A small Hungarian town exposed the fallacy of the Orbán regime

János Lázár, the Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, tried to find a silver lining in the 16-point landslide defeat that the ruling Fidesz party suffered on home turf–in the solidly conservative town of Hódmezővásárhely. Before congratulating the united opposition’s candidate, Péter Máki-Zay, Mr. Lázár kept repeating that Fidesz had not lost any votes in this elections. With 9,468 votes for Fidesz candidate Zoltán Hegedűs, the ruling party’s base was as solidly united as ever. And Mr. Lázár is absolutely correct. In the 2014 mayoral election in Hódmezővásárhely, 8,160 people voted for the Fidesz candidate, the late István Almási. The critical difference is that while in 2014, three opposition candidates garnered a combined 5,210 votes, in 2018 the united opposition’s candidate won 13,076.

The growth of the opposition is staggering. The takeaway from Hódmezővásárhely is this: Fidesz is adept at mobilizing its existing and fiercely loyal voters. But Fidesz is supported only by a minority of Hungarians and the party does not seem to have reserves of voters that it could tap into. In contrast, the opposition has the potential to draw in much of the quiet majority of Hungarians, but only if they field locally credible candidates in the country’s 106 electoral districts. Péter Máki-Zay, the chair of parish council at a local Catholic church, already had a community of Hózmezővásárhely residents who knew he was actively involved in local life. With his church background, his large family of seven children, his promise to expose local corruption, regular reminders of his middle-class (“polgári”) conservative credentials and his decision to return to Hungary after five years living in Canada and the U.S.,  to ensure that his children grow up as Hungarians, made him an appealing candidate in this conservative area.

Péter Márki-Zay on election night in Hódmezővásárhely.

The System of National Cooperation, built on the myth that it enjoys the support of the Hungarian nation and that only a minority of “Soros-lackeys,” anti-Hungarian traitors and communists oppose the Orbán regime, stands exposed for the fallacy that it always has been. We saw in both the 2002 and the 2006 national elections that when Hungarian voters are motivated and mobilized to vote, they simply do not buy into Viktor Orbán’s brand of nationalist war rhetoric. In fact, 2002 in particular showed that most Hungarians are positively turned off by overheated nationalistic and clerical campaigns. But if the silent and politically moderate majority stays home, Fidesz–the most powerful mobilizing machine in the country–will marshal its two million voters and will win elections. This is especially true after the ruling party, using its two-thirds majority, re-wrote the country’s election laws and redrew the boundaries of electoral districts to work in its favour.

So where is the Hungarian opposition the morning after a landslide victory–one which no national public poll suggested was even remotely possible? On Monday morning, Ákos Hadházy of the Politics Can Be Different party confirmed that his party would launch negotiations with the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) to coordinate and field a single candidate at the riding level ahead of 8 April. In reality, this means that LMP is willing to withdraw many of its candidates in favour of MSZP, although LMP confirmed again that it will not negotiate directly with the Democratic Coalition.  The opposition may now have a better chance of flipping electoral districts in Budapest where Fidesz won by a thin margin. Apparently, LMP had decided on this form of cooperation with MSZP before the Sunday landslide, but clearly felt pressured to make a public statement at a time when opposition voters are emboldened and will demand cooperation among democratic parties.

Index reported that late Sunday night, the telephone lines were burning between all opposition parties, as leaders discussed how to re-think their strategy and coordinate candidates six weeks ahead of the 8 April vote. There is no chance of fielding a joint party list at this late stage, but there is still time to coordinate candidates in the 106 electoral districts. And this is where elections in Hungary are won or lost.

LMP also announced on Monday that it wanted to launch formal negotiations with Jobbik and the once far-right, currently more moderate right-wing party seems open to this as well. This is the case even though on Monday one of its leading politicians, Dóra Dúró, seemed to pour cold water on the idea, whilst also speaking about the importance of having voters cast ballots locally for the opposition candidate most likely to win.

The parliamentary opposition (MSZP, LMP and Jobbik) also announced this morning that they have formed a joint shadow committee to investigate and make public findings surrounding the unprecedented Elios corruption scandal, in which both János Lázár and Mr. Orbán’s son-in-law are implicated. On Tuesday, the committee’s members will travel to the town of Kecskemét, one of the communities involved in the scandal. The goal is to keep news that is deeply damaging to Mr. Orbán personally, and to his party, in the headlines.

Meanwhile, where is Fidesz? On Monday, Prime Minister Orbán emphasized that local voters in Hódmezővásárhely wanted new leadership at the helm of their city–in other words, the vote was about a local, not national desire for change. Mr. Orbán congratulated Mr. Márki-Zay and confirmed that Hódmezővásárhely’s continued development and future was dear to his heart.

When journalists asked Mr. Orbán if Sunday’s results meant that Fidesz should engage in some self-reflection, the prime minister suggested that the only thing the ruling party and its supporters must reflect on is the danger that the opposition will turn Hungary into a country of immigrants.

It’s clear from Mr. Orbán’s words on Monday, that the party has not yet decided how to handle this surprise defeat, nor its national implications.

33 Comments

  1. What took place in that small town Sunday by the decision of the free electorate is evidence that the country can not be a “fascist dictatorship”. It could have not happened in any dictatorship. Like in your glorious “Peoples’ Republic.” They tortured and killed people even for the hope of free elections.

    Is it not nice and a hell of a lot better when the people can decide of running their own town and life? No tank columns on the way to wreck the town. Arrest people and hang many, just for the hope of making their own choices.

    On the bases of the American experience, every politician got burned after 5-6 years in office. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Nixon, FDR, etc. even George Washington way back over 200 years ago. Let the people decide, let the dummies learn from it.

    My surprise is that all those here that so vehemently oppose the people’s rights to decide for themselves and make all their decisions freely, that they applaud this. Seems they might try to climb out of the box ?! Hope even they learn something from it.

    • Bende
      You are right – in democracies politicians are replaced after some time. Orbán, on the other hand has been a chairman of his party for 25 years, never challenged and in total control, i.e. no democratic practices here.
      The rest of your post is ….. forget it..

  2. You are making way too much out of this! Yes, Fidesz was beaten, but clearly not by what is on the menu in the national election. If this guy were to be leading one of the parties, where would he fit in? Clearly none of the leftist parties. I don’t think this guy would touch Jobbik with a pole (maybe I am wrong). The fact that the supporters of these parties rallied behind him, does not also mean that he would be a good fit for them, it just means that they really wanted to beat Fidesz.

    Maybe if he does well governing at local level, perhaps he could take the next step and perhaps build a party around himself, which might have some success on the right of center. Maybe take away some Fidesz votes, some Jobbik votes and even some from the left, as well as getting a few voters to start voting again. But if anything, it would only lead to a new conservative coalition government, perhaps still with Fidesz at the helm. I don’t see this guy rubbing elbows with Gyurcsany. If he would, it would be the thing that would cost him the very credentials which got him elected just now.

    Back to upcoming election, Fidesz seems set to get at least 2.5 million votes. A turnout of five million people would translate into 50% of the vote, which means a majority will be secured. A turnout of six million people, or 75% of eligible voters is not likely, and even then, it would still mean Fidesz gets 42% of the votes, meaning most likely a majority. In my view this is good news, because I believe that Europe will be going through some interesting times, and I do believe that Orban is the guy who will build coalitions with fellow Eastern states on some issues, or with countries like Austria & Ireland on others, in order to block some of the proposals pushed by the likes of Germany & France, which will be damaging to Hungary’s interests. The last thing I would want to see is a government which will just go along with any miserable proposal that the big guys will try to bully everyone else into accepting, which is what I think Hungary would get with the rest of the bunch.

    • Hungarian Free Press says:

      Fidesz is making a very big deal out of it. After a four year break, they are re-launching their government-financed “Békemenet” march, which they have avoided holding since 2014, as it has become the butt of jokes from all across the spectrum. The march was announced Monday morning and will be held 15th March. Also, Zsolt Bayer is clearly making a big deal out of the loss in the regime’s main daily newspaper. See here:

      https://magyaridok.hu/bayer-zsolt/felult-a-halott-2836296/

      • That article is typical “don’t get complacent”, which is not uncommon for a party that is far ahead in the polls.

        As for the march, I can see how it could be turned into some good anti-fidesz propaganda. It is very common for politicians who attract younger voters to use that as an image brand, and it works to some extent, but not with everyone. Some people do remember the shitheads they themselves were when younger. The fact that someone can appeal to this demographic, does not necessarily make them good leaders, just hip and cool perhaps, but most likely extreme more than anything. Neither should the fact that someone can attract the elderly vote be seen as a blemish, as is often portrayed. We should remember that once upon a time we used to respect our elderly for the wisdom they accumulated in life. And fact is that in the Western World most elections are won with the elderly vote. I still think that Fidesz will win more young voters than any party. Jobbik will come in second in that category. The fact that Momentum may get 50% of their votes from among the young means nothing, if they get 2% overall.

        • ““Let’s not start explaining this away. Practically we have hardly ever lost anything since 2006. Especially not when the stakes were high. This is now the first serious defeat in twelve years. In a symbolic space, in a symbolic time, in a symbolic city,” wrote Bayer.”

          Much more than a typical don’t get complacent. This is a bit of panic.

    • Péter
      Where did you see Fid “to get at least 2.5 million votes”? The number of their votes has been on a downward trend since 1998-2002.
      In a democracy Fid couldn’t have won 2/3 of seats with 43% of cast votes or 28% of total.

      • Based on most opinion polls showing them to have at least 50% support among decided voters, and on my assumption that 5 million votes will be cast. Its a bit of an assumption based on available information, but I think it is close to reality.

        As for the 2/3 majority, with 43% of votes, if Fidesz will collapse by April and DK will get 43%, they could also potentially win a 2/3 majority with a similar vote share, under current rules. That is democracy! In Canada, mathematically speaking Adam’s favorite party could potentially sweep almost every riding with only about 25% suport at national level.

        • Hungarian Free Press says:

          How is it that you presume to know my favourite party? I have never written about any such thing and if you were to read my Hungarian-language articles, you would see that most of them are critical of the Liberals. Were you hiding in the voting booth when I cast my ballot in the last few elections?

          • I did not presume anything, and I honestly would not know enough about Canadian party ideologies to try to guess. I simply pointed out that the party of your choosing (whichever that may be) could potentially sweep most ridings with perhaps only 25% suport nationally, given system in place. Not likely to happen in reality, but mathematically possible. It was a response to an attempt by one of your readers to claim that Hungary’s voting system itself is undemocratic. Would you call Canada undemocratic if your party of choice were to achieve what I pointed out to be mathematically possible? That is more of the direction I was going towards with that.

            Sorry if you misunderstood my comment.

  3. StrandedinSopron says:

    “But if the silent and politically moderate majority stays home, Fidesz–the most powerful mobilizing machine in the country–will marshal its two million voters and will win elections.”

    So, it would be in Orban’s interest to keep the campaign lowkey? Does he have the level of self-awareness necessary to carry this through? And the Bekemenet march by the (generally) elderly faithful would also seem to be a high-risk strategy, expecially in Budapest?

    • Hungarian Free Press says:

      I think this is Orbán’s catch 22. If he makes this campaign “do or die” and if he really attacks the opposition and ordinary voters (like the naming and shaming they did in Hódmezővásárhely) he may mobilize his base, but will also awaken more passive non-Fidesz voters from their slumber. So far, his approach was to keep elections low-key. But if the opposition is already fired up, then he probably can’t afford to do this, as he would risk encouraging complacency in his own voters.

      The Békemenet march is a real risk for Fidesz, and this is why they have avoided holding it. They risk looking old and tired, and as you write, the marchers are mostly old women. It’s actually a pretty sad sight and Fidesz knows it.

    • Stranded
      Pls note that the Orbán regime introduced many new rules on campaigning: shorter period, practically banning TV ads, restricting public posters, limiting or eliminating commercial price negotiations, etc, all designed to bring about shorter and flatter campaign, i.e. lower participation.
      These restrictive provisions are of course ignored by the gov, which campaigns almost non stop, gets ad space at a fraction of the market prices, uses the state media as a party outlet.

  4. StrandedinSopron says:

    “The Békemenet march is a real risk for Fidesz, and this is why they have avoided holding it. They risk looking old and tired, and as you write, the marchers are mostly old women. It’s actually a pretty sad sight and Fidesz knows it.”

    I was also thinking that it has the massive danger of the less PR aware old-timers indulging in more than a bit of anti-semitism (in the guise of anti-Soros) and racism (in the guise of anti-refugee). When the State brings that many people onto the streets, the level of control ove the message and image portrayed naturally diminishes

  5. Yes Chris, this is a very fair assessment from You. I can report from Budapest, that today in 10 different places the only subject matter was this turn of tide. First time I saw people happy, smiling, hopeful for the last 3 months since I arrived here. Received lots of calls about it with huge relief and lots of hope, the ATV set new overall records in viewers and there is hardly any other subject on it… And these are not only the leftlib whatevers, there are lots of views televised from all over the place, and all of them are telling. Real panic set in.
    On a personal note, I already feel vindicated from my views I have written here and mostly in KMH in the last years, despite all the opposing views from both sides. The tone has changed drastically in one day, pretty much what I had predicted for a long time. I am really hopeful about the 2-3 days unthinkable, that Orban is good as gone. In fact a political journalist stated an hour ago, that even a 2/3 win by the opposition on April 8 is not out of the question…

  6. Andras B. Gollner says:

    Bendy-goose !

    “What took place in that small town Sunday by the decision of the free electorate is evidence that the country can not be a “fascist dictatorship”. It could have not happened in any dictatorship. Like in your glorious “Peoples’ Republic.” They tortured and killed people even for the hope of free elections.”

    What on earth are you blabbering about Mr. wing-nut??? When did the author call Hungary a fascist dictatorship ? When did he glorify the “Peoples’ Republic” ? You keep clamoring for evidence, yet all you can do is kwack, kwack, kwack. When I suggested you get a hold of yourself, I didn’t mean you should goose yourself in public, you crazy bird. 🙂

    • Maybe not “fascist dictatorship”, but both you and author called Hungary authoritarian on numerous occasions. Authoritarian would imply a level of control over such events as elections and their outcome. Evidently, all opposition has to do to win is present public with a credible alternative that the electorate can go along with. Not exactly a Stalinist gulag judging by latest evidence!

      • Hungarian Free Press says:

        Yes, Hungary is absolutely an authoritarian state. What do you call a state where an opposition politician shows up at dawn to submit a proposed referendum question to the National Election Commission in Budapest (on the issue of Sunday store closures), waits at the door patiently to be the first one allowed in once the building opens, but then is pushed aside by a group of nameless skinheads, blocked from entering by these thugs, in whose entourage turns up the wife of a Fidesz mayor who submits an unconstitutional referendum proposal on the same topic seconds before the opposition politician is allowed to submit his….And thus makes it impossible for the opposition politician to submit his, as only one question is examined at a time on the same subject? What do you call a state that allows for skinhead thugs to block a public building and determine who can go in, without any public servant or police intervening? What do you call a state where it later transpires that these thugs were security personnel employed by a Fidesz politician at a football club?

        • I’d say it is not as bad as Germany, where it took four whole days for the national media and the authorities to own up to the fact that 1,200 women were raped or molested by gangs of migrants on the streets in a single night. Organized thugs in politics we have seen elsewhere recently, for instance in 2016 at Trump rallies.

          https://www.cnn.com/2016/10/18/politics/project-veritas-action-robert-creamer-donald-trump-rallies/index.html

          Is the US an authoritarian state as well? How about Germany?

          I am not certain about the facts surrounding the incident you cited. If the details are true, it is shameful, but like I said no dirtier than everything else we see around the Western World lately, yet no one has called the US an authoritarian state yet.

          And how about you? Are you contributing to democracy? You censored me on repeated occasions for things that if you were to censor articles and comments on this site by applying same standards, you would have to remove at least half of all content.

      • Péter
        “All the opposition has to do to win” is to fight the match, with one arm.

        HFP
        Pls consider blocking this troll for a time if he continues to repeat the fake news of RT and co.

        • How very “democratic” of you to call for the censorship of opposing views. Everything we disagree with is “fake news” and everyone who disagrees with you is a “troll” right? Did it ever occur to you that you are not the custodian of all self-evident truths and it is OK for others to disagree? One of the most poisonous concepts that was borne out of the 2016 US electoral campaign.

          With all due respect, the recent local election clearly shows that Fidesz can easily be beaten if electorate is given a credible alternative choice. In this case, someone who actually sounds a lot like Fidesz ideologically speaking.

          I think this “authoritarian” charge is the result of the frustration, mostly on the left with the fact that after the 2002-2010 economic fiasco and its after-effects, it is having a hard time getting people to vote for them. With Jobbik stagnated for the past half decade as well, they are now also embracing the slogan. Fact is, as I pointed out that it is very hard to make the case that Hungary is more authoritarian compared with its Western peers, such as US or Germany. Hungary’s media for instance is in my view more free than Germany’s, despite what freedomhouse claims. Especially now, with the new social media censorship law in place.

        • Peter
          All pollsters estimate the Fid voters between 2 and 2.5 million.
          Fid has never had more than 2.3 mil (except for 2010) https://hu.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidesz_%E2%80%93_Magyar_Polg%C3%A1ri_Sz%C3%B6vets%C3%A9g

        • HFP
          Re Peter:
          ” it is very hard to make the case that Hungary is more authoritarian compared with its Western peers, such as US or Germany. Hungary’s media for instance is in my view more free than Germany’s, despite what freedomhouse claims…”

          This is what I mean.

  7. Andras B. Gollner says:

    The “Békemenet” (in Hungarian: Peace March”) is in fact a hate-parade. As the Canadian Hungarian Democratic Charter had shown in 2012, it’s organizers, Bencsik, Bayer, Kerényi et al, are hate-mongers, who are trying to use the mass marches of the 1930s in Nazi Germany to intimidate people who are unwilling to raise their arms in salute to Viktor Orbán. See our earlier protest here: https://www.facebook.com/Stop-The-Hungarian-Hate-Parade-257605150990370/

    It’s time to send these sick birds packing. It’s time they flocked off the streets of Budapest.

  8. Not much is known of this young mayor of the city of Hod. Just because he was endorsed by the left,it does not mean he is open to be used by them.
    Not much is available on him on the web.
    Just that he is catholic and father of seven children, while looks rather young. That sure means that he is follower of the church doctrines, not the Marxist Manifesto.
    Beside how much power a mayor have in that town?
    Or in most towns in Hungary,by their city Charters?
    What is the city Council?
    How many members?
    And of what parties?
    He returned from Canada, but not from Concordia.
    Let’s see what you all may think of him after about six months after he takes office !

    • You keep throwing around terms like Marxist, as if we were living in the fifties, at the height of the Red Scare. The communists currently occupy prestigious positions in and around Fidesz. That is where you will find them, sweetie!

  9. OBSERVER;
    25 years, hm?
    But a political party is a private political corporation, and NOT a constitutional public position.
    That’s the big difference.
    He will be such a position close to eight years only.
    And like I stated before, eight years is just far too much for any one any public executive position.
    All got in troubles in about 5-6 years.

  10. Orban, and/or his administration has been repeatedly called here and on KMH “fascist”, “corrupt” and “dictator”.

    I have stated here and on KMH that by my opinion he may be “autocratic” and most actions and decisions on economic matters “senseless” !!!

    No one ever was able to back up allagation of being “fascist”, or “dictator”, nor that “corrupt”, at least presented NO evidence of it.
    Which of cause do not deny it.

    Just in case, if Mr. censor be in the mood of letting my reply appear this time,in response to those comments.

  11. Andras B. Gollner says:

    Bendy:

    You say: “No one ever was able to back up allagation of being “fascist”, or “dictator”, nor that “corrupt”, at least presented NO evidence of it.”

    Neither Dr. Adam, nor myself has ever called Hungary a fascist dictatorship on these pages or anywhere else for that matter. Maybe your granny did, when she was trying to yank your head out of the sand.

    But seriously: I certainly can’t help you , because you are a troll that is either unable to follow the hundreds of independent studies which have proven, with empirically verifiable evidence, that Orbán is a corrupt, pro-Russian autocrat, or an obsessive who needs to come here every day to declare that the earth is flat.

    Hungary’s Academy of Sciences, Hungary’s Civil Liberties Union, Freedom House, The American Enterprise Institute, The Center for Democracy, The Hoover Institute, Transparency International, the European Parliament, the most reputable scholars writing in Europe and America, not to mention Hungary, have done what you keep coming here to deny like a dumb ostrich with his head up his own rectum.

    Why you are given this privilege to display your ignorance on a daily basis on a portal dedicated to civilized and learned discourse beats me. Have you ever tried flying a kite ?

  12. Andras B. Gollner says:

    @ Peter

    You say: “How very “democratic” of you to call for the censorship of opposing views. Everything we disagree with is “fake news” and everyone who disagrees with you is a “troll” right?”

    Wrong !

    To put your mind at ease, I for one, couldn’t give hoot what you think of my views, troll.

    In the domain of learned and civilized debate, the opposing views that are worthy of attention are those that are articulated by people who respect the ethical rules of intellectual discourse, views articulated by people who are not hiding behind masks, views that are based on empirically verifiable evidence. You flunked out on all three of these prerequisites.

    In the domain of learned and civilized debate, there is no room for the views of cowards, like you, who hide behind a false name, and come here on a daily basis, to categorically dismiss, and badmouth, without a shred of evidence, the empirically verifiable data, produced by the best minds around the world.

    Some of the most damning, most thoroughly researched evidence about Orbán’s corrupt autocracy is being compiled by center-right, conservative scholars in Hungary, such as László Csaba, or László Urbán, former colleagues of Orbán. In a previous comment I provided a whole list of the internationally respected research centers whose analyses, backed up by scrupulous research and verifiable evidence, demonstrate what a loser and a fraud you and your flat-earth advocates are.

    Troll ! Don’t be a cry-baby. Stop crying over the spilled milk produced by your careless maneuvers, and get a grip on yourself. Why don’t you join your friend, the bendy-goose, for a hose-down at your troll farm.

    • “In the domain of learned and civilized debate”

      I am not the one calling those I disagree with names. I am the one debating, you are the one calling me “troll”. Evidently your measure of civilized debate is whether one agrees with you or not. Disagreement with you and your ideological views is uncivilized, while not towing the ideological line makes one a “troll”.

      If this is what you call “civilized”……….

  13. Andras B. Gollner says:

    @ Peter

    You forgot the question mark troll. Pray tell what is my ideological line ? Do you even know the meaning of ideology ? Would it make you happier if I just called you a monumental bore ? I prefer to just call you a peter………

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *