How to make sure that Fidesz wins the municipal election in Budapest?

Viktor Orbán and his minions have no shame. They fear their opponents and hence are once again ready to change the electoral law.

What am I talking about? Municipal elections will be held in October, and Viktor Orbán is afraid that Fidesz may not have clear sailing in Budapest. Although Fidesz won the city at the national and the EP elections, both times there were signs that the opposition might stand a chance of winning the city back from current Budapest mayor István Tarlós, who is Fidesz’s man. And as far as Viktor Orbán is concerned, that must not happen. The easiest way to guarantee a Fidesz victory is to change the electoral law that until now governed the elections and the functioning of the municipal government of Budapest. It was announced that within the shortest possible time parliament will discuss the matter and naturally, with the help of their two-thirds majority, the bill will become law by the middle of June.

The structure of Budapest’s municipal government does need reforming, but the desired changes point to more centralization. In the current system the districts have far too much power and the lord mayoralty does not have enough authority. In the first place, it is ridiculous to have twenty-three district mayors, their numerous deputies, and their separate councils for a city with a population of less than two million. Especially since these mini-kingdoms have such wide powers that they can even decide on parking fees and regulations. Thus, it can easily happen that parking fees and traffic regulations are different on the right side of the street from the left. Moreover, Fidesz further weakened the power of the center by allowing districts to keep certain taxes deriving from tourism. This benefited Antal Rogán’s 5th district enormously since it is that district where most tourists enjoy the sites and spend the most money. Under such circumstances, it is exceedingly difficult to have rational, comprehensive city planning.

As for the election law, voters currently elect the lord mayor and the twenty-three district mayors directly, but they also vote for party lists on the basis of which members of the city council are elected. For some time Fidesz has been toying with the idea of making the lord mayor a less important position; in 2011 there were talks about getting away from direct voting for the mayor of Budapest. Instead, they suggested a setup that would allow the twenty-three mayors to vote for the lord mayor from among themselves. That idea was eventually dropped.

The latest suggestion, which I fear will soon be law, still allows direct voting for the lord mayor, but it completely changes the composition of the city council. The city council would be comprised of the twenty-three district mayors and nine people from the compensation list. That is, from among those who ended up second in the election for district mayoralties. There would be no party lists. According to Lajos Kósa and Antal Rogán, the two MPs who presented the bill, this new electoral law would be much more democratic because in the new system the members of the council would be directly voted on by the electorate as opposed to having an arbitrary party list put together by the different parties. Moreover, Rogán added, it would be much cheaper to run the new council because members of the city council would get no salaries. Being a member of the council would be included in the duties of each district mayor.

Although the claim is that the suggested system will be more democratic than the one now in effect, that is not the case. On the contrary. It is less democratic and, according to constitutional lawyers, might even be unconstitutional. First of all, the members of the city council must represent the entire electorate and not just parts of the whole. After all, only people who live in a particular district are eligible to vote for that district’s mayor. As the quick analysis of Political Capital, the well-known think tank, pointed out, the Fidesz constitution states in Article 35(1) that “voters shall exercise universal and equal suffrage to elect local government representatives and mayors by direct and secret ballot, in elections allowing the free expression of the will of voters, in the manner defined by a cardinal Act.” But if this bill is voted into law, the representatives of the local government, i.e. the city council, will not be elected by all the voters. And there is a second problem that probably makes the new law unconstitutional: the huge differences in population between districts. Political Capital points out that in District I (the Castle district) there are only 20,949 eligible voters while in District XIV there are 92,806. In fact, the Constitutional Court several times ruled on the issue of electoral districts that were in the judges’ opinion too divergent as far as their populations were concerned. By abolishing the party lists, Fidesz prevents the opposition parties from accessing their support across the city as a whole.

In the April parliamentary election Fidesz received 39% of the votes, the United Alliance 37%, Jobbik 12%, and LMP 12%. Portfolio figured out that with the same percentages and under the current rules Fidesz and the United Alliance would both have 13 mandates, Jobbik 4 mandates, and LMP 3 mandates. In the new system, however, Fidesz would have 17 seats on the council, which amounts to 70% of all the available mandates, while E14-PM, DK, and MSZP would have to share 6 mandates. LMP and Jobbik wouldn’t even have seats on the city council. If Fidesz is generous and there is still compensation, assuming 10 more seats and the old “list system,” Fidesz would have 21 seats, Együtt-PM-DK-MSZP 10, LMP 1, and Jobbik 1. No matter how Fidesz fine tunes the law, it will make sure that it dominates the council and controls the fate of Budapest.

No wonder that they are having fun

Lajos Kósa and Antal Rogán: No wonder they are having fun

The opposition parties are up in arms. The most straightforward and hardest hitting criticism came from DK, Együtt14-PM, and Gábor Fodor’s liberals. They call it what it is: electoral fraud. DK is seeking remedies at the Constitutional Court, but by now Fidesz-appointed justices are in the great majority on the thirteen-member body. MSZP’s Csaba Horváth focused more on the negative results of decentralization, which was not the most effective response to this latest Fidesz coup. The others are right: Fidesz just figured out a way to make sure that they will win in Budapest regardless of the strength of the left.

Just as I said at the beginning, Viktor Orbán and his friends have no shame. They no longer even try to hide their plans to deprive their opponents of their rightful representation. Hungary is marching rapidly toward a one-party system.


  1. A decent Hungary can be only built if all prejudices will be deflated.

    The people fear the current government.

    It is even worse that most people can be fooled by painting half Hungary as the enemy.

    These enemies are described by the usual fictions:

    All communists are devils
    All Jews are Christ killers
    All Gypsies are thieves
    All Western Europeans are liberal anti-Hungarists

    By scapegoating these entities, enough voters will stand behind Fidesz to ruin the nation forever.

  2. The moment of truth is here. We must choose to be for Jobbik or against Jobbik. Every one of us.

    These numbers in the post show the story: “Fidesz received 39%, United Alliance 37%, Jobbik 12%, and LMP 12%.”

    With such numbers Nobody is able to govern without Jobbik. In this situation ALL coalitions MUST FORM WITH JOBBIK. Look at the numbers again. Add them together. TRY to make a coalition that does not include Jobbik. it is IMPOSSIBLE with these numbers it does not exist.

    Read this again. With these numbers ANY coalition MUST include Jobbik mathematics dictates it. So we cannot be two-faced. We cannot demand actions against Jobbik, call them far-right, neo-fascist and other names and then fight to ensure that Jobbik will govern. ENSURE. We must not become neo-nazis ourselves. We must have morals. We cannot be both against Jobbik and Jobbik’s strongest supporters at the same time. We cannot fight for a system that gives Jobbik even more power than it already has.

    This is our time, this is our moment of truth. Everyone must pick a side. Either you are for Jobbik’s dominance and ensure that they shall govern or you are against Jobbik even if it means.

    After the Holocaust we cannot fight for Jobbik to gain more power. We must be humans first and look for our own political preferences only second.

  3. Of course – as done by pros, this is not the left-wing after all – the news broke on Friday and it is already the summer.

    In other words, nobody will give a ****t, people will be finally enjoying their weekend and be out drinking their favorite micro brewery ale or pálinka.

    In addition, the mighty left wing has no media, so people will simply not know what happened.

    Budapest people who would vote for the left wing or liberals just don’t care and they don’t demonstrate. Only the right-wing is well-organized enough to do anything.

    Orban knows this well. So leftist people can get lost, their losing streak just started, it just started.

    Soon enough leftists will realize that it is not worth doing it, to be a loser all your life is not good.

    Zsolt Molnár and Csaba Horváth realized that it is better to be friendly with the winners, with the jocks. Life is not easy, if your are friends with the nerds.

  4. Csepp,

    Don’t take it as a insult but you seem to have already started the summer program with some home-distilled palinka…

    While Fidesz plans these actions very cunningly I wouldn’t say that they are professional in any other categories than petty cheats. Don’t be mistaken, if real crises hit Hungary, like people’s anger against Fidesz turns violent or Orban dies of a freak accident or sudden illness, this whole system they call NER will collapse in a second as there is nothing to support it: a competent administration or powerful external allies.

    So if you are enjoying it, feel free to do it just don’t bank on it for the long haul.

  5. sunyilo12,

    Laypeople and scholars both tend to seriously underestimate the resilience of autocracies.

    Hungary is currently an autocracy but one which is lead by smart lawyers (look at the new titans: Miklós Seszták and Bence Tuzson, both filthy rich lawyers well-known for ‘arranging’ legally untouchable EU-subsidized ‘deals’) who will make sure all they do is ‘legal’ so that even the cultured EU politicians (burocrats) have to bow and acknowledge the legality. And in the unlikely scenario of not being completely legal, then they can always change the law and they anyway control the judiciary/prosecution/constitutional court.

    Orban is here to stay. He and his cohort are way too smart and prepared for your average leftist European dreamer.

  6. “Hungary is currently an autocracy but one which is lead by smart lawyers….”

    Depends on your definition of “smart”. Fidesz at the very top may have one or two intelligent people but it is very top-heavy in that regard simply because Orban prefers, from his own sense of inferiority and insecurity, to have himself surrounded by idiots and buffons- exhibit for the prosecution Messrs Matolcsy and Lazar.

    Further down in every village and town Fidesz ranks are filled with, again, idiots and buffons who keep their position not because of their intelligence but due to basest of corruption and if that doesn’t work, then, threats.

    In Budapest, in a straight democratic election Tarlos would lose- he is detested and despised even by his own side. Now, with the regime’s tricks he may well win but that will not increase his or the regime’s popularity in Budapest. The regime and their alleged “smart lawyers” should realize that the smarter thing would have been to arrange a scandal to emerge about “their” man and replaced him with someone who at least a semblance of a personality.

  7. Eva your comments in passing about the “structure of Budapest’s municipal government” and “Antal Rogán’s 5th district” calling for greater centralization of regulations was I thought written too delicately. It avoids the massive problem of sex tourism in Budapest and the compressive corruption that accompanies it. For someone who comes to Budapest only every 5 years or so the growth of the sex industry and it’s extension into even the restaurant industry is truly astounding.

    For those of us who speak Hungarian we sometimes have to laugh at the scams being perpetrated all around us in the tourist areas. The prostitutes on the Danube banks are getting more aggressive and they are literally following solo male tourists, saying “no” does not seem to be enough to them. Budapest in particular is a place where tourists can fall victim to the community of corrupt taxi drivers (the worst I ever saw was that flagship of the mafia called Maxtaxi), restaurant owners and young country girls who are working together to swindle overweight Germans and various drunken Finns.

    Centralizing rules will not solve these problems. Because if you look beyond the surface it is not hard to figure out what’s going on. It doesn’t take rocket science or even a private investigator to realize the impact the sex industry has had on Budapest and how it is related to the young teenagers, who get contaminated with all kinds of drugs. The discos where ecstasy and speed can be dealt without hassle. Of course everybody knows this, the police know this and they too are on the take.

    Living in Chicago one of the most corrupt cities on earth I have no right to cast the first stone on corruption in Budapest. But like here the problems are systemic and are not easily solved by uniform regulations because the supposed enforcers of regulations are more often than not corrupt themselves.

  8. Re sex tourism. The reason I did not write about it because the post was about something else. I brought up the question for the illustration of this government’s efforts to take away more and more power from the mayor of Budapest and strengthen the authority of the district mayors. Don’f forget that currently there is only one MSZP district mayor (District XIII) out of twenty-three. Orbán did not quite trust Tarlós and who knows what will happen in the future.

  9. @Eva

    Re: Ministerial dictionary

    I started with “title”. The translation is “beosztás”
    Next, I tried “escrow” and “injunction” . The dictionary does not know the words.

  10. Re the drug and prostitution question, for an alleged socially conservative regime, the “leeway” which exists in particuliar the (Fidesz controlled) 5th and 6th district would perhaps surprise some of their more naive middle-aged supporters. The one romkocsma in the 5th district which is inhabitted by the “Fidesz Youth” has a toiletblock on a Saturday night which closely resembles a chemistry lab.

  11. Here is an example that outlines a number of things among them, a) how the foremost restaurant in Budapest deals with foreigners, b) how the government tolerates the cheating of
    foreigners, c) how the city of Budapest has become a trap for foreign visitors.

    I’m referring to the Gundel restaurant that we visited some months ago. The cheque arrived in a curious form: at the end of the items we consumed was ‘kiszolgasi dij’ but written as if it was an item of food. Next the total, then the tax, and finally…the last line started with TIP. Now, those speaking Hungarian would avoid this suggestion having noted that they had already been charged a 12% service fee, but how would non-speaking tourists know this? They wouldn’t.

    That the government and the police should allow such blatant thieving by the most famous restaurant of Budapest is telling of the fall of decency in the city. It is indicative of what Hungary is today.

    Hungaricum indeed.

  12. istvan – May 31, 2014 at 9:11 am – is always fun. Chicago is a powerful place. Its Hungarian immigrant population is probably a pitiful bunch.

    I have left Hungary because I did not like the Kadar republic, and many Hungarians’ depressing attitudes.

    Orban is repeating my Kadar impression. He is pretty depressing, just like his followers.

  13. @tappanch
    Re: ministerial dictionary
    I have tried injunction and it worked perfectly. I suspect you haven’t clicked on the correct language button in the choices. The language you have to click on is the language of the word you are querying.
    The other aspect we mustn’t forget that this dictionary is probably only considering terms that crop up in EU documents. Anything else will come up with nothing. Also, the differences in legal procedures could also have an effect on whether the term is known in all languages involved.

  14. Zone,

    You wrote “With such numbers Nobody is able to govern without Jobbik.”

    Fidesz 39% + LMP 12% = 51%

    I had a sneaking suspicion, and maybe Jávor agrees with me, that Schiffer just wanted to make himself the indispensable kingmaker.

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