One was serious. The other wasn’t, but not without its lessons.
Let’s talk first about the serious one: a by-election in Dunaújváros, formerly an MSZP stronghold. After all, we mustn’t forget that once upon a time it was called Sztálinváros.
There seems to be a curse on politicians in Dunaújváros. Since the 2010 local elections four by-elections had to be held in the city, three because of the death of the incumbent. Fidesz won all of them, though this latest was not exactly a resounding success. Not even Magyar Nemzet dared to call it that. Instead the paper’s headline said: “Huge defeat for MSZP!” Well, we’ll see how enormous the defeat was.
We should start with this latest by-election and compare its results to the outcomes in 2010. Not surprisingly, fewer people bothered to vote than two years ago. Then 36.25% of the eligible voters cast their ballots as opposed to this year when only 20.73% showed up. In 2010 the Fidesz candidate bettered his MSZP rival by more than 10% (42.63% to 31.87%). This time the Fidesz and the MSZP candidates were neck to neck. The winner, Mrs. Zoltán Nagy, received 295 votes (35.33%) against the MSZP candidate András Magyar’s 283 votes (33.89%). The defeat, in brief, was not so overwhelming as Magyar Nemzet tried to make out.
The overwhelming defeat belongs to the LMP candidate Ákos Gergely who in 2010 received 109 votes (7.62%) while this year only 14 people voted for him (1.68%). One of the oddities of this particular by-election was Erzsébet Kozma’s decision to run as an independent when two years ago she was Jobbik’s candidate and received almost 18% of the votes (17.87%). As an independent she got only 110 votes (13.17%). However, Jobbik had its own candidate who received 56 votes (6.71%). Thus, followers of the far right still have a fairly strong presence in Dunaújváros.
This was the first time that the Demokratikus Koalíció ran in an election. Their candidate was Zsolt Czuczor, who received 41 votes (4.49%), about the same percentage that DK can garner among eligible voters nationally. In addition, there was another independent candidate, Miklós Szilágyi, who received 4.31% of the votes. I have no idea where he stands politically.
If we add up the votes for the left opposition parties, together they could easily have defeated the Fidesz candidate. If we add up the right-wing votes (Fidesz, the “independent” and Jobbik), however, we come up with a staggering 52.91%.
One can safely say that voter inertia is substantial and that neither Fidesz nor MSZP can manage to get their voters out. At the by-elections on May 13 only 19.82% of the eligible voters showed up. This time it was about the same (20.73%). At the first by-election of the year (April 22) the Fidesz candidate won by only 26 votes and if LMP had joined forces with MSZP, they could have defeated Fidesz’s Gábor Takács. The same was true about the May 13 by-election. And yesterday, a DK-MSZP coalition could have prevailed.
Journalists naturally brought up the point during the press conference that DK’s Ágnes Vadai gave today. Vadai’s answer was that “the goal of DK is to achieve co-operation, but the chairman of MSZP didn’t ask DK to withdraw. In fact, he announced that ‘we can be victorious alone.’”
We mustn’t forget about Jobbik. At each of the three Dunaújváros by-elections Jobbik did relatively well. Every time I hear that the far right did well in former industrial centers I always have to think of the successes of the Arrow Cross party in 1939 and subsequently in the mining towns and in “Red Csepel,” the industrial center of Budapest. In the April by-elections Jobbik received 16%; in May 7.5%. If we combine yesterday’s results for the independent who two years ago was the Jobbik candidate and the “real” Jobbik candidate the total is nearly 20%. So if there is co-operation between Fidesz and Jobbik the democratic opposition forces would still be in the minority. At least in Dunaújváros. And today.
The other “election” wasn’t a serious one and wasn’t for real. ATV organized a championship of politicians where, somewhat similar to the EURO soccer championship, eventually a winner is declared. We must keep in mind that ATV is the television station of the democratic opposition and therefore the results are slanted. In the finals one could vote for either Gordon Bajnai or Ferenc Gyurcsány. Not by much, but Gyurcsány won. Why? Because DK managed to activate the party’s supporters. Just as the party calls attention to every appearance of a DK politician on television or radio, it also made sure that all the DK supporters would go and vote for Gyurcsány. The moral of the story is: get out there and scramble. That is what MSZP doesn’t quite know how to do.