The latest Medián poll: Left-liberal voters want a united front

The democratic parties got a lot of bad news today. Two polls came out, and both show a growth in the popularity of Fidesz and less dissatisfaction with the performance of the government. At the same time, support for the opposition parties is stagnant. The democratic opposition has to rethink its strategy if it is to have a chance of standing up to the Fidesz electoral onslaught we all expect. The setup that was worked out by MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM isn’t attracting voters.

The Tárki poll shows a considerable strengthening of Fidesz support. According to the poll, Fidesz has the support of 50% of active voters. That means that, given the peculiarities of the new Hungarian electoral system, if the elections were held this coming weekend Fidesz would again achieve a two-thirds majority in the new smaller (199-seat) parliament. Among the same group MSZP has the support of 20% and E14 only 6%. That means that E-14 wouldn’t even manage to get into parliament because as a “party alliance” it needs 10% of the votes to be eligible for parliamentary representation. DK has 4%, 1% shy of the necessary 5% to become a parliamentary party.

In case someone thinks that Tárki is apt to overestimate Fidesz’s strength, Medián’s poll, also released today, confirms Tárki’s findings. Based on Medián’s latest poll, Fidesz would win big at the next election. A two-thirds majority is guaranteed. Medián figures 139 parliamentary seats out of 199. According to their model, MSZP-E14 is currently running 9% behind Fidesz. They would need another 450,000 voters in order to win the election.

Medián also asked potential voters about the state of the opposition. The details of the poll are still not available, but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of the article that will appear shortly in HVG. The title of the article is “Kétséges együttes,” a clever wordplay that is difficult to translate. In plain language, those questioned have doubts about the agreement Bajnai and Mesterházy signed.

What is it they don’t like? Almost everything. The great majority of voters who support the democratic parties are not satisfied with the MSZP-E-14 deal. They don’t like the fact that the two parties decided on separate party lists. They also dislike the arrangement whereby the two parties divided the 106 districts between themselves.

Medián conducted personal interviews with 1,200 people between September 6 and 10. Only 23% of those interviewed were completely satisfied with the arrangement while 22% were totally dissatisfied; 41% said that the agreement is good but that it could have been improved by having a common list and a common candidate for prime minister. Even supporters of E-14 are not totally satisfied, although one would have thought that they would be pleased with the agreement that greatly favors their party. Only 37% of them are totally satisfied with the agreement as opposed to 26% of MSZP supporters.

As for the person of the potential prime minister, the supporters of the democratic parties still prefer Bajnai as they did earlier, but the difference in popularity between Bajnai and Mesterházy is smaller today than it was in July.

Median gyurcsanyPerhaps the most interesting question posed in this month’s Medián poll concerned the left-liberal voters’ assessment of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The question was: “There are those who claim that for the replacement of the Orbán government every opposition force is needed including Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party, the Democratikus Koalíció. Others maintain that Ferenc Gyurcsány is so unpopular that many people would rather not vote because they wouldn’t want to vote for a political alliance in which he is included and therefore it would be better if the parties’ collaboration would exclude him. Which viewpoint do you share?”

Support for the first viewpoint is colored in orange on the chart, support for the second in blue, and “no opinion” in light orange. The first line represents the replies of MSZP voters, the second E14 voters, the third “all left-wing voters,” the fourth “without a party,” and the last those who will most likely vote but who at the moment are unsure of their party preference.

I think this poll somewhat favors DK, although some people might counter that DK’s inclusion wouldn’t garner a lot of extra votes because his support is the lowest among those without a party. But considering Medián’s finding that support for MSZP-E14 hasn’t increased since an agreement was reached between the two parties, they probably don’t have anything to lose by including DK in a joint effort. I suspect that the potential upside reward outweighs the downside risk.

And if I were Bajnai and Mesterházy I would seriously reconsider the present arrangement of having two or three party lists. The majority of their voters prefer one common list and common candidates. They could run as a coalition called, for instance, Democratic Front or Fórum. And yes, one common candidate for prime minister candidate is a must. If they are serious about removing Orbán and making an effort to restore democracy in Hungary, they must come up with a winning strategy. Truly combining their efforts in a united front is what their voters want them to do.

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45 comments

  1. Lots of Hungarians are very conservative and they don’t really like leftism or socialism for one reason or another. One way to challenge the regime would be to set up a centre right party that stands for tradition, moderate social conservatism, enterprise, patriotism and a bit of church BUT without any mutyi or hanky panky. That would alarm Fidesz more than the ragbag, squabbling opposition.

  2. ” The setup that was worked out by MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM isn’t attracting voters.”

    Because they haven’t done anything else. I don’t know if they were expecting to shake hands in front of the cameras and the victory would be guaranteed but they are clearly not being able come up with any substance behind their alliance other than they want to replace Orbán. They all said a few weak promises but there is exactly zero momentum in their behavior. What exactly would attract new voters?

    I am certainly not a fan of Gyurcsány and I still claim that most of the independents would not vote for anything that has him attached, but I have to give it to the man, that he is the only one in the opposition who is campaigning and has (or pretends to have – up to your interpretation) a firm idea about what he would do and he is not shy communicating it.

    It’s time for the opposition to wake up from obsessing over the technicalities of what exact form their cooperation will take, because no one gives a flying frisbee about it other then then. Going on TV and finding a new adjective to describe how horrible the government is is not going to change anything, because everybody has heard it gazillions of time and if somebody is not seeing it by now then I can probably teach a hamster quantum electrodynamics way before it happens. Instead, it is time to make their case that they would be better. To me as well.

  3. Jano, the polls don’t support your feelings. For more than half of the undecided voters it doesn’t matter whether DK is in the united front or not. After all, he would not be at the head of the ticket. In fact, he has no such ambitions. Not this time. Whether he would later, I think yes, he would. But not now because he knows darn well that he has no chance.

  4. Eva, I am aware of that but my feelings still hold as a lot of those undecided voters wouldn’t vote for the opposition (maybe they wouldn’t vote for anyone, but that’s not the point) so it is indeed irrelevant is Gyurcsány is there or not. What would be a meaningful poll if we knew the same thing with the sample set being the ones who would vote for the “alliance” in one of these cases. We will probably never know.

  5. This is a misplaced wish.
    Hungarians need a constitutional republic with transparent institutions.
    The public must be active.
    The people must watch the regime.
    Who is worried by the loss of freedom in Hungary?
    Everybody should.

  6. @James Atkins

    “Lots of Hungarians are very conservative and they don’t really like leftism or socialism”

    Well, then why would Orban preempt the Socialists with “Socialist” ideas like nationalization & cutting the price of utilities?

    Mr Miliband of Labour just announced plans to freeze the utility prices in Britain if his party takes power.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-24/miliband-s-u-k-utility-breakup-plan-threatens-investment.html

    Orban is anything but conservative.

  7. @Johnny Boy

    The Fidesz party has destroyed democracy almost completely. Orban’s 2009 idea of “central power field” means a practically one-party state.

    The Communist ideologists regarded their dictatorship as “bad but necessary, temporarily”.

    On the other hand, Orban declared openly, in the Parliament, that he did not like the Communist rulers, but he liked the idea of dictatorship.

    So Fidesz follows non-democratic ideas.

    In addition, the organization of the party is based on the Fuhrerprinzip. Orban did an excellent job selecting his MPs, only one, Angyan, out of 200+ had morals, and left the party.

    Jobbik also declared its disdain for democracy.

    Because only the MSzP, DK, E14 declared their wish to restore democracy, we can indeed call them “democratic parties”.

  8. “Orban is anything but conservative.”

    Orbán’s idea is obviously some sort of state capitalism-socialism, probably close to the Chinese model with a hint of nationalism just for entertainment. The only reason we’re not China yet is because we’re much weaker and dependent on the declining west.

  9. This all brings back memories of 2006. When Dávid developed such an (understandable) hatred of Orbán. Fidesz and MDF needed each other in order to beat MSzP, but Dávid refused to cooperate with Orbán. It ended up with Orbán saying that he would lead his party but he wouldn’t become Prime Minister.

    I’m not sure how much this teaches us, but, at the very least, it suggests that small parties that refuse to cooperate with larger parties are probably signing their own death warrant, and that the voters don’t like indecision over who will be the PM.

  10. I totally agree with James about the moderate conservative party. I believed first this can grow out of Bajnai’s party. Now seeing how vehemently is opposed any deal with the currently Fideszist right makes me very pessimistic. I still believe the middle of the road liberal-conservative crowd exist I just don’t know how to organize them. 
    I disagree with James on the Hungarian anti-left views. In the past 24 years of the post commie era the Socialist gave 3 governments for 12 years. Hungarians don’t really have views – they follow the cow bell. We need more cow bells (like in the SNL skit).
    Funny how the views on Gyurcsany are changing. Everybody (anti-Fidesz) says he is pretty good yet nobody wants to admit it. 

  11. Johnny Boy :
    “The democratic parties” – this is where I stopped reading.

    Johnny, would you enlighten the non-Hungarian readership why do you think the Mszp is less democratic then the Fidesz?

    To me the Fidesz Mps seem like total button pushing voting zombies.

  12. I still think that the case is stronger for a without-Gyurcsány strategy.

    The completely undecideds (if I understand correctly about 50 of the total population) oppose Gy. 47-32 (although from these opposing voters some are actually right wing voters who fear that with Gyurcsány the left would be stronger and that is why they oppose Gy’s involvement).

    But given the left’s rather long stagnation in polls (which is not completely supported by the recent by-elections, ie, the left has performed better so far than what one would have expected), it seems that any increase in the supporting voters could only take place in the last weeks, minutes when all offers will have came in (Fidesz will surely offer more goodies, as well as the left).

    It has always been an experience in Hungary that a huge portion decided only in the last minute, perhaps inside the voting booth. That is when there can be no more hesitation: do they want the same for four more years or somebody else? Whatever the polls say, most people do not like their situation much, so those voting in the last minute will be discontented people.

    Fidesz cut utility prices but that is all policywise, is there anything else during the four years that they did and was good for the people?

    I also think that the existing but seemingly stagnating left has a strong motivation to vote as they hate Orbán, Gyurcsány’s deeper involvement will not change this calculation that significantly.

    So it still seems to me that the most important is to make sure that those deciding in the last minute and not happy about their lives (despite the rate cuts), would have the least to hate about the left (as most of these can and would still vote happily Jobbik, mind you).

  13. Here is the last chance for the left: give Gyurcsany a one way ticket to the Maldive Islands. I guarantee Fidesz will drop 10 points at the polls.

  14. Roger :
    Johnny Boy is a troll. Trolls like him/her should be given the silent treatment.

    Jb actually is able to contribute. This post wasn’t really him. Maybe he got fired from the Fidesz propaganda ministry for being honest and a rookie got his alias. Sad. Jb. Prove me wrong, please!

  15. I apologise, OT, for Hungarian speakers about the famous Sólyom Airlines.

    From the Tumblr page of Peter Uj (of 444, formerly of Index):

    http://cvikli.tumblr.com/post/62272006392/a-magyar-maganlegitarsasag-vezetoje-szerint-az

    The thread is funny, and the guys naturally invoke Robert Ludlum and the “services” (one says that the whole point of Sólyom was probably accomplished when the sole aircraft flew to Hungary for a couple of hours, we can think about the secret cargo).

    The Sólyom-story is so bizarre that according to these journalists it must be some kind of a Hungarian absurdist spy story, which it probably is I agree because it is not just that it is full of shady people, it is fully of seriously weird people.

    also from Index: http://index.hu/gazdasag/2013/09/25/kapj_el_ha_tudsz/

  16. Yes, left and right is too simple a distinction. There seems to be a distinction between socially right/left and economically right/left.
    Anecdotally I see rural Hungarian people (and also people in Erdely) very attracted by socially right-wing themes such as tradition, home, nation and church. And there is big chunk of the urban middle class for whom these themes are important. I feel that these questions, which have more emotional force, override questions of economic arrangement (state enterprise, free enterprise). This is partly because aspects of international business run against those socially-right values.
    It might be that these values are sometimes more or less latent, but clearly Fidesz has aroused them and now they are here. And there’s a lot of good in some of those social values so they have political force if you claim them as your own.

  17. Here is another potential gateway to election fraud in the new, Fidesz system.

    Say, my ID card shows that my address is in region 1.
    It seems that it is permitted for me to vote in region 2., both for party list and for candidates in region 1. Then drive to region 3., and vote for party list (?) and for candidates in region 1, etc.

    How many regions can I cover in a single day out of 96? Is “blue slip” fraud of 1947 recreated?.

    The Fidesz-appointed head of the new “National” Election Office is only worried about the logistics, i.e. every region has to be supplied with forms for the other 95 regions.

    Fidesz has changed the borders of the electoral regions several times without any judicial or other review – last time on July 5.

    http://nol.hu/belfold/palffy_ilona__a_jovo_evi_valasztasoknal_az_atjelentkezesek_okozhatjak_a_legnagyobb_problemat

  18. Here is another additional remark. Since the boundaries will be completely different in 2014, the only way to compare the 2014 and 2010 results and detect fraud will be possible at the PRECINCT level, if at all.

  19. Roger :

    I still think that the case is stronger for a without-Gyurcsány strategy.

    The completely undecideds (if I understand correctly about 50 of the total population) oppose Gy. 47-32 (although from these opposing voters some are actually right wing voters who fear that with Gyurcsány the left would be stronger and that is why they oppose Gy’s involvement).

    This is no longer the case. In Medián’s poll it is only 31%.

  20. Sackhoes Contributor :

    Here is the last chance for the left: give Gyurcsany a one way ticket to the Maldive Islands. I guarantee Fidesz will drop 10 points at the polls.

    For Pete’s sake. How can you say this in the light of these latest findings? There is nothing to support this opinion. Let’s not get too emotionally involved. It does nothing for clear thinking. If 67% of the left wing voters would have said that they wouldn’t support the left because of Gy. I would understand your feelings. Only these people and the currently undecided count because Fidesz hard core voters would never vote for MSZP-E14 or any other party. Never did and never will. Gy. or no Gy. As for the undecided, for more than half of them don’t reject the idea. So, what you are saying simply doesn’t add up.

  21. James, exactly. People are not always moved decisively by material issues. Those may influence the voting to a certain degree, but fundamental ideology matters more.

    It’s not always “it’s the economy stupid”. When it goes well it is (like in Germany or in the US back in the days of Clinton) but when it isn’t like in Iran, Egypt and in other places, people put higher value on other concepts.

    Fidesz has been an undisputed master in assemblying a political community bordering on religious fanaticism without anything material in it. Teachers with less salaries than a couple of months ago, people with family members unemployed and abroad will vote for Fidesz in the hundred thousands, because they like the Fidesz religion better than what MSZP or Együtt can offer.

    The current left has no ideology and is trying to respond to Fidesz, but does not sound authentic. One cannot be enthusiastic about what they say and this does matter eventually.

  22. Lemme weigh in on dis conversation… Seeems to mee, the majority of the population has a hidden “death-wish”.

    Its like psychology – if you’ve suffered for sooo long, you cant remain without asking for more suffering.

    Like it or not, this gut reaction is gonna carry the election. The really baddest is gonna win.
    The most evil. The one that says the most non-sense. The one that lies and distorts the most truth.

    This is a convoluted and emotionally mad and dishonest place that you cant predict using western thinking.

    Try looking at the world upside down, it may be the answer, dizzying though it may be.

  23. Jano wrote already the comment that I would have had about this – the opposition has to present ISSUES and IDEAS in addition to the details of their cooperation. It would be interesting to learn the answers to a poll about some points from the programmes of government and the opposition parties (including Jobbik). Ask people whether they want – citizenship for the Hungarians in neighbouring countries, this election law, this education system etc., to get some idea what is similar among the supporters of Fidesz and those of the opposition. Even the democratic opposition is too diverse and should identify some issues that are not disputed (hopefully also not among their potential electorate). So far it appears that the weakness of the opposition is also due to their programmes (I had to accept that apparently “we want democracy” is really not sufficient in Hungarian circumstances).

  24. Some consolation: if you read the Rotten Boroughs section of Private Eye, you’ll find shenanigans on a par with this stuff in the UK, too.

  25. The problem with the opposition presenting ‘ideas’ to the population is that those ideas will not be popular. Fidesz ideas are popular right now – hence the supermajority, hence the opinion poll dominance, hence the absence of any kind of street protest. When Gyurcsany and Bajnai attempted to create a compassionate yet prudent economy, they were rejected by the Hungarian people even while receiving foreign plaudits. What unites the voters of left and right? Right now, amongst those who openly discuss these things, a deeply instilled and often xenophobic distrust of foreigners, and genuine gratitude for the absurd and cynical utility cuts. No genuine liberal or socialist party can subscribe to these ‘policies’ or this worldview, however vote-gaining it might be to do so.

  26. Ivan: I understand that in politics you have to make compromises, but grabbing power can’t be the sole purpose of someone’s political existence. You can’t change your fundamental values according to wherever the wind blows. Well, you can, but then again you are Viktor Orban and you can’t beat Orban in being Orban.

    A Gyurcsany’s example shows the best anyway how much it is not worth it to lie yourself into power and then try to change the country without convincing the people first.. Even if it might be unpopular with some, the opposition has to make a stand on some issues and try to convince the population and provide an alternative. The first step in that direction is to come up with a coherent idea about what you want to convince them about.

    Orban at least has a story and naturally the main character in that story is Viktor Orban. The left’s biggest problem is that the main character of their story is also Viktor Orban. They are deeply failing in coming up with an coherent identity and providing a real alternative.

  27. Jano: Orbán is never out of charachter (though his character is subject to change, but that is a different thing). That was the mistake Gyurcsány made. In politics you should never get out of character, always lie to the bitter end, never admit any failures or problems.

    But yes, what you say is true: there is no story or vision on the left, they only conform and react, but cannot initiate or come up with anything seemingly their own. They are too fascinated by Orbán. Only Gyurcsány handles Orbán well, the rest of the left if they get close to Orbán – deep down – are star struck and are shitting in their pants.

  28. Mutt :
    Johnny, would you enlighten the non-Hungarian readership why do you think the Mszp is less democratic then the Fidesz?
    To me the Fidesz Mps seem like total button pushing voting zombies.

    1. Because Fidesz has never been the successor and legal continuation of a state party of a dictatoric regime, while MSZP still is.
    2. Because Fidesz has never ordered the state police to shoot at peaceful protesters, while MSZP has.
    3. Most of all, this is not the question. The problem is that the “article” begins with these three words, immediately excluding Fidesz, who have never reigned without having won democratic elections, out of the league of democratic parties. And all this from a devoted Stalinist, which is more than enough.

  29. James Atkins :
    I see rural Hungarian people (and also people in Erdely) very attracted by socially right-wing themes such as tradition, home, nation and church. And there is big chunk of the urban middle class for whom these themes are important.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen nicer words than this on this site. Then the world is not yet lost.
    But you are wrong on the topic of economy. Economic differences between the two big political sides just make voters’ job a hell of a lot easier since that is a landslide victory for Fidesz too.

  30. “Economic differences between the two big political sides just make voters’ job a hell of a lot easier since that is a landslide victory for Fidesz too.”

    Oh yeah, my communist friend. Orbán ended up being Kádár’s best student and you applaud it. One day, you’ll realize you were living a lie thinking you are right wing while in fact you’ve been an ardent Marxist all the time, with the classic aggressivity of the 30’s communist agitators. I feel for you.

  31. @johnny

    Come on, man … Professor Balogh is stalinist?

    1. Because Fidesz has never been the successor and legal continuation of a state party of a dictatoric regime, while MSZP still is.

    … and the Mszp unlike the Fidesz is full of ex party secretaries? Get over it buddy. Its been 25 years. Even your freaking PM was a KISZ (communist youth league) secretary.

    2. Because Fidesz has never ordered the state police to shoot at peaceful protesters, while MSZP has.

    Nobody ever did in the post commie history. Proof please.

    3. Most of all, this is not the question. The problem is that the “article” begins with these three words, immediately excluding Fidesz, who have never reigned without having won democratic elections, out of the league of democratic parties.

    The Fidesz is de facto a “state party of a dictatorial regime” which by the was caught red handed today in electoral fraud. We have gazillion reason for not calling them democratic.

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