Yesterday, Hungarians went out to cast their vote for the seventh democratic national elections. Although over 96% of the votes have been counted, onlookers remain tense to see whether or not right wing conservative party, Fidesz, will be able to maintain its two-thirds majority in parliament. As it stands, the party’s supermajority is dependent on one final seat being won either in Budapest’s 15th District or in the northeastern city of Miskolc. Although, results of this final seat might not be known for another week, it is clear that the majority of Hungarians have cast their support for Fidesz along with increasing support for radical right party Jobbik.
Results come from the Hungarian National Voting Site last night at midnight, with 96% of the vote having been counted (valasztas.hu). Note: Fidesz has a longstanding alliance with the Christian Democrat Party (KDNP).
The support of the right and radical right in Hungary has been maintained among voters. Radical right party Jobbik, made significant gains in the elections, winning 20.54% of the vote so far, increasing its support by nearly 5% since the last elections in 2010. Meanwhile, the Unity Alliance (Összefogás), failed to gain the support they intended by uniting six liberal and left-wing opposition parties in an attempt to shift votes away from Fidesz and reinstate unity among
Free and fair elections (?)
Concerns over the fairness of elections were expressed in the lead up to 6 April by the opposition. The Fidesz government made significant changes to the electoral format and parliamentary make-up through legislative and constitutional changes instated over the last four years. Hungarian voting districts have been redrawn and national elections will result in 199 members of parliament, compared with the previous 386-seat parliament. The Fidesz government has explained that their changes were based on scaling Hungary’s parliamentary size down in keeping with other European countries its size. However, opponents of Fidesz prime minister, Viktor Orbán have said that the voting under new electoral regulations has been tailored to benefit the incumbent party.
Some see the results of yesterday’s elections as proof of foul play. National news outlet hvg.hu pointed out that Fidesz won an estimated 800,000 fewer votes compared with the 2010 election results, with decreased support of up to 8%, yet the party still seems set to win a two-thirds majority.
There were also allegations in the aftermath of party registrations that certain parties had been made up, or registered on behalf of Fidesz sympathizers, to thwart opposition efforts. There were a number of new political parties registered for the 2014 national elections that had never been seen on the ballots previously. There was also some confusion over the opposition party Together 2014 (Együtt 2014), which was listed as its own option, as well as being listed within the Unity Alliance.
Hungarian National Party List Voting Ballot for the 6 April 2014 elections.
However, despite critiques of gerrymandering and some voting confusion around polling locations, the elections seem to have gone through relatively seamlessly with a clear win for Fidesz and disappointing results for liberal and left wing opposition parties.
A weak opposition
With or without the changes made to this year’s election system most analysts and polls declared that the Unity Alliance would have lost significantly to Fidesz. The Unity Alliance was brought together over the last year, uniting the old Socialist Party (MSZP) with its own splinter party Democratic Coalition (DK), led by former MSZP prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány. Other members include the Hungarian Liberal Party (Liberálisok), movement-turned party Together 2014 (Együtt 2014), led by former incumbent prime minister Gordan Bajnai, and its partnership with the green party splinter group Dialogue for Hungary (PM).
Although the catch-all umbrella opposition intended on bringing together a diverse array of liberal, left-wing and disgruntled Fidesz supporters the alliance failed to inspire voters. Internal disputes between party leaders over whose name would lead on the ballot and other petty personality disputes made headlines more than the coalition’s policy initiatives, making the Unity Alliance seem anything but united.
The continued strength of the right and radical right
Fidesz’s large-scale government and legislative overhauls over the last four years have drawn in much critique and scrutiny by both the domestic opposition and international onlookers. However, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has campaigned diligently to win over the populist vote by dropping household utility prices by forcing utility providers to cut water, electric and gas bills to households by up to 20%. Orbán has also used increasingly Eurosceptic rhetoric in his public speeches, targeting foreign investors and Brussels as oppressive forces.
Taking nationalist populist themes to another level, Jobbik has kept its dedicated voter base as well as increased its appeal by maintaining its previous stance against “Gypsy criminality” and branching out into more open Eurosceptic and anti-globalisation rhetoric. Jobbik has targeted Fidesz as catering too much to the European powers that undermine Hungarian culture and values. Led by the young Gábor Vona, Jobbik has appealed both to young extremists, old hardline nationalists, historical revisionists, and many university students.
As it stands, 70% of parliament will be made up of right-wing and radical right MPs from Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik. Continuing on from the last four years there will be little in the way to stop Fidesz from continuing on its path to nationalize legislative processes and centralize institutions. Even if the election results in Fidesz standing one seat short of a parliamentary supermajority there is scope for Fidesz to work with certain MPs from both Jobbik and potentially the Green Party (LMP). Both parties have sided with certain Fidesz initiatives in the past.
The increasingly nationalist stance taken by Fidesz has caused concern among European and international watchdogs and onlookers, although there is currently little scope for European Union or international bodies to impact Fidesz’s direction. In recent years Fidesz has worked diligently to distance itself from EU monetary dependency, having paid off its previous IMF debts and restructured its economic system. Fidesz has also created closer monetary ties with Russia through its Paks nuclear deal, which might strain Hungary’s relations within the EU. Jobbik has also campaigned for closer ties with eastern powers to decrease dependency on western capitalists and globalists.
Interestingly, Fidesz and Jobbik have both been the hardest campaigners against Soviet influences remaining in Hungary personified in their campaigns by the continuation of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP). Yet, it is Fidesz and Jobbik who are paving the path to realign Hungary away from the West and back towards the East.
Dr Erin Marie Saltman works as a research project officer at the counter-extremism think tank Quilliam. She completed her PhD in Political Science at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London (UCL). Dr Saltman’s main topic of research focuses on the process of contemporary political socialization in Hungary, looking at youth activism and party alignment in a post-communist setting.