Final polls before the Hungarian election tomorrow

This morning an editorial appeared in politics.hu by a former senior editor of the internet paper who is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Liverpool. The title of his opinion piece is “Forget rigged elections, Fidesz will win because there is no viable alternative.” The core of his argument is that with the exception of Tímea Szabó “the top four politicians are all from the Socialists’ eight year corruption run.” He is not the only one who is convinced that Hungarian politics needs an entirely new cast of characters. András Schiffer of LMP, for example, just yesterday announced that “voting for Gyurcsány is voting for Orbán.” I guess he is offering himself as the only pristine Hungarian politician of the future.

I think it would be high time for these people to learn that one cannot just produce brand new, ready-made politicians out of thin air. One of the handicaps of the first Hungarian democratic government of József Antall was that it was made up entirely of people with no political experience. The other strongly held notion is that just because the leading politicians of the Unity Alliance held office prior to 2010 they are forever unelectable. They should simply disappear, never to be seen or heard of again. I wonder where the Unity Alliance would be standing if they had obliged. I would guess somewhere close to where LMP is today.

I also doubt that the problem of the opposition is that they can offer no viable alternative. If that were the case, why was it necessary for the government and Fidesz to do everything in their power to prevent the opposition from delivering that nonexistent message to the electorate? Why do they need the votes of Hungarians from Romania where, according to the latest poll taken in the Partium, areas closest to the Hungarian-Romanian border, 66% of the voters are Fidesz sympathizers, 13% would vote for Jobbik,  and only 2% for the Unity Alliance? And why does Fidesz need an electoral law that dramatically reduces the democratic opposition’s chances?

Practically all the English- and German-language articles I read are certain of an overwhelming Fidesz victory. Their predictions are based on the numerous public opinion polls that have appeared in the last few months. By now there are mighty few people who believe in the possibility of victory for the democratic opposition. But some suggest that the results will be closer than current polls indicate. They are convinced that in the last four years the political fear that Hungarians were accustomed to during pre-democratic times returned. People who were always somewhat suspicious of poll takers by now are genuinely fearful that the information they share with the pollsters will end up at Fidesz headquarters and that soon enough they or their relatives will lose their jobs as teachers, doctors, or civil servants. Or, if they are small businessmen, that they will no longer receive government orders. Unity Alliance activists claim that they frequently meet people who actually lied to the pollsters because of their fears of the present ruling party. If the final election results are substantially different from the generally predicted ones, perhaps there is something to this explanation.

We may never know how many people misled the pollsters, but we do know that it is very difficult to convince people to answer their questions. Reluctance to participate in a survey is not a new phenomenon, but lately the polling companies are in real trouble. In order to find 1,000 willing participants they have to canvass about three times that number, sometimes even more. Surely, this fact says something about the Hungarian population’s present psyche.

Unity Alliance activists report full houses at their gatherings. They claim that their tables, set up alongside Fidesz posts, have long lines of interested people while Fidesz activists are not at all busy. This description might be a reflection of their bias and wishful thinking but one thing is sure: this morning  the square in front of Debrecen’s Great Church was not even half full during an event Fidesz organized as the last, triumphant stop in Viktor Orbán’s campaign. Is it possible that Fidesz voters have also become apathetic? Are they possibly disappointed? Or perhaps too sure of a Fidesz victory?

But let’s return briefly to the two latest polls. Medián shows unusually high percentage of committed voters (62%), larger than in 2002 or 2006. If these people actually go and vote, that fact itself might help the Unity Alliance, which benefits from high turnout. On the other hand, it was highly disturbing that 2% of these committed voters actually opted for the “Együtt 2014 Párt,” which was created to confuse voters. It is especially easy to mix up the two parties since Együtt 2014 Párt occupies the sixteenth place on the ballot while the Unity Alliance in which Együtt 2014-PM is listed is seventeenth. The Zöldek Pártja (Party of the Greens) received 1% of the sample’s votes, most likely from people who actually wanted to vote for LMP.

szavazo fulke

Ipsos, although it predicts a large Fidesz victory, also saw signs that confuse the issue. For example, it is very difficult to judge what the voters will actually do once they are in the voting booth. For example, there are 250,000 Fidesz supporters who think that they might vote for Jobbik while about 100,000 Jobbik voters think they might support Fidesz after all. There might also be some last-minute changes within the anti-Orbán forces. 150,000 Unity Alliance supporters are contemplating switching to LMP and a goodly number of current LMP supporters are thinking about voting for Unity after all. About 10% of the electorate is still undecided and another 10% refuses to divulge. Endre Hann of Medián also points out in his article that one must keep in mind that in the by-elections the opposition did considerably better than in 2010.

And finally, those who are keeping fingers crossed for the democratic opposition call attention to what happened to Slovak prime minister Robert Fico who a week ago was still leading in the polls by a margin of 10%. The next day he lost his bid to become president to a newcomer to politics, Andrej Kiska, a businessman, and not by a small margin. Kiska received almost 60% of the votes against 41% for Fico.

It would be a miracle if something like that were to happen in Hungary tomorrow, but there is a possibility that the Fidesz victory will not be so overwhelming as everybody thinks. As a Hungarian commentator said this morning, if Fidesz won with only a simple as opposed to a two-thirds majority, under the circumstances it would actually mean a victory for the opposition. Tomorrow, after all, might be a more interesting day than the current polls indicate. Let’s hope so.

249 comments

  1. In 2010, Fidesz got 1/3 of the votes of the adult population and absolute power.

    In 2014, Fidesz got 1/4 of the votes of the domestic adult adult and absolute power.

  2. Now it almost make sense how Hungary was spiralled into all the disasters for the last two centuries. Hungary what we hoped for in the 1990s is over. It became whatever it was and meant to be.

  3. Kim Lane Scheppele :
    Here are the results that show just how VERY disproportionate the system is.
    From: http://valasztas.hu/dyn/pv14/szavossz/hu/l22.html with 60% of the votes counted:
    Fidesz = 2,345,435 votes = 134 mandates
    Alliance = 1,307,431 votes = 39 mandates
    Jobbik = 1,093,175 votes = 26 mandates
    LMP = 243,030 votes = 0 mandates.
    The system does its work . . .
    This is what I meant to highlight in my long election analysis. Fidesz rigged the system to benefit itself. Their election framework was designed to turn pluralities into supermajorities . . .

    To all cheating, manipulating and gerrymandering still needed the cooperation of the clueless masses too.
    Seems pretty much to me as Hungary suffers of some kind of Stockholm-syndrome: held hostage by criminals and starting to sympathise with the captors after a while…

    And the “relation” just got prolonged.

  4. tappanch: But that can be said for almost any government before. As long as voting is not mandatory, you will always be able to cite such numbers. In my eyes whoever doesn’t show up for voting, sends a message ‘I don’t matter’. Comparing to the entire population is borderline meaningless and only good for rhetorics.

  5. Well, one tiny cause for satisfaction – Schiffer got his well deserved comeuppance.

    Unfortunately, he’s taken some very good people down with him in his ego-driven car crash.

  6. Jano :
    tappanch: But that can be said for almost any government before. As long as voting is not mandatory, you will always be able to cite such numbers. In my eyes whoever doesn’t show up for voting, sends a message ‘I don’t matter’. Comparing to the entire population is borderline meaningless and only good for rhetorics.

    Exactly. This sort of ‘logic’ is just desperate clutching at straws. As Jano says – if you don’t vote, you don’t count.

  7. An: It’d be interesting to see their struggle though. Right now it seems to me that taking 2/3 away from Fidesz depends on LMP getting in or not. If they are going to be the ones achieving that, it will be a huge slap to those who argued that a vote for them was pro Orbán.

  8. Kim Lane Scheppele :
    Here are the results that show just how VERY disproportionate the system is.
    From: http://valasztas.hu/dyn/pv14/szavossz/hu/l22.html with 60% of the votes counted:
    Fidesz = 2,345,435 votes = 134 mandates
    Alliance = 1,307,431 votes = 39 mandates
    Jobbik = 1,093,175 votes = 26 mandates
    LMP = 243,030 votes = 0 mandates.
    The system does its work . . .
    This is what I meant to highlight in my long election analysis. Fidesz rigged the system to benefit itself. Their election framework was designed to turn pluralities into supermajorities . . .

    Dear prof. Scheppele,

    I guess what you will have to defend against any fidesznik’s arguments is why is this new Hungarian election system any different from the US or the UK election systems?

    In both cases the general parliamentary/congressional elections are decided on first past the post based districts are most certainly not proportional. It is a historical issue that there are only two parties in the US — although truth be told first past the post systems tend to result in two strong parties/blocks and in that sense the UK is the specialty with a 3rd, 4th minor parties (Ukip and LibDems). But this is the reason why the US has one party states, like California, Texas etc. It is just impossible to enter the US political market for any new party as it cannot realistically prevail over the established parties under the system, and even with, say, 25% it could not show anything for its efforts.

    Fidesz trick lies in the fact that the new system deliberately favors rural districts which are gerrymandered to favor the dominant party of the conservative/right-wing, a position that is held strongly by Fidesz.

    And also in the fact that in a proportionate system, potentially, the more liberal Budapest voters could compensate the left-wing for its relative weakness in rural areas. So Fidesz tried to get rid of the proportionate elements of the system and emphasize the first past the post elements.

    All this would be relevant in a closer election. However it seems that now – perhaps due to Fidesz’ effective brain washing – people overwhelmingly favour Fidesz and more often Jobbik over any leftist or liberal parties. Even in Budapest, the left just had disastrous results. Meanwhile Jobbik is extremely strong all over rural Hungary and was finally able to crack Western Hungary.

    The election system does favor Fidesz, but there are deeper, ideological issues as well. (For those, however, Fidesz has the media which it controls with an iron grip and it does work.)

  9. On the other hand if they fall short by a fraction of the percentage, the votes cast on them would be definitely wasted and help OV. This is how little decides who is right in the end.

  10. Paul :
    The left, including Gyurcsány. dug their own grave, both when they were in power, and in the last 4 years.
    Without that we wouldn’t have Orbán and the disaster the country is now heading for.

    One person never explains it all. All points about the political ideas frequently applied, the huge burden of the past, the inexistence of democracy before, and the belief that Hungary leads the reform countries and it not in need of huge transformation despite the burden and the inappropriate ideas are all valid. This election does not change the interpretation, but it does mean that people opposed to OV will have to find new people (“generate politicians”) that can make a difference in this provincial political game.

  11. HiBoM :
    Paul, Schiffer is heading for parliament. What comeuppance?

    I was basing my assumption on the figures given above where LMP failed to get above 5%. Are they wrong?

  12. Rather like MDF if 2006 they are creeping steadily up as city votes are counted. 4.97 at the moment.

  13. Kirsten :

    Paul :
    The left, including Gyurcsány. dug their own grave, both when they were in power, and in the last 4 years.
    Without that we wouldn’t have Orbán and the disaster the country is now heading for.

    One person never explains it all. All points about the political ideas frequently applied, the huge burden of the past, the inexistence of democracy before, and the belief that Hungary leads the reform countries and it not in need of huge transformation despite the burden and the inappropriate ideas are all valid. This election does not change the interpretation, but it does mean that people opposed to OV will have to find new people (“generate politicians”) that can make a difference in this provincial political game.

    I wasn’t arguing that any one person was to blame. I only singled out Gy because he is so often lauded by the Hungarian liberal-left as the only worthwhile MSzP figure (similar in many ways to the misplaced left worship of Tony Benn in the UK), whereas in fact the stupid naivety of ‘that’ speech was a huge gift to Orbán.

  14. LWR :
    I think it is time for deep analysis about the share of the vote:
    In 2010 Fidesz got 52.7% of the vote, Jobbik got 16.7% together 69.5%.
    In 2014 according to available data: Fidesz got 47% Jobbik got 22% together 69%.
    My theory is that the virulent attacks on Fidesz the constant barraging, the relentless continued firing took some votes from the Fidesz base and pushed them towards Jobbik. For example the liberal press and people like Kim Lane Scheppele spent thousands of hours of research and effort to attack, discredit, defame and demonize Fidesz, while being essentially never attacking Jobbik. This extremely positive attitude towards Jobbik led to in my estimation the strengthening of Jobbik and the weakening of Fidesz at the same time. Maybe this was even the goal I do not know.
    In addition from the data available now I think it is without question that the election system benefits MSZP in an extreme way:
    Jobbik votes 22% – individual districts won 0
    MSZP votes 23% – individual districts won 10
    This means that while Jobbik and MSZP were almost identical in votes there is a huge advantage to MSZP on the level of the individual districts. This enormous MSZP advantage cannot be explained any other way but the election system massive benefits towards MSZP. It is obvious that this was not intentional but the fact MUST be recorded for history, nevertheless.

    The difference between the left and Jobbik is actually bigger (currently 25.1 vs. 21.1), but you raise a legitimate issue. However, the system does not prefer MSZP.

    The left’s relative success over Jobbik has one very simple reason.

    The Left’s remaining support base is heavily concentrated in Budapest so it has at least some chance to win there some districts with relatively low e.g. 40 or less percentages.

    Jobbik is more evenly supported rurally which is the reason why Jobbik prevailed over the united left in perhaps 35 or more districts. But it is not supported in any places as much as Fidesz or the Left are.

    But rest assured that if Fidesz will get unpopular for whatever reasons Jobbik is extremely well-positioned to gain further voters and perhaps even win entire districts — in regions where the left has zero chance.

  15. Paul :

    HiBoM :
    Paul, Schiffer is heading for parliament. What comeuppance?

    I was basing my assumption on the figures given above where LMP failed to get above 5%. Are they wrong?

    On the page of “valasztas” – link provided by prof. Scheppele above – LMP has exactly zero (0) mandate to date.
    What’s so difficult?

  16. Jano :
    Paul: It just got 5.00%.

    Sorry, I got the impression Kim’s figures were final ones.

    I was impressed that they’d been counted so quickly! But then I’m used to the stone-aged methods used in the UK, where you have to stay up until it gets light before you can be reasonably sure of the vote.

  17. spectator :

    Paul :

    HiBoM :
    Paul, Schiffer is heading for parliament. What comeuppance?

    I was basing my assumption on the figures given above where LMP failed to get above 5%. Are they wrong?

    On the page of “valasztas” – link provided by prof. Scheppele above – LMP has exactly zero (0) mandate to date.
    What’s so difficult?

    To update a page?
    Yes, I was wrong – five mandates!

  18. LMP is just above 5%, but half of the Transylvanian votes are not counted tonight.
    It will probably not reach 5% overall.

  19. spectator :

    Paul :

    HiBoM :
    Paul, Schiffer is heading for parliament. What comeuppance?

    I was basing my assumption on the figures given above where LMP failed to get above 5%. Are they wrong?

    On the page of “valasztas” – link provided by prof. Scheppele above – LMP has exactly zero (0) mandate to date.
    What’s so difficult?

    I am now utterly confused!

  20. As HBioM said, LMP is a party much stronger in Budapest and the cities, therefore they improve as time passes. The only worry is that the foreign votes might be able to turn this around according to some sources, but I’m not sure.

  21. tappanch :
    LMP is just above 5%, but half of the Transylvanian votes are not counted tonight.
    It will probably not reach 5% overall.

    Someone on here said (I think) 80% of the ‘foreign’ votes will go to Fidesz.

  22. Papcsak’s district has processed the lowest % of votes so far, only 40%.

    What is going on?

  23. At the moment, even with LMP passing 5%, Fidesz still, just, have the 2/3rd majority. So unless they lose another seat, they are home and dry. And now they have a further huge mandate, expect any opposition, whether right or left, to be slowly suffocated.

  24. hiBoM :
    Tappanch, how many Transylvanian votes still to be counted?

    THey have counted 30,000 out of 160,000 valid votes only.

  25. “But rest assured that if Fidesz will get unpopular for whatever reasons Jobbik is extremely well-positioned to gain further voters and perhaps even win entire districts — in regions where the left has zero chance.”

    My mother-in-law, an intelligent, university educated, kind, and loving woman, confessed just the other day that if Fidesz ever let her down she would “have to” vote Jobbik.

    Horrifying as this sounds, I suspect her reasoning is quite simply – who else is there? With her background, she is never going to vote left-liberal.

    Perhaps the cleverest thing Orbán ever rid was to destroy MDF?

  26. tappanch :
    Papcsak’s district has processed the lowest % of votes so far, only 40%.
    What is going on?

    There were supposed to vote half of a village from a countryside – as I heard a few days ago – if they were indeed there you’ve got some answer.

  27. @jonty: With Fidesz 2/3, expect a rough couple of years, for everybody (other than Fidesz cronies). Think back 2010 and the way Fidesz was abusing its power…. stealing the pension monies will be nothing compared to what’s coming if Fidesz feels strong in power and don’t need to court voters any more.

  28. Given that Orbán is as obsessed with total winning and power as I think he is, I think it’s going to bug him no end if he only just scrapes a 2/3 majority. I’m sure in his warped mind he expected a grateful country to give him an overwhelming vote of thanks and a firm mandate for years to come.

    Whatever he might claim publically, he will not be happy with more or less the same situation as 2010 (especially with a lower popular vote). And the thought that he came very close to having to rely on Jobbik support to change constitutional law will make him very pissed off.

    Stand by for a vindictive and vengeful PM for the next four years – his demons have not been silenced tonight.

  29. According to HVG:

    “”Ezt az eredményt Gyurcsány Ferenc és Bajnai Gordon nélkül is simán hoztuk volna, semmi értelme nem volt az összefogásnak” – Mesterházy

    Brace yourself for a new opposition show.

  30. @An – I totally agree with you. But sad though I am to say it, Hungary probably has the government it deserves and it is only when it finally falls into the abyss, that people may actually see some sense. Although on current form, the population will only go further to the extremes (of god knows what).

  31. I fully understood the rooting of most of the acolytes for the “left bunching” but the results point out that those who for a year now postulated victory by various means of the left are refugees from reality.

  32. Louis Kovach :
    I fully understood the rooting of most of the acolytes for the “left bunching” but the results point out that those who for a year now postulated victory by various means of the left are refugees from reality.

    But Fidesz will also be detached from reality if they think they can rule 8 million voters with 1.9 votes. Once the people unite against these mafiosi, Fidesz is done.

  33. Paul :
    Stand by for a vindictive and vengeful PM for the next four years – his demons have not been silenced tonight.

    Not sure about the demons being silenced. He’s just given his Victory speech. In tears. Like Putin did a few years ago.

  34. tappanch: But if those 8 millions wanted to do something about it, they could have done it today. They didn’t.

  35. Tappanch, 3 million people didn’t bother to vote. I have no sympathy for them and they have no business complaining. The system is unfair but if the electorate stays at home, it really doesn’t undermine Fidesz’s legitimacy.

  36. Jano, the democratic opposition parties were not in best shape. You just quoted Mesterhazy. The next four years will be costly for Hungary, but the result today does not mean that people want Fidesz as badly as hoped for by some of our Fidesz contributors. The alternatives have to improve, and they should count as little as possible on people with too much past.

  37. Bowen :

    Paul :
    Stand by for a vindictive and vengeful PM for the next four years – his demons have not been silenced tonight.

    Not sure about the demons being silenced. He’s just given his Victory speech. In tears. Like Putin did a few years ago.

    What else would you expect?

  38. I’m really not disappointed because the united opposition didn’t win… that was kind of expected. But I did expect a stronger showing, so that they would at least challenge Fidesz. And Jobbik’s strength is truly disappointing.

  39. Where can you find out how many Romanian votes have been included? The news sites seem not to know about it as a factor

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