Three new Medián polls were released today. One is the company’s monthly poll of political support for Hungarian parties. The second is a survey of the population’s assessment of the financial disaster caused by irresponsible management at a number of brokerage firms. And third is a survey of the population’s opinion about the government’s decision to close retail stores on Sundays.
I was looking forward to Medián’s survey of Hungarian political opinion at the end of March because of the forthcoming by-election in the Tapolca-Ajka-Sümeg district that, according to some commentators, Jobbik has a good chance of winning. In addition, it was about two weeks ago that Ipsos came out with a poll indicating a spectacular growth in Jobbik support in the last few months. I’m relieved to see a second poll with a different set of results.
Here are the main findings of the political poll. Since the end of February Fidesz has lost another 3% of its support. The standing of the opposition parties, however, hasn’t changed, with the exception of DK, which gained 2% among committed voters. People’s opinion of the government’s performance is low. Only 29% think that the third Orbán government is doing a good job. In fact, a majority of the people today think that the Bajnai government’s performance was better than that of the Orbán government in the last five years.
Jobbik’s popularity has remained constant over the last year: 15% of the population are Jobbik supporters. But the composition of the Jobbik camp might have changed, since 18% of current Jobbik supporters claim that they voted for Fidesz a year ago. The only thing I found surprising in the survey was the relative zeal of Fidesz voters: 60% of them say that they would definitely go and vote if the elections were held next Sunday. This figure seems high to me in light of the recent Veszprém election where one reason for the devastating defeat of the Fidesz candidate was the refusal of Fidesz sympathizers to go to the polls.
When it comes to the financial scandals, the Orbán government has been trying to pin the bankruptcies and their consequences on the socialist-liberal governments. But it is difficult to blame Péter Medgyessy, Ferenc Gyurcsány, or Gordon Bajnai for the bankruptcies after five years of Fidesz supervision of financial institutions. Although government communication hammers the “socialist” theme from morning till night, the people aren’t buying it. The majority of the population (56%) find the current government completely or partly responsible for the situation that developed in the last few months. Only 17% of the population believe that the socialists are largely or completely responsible for the collapse of Quaestor and other brokerage firms.
The results of Medián’s survey on the Sunday closing of retail stores are, for the most part, similar to those of Ipsos on which I already reported. But the Ipsos survey did not break the data down by party sympathies. Medián does, and it looks as if even Fidesz voters are split on the issue (48% for it, 45% against, 7% undecided). The majority of Jobbik voters oppose the new law, and an overwhelming number (70%) of socialist and liberal voters are against it. And 75% of those who at present have no party preferences would like to have the stores open. This last figure is especially ominous for the government party.
Back to the Tapolca-Ajka-Sümeg election. This election has become a litmus test for all three major parties. If Fidesz loses (and it is their race to lose), a further erosion of voters will be inevitable. If Jobbik wins, it will be a sign of the growing acceptance of the party, able at last to send a representative to parliament who was elected in his own right. If the MSZP-DK candidate wins, it will strengthen the left’s image as a force that can replace the Fidesz government. After all, this would be the third by-election in which the candidate of the left wins. So, all three parties are putting a lot of work into the campaign.
Fidesz seems to be the most active. Practically all important Fidesz politicians have showed up in the district and, as far as we know, Viktor Orbán himself will make an appearance in Tapolca, perhaps tomorrow. Fidesz at last seems to taking Jobbik seriously, with both László Kövér and János Lázár calling Jobbik a Nazi party. But it is difficult to attack Jobbik in any detail because Fidesz has moved so far to the right in order to compete with Jobbik that the two parties’ programs are almost identical by now. Because of Orbán’s pro-Russian policy, it is practically impossible for Fidesz politicians to accuse Jobbik of being too close to Russia or to claim that Russia is financing the party which is most likely the case.
According to local gossip, Fidesz ordered a survey that showed a massive Fidesz defeat on Sunday, which may explain László Kövér’s remark that the party didn’t have a critical stake in this election. In the last few days, however, the Fidesz leadership must have decided to try to reverse the situation. This is a risky undertaking. If Orbán goes to Tapolca and Sümeg as promised, makes rousing speeches, and Fidesz still loses, this would further undermine the prime minister’s popularity and the belief in his superior political talent.
At the moment it is difficult to predict what Fidesz will do in the next three to four days. As of this morning, it looked as if Zoltán Fenyvesi, the Fidesz candidate, would take part in a three-man debate on Olga Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd tonight, but in the last minute he cancelled. This is a surprising move given the party’s earlier decision to show him as a fighting candidate who does not hide from the public as his counterpart was ordered to do in Veszprém.
Parties and supporters of the parties on the left believe that the real contenders are the MSZP-DK candidate, Ferenc Pad, and Jobbik’s Lajos Rig. Jobbik leaders are convinced that the campaign is really only about Fidesz and Jobbik. I have no idea what will happen on Sunday, I can only keep fingers crossed.