Simon Says

Fidesz's Encore

2014. április 7. 20:33

Fidesz gained a clear majority, possibly even a supermajority on Sunday. How did they achieve it? What paralyzed the Socialist's campaign so badly? What will the new term of Viktor Orbán look like, and what message did he send to the EU in his victory speech?

Back in the beginning of February, a friend of mine told me that the campaign is over and that this was the shortest one ever in the history of Hungarian democratic elections. We were just a day after the right-wing daily, Magyar Nemzet, reported that Gábor Simon, vice-chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), has a bank account in Austria with a balance of HUF 240 million (approximately EUR 800 thousand).

My friend was right. The Simon corruption scandal destroyed any chance that the left may have had to run a campaign promoting its own ideas. Everyone was asking them about Mr. Simon's story. Various polls have shown that people still find the opposition, which governed the country from 2002 to 2010, more corrupt than the current governing parties.

It's still not clear if Fidesz and KDNP will have a two-thirds majority in the new parliament. Several races are still too close to call, and we have to wait for every overseas vote to arrive and be counted. Currently, with 98.97 percent of the votes tallied, Fidesz-KDNP has 44.54 percent (in 2010: 52.73), the left alliance, led by MSZP has 25.9 percent (in 2010: 19.3), Jobbik has 20.7 percent (in 2010: 16.67) and LMP has 5.31 percent (in 2010: 7.48) of the votes cast on party lists. At the moment, Fidesz-KDNP's candidates appear to have won 96 constituencies out of 106. MSZP and its allies are ahead in ten precincts, eight of them in Budapest. There is a constituency in the northeastern city of Miskolc where Jobbik has come very close to winning. Their candidate trails the Socialist by less than one percent.

The extent of the victory of the governing parties is significant, and it's a clear accomplishment after such a jarring term in a country hit by economic crisis. These results under the old election system would have given Fidesz a very strong majority but not a supermajority. The new one perhaps gives them the latter. And it also says something about the way Fidesz was campaigning. They did not care about fair play. They used – and, critics say, sometimes abused - their advantages and power wherever they could to assure victory. Their campaign, though, was far more professional than any of their rivals. Fidesz seems to be the strongest party in post-communist Europe with tens of thousands of activists and a strong organizational and financial background. Their stability is a true accomplishment in the region, where - unlike in Germany and the UK - parties come and go.

This strong victory is a great accomplishment for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and Mr. Barroso was one of the first to congratulate him. PM Orbán did not neglect to mention in his victory speech that their victory over Jobbik sends a strong signal that Hungary must remain a member of the EU. The outcome of the elections doesn't tell us what the new term of Fidesz will look like. Jobbik became the number two political party in the country outside of Budapest, and Mr. Orbán's words signal that he is ready to confront this challange. The possible consolidation of Fidesz's power is still an open question. Many analysts say that a simple majority would offer a bigger chance for that, but Fidesz's politicians confirmed several times off the record that their next term in power must be quite different to the one finished on Sunday. Not so far-reaching and less confrontational.

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