The state of the Hungarian opposition ahead of the April elections

On Monday we learned that Gábor Fodor’s Hungarian Liberal Party will support the Hungarian Socialist Party and Párbeszéd in elections to be held 8 April 2018. While it is highly unlikely that the tiny Liberal Party’s logo would appear on the ballot alongside those of MSZP and Párbeszéd (doing so would require the joint list to pass a 15% threshold to enter parliament, rather than the minimum 10% currently required for the two parties running together), veteran politician Gábor Fodor will likely appear as a name on the list. As our readers will know, Párbeszéd politician Gergely Karácsony leads the main left-centre opposition list.

Gergely Karácsony, as the joint MSZP-Párbeszéd candidate for prime minister. Photo: MTI.

As things currently stand, MSZP and the second largest left-centre party, the Democratic Coalition, will run on separate party lists, but will field a single candidate in each of the 106 single-member constituencies. In the past few days, DK dismissed the possibility of an alliance with Lajos Bokros’ liberal-conservative Modern Hungary Movement (Moma). Had DK and Moma decided to field a joint party list for the upcoming national elections, the minimum threshold to enter parliament would have jumped from 5% to 10%, and it’s not especially surprising that DK did not care to take this risk for a party that often does not even register 1% support in opinion polls. Mr. Bokros, however, was livid. He claimed that Mr. Gyurcsány had, for the past four months, given them false hopes of an alliance and had been dishonest with them.

According to Mr. Bokros’ interpretation of events, the larger opposition parties are looking to eliminate the smaller ones in the upcoming election, noting that the Együtt party faces a similar fate. As well, a new rule, which stipulates that any party garnering less than 1% support in an election would have to pay back any state funding, will discourage many small parties from running. Both MSZP and Fidesz supported this piece of legislation. One does, however, have to give context here. In the 2014 elections, a myriad of so-called “business parties” were formed in the weeks ahead of the vote, without any serious platform or any real attempt to run a campaign. Their main purpose was to pocket lavish state subsidies and then to vanish after the vote. (Their other purpose was to muddy the opposition ranks and siphon off votes from the larger parties.) The new rule will discourage such parties from running in April.

For its part, DK claims that Moma, which barely registers any support in opinion polls, would have been guaranteed parliamentary representation had it agreed to the “fair” deal that it had been offered. Presumably what DK offered is a place on the DK party list for Lajos Bokros, but not a joint list as such between the two parties, as this would have doubled the threshold for parliamentary representation.

We also learned that Momentum, the youthful party which exactly a year ago was heralded by many as the future and new face of the opposition in Hungary, has succumbed to a reality check. Up until this weekend, Momentum was adamant that it would not ally itself with anyone or with any other party on the Hungarian left. Momentum held everyone who played any kind of political role in the 28 years since Hungary’s transition to democracy responsible for the current state of affairs under the Orbán regime.

In the past few days two factors may have led Momentum to reconsider its extremely strident position. First, András Fekete-Győr, Momentum’s 27 year old leader, who is politically conservative, felt first-hand how the Orbán regime operates. The young politician’s father, András Fekete-Győr Sr. was fired from his position as Director of the National Deposit Insurance Fund, despite having served in this position satisfactorily for the past eight years. Moreover, he is widely respected in Central Europe as a leading professional in the field of deposit insurance. He had two and a half years left of his mandate, yet he was summarily dismissed this month. According to Népszava, András Fekete-Győr Sr.’s sudden dismissal was the will of the ruling Fidesz party, even though the former director was seen as a tacit supporter of Viktor Orbán’s regime. In fact, his son added that his father has been “scared and worried” that he was involved in an opposition movement. It seems likely, that the father paid for the “sins” of the son.

In the past weeks, there have been many changes in Momentum’s leadership team, due to a series of resignations. As well, a new petition for a referendum in support of NGOs has not been gathering many signatures at all and is likely to be a failed initiative. Once the darling of the opposition, Momentum’s fortunes have fallen and the party, for the first time, opened the door to cooperation with people they had previously outright rejected. Momentum announced that it would agree to support candidates from other opposition parties in key ridings where an opposition politician has a good chance of winning.


One of the most recent opinion polls, produced by the IDEA Intézet, shows a drop in support for the ruling Fidesz party among decided voters, going from 42% to 38%, compared to data from November 2017. Jobbik has increased its support from 15% to 17% and in this poll DK stands at 13%, compared to 12% for MSZP. (This is the only poll that tracked higher support for DK than for MSZP.) According to this poll, the Politics Can Be Different party (LMP) stands at 6% and Momentum has 3% support, as does the Együtt party, while Párbeszéd (now running with MSZP) has 2%.  The IDEA poll seems to track somewhat higher levels of support for the small parties than other polls.

There are some areas where Fidesz is very much out of touch with the majority, according to additional polling by IDEA. For instance, 78% of respondents are opposed to only having church-run schools in some towns and communities and 57% of the population believes that “historic” churches and denominations receive too much funding from the state. As well, 78% of Hungarians do not believe that women who have had an abortion have committed any kind of sin.

At the moment, the opposition still seems to be engulfed with establishing the power dynamics between different liberal and left-centre parties. Hopefully, as 8 April approaches, they will finally focus their collective attention on Fidesz, and not on each other.

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