sometimes, as in the case of the NSDAP, Nazi Party in Germany that momentum becomes huge with all… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
Kirsten
April 7, 2014 5:42 pm

Csoda.peter: “One can only hope that now he has that evidence, he will concentrate on making genuinely good economic and other policy (such as encouraging investment), rather than on populistic and other short-term measures.”

Would be quite a second Orban revolution. On the other hand, you may be even right, probably he will encourage investment, more specifically: investments of his family and friends into farms, strategic firms and buildings including football stadiums, and he will probably also stop the populist short-term measures, as these are quite costly and hinder the above mentioned “investments”.

But in one thing we agree, the voting system as such would not have prevented the opposition from winning, it is the whole set of additional complications e.g. in campaigning. So hopefully the opposition will learn from these elections also.

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
April 7, 2014 5:58 pm

This high rise might decide whether Fidesz will have 2/3.

They cast 496 votes, now (hopefully tightly) sealed. Officials will mix their votes with 1098 nomads from district 18 (are their votes sealed too?) on April 12.

http://www.origo.hu/valasztas2014/20140407-a-fidesz-a-sztar-a-baloldal-utolso-mentsvaraban.html

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
April 7, 2014 6:07 pm
Joe Simon
Guest
Joe Simon
April 7, 2014 6:11 pm

@HiBom & @Some1

You all operate on the premise that the US is a Jeffersonian democracy as attested by Tocqueville. A patent untruth. Now compared to this ideal, Hungary is corrupt, “autocracy, semi-dictatorship, servitude”. The US has probably the most corrupt political system in the Western
world. .

petofi
Guest
petofi
April 7, 2014 6:12 pm

tappanch :
What Viktor Orbán’s victory means for Hungary and the West by Charles Gati
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/what-viktor-orbans-victory-means-for-hungary-and-the-west/2014/04/07/a4ab440c-bb87-11e3-96ae-f2c36d2b1245_story.html

Gatti is spot on.
Orban can fool many westerners with his bad-faced lies, but he doesn’t fool a Hungarian with some smarts.

petofi
Guest
petofi
April 7, 2014 6:12 pm

“bald-faced”…

tappanch
Guest
tappanch
April 7, 2014 6:13 pm

“Preoccupied with more pressing problems, Western governments will grudgingly tolerate” Orban.

understanding election law
Guest
understanding election law
April 7, 2014 6:17 pm
“The super majority that Fidesz may (probably will) achieve is the result of a cleverly devised electoral law, not the popular will. Unity? No, electoral manipulation. That’s the reality behind this fantastic European record. A Fidesz super majority naturally means a system that discriminates against other parties. Both the Unity Alliance and Jobbik ended up with much smaller parliamentary representations than their actual performance would have warranted. In part that was achieved by the split between seats won outright and seats allocated on the basis of party lists. In any event, a totally unrepresentative parliament will convene after the formation of the third Orbán government.” The above sentences show a clear lack of understanding of election law. A 45% vs 25% result with the winner leading twenty percentage points and having almost double to votes of the loser would have led to an even bigger victory in the UK or the US. In fact the victory would have translated into well over 90% of seats taken for the victor. This is not “electoral manipulation” it is a basic feature of election law that the seats do not follow the percentage of votes that is especially intense in the UK or… Read more »
Paul
Guest
April 7, 2014 7:21 pm
I suspect that many commentators on here don’t understand the full lunacy of the UK domestic system. There is no proportional element at all, no lists, no second rounds, no electoral colleges, it’s straight FPTP. Under the UK system, MSzP would have just the few seats they won, Jobbik and LMP would have NONE. Rather unbelievably, the Greens, who have a similar level of support to LMP, managed to win one constituency (Brighton) in the last election, but they did this, not by increasing their overall vote, but by concentrating all their efforts on the one town where they had really strong support. I have campaigned all my adult life against this undemocratic system, but it does have some merit. For a start, all MPs belong to a constituency and are responsible for the well being and support of ALL their constituents, regardless of politics (and this really does work), and secondly, to win an election, no government can afford to take voters for granted, they must work very hard in (at least) the marginal constituencies to ensure victory. That said, I would still abolish the system overnight, if I could, and I regard Orbán’s new electoral system’s bias towards… Read more »
Member
April 7, 2014 7:34 pm

Joe Simon :
@HiBom & @Some1
You all operate on the premise that the US is a Jeffersonian democracy as attested by Tocqueville. A patent untruth. Now compared to this ideal, Hungary is corrupt, “autocracy, semi-dictatorship, servitude”. The US has probably the most corrupt political system in the Western
world. .

I ma sorry, I thought we are talking about Hungary. Do you want to compare? That is what makes Hungary better, that you compare it?
OK Hungary compared to North Korea is a full democracy, Hungary compared what happened to Rwanda is united, Hungary compared to Russia has no problems with corruption, Hungary compared to China is all for its workers, and last but not least Hungary compared to Syria provides enormous equality based on religion, sexual orientation or race! You won Joe Simon!

Halmos
Guest
Halmos
April 7, 2014 9:51 pm
I don’t think the analysis is sound enough. People are uneducated and only if they were educated they would embrace democracy and vote for (one assumes some democratic party)? I think this is the kind of simplistic argument that leads nowhere. It means that overall nobody made any huge mistakes on the democratic side, there are no fundamental ideological issues, only with a better campaign, media and a fairer election system, results would have been better. Sure, the results would have been better, a Fidesz did not have the 2/3s alone, only with Jobbik. That’s all. But all hard-core Fideszniks for some reason love the MSZP/Gyurcsány/Bajnai block as their enemy. We always knew that, as it was written about, but a nice reference from nol.hu titled, Dirty, Communist City (ie. Budapest). “Az érzelmekből látszott, hogy a közönség még mindig a szocialistákat tartja igazi ellenfélnek, nem a Jobbikot. Az ember nem kívánhat jobb ellenfelet magának – mondta mellettem valaki vidáman.” Jobbik is not an adversary of Fidesz, it is a brotherly organization with which they can and do work together in municipalities, even help each other as brothers in arms against the common enemy: the “Liberal Communists”. So if Jobbik supplies… Read more »
Der Alte
Guest
Der Alte
April 7, 2014 10:03 pm
Jobbik’s organic strength should not be underestimated. And such organic strength is the basis of a success in this current election. Jobbik has a deep and disciplined national network, with supporters, activists in small villages too. The United Opposition has nothing in villages and is very much challenged organizationally even in the biggest towns outside Budapest. MSZP has challenges to come up with names of candidates even for a municipality election, their weakness should not be underestimated either. Who would want to come out as leftist in a small town and get bullied by the Fidesz-Jobbik caucus? The Roma issue is a huge, almost existential issue for rural people, especially in the Eastern part of Hungary. This is an absolute taboo subject for the left, while Fidesz is more politically correct and could gain with the public works programme, but otherwise the issue is not addressed except for Jobbik. Until the left can get tough on this issue, rural villagers will not deal with the left. People hate the entitlement culture, that romas have only rights, but they cannot be forced to act “normally”. By the way, did you notice how Russia Today (the global news TV channel of Putin)… Read more »
An
Guest
An
April 7, 2014 10:20 pm

@Der Alte: “The Russians are pushing for and betting on Jobbik pretty overtly.”

There could be more than just moral support.

An
Guest
An
April 7, 2014 10:23 pm

@Der Alte: “Who would want to come out as leftist in a small town and get bullied by the Fidesz-Jobbik caucus?”

So the bullies win… because what Fidesz and Jobbik is doing to the left is way past fierce competition; it’s bullying. One also has to bear that in mind when evaluating the disappointing performance of the united opposition in the elections.

Istvan
Guest
Istvan
April 7, 2014 11:17 pm

Once the Jobbik party has little or no fear of a resurgence of the left/liberals it will politically distance itself from Fidesz on some critical issues in order to create political space. Basically, right now the Jobbik needs to have little fear of the left. If the global economy goes into another downturn the Jobbik are perfectly situated to blame Orban for the ills of the economy and the left is too tied to the EU to profit from such a situation. I think Orban is not stupid and he will watch the Jobbik carefully and maybe even block with what is left of the opposition on a few small things to throw the Jobbik off of balance.

Orban seems to lack a consistent ideology and what is nationalized today could be privatized again tomorrow if it is to his political advantage. The Jobbik lack this opportunism because of ideology, but that may unfortunately pay off for them and lead to an authoritarian state in the years to come the likes of which Hungary hasn’t seen since before Kadar. I hope I am wrong about this.

Member
April 7, 2014 11:25 pm

Now that the election is over Orban’s friends can continue on to finish the Potemkin villages, like the reconstruction of the Castle Garden (that is already closed after they opened it last week), and so forth. http://www.hir24.hu/belfold/2014/04/05/ennyire-(nem)-ujult-meg-a-varkert-bazar-galeria/

Eliezer Rabinovich
Guest
Eliezer Rabinovich
April 7, 2014 11:44 pm

Charles Gati writes that “Jobbik also advocates… the expulsion to Israel of Hungary’s relatively large Jewish population.”

Can somebody provide quotes for such advocating?

Eliezer Rabinovich
Guest
Eliezer Rabinovich
April 7, 2014 11:57 pm

The results clearly show a conservative bias of the public, and it is observed in other European countries as well. The people have simply tired of super-liberalism and its indifference to traditional moral and family values. One of the important reasons of Hitler’s rise to power was Stalin’s ban on cooperation of German communists with social-Democrats. If now the Hungarian left makes a similar mistake of being too harsh against a center-conservative Orban’s government, it may help Jobbik in the elections to come.

Eliezer Rabinovich
Guest
Eliezer Rabinovich
April 8, 2014 12:02 am

What is the left program for the Roma? How the Roma problem is resolved in the Western countries like Spain – they have a lot of them?

Gati lied
Guest
Gati lied
April 8, 2014 12:14 am

“Charles Gati writes that “Jobbik also advocates… the expulsion to Israel of Hungary’s relatively large Jewish population.”

Can somebody provide quotes for such advocating?”

Cmon Eliezer, are you really that naive? Gati simply lied, and I don’t blame him. What will happen to him as a result? Will he be jailed? No. Will he have to answer tough questions? No. Will his reputation suffer? NO. Why would it. The question whether he told the truth about it only interests a few commenters and nobody else.

If you were really someone powerful and you could pressure Gati into giving an answer even then he could simply say he “misremembered” or that a janitor and a taxi driver told him this who were both jobbik voters therefore it is the position of Jobbik to advocate this.

Such naivite to think something is true simply because it was written down…

latefor
Guest
latefor
April 8, 2014 1:36 am

According to Mr Gati: “They paid little or no attention to the fact that about one-third of the population lives in poverty; that some 30 percent of children go to bed hungry at night; and that 500,000 Hungarians have left the country for temporary or permanent jobs abroad.”

How about that? Orban is being blamed for the unfortunate affects of Globalization on a small, (9 million population) ex-communist country, like Hungary. He has a great task ahead of him to save this little country! Live and let live, please, let him govern. (I’m not surprised at all that he turned to religion.)

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