Fidesz support crumbling ahead of key by-election

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has good reason to feel uneasy. On Sunday, the party lost a by-election in a left-leaning Budapest suburb by a 20 point margin (the governing party had at least expected a close race with the opposition Socialists) and then early this week two prominent Fidesz supporters announced that they may contest — as independent candidates — a pivotal by-election in the western Hungarian town of Veszprém in early 2015. And finally, strike three came Wednesday morning: Tárki, one of Hungary’s top pollsters, released figures showing a 12 percentage point drop in Fidesz support between October and November. The firm described this as a political “landslide,” as it is rare to measure such a drastic decrease in a mere four weeks.

Let’s start with the Tárki figures.

The pollster found that when looking at the entire adult population, Fidesz support dropped to 25% in November, a decrease of 12 points. The largest left-wing opposition party, the Socialists (MSZP) remained unchanged at 11%. The far-right Jobbik, however, saw a slight increase from 11% in October to 12% in November. The support of former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s centre-left Democratic Coalition (DK) remained unchanged as well, at 3%, while the Politics Can be Different (LMP) green party went from 2% to 3%. The centrist and politically hybrid Együtt-PM (the PM wing has since separated, but Tárki still counted them as one in this round of polling) is languishing at 2%.

It is the proportion of undecided voters that rose from 21% to 24%, while those who preferred not to disclose their preference increased from 13% to 19%. For this latter category, an ingrained fear of government retribution keeps one fifth of respondents from sharing their party preference with pollsters. This, in itself, is quite telling of the “collective psyche” in Hungary.

This past Sunday’s by-election in Újpest saw MSZP’s 70 year old candidate for MP, Imre Horváth, win big. He ran in the late MSZP politician Péter Kiss’ former riding, who died this past summer. Mr. Horváth is hardly the candidate representing refreshing change. In the middle of the campaign, the pro-government media dug up some unflattering episodes from his past, including a 1984 training course that he took with the KGB. “Only MSZP can manage to line up so many unsympathetic idiots. Regardless, I am very much rooting for the MSZP candidate and even in Veszprém, I will root for anyone who isn’t affiliated with Fidesz,” wrote one reader on the centre-right Mandiner.hu website. Mr. Horváth won Újpest by a staggering 20-point margin, or nearly 51% of the vote (as opposed to 31% for the Fidesz candidate). This defeat has startled Mr. Orbán to such an extent, that he decided to quickly shake up his entire communications team and apparatus. According to hvg.hu’s sources, Mr. Orbán believes that his government’s situation is increasingly critical and that action needs to be taken to halt any further decline in popularity.

Mr. Orbán in Nádudvar, on November 26th, 2014. Photo: Facebook

Mr. Orbán in Nádudvar, on November 26th, 2014. Photo: Facebook

But Mr. Orbán faces a new political blow in early 2015, and one which may end his supermajority in parliament. A by-election is scheduled for the town of Veszprém, for February 22, 2015. This is to fill the seat left vacant after Tibor Navracics became an EU commissioner earlier this fall. Veszprém is a conservative-leaning town, but two prominent Fidesz supporters are making noises about possibly running as independent candidates against the governing party. One is Gábor Török, a political scientist who was a close confidante of Mr. Orbán, but over the years has tried incredibly hard to create the perception that he is, indeed, a dispassionate and measured analyst. Occasionally, he just appears to be rather uncomfortably sitting on the fence, at least on most political issues. Mr. Török, however, announced on Facebook that if he receives 22,194 likes on the social media site (the exact number of votes that Mr. Navracsics received in his riding in April), then he will run.

But then, another twist surfaced Wednesday morning: Lajos Simicska, one of Hungary’s wealthiest businessmen, widely seen as a key Fidesz oligarch and Mr. Orbán’s former college roommate, confirmed that he is considering whether or not to contest the election as well. Mr. Simicska has had a falling out with the prime minister, who has been trying to rein in some of the increasingly powerful and shady businesspeople affiliated with his party, and whom he helped rise to economic power. Mr. Török confirmed to InfoRádió, that if Mr. Simicska runs in Veszprém, he will reconsider his own candidacy.

Why anyone would be satisfied with Mr. Simicska as Veszprém’s top “anti-Orbán” candidate is a mystery to me. But just to add another bizarre turn to this story: Gábor Vona, leader of the far-right Jobbik party, announced that his party would formally endorse Mr. Török and would not field a candidate against him in Veszprém. It is worth remembering that in 2012, Jobbik considered Mr. Török as a possible presidential candidate and some suggested that the political scientist had worked as Mr. Vona’s adviser.

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4 Comments

  1. András Göllner says:

    With friend like Simicska, Vona, or Török, who needs enemies ?

    • And with a hitman like Pinter, with a private army with Hajdu on top, and with a generously paid “adviser” like Arthur J. Finkelstein does he need to worry?

  2. Starting now, expect unprecedentedly dirty and desperate electoral dirty-tricks, in prep for Veszprém, by the government and the government media. The fight to keep Fidesz’s stranglehold on the 2/3 supermajority will be like none other.

    And expect an ever higher rate of daily fast-laws and fast-mods to the constitution, also in prep for Veszprém, just in case…

  3. “Viktor Orbán has good reason to feel uneasy”

    Does that man look like e criminal? Did he ever feel uneasy when it came to power? A unscrupulous, shameless man lacking of moral standards, when did ever feel uneasy? He already has scenario for defeat. He has the power, he has the money and he has his hitmen. He will fight tooth and nail to the last moment. But he is not fighting for victory, he is not interested in Hungary, he is fighting for the pleasure of killing. He is not looting for money, he has more than he could ever use. He is looting for the pleasure of depriving others from what they have. He is not fighting out of fear, he has no risk perception and lost his sense of reality long ago.

    He will fight to prevent the worst, but he even will kill if necessary and not for the first time.

    He has a scenario for the worst. And if he goes down he will take care of pulling down everything and everybody he can at whatever cost.

    Now, does the opposition have a scenario for that????

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