The Hungarian election: A day after

I’m in the middle of reading a slim volume by György Bolgár, the “Dear Mr. Bolgár” of the call-in program “Let’s Talk It Over” on Klubrádió. His latest book is Poligráf, a word that needs no translation. In every short chapter he refutes another lie of Viktor Orbán.

If Bolgár had waited a month or so he could have added another chapter to the book: Viktor Orbán’s claim of “national unity.” In his acceptance speech Orbán said that what his party achieved is “a European record. This is a fact that gives us the right to say, and not just to say but also to be proud of the fact that Hungary is the most unified country in Europe.”  First of all, that “record” is nothing to be terribly proud of. In fact, in comparison to Fidesz’s most successful showing in 2010, the party lost over twenty percent of its voters. As 444‘s reporter pointed out, in 2002 and again in 2006 Fidesz lost the election with more votes than it got this time around. Others remarked that the last time Fidesz did so badly was in 1998.

As for “national unity” here are some figures. Fidesz won 44.36%, Unity Alliance 25.89%, Jobbik 20.46%, and LMP 5.24% of the votes. Do these figures suggest that Hungary is “the most unified country in Europe”? Surely not. The super majority that Fidesz may (probably will) achieve is the result of a cleverly devised electoral law, not the popular will. Unity? No, electoral manipulation. That’s the reality behind this fantastic European record.

Source: Index

Source: Index

A Fidesz super majority naturally means a system that discriminates against other parties. Both the Unity Alliance and Jobbik ended up with much smaller parliamentary representations than their actual performance would have warranted. In part that was achieved by the split between seats won outright and seats allocated on the basis of party lists. In any event, a totally unrepresentative parliament will convene after the formation of the third Orbán government.

It is now time to talk about Jobbik, the neo-Nazi party. Yes, it gained about 130,000 new voters. At the moment there are close to a million Jobbik voters in Hungary. Most of these voters came from Fidesz, which lost all told about 700,000 voters. Many people are very concerned about the growth of Jobbik. Some foresee a Hungary which will soon be run by neo-Nazis. The people who seem most concerned about Jobbik are also certain that the Hungarian Left’s poor showing will result in their total disappearance from the political scene. They envisage a second Poland where the Left was pretty well left for dead.

I’m a great deal less gloomy on the subject. First of all, in the twentieth century Hungarian extremist parties didn’t have long life expectancies. One year the Arrow Cross party had at least a million voters but a year later they lost most of their support. Moreover, these extremist parties have a tendency to splinter. A number of Jobbik members of parliament have already left the party for ideological reasons. In my opinion, Jobbik’s recent rise in the polls has two main causes. One is that the party leadership toned down their racist propaganda. And second, Fidesz made no attempt to curb their activities. Fidesz’s propaganda was directed against the Unity Alliance and specifically against Ferenc Gyurcsány; Jobbik remained untouched by the Fidesz propaganda machine. Although Jobbik did well at the polls, its leadership is still dissatisfied. Party chief Gábor Vona himself lost to a Fidesz candidate in one of the strongest Jobbik strongholds in northeastern Hungary. Moreover, his unreasonably high expectations for Jobbik’s performance might prompt a serious debate within the party about the efficacy of the new ideological line which didn’t bring about the desired results. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some serious disagreements about the future course of the party.

Finally, let’s talk about those who are ready to condemn the whole nation for voting for autocracy, semi-dictatorship, and servitude. Again, let’s see the figures. Out of the whole electorate only 27.30% voted for Fidesz, 17.87% for Unity Alliance, 12.31% for Jobbik, 3.23% for LMP, and 2.61% for other smaller parties. And yes, 38.81% didn’t bother to vote at all. It is true that almost two-thirds of those who did vote cast their votes for the Right–that is, for either Fidesz or Jobbik. But that is still not the whole country. And at least a vote for Jobbik was not a vote for autocracy.

One problem is that Hungarians’ attitude toward democracy is ambivalent, due mainly to ignorance and undereducation. Instilling an understanding of the importance of democracy should be the first task the democratic parties to tackle. Without a democratically-minded population one cannot build a democratic society.

Finally, let’s see what the International Election Observation Mission of OSCE had to say about the election:

The 6 April parliamentary elections were efficiently administered and offered voters a diverse choice following an inclusive candidate registration process. The legal framework for these elections was amended substantially in recent years. While some changes were positive, a number of amendments negatively affected the election process, including important checks and balances. The main governing party enjoyed an undue advantage because of restrictive campaign regulations, biased media coverage and campaign activities that blurred the separation between political party and the State.

The Fundamental Law (the constitution) and a large number of cardinal laws, including electoral legislation, were passed using procedures that circumvented the requirement for public consultation and debate. This undermined support and confidence in the reform process. A number of aspects of this legal overhaul undermined checks and balances, such as a reduction of the oversight powers of the Constitutional Court.

In a widely welcomed change, legal amendments reduced the number of parliamentary seats from 386 to 199, necessitating alteration in constituency delimitation. The legal requirement to have constituencies of a more equal size is positive. However, the need for a two-thirds majority for redrawing of constituency boundaries may make it difficult to change the boundaries in the future. The delimitation process was criticized by several OSCE/ODIHR LEOM interlocutors for lacking transparency and inclusiveness. There were allegations of gerrymandering; it remains to be seen how this translates into results.

Well, by now we know how all this translated into results. Meanwhile, the Hungarian Embassy in Washington wrote to “Friends of Hungary” that “during the course of the election, monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) said they were satisfied with the voting process.” Surely, if we think of process as “a series of actions, changes, or functions bringing about a result,” then the Hungarian government isn’t telling the whole truth. The Election Observation Mission’s report didn’t express complete satisfaction with the process and the final word will be coming only when the results are final. I assume that, after analyzing the votes and how they got translated into seats, the final report will contain serious reservations about the “process” carefully devised by Fidesz to retain a super majority far into the future.

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107 comments

  1. We can add another new lie to Viktor Orbán’s list. He promised that the government will have a calm discussion on the issue of the controversial monument the government wants to erect to commemorate the German occupation of Hungary on Mach 19, 1944. Well, he lied. Work on the monument began this morning, Easter Sunday will be on April 20.

  2. The liberals of Budapest must be humiliated. They will be. That is Orban’s and his circle’s (including Jobbik) foremost goal. They are bullies and just love to torment liberals. They will continue to do so. The German memorial is only the very beginning. The election results are a new reminder to everybody who doubted his power — he is here, stronger than almost any politician in Europe, and given the election system, he is here to stay. In four years he will methodically demolish any sings of a liberal Budapest, which will be gone for good, never to return.

    He is purposefully showing to everybody that he can lie, he can steal, he can bully everybody and nobody can do a thing — his constituency adores him and will be enough to vote him back to power for elections to come.

    In addition there are the Jobbik voters, which are considered reserve Fidesz voters. As Fidesz could engineer a coalition with them rather easily. Now that Jobbik is de facto mainstream, Fidesz can even more easily work with them if necessary (not yet, although they do work together behind the scenes).

  3. @latefor

    So, because the majority of Hungarians are christians, it is ok to call the country Christian Hungary, huh?

    Wow. Hungarians are ever so smart and hip.

    Who’s going to inform the Italians, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese…et. al…that they’re ‘out of the loop’…that to be au courant, they must rename themselves like the heroic Hungarians?

    And what about jews? They’ve only got one country but so far have restrained themselves from designating it as “jewish Israel”. I wonder why.

    AND, as for serving the best interests of “INNOCENT JEWS IN HUNGARY”…what exactly does that mean? Are you referring to those guilty jews who still insist on using the blood of innocent Christian virgins in the making of matzah? (Let me assure you that those matzos are
    specialty items and are rarely purchased by todays cheap jews. So there’s hardly any demand…)

    My god, now I know why Lao Tzu went over the wall…

  4. @latefor

    My last sally.
    My advice, sir, is that you google Diogenes. It may lead you to some understanding.
    What’s more Provocation can sometimes lead to Enlightenment…but I warn you, sir, for some
    it is a long and wearying road…

  5. @Petofi – Dear God, you are an EXPERT at twisting, confusing and provoking! I’m NOT going to be drawn into your twisted argument. God bless.

  6. Can somebody provide quotes for such advocating?

    2012:
    Mr Gyongyosi said: “Jews are looking to build outside of Israel. There is a kind of expansionism in their behaviour. If Peres is supporting colonisation, it is a natural reaction for people to feel that Jews are not welcome here.”

    Is that all? A quote taken from a speech out of context by a hostile journalist is a prove to you of the party’s intention to expel the Jews? What about their program? You will not find something like this in their program, right?

  7. @whoever – Would you please ask Eva to take away the quotation mark of your answer #36. It looks like you are quoting me and I’m NOT happy! Please use your own thoughts in the future. Thank you.

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