“Budapest is different”: The Republikon Institute’s latest poll

First, a correction to yesterday’s post. My information on Lapkiadó was inaccurate. In addition to Lapkiadó, where Mónika Karas worked, there was another company called Hírlapkiadó. Both were involved in the publication of newspapers but it was the latter that was more closely linked to the upper echelons of the party. Those who are interested in the Kádár regime’s media structure should read a detailed description of what the author himself calls a very complicated edifice. The 2009 article by Róbert Takács appeared in Médiakutató.

Now let’s move on to a poll conducted by the Republikon Institute that describes itself as a liberal think tank.  Republikon decided to conduct a study of Budapest’s social and political makeup, the title of which is “Budapest is different.” It is, of course, well known that Budapest is politically different from the rest of the country. It is enough to recall the 2006 election when Fidesz was leading until the Budapest vote started coming in. Therefore it was somewhat surprising when Budapest voted overwhelmingly for Fidesz candidates in 2010, although by the time the municipal elections rolled around a few months later the MSZP candidate for mayor managed to have a respectable showing.

Although Budapest is not a microcosm of Hungary, it is still worth taking a closer look at the city and its people. The Republikon Institute’s poll was taken between February 16 and March 4. The researchers of the Institute conducted 3,000 personal interviews, on the basis of which they came up with their findings. In early July they conducted a follow-up poll (1,200 personal interviews) on the latest party preferences of the population of Budapest.

Here are a few figures, some of which I found surprising. For example, I didn’t realize that in Budapest 25% of the population have a university degree as opposed to 12% nationwide. I knew that average salaries are much higher in the capital than elsewhere, but I wouldn’t have guessed that 32% of Budapest families take home more than 250,000 forints monthly as opposed to the national average of 14%. And, although I suspected that the people of Budapest are even less religious than the average Hungarian, I was struck by the fact that 50% of them actually admitted that they don’t believe.

The poll takers inquired from people where they would place themselves socially and economically. In Budapest most people described themselves as belonging to the middle class (53%) while nationwide the figure is only 44%. The number of white collar workers (értelmiségiek) is also much higher than the national average: 35% versus 22%. The same disparity is true in the reverse about blue collar workers ( 21% versus 35%) and people who identify themselves as Roma (5% versus 9%).

When it comes to political views, 35% of  the people sympathize with the left as against 25% nationwide. Only 21% describe themselves as conservative as opposed 37% nationwide.

When the respondents were asked about their feelings on liberalism versus conservatism, liberals beat the conservatives 49% to 30%. However, political liberalism doesn’t automatically translate into liberalism in social matters. When it comes to bringing up children, the Budapest respondents stress obedience and a strict upbringing.  A good portion of these same “liberal” people also think that wives should stay at home, looking after the house and the children (34%).

On some other issues, however, they hold more liberal views. They disapprove of the nationalization of schools (48%) and have strong views about the role of the churches. “Churches should stick to their original mission” is the general verdict. Therefore 49% of them don’t like like the idea of parochial schools financed by their tax forints.

After this general probing into societal attitudes, Republikon’s analysts moved on to the population’s political views. They posed two questions. The first was “What kind of government would you welcome after 2014?” In Budapest 47% of the electorate would welcome a left-opposition government (baloldali-ellenzéki kormány) as opposed to the national average of 36%. In Budapest there is a hard core who would like to see the  Fidesz government continue (27% as opposed to 33% nationwide) while 9% would welcome Jobbik. Only 11% didn’t answer the question or didn’t know. Fewer than nationwide (15%). In July when Republikon repeated the question, the answers were very similar.

Which parties' candidates would you vote for? Republikon Institute

Which parties’ candidates would you vote for?
Republikon Institute

Finally, when the respondents were asked how they would actually vote, the party alliance of MSZP, Együtt 2014-PM, and DK came out the big winner: 50% of Budapesters would vote for such an alliance. Fidesz would receive 34%, Jobbik 12% and LMP 4%.

Yes, Budapest is different but will Budapest lead the way once the left-opposition alliance is finally cemented? According to Zoltán Szabó (DK), in the past this was the case. I didn’t try to check Szabó’s contention, but I do share his (and others’) belief that people will be more enthusiastic about voting for the opposition once the parties announce the formation of an electoral alliance. Finishing the current negotiations is of paramount importance.

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39 comments

  1. Yes, Budapest is different. And given the reduced sources of information countrywide, i.e. outside Budapest, the Budapest vote will make an important statement – but overall it is probably only a small dent. Orbán knows this, and that is why he hates the capital.

    As pollsters noted in Switzerland to their disadvantage, as soon as it comes to associating oneself openly with what is regarded as “mucky pups” in more high-brow circles, they lie.

    My recent experience in Budapest (July/August) lead me to believe that none (or very few) of the rather well-to-do are going to vote for Fidesz, but most won’t vote at all. – If this is true, the election will be decided by the Fidesz believers in the country – and, mostly, by the non-voters.

    Almost totally OT: In Tromsoe (North Norway) – where my girlfriend’s son now has a position at the university – there are 15 Hungarian bus drivers. They all came as a bunch, earn 1 million forint a month (which is more than 4400 USD) of which they send half of it home to their families.

  2. Here are a few figures, some of which I found surprising. For example, I didn’t realize that in Budapest 25% of the population have a university degree as opposed to 12% nationwide. I knew that average salaries are much higher in the capital than elsewhere, but I wouldn’t have guessed that 32% of Budapest families take home more than 250,000 forints monthly as opposed to the national average of 14%. And, although I suspected that the people of Budapest are even less religious than the average Hungarian, I was struck by the fact that 50% of them actually admitted that they don’t believe.

    About education and religion: the nominal percentages here differ from those of the 2011 census (probably because either the questions or the reference population aren’t the same), yet the gaps appear remarkably similar between the study and the census.

    I’m not sure though about the long term sociological trends in Bp’s demographics being in favor of the left.

  3. “Yes, Budapest is different but will Budapest lead the way once the left-opposition alliance is finally cemented? According to Zoltán Szabó (DK), in the past this was the case. I didn’t try to check Szabó’s contention, but I do share his (and others’) belief that people will be more enthusiastic about voting for the opposition once the parties announce the formation of an electoral alliance.”

    In a free, democratic, country, with a rational constitution and free and fair electoral system, and a free media – yes.

    Unfortunately, Orbán’s Hungary is none of those things.

  4. The differences between urban and rural populations in Budapest are significant (like education levels and liberal tendencies) but on other counts not as significant as in other outsize urban populations.

    For a while I have wondered whether this is associated with historical events like deportation..

    I’d be interested in views of more informed people on this.

  5. That’s exactly what Fidesz has always calculated with. They knew perfectly this is what was gonna happen. Nobody is surprised and nobody is scared at all, it’s absolutey in line with their plans.

    Budapest, however, can never compensate for Fidesz’ and Jobbik’s lead in the countryside, this is how the new election system is structured.

    Note that Fidesz has been in the last 10-15 years consistently for a system which they wanted to have geared towards individual districts (like in the US or the Britain, where you have only district elections), and MSZP has consistently wished for a party list only system (in which obviously the more active and liberal urban voters could have compensate for the rural conservatives). They both know where their (future) strengths lie: left is better in urban areas, conservatives in rural areas.

    Needless to say, Fidesz was successful in setting up a system that is extremely sophisticated and although it looks from afar that it has a significant party list element so even small parties can get in, in fact everything gets decided in the individual districts (so much so, that the overall winner of the district portion of the system gets awarded further ‘compensatory’ or rather affirmative seats).

    And the rules are as of today.

    Nobody prevents Orbán to amend to rules further, even a week before the elections. He has the 2/3s and so it’s perfectly legal as far as the European legal culture is concerned. They will accept the results anyway.

    For example, FIdesz might want increase the minimum votes a party needs to get into the Parliament from 5% to 6% (of course since such a party does not even get any individual MPs from the districts which make up the majority of the 200 places, a 5.1% result would mean 4-5 people in the Parliament, so actually about 2-2.5%) or Fidesz can play with the district borders further, so as to ring fence the Budapest voters even more (they are already compartmentalized), so that liberal voters would be concentrated and would not affect neighboring, more conservative districts. The list goes on.

    The rules of the game were prepared by Fidesz years before they became public (approved) and they have no scrouples to use their power. They are not the MSZP who wouldn’t dare to be tough even if they could be (because their internal lobbies and caucuses and oligarchs would dilute everything to death). It’s perfectly legal and this is what counts.

  6. NamNam :
    That’s exactly what Fidesz has always calculated with. They knew perfectly this is what was gonna happen. Nobody is surprised and nobody is scared at all, it’s absolutey in line with their plans.
    and MSZP has consistently wished for a party list only system

    I don’t understand party lists. Yeah, I’ve had it explained to me but the way I understand it helps the system become non-representative of the population.

  7. csoda.peter :The differences between urban and rural populations in Budapest are significant (like education levels and liberal tendencies) but on other counts not as significant as in other outsize urban populations.For a while I have wondered whether this is associated with historical events like deportation..I’d be interested in views of more informed people on this.

    Let’s say they played a role in the rise of antisemitism during the interwar years. Budapest was very reluctant to comply with the Horthy regime. The “sinful city” kept giving majorities to social-democrats and liberals (because of non-elected seats the Right always governed); It also kept fighting for the particular status and freedoms it had acquired under the Dual system.

    So it’s an old theme in Hungarian politics, which outlasted its Jewish population (a proof if any was needed of the inanity of antisemitic ‘thinking’). When OV in 2010 declared “Hungary has a capital again”, he was still referring to this very Horthyist idea that the Big City isn’t the ‘true Hungary’. Except, of course, when Fidesz wins the municipal election. 🙂

  8. Lwiih:

    Normally party lists work towards proportionality, whereas first-past-the-post systems result in single party legislatures, see California or Texas. One can combine the two systems, as Hungary has done until now and will do in the future, to play with these systems.

    In a basic scenario, in a proportional party list system each party presents a list of people, 1 to 200 (let 200 be the number of the members of parliament) before the election.

    You have only one vote and choose a party, cast your ballot. It’s perfectly proportional (beyond the minimum limit which is now 5% in Hungary but was 4% in 1990, but can be 10% as in Turkey). So if a party gets 20% of the votes then it will send, in our scenario, the first 50 people of the list (50/200 equals 20%) and will have 20% in the Parliament. Very simple.

    In a first past the post system this party would have zero representatives since with a national average of 20% of the votes you probably were not able to get a single MP because you probably never prevailed over other competitors.

    Obviously, in a proportional, party list system if you have more voters in Budapest, as MSZP and the left have, such voters can outvote or compensate for smaller popularity in rural areas, as it does not matter where you cast your vote.

    Also, very importnatly, if you are a new party it is much-much easier to set up a party list and organise a campaign from the capital city, whereas in the current system you need a national network of candidates, activists etc.from the getgo. As a new party, it is mighty difficult to achieve these, as we have seen from the examples of LMP and Bajnai. But Fidesz wants exactly that: decrease the potential new entrants to the game and cut a deal as they always do with MSZP (which is a sucker for deals).

    In a FPTP system you have compartmentalized districts, so voters in Budapest will not be able to send more MPs just because their candidates won with say 80%, instead of 51% (suppose for the sake of argument that we end up with two major parties like in the US). Over 51%, any vote for the winner is simply lost in a district based system. This is exactly what Fidesz wants, since their voters are more dispersed and more rural, so they can win more individual districts. So they smartly redrew the district borders (there are fewer districts as well, but that is only a pretext) exactly so that liberal and leftist voters are now very much concentrated in a relatively few districts, where they will likely win with a high majority, but such high majorities will actually represent a lot of lost votes for the left. The conversion ratio of votes to mandates, the yield, will be very bead for the left and very good for the right.

  9. Very good explanation by Vszem!

    That’s why Germany decided on a combination of boths ideas:

    The total number of members in parliament is determined by the total number of votes a party gets, but half of the representatives are first chosen by the “First through the post” system – the rest comes from a list.

    So the strongest party usually has a lot (or exclusively) local candidates elected from the voting districts, while smaller parties usually only have members in parliament from their list.

    Of course in a larger state like Germany it makes sense to have this system applied in the different states like Bavaria, Hessen etc – so you have around 16 lists for each party …

    I think this combination is quite fair and it makes it easier for a new party to get into parliament – like the greens did decades ago and maybe the new “Pirate Party” will also make it this September …

    But of course a successful new party is not what Fidesz and MSZP want …

  10. Even Budapest in not homogeneous.
    Most Hungarians, as most tormented small nations need therapy to move to a Western European thinking.
    The Orban era was a serious setback.
    All of us must work on a better future.

  11. There are some similarities between the Hungarian system of list votes and individual districts and those in the US: the House is elected by districts, the senate is elected by state. And no laws are adopted without both houses agreeing, to certain degree.

    Also, you can hear many times that New York is not the USA, or probably less known, in Oregon some people call Portland Havana on the Willamette.

  12. OT:
    Hungaroring / Formula 1decided not to pay to some of its workers after the Hungarian Formula 1 runs. Hungaroring contracted companies for work that contracted other companies (you can just imagine how much money is already being skimmed from the top before it would get to the workers who are really doing the job). Well, some of those companies after they got paid closed down their business. So, at the time many made good profits the little guys lost out big time.

    Fidesz invented the Time Machine!!! No joke. Gabor Harangozo, MEP for Hungarian Socialist Party held a press conference that supposed to start at 11:00 AM but there was a delay and the press conference did not start until 11:04AM. THis fact did not stop Fidesz to issue an official answer regarding the press conference at 11:03AM.
    http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=670234

  13. O/T. My local family freesheets/papers have large ads for various nearby National Tobacco Shops.

    So, for all their frosted/black/mirrored-glass-fronted appearances, with large ’18’ symbols above (frankly, bizarre) ‘no smoking’ signs, and for all the hollow government supporters’ talk about this being some kind of health initiative, tobacco advertising reenters this very widely read media for the first time in many many years.

    Enough said. Everything here is absurd.

  14. Republikon is financed and staffed by pro-MSZP and ex-SZDSZ sources. Their polling and their analyses are no more reliable than those of Szazadveg or Nezopont.

  15. Minusio :
    Almost totally OT: In Tromsoe (North Norway) – where my girlfriend’s son now has a position at the university – there are 15 Hungarian bus drivers. They all came as a bunch, earn 1 million forint a month (which is more than 4400 USD) of which they send half of it home to their families.

    While the wages sounds realistic, the rest of the story needs some explanation, however.
    The quoted 1 millions of HUF roughly equals 26 thousands of NOK, presumably – and realistically – it is before taxes, so, knowing something about the situation there, they probably get somewhere in the range 17-18 thousand NOK in hand. If you count in, that Norway one of the most expensive country of Europe, the most probable is, that they living together, or sharing expenses on housing and every other way they saving money (limited life-standards) in order to be able to send home the 50% of their net wages.
    It still a good thing, though, eight thousand NOK worth about 300 thousand HUF – and counting.

    All, what I wanted to say: don’t forget, that high(er) wages only one part of the equation, usually such places have fairly high costs for living too, so, its normally working for people who aren’t permanent residents, and staying for a limited time.

  16. @spectator. [OT /ctd.] Of course you are right. BTW, the Hungarian busdrivers in Tromsoe are all from Pécs. On his way to university my girlfriend’s son will see more of them and get to know them better. But imagine his surprise. – We all assume that they found a cheap place to stay, probably with bunkbeds.

    Many foreigners, Germans included, read of Swiss wages and think this must be paradise. But especially in the agglomerations (where the well-paying jobs are) to rent a flat is a huge expenditure, and if you don’t know the various outlets, you may pay a lot for food, too. Even public transport, though probably one of the best in the world, costs you an arm and a leg. But those people in Norwegian Tromsoe are already part of public transport… BTW, a 55 sqm flat, furnished, is about 1750 euro in Tromsoe, that’s more than in Switzerland!

  17. Eva S. Balogh :
    May I ask people in the know: why is Norway that expensive?

    There are two reasons, somewhat related:

    It’s a very rich country because of the North Sea oil. It also has one of the most socialistic welfare system in the world, because it can afford it. Thus even the lowest paid people are paid more than in most other countries and have high disposable income, then the prices go high (demand and offer ;-).

  18. gdfxx :

    Eva S. Balogh :
    May I ask people in the know: why is Norway that expensive?

    There are two reasons, somewhat related:
    It’s a very rich country because of the North Sea oil. It also has one of the most socialistic welfare system in the world, because it can afford it. Thus even the lowest paid people are paid more than in most other countries and have high disposable income, then the prices go high (demand and offer .

    You are right about this, but you need also to include alcohol, junk food.and cigarettes. All the “bad” things are very expensive, However, when not eating out and refrain from “bad” habits life in Norway is good and in some instances cheaper than anywhere else in Europe.

  19. @Éva. I’m not really in the know. But here is a good source: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090215143526AACCqWA

    Basically, it’s the oil that made Norway rich. That created a lot of demand for experts and services, a demand that could not be filled domestically. In addition, the geography demands – similarly to Switzerland – huge expenditure in infrastructure. Also, Norway has an autarkical streak. So taxes are high, too. (Dissimilar to Switzerland). Add the posh welfare system and you can see the old saying reconfirmed: There is no free lunch.

  20. Eva S. Balogh :
    May I ask people in the know: why is Norway that expensive?

    It simple – they are capitalists 🙂

    But seriously, as “gdfxx” explained above, completed with some additive explanation:

    If you get high salary, you probably pay more taxes, you consume more, you generate even more taxes (WAT) which mean, that the state has more to spend on welfare, infrastructure, healthcare, you name it. Not to mention, if you have high wages, the merchandise you produce couldn’t come cheap either, so goes the circle around.
    (Think about it, the people from Norway goes shopping to Sweden, because it cheaper, while the average German, British or Hungarian gets a heartburn just to look at the price tags in Sweden..)

    This system gives a real spin to the economy, coupled with the wast wealth from the oil – they don’t usually complaining.

  21. It’s good to see some discussion at last about the changes to the electoral system.

    These changes are central to my frequent ‘pessimistic’ comments about 2014. Even if Hungary had a functioning opposition and a free media, Orbán would still win in 2014 – because he has rigged the system.

    For a start, he has drastically reduced the number of MPs (so smaller parties will find it even harder to get elected), then he has reduced the role of the party list to such an extent that the Hungarian system is now practically first-past-the-post (again, the smaller parties lose out). And lastly, he has changed so many other rules (or brought new ones in) that, not just winning a seat becomes harder for non-Fidesz parties, but even nominating a candidate becomes more difficult (effectively impossible for smaller parties in many areas).

    The upshot is that 2014 will effectively be a first-past-the-post election, with MSzP losing out because its vote is geographically concentrated, and the smaller parties lucky to get any MPs at all. The only unknown factor is how all this will affect Jobbik – are they a ‘small’ party, with their vote geographically concentrated, or are thye a truly national party, able to win seats outright and gain some of the few party list seats left?

    Not that it really matters how Jobbik do. As a small party, they function as the extreme wing of Fidesz, as a larger party they would ‘function’ as the opposition’ – the difference between Hungary shooting itself in the foot or the hand.

  22. @Paul. Yes, quite so. My own pessimism is also grounded in the way Orbán rigged the system – and the Hungarian people being mostly non-voters or voting with their feet. They don’t even seem capable of mustering a “Hungarian spring” à la Tunisia.

    I wonder, too, how Jobbik will fare under the new system (as Orbán practically founded them when in opposition).

  23. Minusio – it’s just about the only thing I’m ‘looking forward to’ in 2014. Either Jobbik will cease to be something Orbán has to worry about or they’ll become a major thorn in his side. It’s a sad reflection on MSzP’s incompetence that Jobbik would make a much ‘better’ opposition.

  24. Since the Jobbik vote is clearly concentrated in certain areas, they should win seats. As such, they could be in a position to have key posts as a very minor part of a governing coalition. I still think this is the most horrific possibility of all, it has clear historical precedent, and it attracts almost no comment in either the English-language or Hungarian media

  25. @Ivan:

    Be assured that the international community will be watching closely how many seats in parliament Jobbik gets – and if Fidesz should officially cooperate in any way with them, there will be a big outcry!

    We Germans especially are very sensitive to neo-Nazis, not only at home but also in the other European countries.

    PS:

    I can’t understand it, whether it’s the German NPD or “Republikaner”, the Front Nationale or the loonies on pol.hu – but a certain segment of humans (?) seems to be attracted by these racist ideas!

    We even had policemen in Germany who were members of the German Ku Klux Klan – can you imagine that ?

  26. By far the most likely outcome is another huge Fidesz landslide – probably on the basis of a worryingly low turnout.

    But a Fidesz/Jobbik coalition IS a possibility. Let’s say Fidesz need a couple of seats for an outright majority, and Jobbik have a block of even 6-10 … cooperation/coalition is an inevitability. I know the new electoral system has little to do with opinion polls (which are based on percentage support) – but many of these suggest that Fidesz needs Jobbik to command majority support.

    Hungary’s days in the EU, at that point, would certainly be numbered in days not months. And there are ONLY but few months to go! So it’s a scenario that should be considered.

  27. @Ivan. “Hungary’s days in the EU, at that point, would certainly be numbered in days not months.”

    I’d like to disagree. The EU won’t chuck Hungary out. That’s not part of the rules, and it would hurt the “innocent” opposition. But a lot of Hungary’s voting rights in the EU would be suspended, and there would be a continued freeze on any funds to which Hungary would be entitled if Lazar and Orbán would only stop cooking the books.

    Orbán would not leave the EU because even he understands that without Hungary’s access to the EU internal market all foreign-owned exporting companies would pull up stakes the same day, and Hungary’s economy would indeed crash within a matter of days. I don’t think Orbán will need Jobbik to keep his two-thirds majority, but even if he did, he would never allow them to dictate a withdrawal from the EU.

    BTW, the EU Commission doesn’t act on its own simply because it is fed up with Orbán’s behaviour. The freeze on cohesion fund projects was suggested by the European Court of Auditors. A copy of their report to the Commission was sent to the Hungarian government.

  28. Ron :

    gdfxx :

    Eva S. Balogh :
    May I ask people in the know: why is Norway that expensive?

    You are right about this, but you need also to include alcohol, junk food.and cigarettes. All the “bad” things are very expensive, However, when not eating out and refrain from “bad” habits life in Norway is good and in some instances cheaper than anywhere else in Europe.

    No kidding, a beer in a bar will set you back 10€ and it’s not much cheaper in the shops. They tax the h*ll out of alcohol and it’s sale and consumption is very strictly regulated.

    They also seem to build a lot of “bridges to no where”.

    @Vszem nice explanation. So are districts equally sized by population? You see district boundries changed in Canada from time to time but always seems to be based on census data. It’s rarely without someone calling foul even though there is a seemingly fair way to adjust to moving populations. Does anyone know if there is a shift in where Hungarians are moving to?

    @Ivan, I believe the EU has played a balanced hand in not getting sucked into the politics. At a distance this looks like the kids aren’t getting along and both take turns running off to a parent saying, make Johnny stop it. The EU isn’t going to kick out a member as that runs counter to it’s mandate. It is, and should, make sure countries live up to the terms of the treaties that they signed.

  29. Ivan makes a point I meant to make earlier but forgot. In a (largely) first-past-the-post system, opinion polls are pretty meaningless.

    For instance in the UK, elections are usually won or lost on just a few dozen ‘swing’ constituencies changing from one party to another. The great majority of constituencies vote exactly the same way election after election. Wherever I’ve lived, for 42 years of voting, my vote has NEVER counted.

    Obviously, we do have opinion polls in the UK, and they are usually fairly reliable, but this is only achieved by using incredibly complex formulas to adjust the popular vote to match the political reality. Each polling company has their own way of doing this, and each typically comes up with different results – and there are constant arguments about how best to conduct polls and weight the answers. (Bearing in mind that these polls are often based on answers from fewer than 1,000 people, it’s a miracle that they get it anywhere near right.)

    But, whilst in ‘normal’ times the polls can be fairly reliable, they are easily thrown off balance. For instance if the political situation is highly volatile at the time of the election, or if local concerns affect swing constituencies, or simply because a lot of voters don’t decide until the last minute. The upshot is that the polls have been horribly wrong on several occasions.

    And this is in a sophisticated parliamentary democracy, with an electoral system that hasn’t changed significantly for hundreds of years – if anyone should be good at predicting elections, it should be our pollsters. But Hungary is a very young democracy, which, until now, has had a fairly simple proportional electoral system, where votes pretty much equal seats. How aware are the polling companies and the electoral commentators of just how different the new system will be? How prepared are they to cope with all the difficulties of trying to predict the results of first-past-the-post system – especially when there is no history whatsoever of how such a system will work?

    I fear the answer is “not at all”.

  30. Paul :
    For instance in the UK, elections are usually won or lost on just a few dozen ‘swing’ constituencies changing from one party to another. The great majority of constituencies vote exactly the same way election after election. Wherever I’ve lived, for 42 years of voting, my vote has NEVER counted.

    The same is true – more or less – in the US. There are states that are always voting for Democrats (or for Republicans). Thus in a presidential election all the effort is spent on so-called swing states. The population of the rest of the states wouldn’t even know what the candidates stand for, unless they watch the nationally televised debates, because the candidates do not spend any money in those states to either advertise their views or attack those of their opponent.

  31. Ivan, I am not sure at all that a Fidesz win, even of they have to join with Jobbik which they will happily do, this time would be such a bad idea.

    There is no way Fidesz/Jobbik can turn around the economy (given their consistent policy to fundamentally question property rights) or reach any important policy objectives – though surely they can continue syphoning off taxpayers money and concentrate the media in their hands.

    However, if we assume that elections will take place they might just fall into the situation in which MSZP found itself after Öszöd. Granted, Orbán will never be such a lame duck as MSZP was at that time, but given Fidesz’ utter incompetence, they may just lose very badly the next election (that is the one after the 2014 election) which is what we may need.

    That is because the current opposition, even if united, is simply unable to govern without 2/3s given all the so callaed ‘cardinal laws’ they would not able to amend. Also there are all the entrenched Fidesz party commissioners all over the poliitcal landscape in every concievable public office who will do everything to kill any new government. Orbán will come back he will not be deposed if he loses in 2014. Orbán will continue to be the actual governor of Hungary even from opposition, because everybody’s behavior be like, yeah this new MSZP government will self destruct in a year or two, but Orbán is here to stay so we better follow what he says and not what MSZP says because MSZP is never agressive and they don’t have the power to enforce anything (whereas Fidesz will still own the prosecution, the courts, the const. court etc.)-

    At this point, we simply do not know what would be the better outcome for a more democratic Hungary.

  32. I’m afraid we do know what’s best for Hungary, in the sort-term at least, but the truth is hard to admit. For the sake of political and economic stability, for the sake of the poor sods on or below the poverty line, we need a comfortable Orbán win.

    This may seem like madness, but just consider possible outcomes of the next election:

    1) MSzP win (I said ‘possible’, not ‘likely’).

    And not an ‘opposition coalition’ either – unless MSzP is persuaded to do some constituency level swaps, the new electoral system simply won’t let the smaller left-liberal parties get any seats.

    What will happen? First MSzP won’t be able to govern, not only has Orbán rigged the constitution in his favour, but there are simply too many Fidesz supporters entrenched in too many important places to let a non-Fidesz government function. On top of that, Orbán wrath at being rejected will make his post-2006 reaction look like mere fit of sulks.

    He will declare civil war in all but name – the full power of the Fidesz black propaganda unit will be aimed at the government, Fidesz will refuse to cooperate at any level and do their damnedest to undermine the government at every turn. Orbán will call for ‘civil’ protest on a scale not seen since 56, and the hooligans and Jobbik extremists will be unleashed. The economy will crash, unemployment will soar, inflation will reach levels not seen since the change of regime. Orbán will do anything and everything to regain power and get his revenge, he won’t stop to think of the good of Hungary – after all it was the people who let him down.

    2) A good showing by MSzP and Fidesz lose seats – Fidesz go into coalition with Jobbik.

    If you’re Jewish or Roma, leave the country now. If you thought Orbán’s government up to now was bad, it will seem like a liberal interlude compared to the next four years. Being in coalition with Jobbik (once referred to, by Orbán, as Fidesz’s “youth wing”) will liberate Orbán completely. He’ll be able to bring in ay draconian laws he likes, simply explaining it away as necessary because of Jobbik’s demands, and anything that goes wrong or he later decides was a mistake, will simply be blamed on Jobbik.

    3) Fidesz win comfortably.

    Things go on as they are.

    If you were the average Hungarian, struggling with your daily life – which would you prefer?

    I’m afraid the unhappy reality is ‘better the devil we know’. Until such time as the opposition can unite and throw off their old ways, and come up with a workable alternative to Orbán, a new constitution, and an aggressive plan to undo the entire Orbán edifice within months, if not weeks, and until the EU, US, etc recognise what is really going on in Hungary, and fully support such a revolution, there is no hope of really removing Orbán. Half measures simply will not work.

  33. Paul :
    I’m afraid we do know what’s best for Hungary, in the sort-term at least, but the truth is hard to admit. For the sake of political and economic stability, for the sake of the poor sods on or below the poverty line, we need a comfortable Orbán win.
    This may seem like madness, but just consider possible outcomes of the next election:[….]
    I’m afraid the unhappy reality is ‘better the devil we know’. Until such time as the opposition can unite and throw off their old ways, and come up with a workable alternative to Orbán, a new constitution, and an aggressive plan to undo the entire Orbán edifice within months, if not weeks, and until the EU, US, etc recognise what is really going on in Hungary, and fully support such a revolution, there is no hope of really removing Orbán. Half measures simply will not work.

    Sounds realistic but still, very depressing.

  34. Paul :
    I’m afraid we do know what’s best for Hungary, in the sort-term at least, but the truth is hard to admit. …..

    Your whole statement makes logical and experiential sense judging by the Orban/Fidesz past aberrational behavior when losing power…
    However you mention a potential large scale upheaval and Western help at a later stage.

    My experience here is that the days of a large scale violent left wing pro-Western consciousness type rebellion came to an abrupt halt in 1956. That is unlikely to happen even against internal forces. People are tired and helpless and disorganized and fighting on small non-sensical, illogical issues. Its like Lilliputians against the Giant. And when needed the
    Giant is not gonna wait to use their ‘rat poison’… the enemy is already being treated as non-human except on a case-by case propaganda issue…

    Consequently it is important that those who think think left (i.e. liberal) to vote left to show the world in real numbers the overall wishes of the population. The results may not work in strictly parliamentary terms but they would give an indication of the overall population’s wishes.

    In my wildest nightmare I do think that if push comes to shove at a later date and Orban remains in power, and after-all there is a rebellion of some sort, we could have a Syrian-Assad style massacre, however in our case, the population does not even have recourse to Allah since Orbán has laid claim to the time-honored conservative religious righteousness – in his case preaches but follows up otherwise…

    Happy discourse!

  35. “Sounds realistic but still, very depressing” – I have to agree there!

    Orbán will go on, taking Hungary wherever he wants it to go and the Fidesz sheep will follow him …

    Remember it took Germany under Hitler only 12 years to total destruction – I don’t mean to say Orbán wants to go to war but he can ride Hungary into any kind of abyss: economic, totalitarian, …

    Only then will Hungarians realise what’s been happening – if the left opposition takes over before the total chaos, everything that happened and whatever follows on the way back to democracy will be blamed on them!

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