2014 will be a hot year for Hungary from a political point of view. There are three elections to look forward to this year: Parliamentary, European and local elections. Everyone who ever experienced an election campaign in Hungary knows: in the local political arena it is a life-and-death battle. The left and the right sides are enemies for life, with the two large political sides almost hermetically separated from each other. This also casts a shadow on the social interactions of the Hungarian people; in this country there are practically two publics and therefore also two realities.
While one part of the country only looks at media that supports the ruling national conservative government of Viktor Orbán, the other part directs its attention only to the left media – even the so-called intellectuals and opinion leaders from both groups are no exception to this self-imposed blindness. The result is that instead of trying to converse with each other, the people only speak – mostly in a defamatory, hateful tone – past each other. It even happens that two people who have different political opinions cross swords in such a vehement way that it leads to a break in their relationship – even if they were friends for many years before or even relatives. This is how far the political reality divides the country.
Parties target undecided and passive voters
The two major projects on which the parties will be working in the months before the parliamentary elections are, firstly, winning over undecided voters and, secondly, mobilising their own supporters who have not decided yet if they will participate at the elections or not. Consequently, besides trying to catch voters the parties will fight with all their power to discredit each other word by word.
While the governing party Fidesz will present the left wing as a bunch of corrupt and incompetent people who destroyed the country’s economy during their governance between 2002 and 2010, the multicolour left side will describe Orbán and his government as anti-democratic and dictatorial. However, there will be other fields where multiple perceptions of reality will be demonstrated, especially when talking about the state of the national economy.
While Orbán and Fidesz will surely talk about the successes and victories of the past four years in the field of economic policy – where the fat reductions of the utility costs (“rezsicsökkentés”) will play a central role – what will the left side be telling? Yes, exactly: they will say the exact opposite. Meaning they will try to convince voters that the economy is heading in the wrong direction – with dramatic undertones, of course.
Many parties will not make it into Parliament
Concerning the parties, only four to five of them will make it into the Parliament, where there will be only 200 representatives instead of the present 368 in the coming legislation period. Besides Fidesz, only the Socialists (MSZP) and the right-radical Jobbik can be sure that they will meet the requirements. These three political parties are followed by the “Together – Dialogue for Hungary”, which is led by ex-prime minister Gordon Bajnai (2009-2010), and the Democratic Coalition (DK) of earlier former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, which might still have realistic chances to reach the necessary 5%.
The green party “Politics Can Be Different” (LMP) will most likely not make it. Not to mention the Hungarian Liberals led by Gábor Fodor, the Socialist Union led by ex-parliamentary president Katalin Szili (2002-2010), the “Movement for a Modern Hungary” led by ex-minister of finance Lajos Bokros (1995-1996) and the social-democratic party 4K! led by András Istvánffy.
Governing party enters elections with best chances
The winners of the election will be Fidesz and a left coalition of MSZP, “Together – Dialogue for Hungary” and DK, and likely the current governing party will gain a clear majority or even a two-thirds majority. The performance of the left coalition is uncertain because this alliance does not exist yet (only MSZP and Bajnai’s party could agree to have a loose cooperation during the elections). Even if both Bajnai and MSZP leader Attila Mesterházy have hinted that they might enter into an agreement with Gyurcsány’s party, it is still in the air. Gyurcsány has been speaking for a long time about a broad left-side electoral coalition. Even if it happens, the left would have serious difficulties beating Orbán and Fidesz. (See update, Page 11)
Looking at LMP, which entered the political stage in 2010 with the catchy slogan “Politics can be different”, we can state that they show a fragmented and broken picture and cannot compete with the “established” political forces any more.
Radical right likely to remain in Parliament
Finally, there is the right-radical party Jobbik led by Gábor Vona. The party seems to have lost some of its appeal in the past few years, because Fidesz has dealt with most of the topics raised by Jobbik and it has lost a lot from its radicalism within the walls of the Parliament. While it is certain that Jobbik will not be able to reproduce the outstanding result in the 2010 elections (16.7%), it is quite sure that the party will enter Parliament thanks to its young and highly active electoral base.
The seventh democratic elections since the political system change will be held in April. In the previous elections the right and left sides have each won three (right in 1994, 2002 and 2010; left in 1994, 2002 and 2006).
The Hungarian Liberals have pointed to some serious inconsistencies in electoral regulations when it comes to the question of citizens who are staying abroad at the time of the poll. The facts are: while those Hungarians who have their permanent residence abroad can send their votes comfortably via mail, those citizens who have permanent residence in Hungary, but at the time of the elections are staying abroad for study, work or holiday, may only make their votes personally at a Hungarian diplomatic institution (embassy or consulate). This differentiation contradicts the constitutional right of equal treatment according to the Liberals, since those citizens who have to vote at the diplomatic institutions must take up travel stress and costs in order to be able to practise their right to vote. For this reason the Liberals turned to the ombudsman to examine whether the different approaches violate the constitutional principle of equal treatment or not. The Liberals also called attention to the fact that in Great Britain, for example, there are more than a hundred thousand migrant workers residing. These Hungarians emigrated mostly due to the bad economic policies of Viktor Orbán, according to the Liberals, and he is now punishing them by discrimination.
Since 2010 Hungarians living abroad can now get citizenship in an emergency procedure, and more than 500,000 people have availed themelves of this opportunity. Around 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians are living in the neighbouring countries as minority groups.