Tag Archives: financial scandal

Another poll, another loss for Fidesz ahead of a by-election

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.

orange = total population beige = eligible voters blue = committed voters

orange = total population
beige = eligible voters
blue = committed voters

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.

Gathering clouds: The opposition parties take a common stand

This afternoon the leaders of the democratic opposition parties held talks in the wake of Viktor Orbán’s announcement yesterday that he was the one who ordered the ministers of his cabinet to withdraw all government assets invested in bonds issued by the Quaestor Group. Since the meeting ended only about three hours ago, I could find only one commentary on the event. It was by Dániel Bita of Népszabadság who, if I interpret one of his rather convoluted sentences correctly, found it less than successful. I am, on the other hand, more charitable, especially since András Schiffer, co-chair of LMP who up to now has consistently refused to cooperate with the other opposition parties, decided to attend.

Today’s meeting was called by József Tóbiás, chairman of MSZP, which is in itself fairly remarkable since it was Tóbiás who shortly after the lost 2014 national election declared that “never again” will MSZP cooperate with any of the other parties. The socialists will go it alone and will single handedly win the next election. Of course, since then MSZP was forced several times to accept the assistance of DK which supports, for example, the MSZP-nominated Ferenc Pad in the Tapolca-Ajka election.

Fairly late last night MSZP released a communiqué titled “The government is in crisis, it is time for the opposition” in which Tóbiás called on “the representatives of the opposition parties” to meet at 1:00 p.m. in the parliamentary office building. Jobbik could hardly wait to express its willingness to join the other parties. It took Gábor Vona, the party chairman, no more than half an hour to announce that “naturally they will join the others [but] they expect Fidesz to be represented at the gathering.” He added that they “will also have to discuss the role of the socialist governments in the brokerage scandal.” They want to know about “the business relationships that did exist and perhaps still exist between leftist politicians and the corrupt leaders of the brokerage firms.” Tóbiás goofed. Surely, he didn’t mean to invite Jobbik, but he was sloppy in composing his invitation.

Tóbiás had to get out of this sticky situation. This morning MSZP released an explanation. According to the press release to MTI, the party said that all “democratic parties indicated their willingness to participate” but they didn’t think that Jobbik’s presence at the meeting would be appropriate because “Jobbik at such a gathering would only be a power broker for Fidesz.” According to MSZP, Jobbik, which is financed from abroad, is neither patriotic nor democratic, and it is certainly not an opposition party.

The following people attended the meeting: József Tóbiás (MSZP), Ferenc Gyurcsány (DK), András Schiffer (LMP), Timea Szabó (PM), Viktor Szigetvári (Együtt), and Anett Bősz (LP). The only person who was missing was Lajos Bokros, representing MoMa, a moderate conservative grouping, perhaps because it is “movement,” not a party.

At the meeting there seemed to be unanimity among the politicians that Viktor Orbán should leave Hungarian political life. According to Tóbiás, Viktor Orbán should simply resign. Barring that, at the very least he should ask for a vote of confidence. Tímea Szabó held a similar position, adding that if Orbán does neither then she will submit a declaratory resolution for the dissolution of parliament and for holding early elections. In addition, some of the participants added Péter Szijjártó and György Matolcsy to the list of those who should follow Viktor Orbán as undesirable political figures.

Tímea Szabó, József Tóbiás, Anett Bősz, András Schiffer, Viktor Szigetvári and Ferenc Gyurcsány

Tímea Szabó, József Tóbiás, Anett Bősz, Ferenc Gyurcsány, Viktor Szigetvári, and András Schiffer

Viktor Szigetvári is convinced that Orbán is guilty of insider trading, which is a criminal offense, and therefore he is longer fit to be the prime minister of the country. However, he was pretty vague about what to do if Orbán does not resign, which is all but certain. He came up with the shopworn remedy of creating a parliamentary committee to investigate Viktor Orbán’s role in the Quaestor scandal. Unfortunately, Hungarian investigative committees are not like the Watergate committee whose hearings eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. Orbán will simply not show up and that will be the end of it.

András Schiffer also thinks that Orbán “is morally unfit to be the prime minister,” but he concentrated on amendments to be offered by the opposition parties to a Fidesz draft proposal that is designed to financially assist those who suffered heavy losses as a result of the bankruptcy of Quaestor.

What Gyurcsány said or what kinds of plans he entertains under the present circumstances we don’t know because he was the only politician who gave no interview after the meeting. He said only that the meeting was “pleasant and constructive,” which the reporter of Népszabadság interpreted to mean that DK’s chairman found the gathering pretty useless. Although it is true that no definite road map emerged from this first meeting, the very fact that all the democratic parties were ready to sit down and discuss a common strategy is a step forward. The next few days will tell us whether any concrete steps will be taken after this exchange of ideas.

In my opinion, the most important event of the meeting was the decision to hold a mass rally organized by the democratic parties on April 11, the day before the Tapolca-Ajka by-election. This means that these parties are no longer afraid to show themselves and take a leading role in anti-government demonstrations. At the last big demonstration on March 25, although the parties could show their flags and logos, MSZP did not take advantage of the opportunity. Only MoMa and DK flags could be seen. Now MSZP seems eager to come out with their red carnations. Moreover, the civic organizers, as was demonstrated on March 15, no longer mind the presence of parties. All told, given the public mood, the rally should be a great success.

Fidesz interprets the opposition’s gathering of forces as a “petty power struggle.” The left “acts as if they had absolutely nothing to do with the socialist brokerage scandal although they were the ones who allowed financial corruption to flower in the last decades.” The problem is that this old “socialist brokerage story”–especially in light of the close relationship of the government, Fidesz politicians, and men close to Viktor Orbán with Csaba Tarsoly, CEO of Quaestor–is no longer believable. Fidesz has been in power for the last five years, and it was Fidesz-appointed officials who were supposed to make sure that financial institutions operate in a lawful manner. But the Hungarian National Bank allowed Quaestor, even when it was on its last legs, to issue 60 billion forints worth of bonds.

This morning Gábor Horn, the former SZDSZ member of parliament who was the intermediary between his party and the Gyurcsány government, was interviewed on ATV’s early morning program, Start. He compared the situation of the present government to that of the socialist-liberal government back when it became obvious that the government would not be able to survive much longer. Although, Horn said, Orbán is a “more talented survivor than Gyurcsány,” he now has to admit that Viktor Orbán is in big trouble. A caller to Klubrádió, however, described Orbán as being as slippery as “a soaped dolphin.” It is still quite possible that the great survivor will escape this scandal unscathed.