Dress rehearsal for the national election? By-election in Solymár

Yesterday, on December 10, a local by-election for a seat on the town council was held in the sixth district of Solymár, a suburb of Budapest, which is described in its English-language Wikipedia entry as “a desirable destination for affluent city-dwellers moving to suburban homes outside of Budapest.” The extremely detailed Hungarian Wikipedia article portrays the small town of 10,000 as a bustling, culturally active community where there is a strong attachment to the German traditions that became nearly extinct with the deportation of a great number of indigenous German inhabitants of Solymár. The list of prominent writers, artists, and politicians who are associated with the town is impressive. Some well-known people from the right also seem to favor the place. The anti-Semitic leader of MIÉP, István Csurka, used to live there and Zsolt Bayer is still a resident. So is Pál Schmidt, the former president, who had to resign in disgrace.

Solymár is known as a Fidesz town through and through, a designation that is well-deserved, at least since 2006. Solymár has had a Fidesz mayor ever since that time, and all eight electoral districts of the town elected Fidesz-KDNP candidates. MSZP-DK, Jobbik, and Együtt-PM each received one place from the compensation list. The contested District #6 was handily won in 2014 by Gergely Gaal with 61.96% (215 votes) over MSZP-DK’s candidate with 27.67% (96) and Jobbik’s with 10.37% (36). A by-election had to be held because Fidesz-KDNP chose Gaal to replace György Rubovszky, a long-standing member of parliament (KDNP) who died in June. Gaal joined the Christian Democratic caucus, which represents a political formation that actually doesn’t exist.

All of the left-of-center opposition parties, including LMP and Momentum, two parties that are dead against any kind of cooperation with those they find politically unacceptable, decided to throw their weight behind an independent candidate, Zsuzsanna Kárpáti, a photographer who is well known and well liked in town. Jobbik decided not to enter the race, which was interpreted as a tacit endorsement of Kárpáti. Some of the independent media outlets heralded the event as “the dress rehearsal” for the national election next year. 24.hu considered the by-election in Solymár “a great deal more important than an ordinary by-election.” Having “only one competitor against the Fidesz candidate” is the sole formula by which Fidesz can be beaten. Magyar Nemzet also looked upon the Solymár by-election as a “litmus test” for next year’s election.

Zsuzsanna Kárpáti and supporters / Source: HVG

The election duly took place yesterday, and Attila Dalos, the Fidesz-KDNP candidate, won, receiving 225 votes (56.8%) against Zsuzsanna Kárpáti’s 169 votes (42.7%). The government propaganda machine was ecstatic. Magyar Idők interpreted Kárpáti’s loss as “a slap in the face to opposition cooperation.” The victory, in the opinion of the right, was “a win hands down.”

Gergely Gaal, whom Attila Dalos will replace as a member of the town council, interpreted the figures as proof that “the government parties have actually become stronger in Solymár” in the last three years. I predict a great career for Gaal in national Fidesz politics because his claim that Fidesz-KDNP has become stronger since 2014 when “Fidesz-KDNP received 55.6% and now 56.8%” is simple hoodwinking. Solymár is part of the Electoral District #2 of Pest County where Fidesz received 46.54% of the votes at the national election of 2014. Solymár with its 55.6% of Fidesz votes in the 2014 national election shows that Solymár is a Fidesz stronghold in District #2. Gaal is comparing apples and oranges when he compares municipal election figures to the numbers in the national election in order to portray the by-election as a great victory. The fact is that although the Fidesz-KDNP candidate won, the earlier overwhelming support for Fidesz (61.96%) in the local election slipped by more than five percentage points this time around. And the single challenger did considerably better (42.7%) than the MSZP-DK candidate (27.67%) in 2014.

As is usually the case, the other side finds the results encouraging. Gábor Vágó, a former LMP member and nowadays a civil activist and journalist, thinks that “Solymár shows that the national election is not a done deal.” Vágó, in comparing the figures, said that in 2014 there was a 121 vote difference between the Fidesz winner and the MSZP-DK challenger which by now “has melted to 56.” Thus, says Vágó, cooperation among the parties has a mobilizing effect on the electorate. I think that Vágó’s explanation is too simplistic. One must keep in mind that Jobbik didn’t enter the race, and it’s not evident if its supporters turned out to vote anyway and, if so, for whom they voted. Considering that there is no love lost between Jobbik and Fidesz, they may have cast their votes for Kárpáti. In 2014 the Jobbik candidate received 36 votes. In addition, 26 more people voted this time than three years ago. All in all, it’s not obvious that the narrowing of the gap between 2014 and 2017 was due solely to party cooperation.

The socialists are also optimistic. The party believes that “if in District #6 of Solymár one can have such close results it means that Fidesz can lose in the majority of the 106 electoral districts.” After all, the argument goes, this is a super-strong Fidesz district, and therefore it is not a good indicator of future results.

The oddest assessment of the Solymár results came from Zoltán Tóth, who is considered to be a real wizard in the analysis of election laws. Unfortunately, he has a great deal less skill as a political analyst. For some strange reason he thinks that Jobbik stayed away from the fray because it wanted to help Fidesz win. Neither the figures nor current Fidesz-Jobbik relations support this assessment. It is enough to take a look at Jobbik’s internet news site, alfahir.hu, which notes with satisfaction that “Fidesz’s advantage has been greatly reduced.” After comparing the current and the 2014 results, the article concludes that “it is clear that a unified, independent candidate is capable of putting pressure on the Fidesz candidate even in Fidesz strongholds.” Surely, Jobbik was not on the side of Fidesz in Solymár. On the contrary.

Viktor Szigetvári of Együtt, who used to be an electoral number cruncher before he decided to become a politician, points out that only a 60% participation rate can remove the Orbán government, even if only one challenger faces the Fidesz candidate. Whether the opposition parties, whose main preoccupation seems to be fighting among themselves, will be able to mobilize those voters who are unhappy with the present government only time will tell.

December 11, 2017
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Member

My non-scientific analysis is, that the Fidesz has far more active voters, who go and participate in elections, for various reasons of their own, (these I rather not mention, some of them unprintable) than the opposition.
As long as the opposition does not active and participate in much larger numbers, the Fidesz will keep on winning and the people, because they are not real citizens, (citoyens) just people, deserve what they get.
Meanwhile, let them sing: “Don’t worry, be happy.”

petofi
Guest

And what, pray tell, gives you the idea that election counts are honest??

Member

That is not the issue, participation on the local levels and aggressive, political activism toward the common goal of replacing the Fidesz, that is missing. The cheating is given, but just like in the cards, cheaters can be exposed and dealt with immediate and extremely severe punishment. The same goes for the public prosecutors and the attorney general, when they refuse to investigate corruption and crime committed by the Fidesz. Postponing the necessary actions, waiting and hoping for a miracle will lead to a disaster.
Total failure of not only an individual, but an entire society is tragic, helping it to meet its end may be even worse.
“They Shoot Horses, Don’t They.” (1969 Sydney Pollack)

Member

I honestly don’t see how they could cheat on the vote counts. Each party has a representative at the ballot box and watches the votes being counted.
It is possible to cheat through chain voting and screwing around with the hatarontuli vote. But actually falsifyng the count would be difficult.

wrfree
Guest
Re: ‘….. participation on the local levels and aggressive, political activism toward the common goal of replacing the Fidesz, that is missing’ Agree. Really the job that has not been done is noted in the last sentence of Prof’s blog. Perhaps a bit of concentration towards that necessary goal of moving attitudes to action in the voter booths will bring change. It is the only real way. The opposition must ‘do the job’. And Pollack’s film is one of the greatest American films to come out of the late 60’s. And yes it could be a possible harbinger of things to come. Question is do Magyars have the ‘spirit’ of Gloria in the film if the times become similar. She refuses to sink beneath the crushing wheels in her ‘depressionized’ society. She wants to be the master of her fate and dance away from the oblivion. On her own terms. ‘They Shoot Horses…’ is a great film and shows how eras will call on and bring out the character of individuals in extremely difficult situations. In order not to get overwhelmed you have to speak up in some way. I have it. It will be on movie night tomorrow. Definitely… Read more »
Member

This entire discussion is silly, in my view. By-elections do not register anything except the particular circumstances in the particular constituency on the particular day.

Especially when we are talking about a tiny municipal seat in an upsnoot city where parents get their children to behave by threatening to call George Soros.

Istvan
Guest
Off topic but related to the on going refugee issue. This story Libya: European governments complicit in horrific abuse of refugees and migrants | Amnesty International http://www.amnesty.org really shows that Juncker and Orban share some values when it comes to refugees. I had no doubt that the EU had little interest in promoting further harboring of refugees and that Hungary’s general approach to keeping them out was tacitly shared by the core nations of the EU via a more hidden approach. Effectively if the Libyans do far worse to the refugees than any Central European state ever has done its not the EU’s problem, its outside the EU. In fact as the Amnesty essay shows the EU funded this horrendous treatment depicted in their report. It seems to me that Europeans have learned this technique from we Americans who pay the Mexican military to do the same to Central American fleeing from armed drug gangs that are terrorizing Guatemala and El Salvador in particular. That story has been documented too see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/13/mexico-central-american-migrants-journey-crackdown The truth of the situation internationally is nation states are not altruistic, they operate in the perceived interest of their own citizen’s and their elites. It’s not in… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Your last paragraph brings in the realism of the situation facing all democratic countries. Merkel’s Germany particularly for the continent faces a critical test on the refugees and how they fare in the country. I’m afraid they must succeed. If not it will just give encouragement to the right to be more ‘forceful’ in more ways than one not only in Germany but throughout Europe. Advantages like that are catnip to those dangerous cats who wish to stake claims for an illiberal way.

Guest

Totally Ot but maybe interesting – and relevant:
my wife jusr saw somewhere a remark hat Microsoft is “leaving Hungary” because of the political climate – and the corruption?
Does anyone know details on this?