Fidesz support continues to collapse, but an opposition win in Veszprém is still a challenge

Accoring to polling data released this week by two reputable firms — namely Ipsos and Medián — Fidesz is continuing its losing streak and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s popularity has taken a hit as well. Both Ipsos and Medián had very similar findings: in under two months Fidesz support has decreased by between 10 and 12 percent. Medián’s director, Endre Hann, noted in an interview given to ATV’s Olga Kálmán that never since the regime change of 1989 has a party lost so much support in a single month. In terms of precise numbers, Fidesz lost between 800,000 and 900,000 voters since the October municipal elections.

According to Ipsos, Fidesz support stands at 25%, while the far-right Jobbik party saw its popularity rise by two points, to 14%. The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) is unchanged at 11% support, while the centre-left Democratic Coalition (DK) and the Politics Can Be Different (LMP) green party are each at 3%. Együtt, once led by former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai, is stagnating at a mere 1%. Most critically, however, 39% of respondents told Ipsos that they had no intention of voting, had no party preference, or did not wish to disclose their views to the pollster. The lingering impact of the U.S./Hungary diplomatic row, the growing air of systemic corruption in the government and a series of unpopular policy proposals have drastically undermined the governing party’s strength, especially among younger and middle-age voters. Ipsos added that the decrease in support for Fidesz can now be felt in every demographic group, including among some older, rural voters.

Mr. Orbán in the DMZ, between North and South Korea. Photo: Facebook.

Mr. Orbán in the DMZ, between North and South Korea. Photo: Facebook.

While Prime Minister Viktor Orbán remains Hungary’s third most popular politician (after János Áder and Zoltán Pokorni), his support fell by 16% in the last few weeks, according to Medián’s research. In fact, Budapest district mayor Gergely Karácsony (affiliated with the Dialogue for Hungary – Párbeszéd Magyarországért green party) has closed in on Mr. Orbán and now has 32% support, which is precisely where Mr. Orbán stands. Gábor Vona of the Jobbik party is also at 32%.

Despite the collapse in Fidesz support, both Fidesz and MSZP insiders believe that an opposition win in the Veszprém by-election early next year will be a major challenge for the left.

  • Firstly, the united left-wing and centrist opposition’s joint candidate is Zoltán Kész, a conservative, ex-Fidesz supporter and English teacher in the western Hungarian town. András Schiffer of LMP pointed out that Mr. Kész’s conservative, small government economic policies will not appeal to LMP voters, nor to Jobbik supporters. Without these two groups (and many former MSZP voters have turned to Jobbik in rural Hungary) the opposition will find it exceedingly difficult to win.
  • Unlike in the Újpest by-election, where Fidesz’s mobilization failed and where MSZP had an excellent database of potential voters, the Socialists are ill-prepared for a campaign in Veszprém, while Fidesz will do everything to make sure that the messaging focuses on local issues and developments, rather than national displeasure with the government.
  • Veszprém is not only a traditionally right-centre riding, but since the gerrymandering of 2013/2013, the enlarged riding in question is even more right-leaning, as conservative suburbs have been merged into the single-member constituency.

The centre-left opposition badly needs a win in Veszprém, as this could finally change the narrative, so that one might reasonably speak about a new trend in Hungarian politics.

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