Hungary’s new parliament and the decimation of the opposition

Monday morning — mere hours after an election that returned Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz with a two thirds majority — the knives were already out for Gábor Vona of Jobbik. Mr. Vona offered his resignation after his party’s disappointing performance. Jobbik is now solidly Hungary’s second largest party, but his strategy of moderating the party and moving it to the left of the now far-right Fidesz failed. Jobbik went from 23 seats in the previous parliament to 25 in the new one. This is hardly a success of any kind. And what good is Jobbik’s 25 seats in parliament when Fidesz controls 134 out of 199? László Toroczkai, a Jobbik vice president and mayor who remained relatively quiet while Mr. Vona enacted his strategy of moderation, did not hold back on Monday morning:

“Gábor Vona has been defeated, but Jobbik lives on. If Vona thinks that his resignation will not be final and if it will be merely an illusion, he will end up executing Jobbik.”

The National Election Office published the final composition of the new Hungarian parliament. From this we see that Fidesz has 134 seats, Jobbik has 25, MSZP-P has 20, the Democratic Coalition won 9 and LMP has 8. In addition, the now all-but-defunct Együtt party has one MP, there is one Independent (supported by the left) and the German minority list will send one MP to parliament as well.

Source: National Election Office

Jobbik is hardly the only party that is in trouble Monday morning. The Politics Can Be Different party (LMP), which stubbornly refused to coordinate candidates with the other left-centre parties in the vast majority of ridings, managed to elect a single MP in an electoral district (Antal Csárdi in Central Budapest) and only because the other opposition parties, including the larger Socialist – Párbeszéd alliance, withdrew their own candidates so as to block a Fidesz win in what was known to be a tight contest.

On Monday morning, the recently resigned co-chair, Ákos Hadházy, of LMP recognized that the party’s decision not to work together with the other opposition parties was a mistake, but he blamed former LMP leader András Schiffer and one of his allies. Mr. Hadházy claims that Mr. Schiffer and Róbert Benedek Sallai “threatened” those candidates who were contemplating withdrawing in favour of stronger left-centre candidates with lawsuits. Mr. Hadházy conceded that these threats were hollow, but he claims that it was enough to scare LMP candidates. Mr. Sallai recognized on Monday that an email had, indeed, gone out to candidates warning that if anyone withdraws without first seeking the party’s agreement, LMP could launch civil lawsuits against them, in order to recover the state funding that they received for their campaign. Mr. Sallai argues that neither he nor Mr. Schiffer ever “threatened” anyone. They just pointed out that legal action, taken by the party, was a possibility.

While both Jobbik and LMP are now faced with internal disputes, the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), which governed Hungary after 1990 for 12 years, is decimated. MSZP’s entire presidium has resigned and the party will hold a special congress this coming Saturday to elect a new leadership. There are some voices in MSZP circles that believe it was a fatal mistake to essentially precipitate the resignation of László Botka, Mayor of Szeged and the party’s candidate for prime minister, last fall. Mr. Botka had a program for rural and small-town Hungary–he was also a credible voice outside Budapest. What we saw with this election is that MSZP, and indeed every other left-centre party, is now relegated to Budapest only. They have ceded everything else to Fidesz. MSZP has become what the defunct SZDSZ was in its final years: a party that appeals to an ever-dwindling group of mostly elderly voters in the Hungarian capital.

And finally, let’s take a look at former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s DK. Mr. Gyurcsány had a thoroughly hollow victory on Sunday. His party managed to just barely pass the 5% threshold on the party list vote and thanks to DK’s agreement with MSZP-P, it also won some ridings, to have a caucus of 9 members. Mr. Gyurcsány promised to offer determined and steadfast opposition to Fidesz–and no compromises. What Mr. Gyurcsány does not want to acknowledge is that in a parliament where Fidesz enjoys a super majority he is irrelevant–along with the rest of the opposition.

Time is up for the Hungarian opposition–some, like Mr. Vona, Péter Juhász of Együtt, Mr. Hadházy and Gyula Molnár of MSZP recognize this. Others, incredibly, still do not.

6 Comments

  1. “Time is up for the Hungarian opposition–some, like Mr. Vona, Péter Juhász of Együtt, Mr. Hadházy and Gyula Molnár of MSZP recognize this. Others, incredibly, still do not.”

    Hungary is a democracy, even though you will find this hard to accept within the echo chamber, therefore it is never “time up” for opposition. It is just that Hungary needs much higher quality opposition. I think currently LMP is the only quality opposition, but it is a party that can only serve as a junior partner. Jobbik is just not credible. Socialists need to really get their act together, but hard to re-brand given 2002-2010 economic fiasco, which they co-own with DK. DK should just disappear, without a trace, and without spillover that will taint other parties. New parties should emerge, with new ideas, left & right. Perhaps the likes of Momentum, taking some lessons from policy failures of the current left established parties on economy, migrants & so on. Hungarians need to be offered a credible alternative before asking them to give up on Fidesz, with all its flaws, but which did in fact perform relatively well in terms of managing the economy.

    Having said that, I think that as long as Fidesz continues to manage the economy alright, it is not likely to be defeated in 2022 either.

  2. None of the current opposition parties will be able to defeat Fidesz. To go a step further: authoritarian regimes are never defeated in peaceful elections. They are defeated when discontent in the population reaches a certain point and spills over into violence. We’re not here yet. The regime usually tries to fight back at first and blood is shed. But once the rats that always surround dictators smell defeat, they flee quickly. I hoped beyond hope for this election, but let’s accept the bitter truth. Orban will never be defeated in polling stations. Hungarians are not really disturbed by his systemic corruption and his authoritarianism doesn’t bug them.

  3. The voters of Hungary has decided,it was their free choice. Like it or not. That is it !

    As long as the majority is satisfied, you can not shake the boat.

    Whatever Orban may be, the masses did not feel comfortable to shake the boat to sink it.

    That’s how democracy functions, even if it is far from perfect.

    Swallow it and live with it ! Learn from it, if you can?! Apply your lesson next time ! But now shut up !

  4. StrandedinSopron says:

    “…..therefore it is never “time up” for opposition.”

    As expressed through the “traditional” party structures? Nope. They are finished in Hungary.

    The likes of the MSZP, DK, LMP exist only on paper with a leadership and very little else including policy or actual members.

    Momentum made the mistake of believing their own hype. They organised very effectively the Olympic Referendum (which actually probably is Orban’s only real defeat in the last 2 years) but they should stick to that kind of activism because there is no demand for another Budapest intellectual middle-class micro party.

    Budapest, more or less voted against Orban but it was simply that a vote against Orban not one for any of the opposition parties.

    I suspect the opposition to Orban will sporadically manifest itself outside parliament on issues which ignite enough passion in enough people. That won’t be the destruction of the civil society or the expulsion of CEU unfortunately.

  5. @ Bendy goose

    “As long as the majority is satisfied, you can not shake the boat.”

    Have you ever read a word of Alexis de Tocquiville about the tyranny of the majority, you loser ? Do you know that Hitler came to power just like Orbán ? Don’t you know that Hitler’s and Horthy’s majorities, their devoted fans, who were in the majority, didn’t lift a finger while they exterminated 6 million Jews like cattle in the abattoirs ? Didn’t your mother ever tell you, that size isn’t everything, that might does not make right? Your presence on these pages, loser, serves no purpose other than to make one vomit.

  6. Even a reminder of the Marqui de Tocquivile, and his view of the new world is censored by a so called free press.
    Yet a slimy slanders and commenters mother’s are encouraged by the management. Simplly because the censor’s boss is the slanderer.

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