Background


The EP election in Hungary has resulted • in a landslide victory of Fidesz, but because of the exaggerated expectations, the performance of the major opposition party (14 seats out of 22.56%, 1.6 million votes) were worse than the expectations of the party and the public opinion (15-17 mandates, above 60%, more than 2 million voters).

 

  • The low turnout (36%, compared to the 39% in 2004) was a great political advantage for the far-right Jobbik, proved to be extremely successful (3 mandates, 15%, more than 427 thousand votes) and significantly exceeded the anticipated level of support.
  • The results reflected the total collapse of the former coalition parties with socialist votes third of Fidesz’s (4 mandates, 17%) and SZDSZ falling out of the EP with a result that was well below the 5% threshold (2.2%).
  • MDF has succeeded in passing the threshold with 5.3 percent with Lajos Bokros on the first place of the list.
  • LMP (“Politics can be different”), a new-left green party could reach 2.6%, not enough for a mandate, but can be a good start for further broadening of their voter base.

 

The consequence of the results on the stability of the government and economic policies

  • The support behind the government became more fragile than before. A rapid decision of the parties supporting the government (MSZP and SZDSZ) on the early elections is not expected. An interim election would be against these parties’ interests and thus completely irrational as it could result in a tragic defeat of socialists and the disappearance of the liberal SZDSZ. But the poor results led to an outcry in both MSZP and SZDSZ parties, and the outcome of the internal conflicts is yet unpredictable. It cannot be excluded that there will be a fragmentation and a split in MSZP or SZDSZ (some signs of that have already appeared) and some parts of these parties can turn against the government and decide on voting for the dissolution of the parliament for personal or group interests (e.g. the socialists in the municipalities hope that they can strengthen until the 2010 autumn municipality elections in case Fidesz wins the early election and introduces austerity measures). The crucial moment can be the vote on the 2010 tax regulations in the Parliament on the 29th of June. If the bills are not accepted by the government, the government can fall.
  • The need of “softening” the program • of the government can become stronger among socialists. MSZP can put Bajnai under pressure to shift his program in a more popular direction. On the other hand, Gordon Bajnai has his own “blackmail potential” as well, as he can threaten the socialists with his resignation in case of uncertain support. Bajnai may have two more arguments to persuade the socialists to support the government:
  1.  
    1. According to most of the economists and the IMF, some signs of the economic growth can appear at the beginning of 2010, which can make a better environment for the socialists for the 2010 spring elections.
    2. The loosening of the fiscal target in accord with EU and IMF can make a broader room for manoeuvre for the construction of the 2010 budget. Even so, the debates over the 2010 budget between the government, the socialists and SZDSZ at the end of the year can pose a further threat to the stability of the government.

The middle and long-term consequences of the vote on the Hungarian political system

 

  • The two-third gain of Fidesz in the next parliamentary elections is possible, but in danger. Projecting the results on a hypothetical national parliamentary election, Fidesz could grab 272 out of 386 votes, thus taking more than two-thirds of the seats. But in a parliamentary election, the turnout is expected to be almost double (around 65-70 percent) than the current level, and the socialists can have some political reserves among the voters who were absent in the EP elections but will participate in 2010. Moreover, the result of Jobbik and MDF deteriorate further Fidesz’s chances to get a two-third majority in the national parliament.
  • The formerly rigid party system has completely transformed

 

  1. A massive shift to the right. Fidesz and Jobbik together have caught 71% of the votes, thus completely changing the former political landscape, where the left-wing and right-wing forces where fairly balanced. The previous three years in government have completely destroyed the left in Hungary, which will need at least some years to recover.
  2. The former two major parties - two small parties structure disappeared. The Hungarian political scenery is now composed of a major dominant party (Fidesz), two middle-sized parties (MSZP and Jobbik), a small party (MDF) and a new force that has a chance to strengthen and take away more votes from SZDSZ (LMP).

 

  • “Anti-Romaism” has appeared as a dominant force in party politics
    Besides the disappointment with the whole political elite, the poor performance of the government in the last 3 years and the economic crisis, the main reason for the strengthening of Jobbik is their intense and successful campaign against the Roma minority and “Roma crime”. While the former far right (e.g. MIÉP, a parliamentary party between 1998 and 2002) was focusing on anti-Semitism and their base was in the big cities and Budapest, Jobbik is building on anti-Roma prejudices, and proved to be much more successful in the countryside where the rate of Roma population is higher (see the graph below for details: the statistical link between the rate of Roma population and Jobbik results on the level of counties is extremely strong - Pearson Correlation Coefficient: R=0.76). If the parties and governments are unable to handle the deep crisis of the Roma integration, Jobbik can broaden further its voter base and fuel further ethnic conflicts in Hungary in the coming years.