It is unforgivable if left-wing opposition does not field a single candidate in each Budapest district

This past weekend, Péter Juhász of the Együtt party did the right thing: he withdrew his candidacy in Central Budapest (the Belváros) in favour of the Hungarian Socialist Party – Párbeszéd candidate, Márta Naszályi (Mrs. Várady). This electoral district, like nearly each in Budapest, could be won by left-centre parties if the local Fidesz candidate faces a single left-centre or liberal candidate. In most cases in the Hungarian capital (except possibly in Józsefváros-Ferencváros), there is no need to form a difficult alliance with Jobbik, in order to win. A united left can beat Fidesz on its own. According to a recent riding-level poll commissioned by the Country for All Movement (Közös Ország Mozgalom) and conducted in Central Budapest by Medián in late February, the candidates (including the now withdrawn Mr. Juhász) stand as follows:

  • FIDESZ-KDNP (István Hollik): 42%
  • MSZP-P (Márta Naszályi): 18%
  • LMP (Antal Csárdy): 13%
  • MOMENTUM: (András Fekete-Győr): 10%
  • EGYÜTT (Péter Juhász): 9%
  • JOBBIK: Pál Losonczy (Jobbik): 8%

Mr. Juhász’s withdrawal alone is not enough to take back Central Budapest from Fidesz. Mr. Fekete-Győr of Momentum suggested that a new and final poll be conducted in the electoral district to determine once and for all the most popular opposition candidate. This would then be followed by the withdrawal of all other left-centre or liberal candidates before the 8 April vote. Unfortunately, neither the MSZP-P or the LMP candidate appear enthusiastic about having a new and final poll conducted. The official line is that polling experts agree that with less than two weeks remaining before the vote, there is not enough time to conduct a representative and accurate poll in the district. The only problem with this explanation is that Mr. Fekete-Győr has contacted two reputable polling forms–Medián and Nielsen–and of the two Medián rapidly confirmed that they would be able to conduct a poll based on 1,000 responses within the given time-frame.

Even the 2014 election results show that Central Budapest is absolutely winnable for the left-centre opposition, if they get their act together. In 2014, on the party list, the election result in Central Budapest showed that Fidesz only won 31% of the votes. The joint opposition party list in 2014 garnered 24%, while LMP attracted 8%.

According to the most recent Republikon poll, the left-wing stands to win 13 out of 18 electoral districts. Of these, MSZP-P would win 8 and the Democratic Coalition would take 5. Republikon has MSZP-P winning in Central Budapest, but only by a hair. Fidesz would garner 36.6% and MSZP-P would take 37%.

The Republikon poll also has Attila Ara-Kovács of the Democratic Coalition taking back Budapest’s Józsefváros-Ferencváros from Fidesz–though again, Republikon predicts an extremely tight result: 37% for DK and 36% for Fidesz.

Republikon predictions for Budapest. Orange: Fidesz, Red: MSZP-P and blue: DK.

In terms of the rest of the country, the Republikon projects suggests that the left-wing opposition would win only a handful of districts, namely: an MSZP-P candidate would win one riding southwest of Budapest, in Pest county, one in Csongrád county also for MSZP-P and then a riding each in Baranya County and in Veszprém for the Socialists. DK would take one riding in Baranya county and Jobbik would win one riding in Heves county.

Based on my discussions with opposition activists and observers (of course, these are anecdotal), the Republikon poll might be underestimating Jobbik’s strength in rural and small-town Hungary. I sense that while many politicians and observers on the left are extremely reticent about cooperating with Jobbik to bring down Fidesz, ordinary left-leaning voters are far less finicky. As one such left-leaning activist explained to me: the left has itself to blame for its demise outside of Budapest, where it remains strong. In this case, it is not surprising if former MSZP voters look to Jobbik for change in larger numbers.

If Republikon’s poll is accurate and does not overestimate Fidesz support in the countryside, Fidesz will win a reduced majority on 8 April.

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