Electoral mathematics: The Demokratikus Koalíció’s position

Only yesterday an article appeared on Galamus by Tamás Bauer, vice-chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció. It is well reasoned argument for why DK should be allowed to present candidates for parliament in the next election.

On the basis of past elections we know that in order to win the next election the democratic opposition needs at least 2.7 million votes.

According to opinion polls, MSZP can count on 1-1.2 million votes, which is about half of the 2.3 million the party received in 2002 and 2006. At that time the rest of the votes necessary for a win came from SZDSZ. As things stand now, Együtt-14’s voting base doesn’t exceed the number of SZDSZ voters (about 400,000) in previous elections. And that is not enough, says Bauer. The hope is that once there is an agreement among the parties about a common candidate for prime minister and a common list, people’s lethargy will be replaced by enthusiasm because then there will be some hope of removing Viktor Orbán’s government.

Mesterházy insisted that he as the chairman of MSZP, the largest party, be the next prime minister. At the same time Bajnai felt that “the two largest parties” should agree first on the fundamental questions. Bauer believes that neither position, given the current Hungarian situation, is valid. It doesn’t matter that these two parties are larger than the third; together they still cannot deliver the necessary votes. At the moment, together they don’t have as many votes as Fidesz has alone. Therefore they need every extra vote they can get, including from those who would like to see Viktor Orbán go but haven’t yet decided to vote for MSZP or E-14. As well as those who haven’t yet chosen a party. And yes, adds Bauer, they need DK’s 200,000 voters.

At this point Bauer did some calculations on the basis of the average results of three independent polling companies: Medián, Szonda, and Tárki. Bauer looked at two sets of figures: the three parties’ standing among the electorate as a whole and the figures that reflect the situation that would result if we count only those who are certain about their participation in the next election. Calculating on the basis of the whole electorate, MSZP would receive 68, Együtt-14-PM 24, and DK 8 districts. Among those who are certain at the moment about their participation, MSZP would receive 65, Együtt-14-PM 26, and DK 9 districts.

Source: The Aperiodical

Source: The Aperiodical

Thus, Bauer argues, if MSZP receives 75 districts out of which it gives up four to DK, the liberals, and the social democrats, MSZP will have 71 districts and E-14 31. (I might add here that neither the liberals nor the social democrats are measurable in nationwide polls.) Thus both MSZP and E-14 will be over-represented. This is especially true about E-14. Its voting base may be three times greater than DK’s, yet it will have eight times more districts than DK if DK accepted MSZP’s offer.

Bauer continued his calculations by trying to figure out how many seats the democratic opposition would need for a two-thirds majority or a simple majority as well as what the composition would be if they lost the election. He came to the conclusion that in all three cases, given the present support for DK, the party would be able to form its own parliamentary caucus and therefore could represent its own political ideas in parliament.

One could argue that Tamás Bauer’s argument is based on an overly static view of electoral sympathies. One cannot simply add up polling preferences and come up with a grand total. Moreover, the argument continues, it is possible that by giving DK 8 or 9 districts the democratic opposition would lose voters because of some people’s intense hatred of Ferenc Gyurcsány. These people further argue that the DK people have nowhere to go, and after all they are perhaps the most consistent critics of the present government. So, surely, they wouldn’t vote for Fidesz or boycott the election even if DK got practically nothing. Yes, this is true, but it is also true about those E-14 voters who currently swear that they wouldn’t vote for a democratic opposition in which Gyurcsány’s party is more visibly represented.

There have been polls that indicate that the supporters of the parties on the left are quite open. They don’t particularly care who the prime  minister will be, although Gordon Bajnai has more support than Mesterházy, but I don’t think that too many people would vote for Fidesz just because they don’t like Mesterházy, Bajnai, or Gyurcsány. If they do, they deserve another four years of Viktor Orbán’s exceptionally bad governance.

At the moment I’m trying find out whether there are any polls that tried to measure the loss that might be incurred by the democratic opposition were it to give a fairer share to DK in the next elections.

Another thought. Medián’s CEO, Endre Hann, called attention to the fact that although in the electorate as a whole Mesterházy and Bajnai are neck to neck in popularity, in fact Mesterházy occasionally surpasses the popularity of Bajnai. But this result is misleading because of Bajnai’s greater rejection by Fidesz voters. I wonder whether Medián ever conducted a poll that would allow us to gauge Gyurcsány’s popularity or unpopularity among those voters who will actually vote for the democratic opposition next year. Such a poll could be very useful in deciding what the best strategy would be.

In any case, tomorrow I will give a short list of DK’s positions on certain issues that are different from those of either MSZP or Együtt-14.


  1. The creation of a joint electoral list seems to be the start of a new form of politics, doesn’t it? They do it in Egypt and some other places, but not in long established democracies. Joint candidates for first-past-the-post positions are one thing, a joint list seems to represent a new level of democracy, and a new mechanism to help democratic values take root.

    Shouldn’t we be excited?

  2. Eva: “One could argue that Péter Bauer’s argument is based on an overly static view of electoral sympathies.”

    Exactly. And not only that, it is also apparently thought that the average Hungarian voter that is more or less willing to show up at the elections is strongly settled politically. I have my doubts about that. In particular when I hear of how unhappy people are with the current developments while at the same time being eager not to connect their dissatisfaction with any “political” movement or – heaven forbid – a political party. The idea that political preferences in Hungary should be thought along the lines of mature Western democracies (voters of “liberals”, “conservatives”, “socialists”) appears to be a delusion. The main goal currently is just the establishment of democracy – and a quite young and developing at that. (And it is also nothing that can be “planned” in a technocratic manner, expecting that people stick to their static preferences. They can and should change their minds according to circumstances and the actual performance of parties and their leaders and make political change possible.) Such an approach (that focuses actually on the introduction of workable democracy) could also make an end to this useless battle on the part of the three main democratic opposition movements of who exactly has the biggest democratic credentials. Apparently none, as the main task currently is to make democracy an attractive concept for the average Hungarian, and to devise strategies to make democracy work in Hungarian circumstances of a quite divided country. Parties that just boast of how much they are in favour of democracy but that at the same time are just lecturing without offering workable strategies will certainly not motivate people to vote for them. And not because they would love OV that much but because lecturing hardly motivates people to get involved themselves – which they must in larger numbers in a democracy than what is currently the case in Hungary.

  3. Unless there is place where a DK candidate would fetch a lot of votes, in other words, the Gyurcsany effect doesn’t kick in, forget the DK. It’s too risky. Next election guys. Sorry.

    The DK is just trying to throw a hail Mary with this …

  4. “Only yesterday an article appeared on Galamus by Péter Bauer, vice-chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció.”

    Do you mean Tamás Bauer?

  5. Also, maybe DK is doing a little better for this comparison, but including the social democrats and the liberals would just be an opposition version of Fidesz pulling KDNP in. I don’t think we need any more parties without existing support in government.

  6. DK has a special situation.

    It has a very controversial leader (all leaders are controversial, though) but the only one with (i) deep understanding of how Fidesz operates and wields power, which both the hopelessly naive MSZP and Bajnai lack and (ii) some kind of vision as to what he wants to achieve and (iii) proud to be who he is and what he represents, and does not apologizes for his very existence as the Socialist do deep down.

    In addition, DK has a sort of national network and a real bunch of enthusiastic activists.

    Mind you, you gotta be enthusiastic to go out in the name of Gyurcsány as he is still hated so much by so many. But do you know what? Orbán was deeply hated in 2002 (at least by many and was duly voted out) and he still won in 2010 big time and never averaged below 40% in any votes. Voters tend to forget and forgive, although perhaps not as quickly these days. (Especially as the media is under a total Fidesz control and has been for years).

    One of the reasons why MSZP and Bajnia are not very popular – despite the hopeless but aggressive incompetency of Fidesz and unparalleled corruption – is that you cannot be enthusiastic about them.

    Like with Kerry or Romney, perhaps good enough, but there is nothing special to them. You can’t happily tell your neighbor or uncle to vote for them, as you cannot really give a compelling argument when the neighbor says “anything, but he does not want the communists back.” Sure that is an exaggeration, but certainly there has never been a more incompetent and aggressive/arrogant and corrupt Hungarian government and they still by far the most popular??

    Given Fidesz’ unfair advantage of at least 7-8%, but perhaps even more (based on party list votes) under the new election system, you need every vote and every meaningful opposition constituency to topple Fidesz. If voters will not vote for a DK-inclusive coalition just because of Gyurcsány, then it does not matter, it means the time is not yet ripe for an opposition win, and they cannot do it this time. Whatever the differences and dislikes, DK people are at present needed for an opposition win. (But this does not say anything about governance, whether they can together execute restrictions and inflict pain, which will be necessary, is another matter).

    To Jano: there are no social democracts and liberals, just as there are no 4K! voters. These are non-existent formations, empty concepts without voters behind them. They are nothing more than vehicles for the likes of Gábor Fodor to get a paying job if he can negotiate a party list place for himself on the MSZP party list. They have no name recognition, money, activists, strategy, nothing. Especially in the current election system, for all practical purposes they are non-existent. There are only those parties which are measured by the pollster companies, and even then if DK would go alone, like LMP, they would disappear (ok, LMP may have a 3 member party caucus in the new Parliament, from the party lists). Every talk about supposed liberals or social democrats (whoever they are) are a waste of time, they can and will vote Bajnai or LMP.

  7. a question I asking myself. Why are people making it so difficult? Is it not easier, just one coalition for a limited period and for three reasons only. Remove supermajority from constitution, or introduce a temporary one, have a new election law, and kill the media law.

    Have new elections. Preferable proportional representation with no limits.

    This can be done in less than one year.

  8. Ron, if this coalition is going to do as you suggest, then they have to tell the electorate that that is what they will do when elected. What I find staggering is that they don’t have anything approximating to an election program and are just hoping they win because they aren’t Fidesz. If they do get into power, then the MSZP’s own “clients” will immediately want to get their piece of the action and to do that, will have to strike behind the scenes deals with the Fidesz “stake holders” and the price for that will be that no one will ever be brought to justice for financial malpractise etc.

  9. wolfi :

    A bit OT but very funny (and sad in a way …):


    Thanks to the guy at pol.hu who gave the link.

    I especially liked the picture of “Margithattan”

    But at least there will be no Cecile Tormay Street! The Hungarian Academy of Sciences decided that the lady didn’t deserve the honor.

    The Skyscraper photo is especially funny because “skyscraper” is Hungarian is “cloud scraper.” The caption reads: And the clouds are gathering!

  10. On the other hand, naming a street (or anything …) after her would clearly show “Wes Geistes Kind” the Fidesz administration in Budapest is.
    I’m sure most of you know this already – but for anyone new:

    “She was a great admirer of Mussolini. In 1932, on the tenth annivesary of the March on Rome, she personally met the Italian dictator, presenting him the good wishes of her Hungarian women’s league in a speech in Italian.[1]

    Cecile Tormay fought a relentless fight against Judaism in her literary works. She accused the Jews in Hungary of biologically corrupting the Hungarian “race”.”


    Btw, what did she mean by “biologically corrupting” the race – intermarriage or extermination or what ???

  11. Gretchen :
    I am curious about which street was to be chosen for renaming to Cecile Tormay. Anyone know?

    An unnamed small street, a “köz” would have been named after C. Tormay.

    Tarlos emphasized that he was forced to (“kénytelen volt”) withdraw Tormay’s name,
    because the committee of the Academy of Sciences opposed her name.

  12. The biggest recipients of the 105 billion HUFs that Z Balog’s department, EMMI gave away in the first half of 2013.

    Orban’s soccer foundation in Felcsut received half a billion forints.

    The grant for the soccer stadium to Debrecen amounted to 9 billion in 6 months.

    Lezsák’s foundation received half a billion. (Deputy Speaker Lezsak is
    one of the engines of the resurrected Horthy cult)

    The Catholic Church received some 20 billion forints, all items combined.


  13. “On the basis of past elections we know that in order to win the next election the democratic opposition needs at least 2.7 million votes.”

    You can’t judge anything on the basis of past elections, this election will be for half the number of constituencies and will be based on an entirely different system of voting. Yet again, I’m staggered that the left doesn’t seem to have realised this.

    “He came to the conclusion that in all three cases, given the present support for DK, the party would be able to form its own parliamentary caucus and therefore could represent its own political ideas in parliament.”

    What planet is this guy on? Unless the opposition gives DK some constituencies with such massive left/liberal votes that, even with the Gyurcsány effect, they can still get elected, they will be lucky to get one or two seats in the new parliament – quite possibly none.

  14. Gross debt of the central government after the takeover of the private pension funds “MaNyuP” in May 2011:

    on July 31 of each year:

    2011: 19,738.3
    2012: 20,744.9, an increase of 5.10%
    2013: 22,474.2, an increase of 8.34%

  15. Of course, the median salary is smaller than the the average salary.

    1990. median/average= 71.9%
    2011. median/average= 65.4%,
    showing the growing salary gap.


    Average net salaries in selected countries, Hungary= 1

    Switzerland 8.6 times Hungarian
    Luxembourg 6.5
    Denmark 6.2

    US 5.3

    Ireland 4.5
    Finland 4.5
    Germany 4.4
    France 4.4

    Sweden 4.2
    Netherlands 4.1

    Belgium 3.8
    Austria 3.8
    Italy 3.6
    UK 3.5

    Spain 3.1
    Cyprus 2.9

    Slovenia 2.0
    Greece 1.9
    Portugal 1.8

    Croatia 1.5
    Czechia 1.4
    Estonia 1.4

    Turkey 1.3
    Poland 1.3
    Russia 1.3
    Slovakia 1.3

    Latvia 1.2
    Hungary 1
    Lithuania 1
    Montenegro 1

    Bosnia 0.9

    Romania 0.7
    Serbia 0.7
    Macedonia 0.7
    Bulgaria 0.6

    Ukraine 0.5
    Albania 0.4
    Moldova 0.4

    So a Danish average net salary is ten times as much as a Bulgarian.

  16. Thanks, Tappanch, for those numbers!

    I’ve known about this, but if anyone asks me why so many people from Hungary (and the other East European countries …) want work in Germany, now I can give them facts.

    It’s really sad – the Iron Curtain fell almost 25 years ago and still those inequalities. Of course for us Germans spending their €s in Hungary it’s nice …

  17. The bond part of the Polish private retirement funds is worth 2.9 times the amount Orban nationalized in 2011, so this move is 76% of Orban’s takeover per capita.

  18. tappanch :
    The Polish government is going to nationalize the bonds of its private retirement funds, partially imitating Orban’s move in 2011:

    Sure, why not, it worked so well for Hungary (sarcasm)… the debt ratio is not any lower than under Bajnai, and this is AFTER burning through the money from the nationalized pension funds (that was supposed to decrease the debt).



    Of course, it is any easy money-garb for the government that needs money right now… and paying future pensions is not this government’s problem. You can do anything in Eastern Europe.

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