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.

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