Viktor Orbán’s regime suffers biggest loss in a generation

On paper, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party won the European Parliamentary elections in Hungary — even though the ruling party’s share of the vote decreased by eight percentage points compared to five years earlier. In the local elections also held June 9th, Fidesz’s vote share dropped nearly everywhere — and in some places by significant margins. While Mr. Orbán was quick to claim overall victory in both the EP and local elections, there’s no doubt who the real winner is, and it’s an earthquake of a political event. The 43 year-old Péter Magyar’s centrist TISZA Party — established barely three months ago — received 30% of the vote, becoming the country’s second largest political party quite literally from nowhere. How much politics can change in a few short months.

Péter Magyar

TISZA (an acronym that stands for Respect and Freedom, but is also the name of a major river in eastern Hungary) isn’t quite nipping at the heels of Fidesz yet. The ruling party still won 45% in the EP election, TISZA received 30%, the left-centre Democratic Coalition/Hungarian Socialist Party/Párbeszéd together won just 8% and the far-right Mi Hazánk earned 7%. According to reports, TISZA’s Budapest street celebrations last night were so loud and exuberant that they could be heard up in the Buda Castle, at the prime minister’s headquarters. In stark contrast, however, Hungary’s traditional left-centre opposition parties had nothing to celebrate at all. Their 8% result is disastrous. The Democratic Coalition, the Socialists and Párbeszéd will now face calls to step aside and make way for TISZA, ahead of national elections in less than two years.

It will be an exceedingly bitter pill to swallow in traditional opposition ranks. On the one hand, TISZA has punched holes into the seemingly impenetrable Fidesz fortress. On the other hand, this newcomer party — headed by a man who a few years ago was not only a beneficiary of the Fidesz regime, but moved within the inner circles of that hated system —  has demolished centre-left parties that have spent the past 14 years fighting Mr. Orbán, and had the many battle scars to prove it.  With results like these, it’s hard to see a way back for the Hungarian Socialist Party — the country’s former governing party and dominant political force — nor for the Democratic Coalition, founded by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and led in this election by his wife, Klára Dobrev. They have been abandoned by most of their voters.

Fidesz will send 11 politicians to sit in the European Parliament and TISZA sends 7. DK/MSZP/Párbeszéd will send 2 and the far right Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland) sends 1.

In Budapest, the left-centre opposition retained the mayor’s office, but just barely. Gergely Karácsony of MSZP/DK/Párbeszéd remains Mayor of Budapest, winning 47.53% of the vote, compared to Dávid Vitézy’s 47.49%. Mr. Karácsony won by little over 300 votes. Mr. Vitézy, running under the banner of the ostensibly left-centre Lehet Más a Politika party (LMP), is a family friend of the Orbáns. He earned the late endorsement of the Fidesz regime, after Mr. Orbán ruthlessly dumped and pulled its own candidate, Alexandra Szentkirályi, three days before vote — after it became clear that she couldn’t win, but that Mr. Vitézy might pull it off. TISZA didn’t field a candidate for Budapest mayor, nor did it formally endorse Mr. Karácsony. This earned Mr. Magyar some criticism in left-centre circles.

While Fidesz’s vote share dropped in the EP elections, the decline was more pronounced in some critical local votes. The most staggering Fidesz loss occurred in Budapest 12th district — the leafy Buda suburb that has been known as a right-centre bastion for many elections. The satirical Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party dislodged Fidesz here and won the district with a 54% vote share. If there is any result that should set off alarm bells in Fidesz headquarters, it is this one. Fidesz came in a distant second with 40%. I have no clue how the satirical party is going to govern the district — they’ve never governed anything before. The big take-away is that a solid Budapest bastion of the ruling party decided to mutiny.

Another major loss for Fidesz occurred in the northwestern Hungarian city of Győr. The ruling party lost the mayor’s office to an independent candidate called Bence Pintér. As well, Fidesz lost the town of Szolnok — the new mayor there will be an independent.

Outside Budapest, the overall map of Hungary is still rather drenched in Fidesz party orange. It’s when one digs deeper that rumblings below the surface become clearer and the spectrum of party colours seems more diverse. TISZA had the luxury of focusing on the EP elections and putting all its resources into that fight. It proved to be an adept political strategy. Mr. Magyar has overturned the political chessboard in Hungary and rode a wave of anger following the Orbán regime’s pedophile cover-up scandal — which not only ended the career of the country’s President and convenient Fidesz scapegoat, Katalin Novák, but showed the Orbán regime’s claims of Christian virtue and family values to be the sham that they always were.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *