A statistical analysis of individual voting districts by        Gordon Bajnai’s foundation

Gordon Bajnai, prime minister during one of the most challenging times in recent Hungarian history, established a foundation called “Haza és Haladás” (Homeland and Progress), which took its name from the title Lajos Kossuth gave to his proposal for a constitution. The goal of the foundation is to assist good governance in the interest of the public good. Twice a year they publish studies that may be useful for those who are engaged in or even just interested in politics. The study I’m going to look at describes and gives advice on how the democratic opposition may be able to win the elections in 2014.

The study is called “Átbillenteni, visszaszerezni, meghódítani” (To tip over, to win back, to gain support) and was written by Viktor Szigetvári and Balázs Vető. It is a very thorough examination of the voting behavior of 106 individual districts based on earlier elections.

The first thing we must keep in mind is that the new election law passed by the two-thirds majority of the governing party created entirely new districts primarily because the size of the Hungarian parliament was substantially reduced. Instead of 386 seats the parliament after the 2014 elections will have only 199 seats. The new districts were drawn with the interests of Fidesz in mind.

The second change is that from here on there will be only one round of voting; whoever gets the most votes will automatically win. Gone is the advantage of the second round that allowed parties to make deals among themselves. Those who trailed badly could drop out and endorse the candidate for another party, giving him a better chance of winning.

One also has to keep in mind that in addition to the 106 individual districts there will be 93 members of parliament who will receive mandates on the basis of party lists. That is, every voter will cast two ballots: one for an individual running in his district and another for his favorite party.

Before the authors begin their examination of the individual districts, they briefly describe their findings on party lists. A party would have to receive 38% of the votes in order to get 34-36 seats out of the 93. If that same party were to get 40-45% of the votes it would receive 39-43 seats and 50% would yield 46-47 seats. For a simple majority the party would have to win in 65-70 of the 106 individual districts.

According to the authors, for a democratic coalition to win the next elections is not an impossibility but it will not be an easy task. An absolute must is to reclaim the northeastern counties that were lost to Jobbik in 2010. To convince the disappointed people outside of Budapest that it is worth returning to the left. Plus, it is essential to get new voters, especially in the western parts of the country where MSZP has traditionally been weak. A tall order indeed.

Szigetvári and Vető make it clear that no party that doesn’t have approximately equal strength throughout the country can win the elections. At present, although Fidesz has lost about 1.5 million voters, the party’s support is fairly even across the country. In the southern part of the Great Plains it stands at 26%, in the northern Great Plains at 26%, in Northern Hungary at 25%, in southern Transdanubia at 19%, in western Transdanubia 24%, in middle Transdanubia 24%, and mid-Hungary at 26%. MSZP’s support is definitely not so geographically homogeneous. It has relatively high support in Northern Hungary (22%) but, for example, in western Transdanubia it has only 8% support. Thus, if MSZP is planning to be a serious contender it must somehow change these statistics. As for LMP, according to the authors, if the party ran on its own it would be able to garner maybe three to five seats.

Thus any political party under the present circumstances must think in terms of cooperation. Only one common candidate can run in any of the 106 individual districts. Otherwise, their chances are nil. That one candidate might come from a newly established party in which all democratic parties unite or form some kind of temporary alliance designed for the elections only. There are problems with this second arrangement, however, because according to the new House Rules no party can form a separate parliamentary delegation that didn’t run as an individual party at the elections.

The different types of individual electoral districts nationwide, Haza és Haladás

The authors describe seven different types of individual districts: (1) districts where voters are committed to the left (red); (2) districts the left should be able to tip over in its favor (yellow); (3) districts that could be won back in mid-size and larger cities (pink); (4) districts in which Jobbik, Fidesz, and the left are fairly equally represented (dark blue); (5) districts that should be won over from Fidesz (green); (6) districts that should be won over where both Fidesz and Jobbik are fairly strong (light blue); and finally (7) solidly and fairly permanently pro-Fidesz (orange).

And how many and what kinds of districts the opposition must win, Haza és Haladás

After a thorough study of the possible results of these 106 voting districts, the authors come to the conclusion that for a victory by a united left there need to be sixteen districts where voters are committed to the left (red); sixteen the left should be able to tip over in its favor (yellow); six that could be won back in mid-size and larger cities (pink); eleven in which Jobbik, Fidesz, and the left are fairly equally represented (dark blue); fifteen that should be won over from Fidesz (green); fourteen that should be won over where both Fidesz and Jobbik are strong (light blue), thus leaving Fidesz with 28 districts.

It is obvious that Bajnai’s think-tank published this study in order to nudge the parties and movements on the left. It is a clear signal to LMP that going it alone is not an option. It is also a warning to MSZP, which lately has been perhaps too self-confident, that without outside help it is unlikely to win the elections. Perhaps this hard-nosed study might make the party leaders and the anti-party civic movement rethink their current positions. Making a decision is a must and it should be done sooner rather than later.



  1. To my mind, the merit of this study lies in its honesty: Nobody is going to unseat Orbán at the next election (if there is one), and probably not thereafter. The authors mentioned the crucial points for “a victory by a united left”. Whatever other intentions they had mentioning them, for all practical purposes the critical mass of voters and districts won’t materialize, much less a “united left”. I think this can be assumed as a given.

    But I truly admire those who soldier on in the face of adversity – and don’t simply leave the country. However, I know of Jewish businessmen who made sure they had no belongings within Hungary anymore except what fits in a small suitcase – and their company that they keep operating (without investing) until they feel it’s time to go.

  2. The Bito Galamus article has explained many aspects of the FIDESZ tyranny.

    It is dreadful that very few people see the many negative aspects of the Orban rule like Laszlo Bito.

    The same apathy can shock us from reading on Horthy, Kadar, etc.

    Bajnai and all progressive institutes must drive a hard campaign to wake up the Hungarian people from this sacral acceptance of tyrants, because many smart demagogues are waiting in line after Orban is finished.

    Moldova (and Akos Kertesz) could write about the eternal Hungarian father, who greats the soldiers of all political era at the railway platform emotionally perfectly connected. It is the Hungarian sacral Santa. The Gábor Barcsa-Turners are plenty. Their their parents and teachers did fail us by allowing these children to grow into such monsters.

    The current elderly ruling politicians are those parents.

  3. Minusio :

    Ah, yes: And what about Budapest? It’s all white on the map…

    Maybe I should have included the map of Budapest. It is largely red and yellow. There is only one small orange section in the richest sections of Buda.

  4. London Calling!

    This study is very thorough but the elephant in the room is the most likely possibility of an extremely low turnout – skewing the representation in Fidesz’ favour.

    This form of electoral system more usually results in coalition governments – as evidenced by our Welsh and Scottish assemblies.

    But in Hungary’s case, this means that the opposition will be more divided and fractured – if the more determined Fiddesz get their voters out.

    With the rule change of only one round – there will be no possibility of the opposition parties maximizing their votes through ‘deals’.

    All the signs are that the turnout will be extremely low – the ennui and lack of political motivation will advantage Fiddesz – and the whitewash will be absolute.

    So this proportional voting system unusually favours Orban’s government – another perfect circle: low turnout favouring the incumbents; ‘list’ (buddy) MPs continuing the embezzlement; fewer (gerrymandered) constituencies; divided and squabbling opposition parties – which would have to be unusually (impossibly?) united to win; a post-communism electorate who will refuse to vote through fear and disillusion; and a single round voting system.

    Just bring in registration, Orban – and you will have stitched up the electoral system like a kipper.



  5. One of the problems (yegads, there are so many!) is that there are Left “ideals” and Right “ideals” but no
    Universal ideals which are thought to be a Western
    trick. (Such are the victories of Russia–KGB/FSB–and Communism).

    There’s next to no possibility for a united opposition..since betrayal is a Hungarian specialty. Add to the special pleasure of skewering someone the
    unlimited financial resources of Fidesz and their backers and it becomes more than a mere mountain
    to climb.

    In any case, any serious attempt at cohesion would’ve
    begun with the acknowledgement that there is one and only one person to lead such a coalition and that is
    BAJNAI. Already, if intentions were serious, moves
    could’ve been made drafting Bajnai and marshaling the
    opposition forces behind it. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for the likes of Schiffer or Szanyi to do
    the right thing.

  6. ooo Tears is rightly points out that there is apathy now. I think he is right. In 1956 people fought for change, until 1989 hoped for change, after 1989 believed in change, and in reality by today for most many things changed for the worst (job security, education, employment, democracy, equality, etc.)
    Whoever retired by now, their life is very much set, and no political changes will ultimately have any effects (except of you are a Jew, gipsy or homosexual).
    If you are employed, you are fearful to speak up or even vote properly as Fidesz very much promises that they are watching you and tracking you.
    If you are young enough, you could care less, because you are busy to find some opportunities outside of the Homeland, so you can live it to to chest-banging Barcsa-Turners to stick it up.
    Yes, many misguided Hungarians will flood the polls in order to “protect their country” from the gypsies, Jews, homosexuals and all the foreign interest that is standing by to pick this gem with all their friendly inhabitants and economically promising hidden secrets to turn it to their own benefit.

  7. no-Tears :

    HVG – Orban lecture at Tusnádfürdő – http://hvg.hu/itthon/20120728_Orban_tusvanyosi_beszed?FullComment=true#comments

    There is a light inpatient general simmering uprising in Hungary. The apathy may end soon.

    By reading the comments, we can see that many readers are outraged about the crimes of Orban Viktor!

    There will be a hot autumn Budapest.

    I don’t know about the hot summer but I also noticed the different tone of the comments. In the past even Népszabadság was full of antagonistic, pro-Fidesz comments. Now they are few and far between. One here and one there and the others put him down in unison.

  8. This “tipping it over” idea is a wishful thinking that the Hungarian election campaign will work like the American, where the candidates literally get out and roam the streets to convince their voters that their way is the good way.

    The name of the Hungarian voting lottery is undecided voters. The number of undecideds are approaching the 60% now. Everybody is dreaming about them like the million dollar jackpot. Most of them, aside of the usual apathetic bunches, are MSZP defectors. They gave the FIDESZ 53% of the votes in 2010. Now part of them (4%) is already back unconditionally in the MSZP camp but the rest is still in the undecided column. Actually the “undecided” means “I’m not telling you because whatever I’ll vote I’ll be ashamed of myself”.

    The FIDESZ hopes that these people will give them a chance for the second round. The angle of attack should be something like “Don’t give up! Be patient! Give us more time …”.

    The MSZP will be like “Look what you did! Bring us back until not too late!”.

    There is also a novel idea of “the third pole” which is the LMP and the grass root movements like the Milla (One Million for the Freedom of Press). They hope that the undecided are so fed up that they will want to try something new that has nothing in common with the present political parties.

    And of course there is the possibility that the undecided try something new. Like “Screw it! I don’t care. I really stay home!”.

    My money is 50% “Screw it” and 50% “Give Orban another chance”. The campaign will be mostly emotional without well articulated alternatives. That would be too much work …

    So I’m undecided too …

    The FIDESZ will continue the destruction in the society and the economy. If they manage to get money from the IMF they will blow it on welfare. Nothing will change.

    If the present MSZP comes back the social erosion will stop, they will undo a few things, but they also will take more loans and spend it the wrong way.

    The “third pole”. Amateurs.

    All three are sure ways to fell off the cliff in the next curve. You can pick who’s car do you want to be in. The shock therapy of a bankrupt country is unavoidable.

    Now convince me I’m wrong …

  9. Petrovics: “There’s next to no possibility for a united opposition..since betrayal is a Hungarian specialty”

    Do you think that this type of sentences will turn folks “red”?

  10. no tears: “There will be a hot autumn Budapest.”

    Must be global warming……This type of threats are also considered useful???? These are the issues for which I wrote that do not be surprised by the response.

  11. Louis Kovach :
    Petrovics: “There’s next to no possibility for a united opposition..since betrayal is a Hungarian specialty”
    Do you think that this type of sentences will turn folks “red”?

    Louis K,

    Just telling it like it is.

    Ok, I’ll embellish with an anecdote.
    My mother was a Szerb from the Vojvodina. Her
    father mainly employed Hungarians on the family estate because they worked better than Szerbs (back then before the war, anyway). But while my mother loved Hungarian music, dance and poetry, she warned me to beware of Hungarians. She said Szerbs told you to your face what they thought; Hungarians say endearing things but, given the chance, will stick the knife in your back…and twist it. Have seen the proof of that several times.

    I’m Hungarian Louis, but luckily I grew up in Canada and have learned to see things
    as they are.

  12. Louis Kovach :
    no tears: “There will be a hot autumn Budapest.”
    Must be global warming……This type of threats are also considered useful???? These are the issues for which I wrote that do not be surprised by the response.

    Louis, Louisa, that’s not a threat..that’s prognostication. A ‘threat’ is what that idiot wrote
    in the letter.

    Now, you want ‘useful’? Nothing is useful: the people are mired in nationalistic notions
    and, when Orban will call for it–self-sacrifice. For instance, Orban may well ask the populace to sacrifice their democratic rights to vote in face of an imminent putsch; and the people, like salmon swimming upstream, will rise to the occasion.

    All that’s missing is a salute. I don’t know what the Felcsutians use nowadays.

  13. Louis Kovach :
    Petrovics: “There’s next to no possibility for a united opposition..since betrayal is a Hungarian specialty”
    Do you think that this type of sentences will turn folks “red”?

    Because the opposition is “red” and “red” is bad … Kovach, you’re a joke.

  14. The question is not who will win the next election, it is obvious that Fidesz will win easily. The question is what will happen afterwards.

    How much further can OV screw Hungary? Will the opposition get its act together any more in the following 4 years than they did in the preceding?

    And will we be saying exactly the same things in 2016? I fear we will.

    Our only hope is some form of Orbán/Fidesz-Jobbik self-destruction. But what sort of mess would that leave behind, and how will it get cleared up – and by whom?

    My in-laws are in their mid-60s – I fear they aren’t going to see much in the way of good news in Hungary in their life-times.

  15. I, too, fear we will (be saying exactly the same things in 2016). As long as Orbán stays in the EU and he gets the taxes from the approx. 750 000 employees working for foreign-owned firms he can go on for quite a while. I dread to imagine what might come after him.

    I am almost certain that in the end it will be street riots that will unseat him. But they are far off, too. I see no orderly opposition with any chances within the next eight years.

  16. Minusio wrote earlier that Hungarian Jews are packing. Not just Jews. Everybody who has a chance. I don’t know whether it is true or not but I heard in an interview with Lajos Korózs (MSZP) that only from Komló, an old mining town close to Pécs, 4,000 people left for abroad already. Komló’s population is 25,000.

  17. Mutt: “Because the opposition is “red” and “red” is bad … Kovach, you’re a joke.”

    It was Dr Balogh who published the map with the MSzP strongholds shown in red not me.

  18. Louis Kovach :
    Mutt: “Because the opposition is “red” and “red” is bad … Kovach, you’re a joke.”
    It was Dr Balogh who published the map with the MSzP strongholds shown in red not me.

    Oh, it’s the pretty color that caught your attention. Sorry.

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