Post mortem: election results of the Hungarian municipal elections

Now that I’ve had a good night sleep and listened again to all the speeches by the various party leaders, I came to the conclusion that there are two points on which everybody agrees. One, that Lajos Bokros, the candidate of the united democratic opposition, did extremely well and, two, that the greatest loser in these elections was András Schiffer’s LMP.

So, let’s first talk about the mayoralty race in Budapest. We all know the handicaps Bokros had to overcome. Months of indecision, constant bickering, especially between the twin parties Együtt and PM, and only two weeks of campaigning. I think most people were prepared for a complete fiasco. Four years ago the socialist candidate received 29.47% of the votes but, the analysts predicted, Bokros who claims to be a liberal conservative will receive even less support. Behold, he got 36% of the popular vote. As Bokros likes to say, only 13% less than the victorious István Tarlós who was reelected with 49% of the votes as opposed to his 2010 achievement of 53.37%.

As for the LMP loss, we should keep in mind that LMP’s strength is confined to Budapest. To give some idea of what has happened to LMP in Budapest over the last four years, in 2010 Benedek Jávor, LMP’s mayoral candidate, received 9.9% of the votes. (Jávor since left LMP and joined PM. He is today Együtt-PM’s representative to the European Parliament.) This year’s LMP candidate, Antal Csárdi, received only 5.69% of the votes. I suspect that LMP lost its appeal among voters who came to the conclusion that a tiny party’s lonely fight against the Fidesz colossus is hopeless and perhaps even counterproductive.

Jobbik’s candidate, Gábor Staudt, received the same percentage of votes in both 2010 and 2014, around 7%.  The liberals’ candidate, Zoltán Bodnár, received 2.1% of the votes.

Tarlós’s decrease in support and the surprisingly strong showing of Bokros should give the Fidesz leadership pause, warns even the pro-government Válasz. Árpád W. Tóta, a sharp-tongued and talented journalist, approaches the same topic from the point of view of the opposition. He takes issue with Viktor Orbán’s claim that there is unprecedented unity among Hungarians. In Budapest one-third of 41% of the Budapest adult citizens voted for Lajos Bokros, “whose middle name is Package,” referring to the extremely strict austerity program Bokros introduced as minister of finance. Therefore, he argues, “there must be considerable bitterness” in the electorate for them to vote for Bokros.

onkormanyzati valasztasok

Just as predicted, Jobbik did well. The party’s mayoral candidates received about 100,000 more votes than four years ago. In 2010 the party’s candidates won in three smaller towns but in the last four years they added a few more larger villages, mostly in the northeast corner of the country. After these elections the party has more members in the city/town/county councils than ever before. Moreover, the party’s popularity is no longer confined to its former stronghold in the poorest districts of the country. Jobbik also did quite well in Transdanubia. For example, in Somogy County four years ago Jobbik received 9.83% of the votes while this year it got 19.34%. The situation was similar in Győr-Moson-Sopron County, which is considered to be a well-off district due to a number of large foreign-owned factories.

Finally, here are some general observations and comments. Voter participation has been steadily declining in Hungary ever since 2006. As Political Capital, a think tank, observed, Fidesz’s victories are due solely to the ineptitude of the opposition and voter apathy. Fidesz keeps winning while steadily losing voters. Although the opposition in Budapest didn’t do as well as they had hoped, Fidesz did lose two districts, XIV and XV, in addition to two “towns of county rank” (megyei jogú város). Political Capital published a long list of the towns where votes for Fidesz mayors dropped considerably. Take, for instance, my own hometown, Pécs, where Zsolt Páva won 68.59% of the votes in 2010 but this time got only 39.28%. Admittedly this was the largest drop in popularity but Kecskemét, the home of the Mercedes-Benz factory, was not far behind (79.12% versus 59.31%). Yet the democratic parties are incapable of enlarging their voting base.

There are a few success stories in the otherwise grim picture of the left-liberal parties. MSZP improved its showing in places it won in both 2010 and 2014–three Budapest districts and Szeged. For example, in Szeged László Botka (MSZP) received 52.51% of the votes and his Fidesz opponent 45.84% in 2010; this year Botka got 58.21% while his “independent” opponent with Fidesz backing received only 36.88% of the votes. I might add that while after 2010 Botka had to work with a Fidesz-majority city council of 28, this year there is a clear MSZP-DK-Együtt-PM majority. So, it seems that joint political action coupled with good past performance still works.

MSZP remains the strongest of the three opposition parties, followed by DK and Együtt-PM, but the differences between MSZP and DK are not that great. For example, in Budapest in districts I , XII, and XXIII, DK did better than MSZP, and in several others the differences were minuscule. The situation was the same in some of the larger cities, for example in Debrecen and Nagykanizsa where DK received more votes than MSZP or in Zalaegerszeg where they were neck to neck. So, it’s no wonder that Ferenc Gyurcsány seems to be satisfied overall, although he is disappointed that DK won only one district mayoralty in Budapest instead of the two they had hoped for.

I’m pretty sure that we will spend a great deal more time on the repercussions of the elections and on the intra-party struggles that most likely will follow. The present MSZP leadership seems to be adamant about following LMP’s lead and going it alone against the Fidesz machinery. I suspect, however, that not everybody will follow Tóbiás and the hardliners. Gyurcsány last night announced that a new union party should be open to every democrat, from Gábor Demszky to Lajos Bokros and Ági Kunhalmi! This morning on ATV’s Start Kunhalmi (MSZP) very cleverly deflected the question about her future political plans.

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41 comments

  1. “I’m pretty sure that we will spend a great deal more time on the repercussions of the elections and on the intra-party struggles that most likely will follow.”

    Éva: What elections?

    Unless there is some election legislation that guarantees some fairness to all, all those post-festum deliberations are futile. They only show that there is a weak opposition that will never have a change to win anything.

    This is why I have recommended several times to clearly and loudly boycott all elections until the laws are changed.

    I am sorry to say so: But we are flogging a dead horse – a horse that went to meet its maker, a horse pining for the fjords, etc. The Hungarian democracy is no more, and thus there is no reason to talk about or analyse “elections”.

    It would be much better to re-start Radio Liberty or Radio Free Europe or swamp Hungary with other TV channels. But even now, Klubrádió is begging for money just to stay afloat.

    Hungary is a hopeless case and I salute everyone who spares a line on its future which I’m almost certain not to see.

  2. OT: Transparency International launched a new website http://www.integritywatch.eu/. This website is interactive website showing the attendance in the EU parliament, and other jobs that they have. Most of it is as of June 2014. Hopefully they will upgrate it regular, and perhaps they might want to launch a similar website for Hungary only. Btw with exception of Tamas Deutsch and Krisztina Morvai the attendance is good.

  3. October 2014.

    Jobbik in the rural areas:
    ——————————-

    Heves 29.6%
    Borsod: 27.8%
    Jasz-Szolnok 27.6%
    Hajdu: 24.2%
    Zala: 23.6%

    18-22%: all other counties

    Tolna 17.8%
    Baranya: 16.6%
    Vas: 16.4%

    Jobbik in the large towns:
    ——————————-

    Budapest: 7.1%

    district 22: 11.8%
    district 18: 9.8%
    district 20: 8.6%
    district 3: 8.4%
    district 7: 7.9%

    Jobbik over 9.8% in large towns:

    Eger: 26%
    Miskolc: 20.5%
    debrecen: 15.5%
    Szolnok: 14.4%
    Pecs: 12.3%
    Salgotarjan: 12.1%
    Zalaegerszeg: 11.1%
    Gyor: 10.8%
    Nyiregyhaza: 10.5%
    Kecskemet: 9.8%
    Kaposvar: 9.8%

  4. DK above 5%:

    rural areas:

    Hajdu. DK: 7.0%, MSzP: 12.6%
    Bekes: DK: 5.8%, MSzP: 14.3%, Egyutt: 4.0%
    Jasz-Szolnok: DK: 6.2%, MSzP: 12.3%, Munkaspart: 2.5%
    Bacs-Kiskun: Dk: 5.9%, MSzP: 12.5%, LMP: 5.5%
    Heves: DK: 6.3%, MSzP: 14.7%
    Borsod: DK: 5.1%, MSzP: 18.1%
    Komarom: DK: 9.7%, MSzP: 15.0%
    Gyor: DK: 7.3%, MSzP: 12.9%

    etc.

    DK is above 5% in every rural county except Csongrad.
    MSzP is below 18.2% everywhere except 21.8% in Csongrad.

    The leaders of the MSzP should think about this if their aim is the restoration
    of democracy and the defense of the poor.

    Unfortunately, it seems to me that their supreme desire is to keep their salary in Parliament for four more years.

  5. Three-way (or rather 4-way) contests in Budapest between the parties of the democratic opposition:

    District
    01: DK > Egyutt > LMP > MSzP
    02: MSzP > Egyutt > LMP > DK
    08: MSzP > Egyutt > DK > LMP
    12: Egyutt >MSzP > DK > LMP
    16: MSzP > DK > Egyutt > LMP
    22: DK > MSzP > LMP > Egyutt

  6. Democratic opposition > Jobbik

    rural areas:

    Bekes, Csongrad, Pest, Nograd (barely) , Bacs-Kiskun (with LMP only)
    Komarom, Tolna, Baranya, Veszprem, Fejer, Gyor (barely), Vas,

    Jobbik > Democratic opposition combined

    Zala, Borsod, Heves, Szabolcs, Hajdu, Jasz-Szolnok

  7. Budapest
    Fidesz mayoral candidates below 50%

    district:

    13: 22.5% incumbent opposition win
    23: 26.4% incumbent independent win
    19: 31.5% incumbent opposition win
    20: 34.7% incumbent opposition win
    14: 39.7% opposition gain

    15: 41.0% opposition gain
    18: 43.3%
    07: 44.2%
    09: 44.4%
    11: 46.6%
    21: 47.1%
    22: 48.2%
    06: 49.3%
    10: 49.5%

  8. The democratic opposition parties are Jobbik and LMP.
    This fact makes anything below the first paragraph of this article a complete balderdash.

  9. It is all very well dreaming about a unified opposition but its constituent members represent a wide spectrum of entirely defensible political views. How can someone like Bokros be reconciled with the Kádár-reflexes of the MSZP (and frankly the other parties as well)? Why should those with a quasi-green agenda want to amalgamate their protectionist instincts with a free-marketeer like Bokros? Obviously a unity of policy can’t remotely be achieved. So this “unified opposition” must by necessity be a tribal grouping whose slogan will essentially be “we are the good guys, so vote for us and we’ll worry about coherent policies later, preferably once you have voted us in…” I’m sorry but the electorate won’t buy that: the average Hungarian voter doesn’t seem sufficiently interested in the spirit of democracy to make a grouping whose common-denominator is an attitude to “democracy” remotely feasible.

    What is striking to me is that virtually no one in the opposition at the last election presented anything coherently like an alternative vision. No one seems to have any idea what they would do if they were suddenly handed the keys to power. And one of Fidesz’s secrets is, however intellectually dishonest, that it offers at least a positive reason for voting for them. In that sense, they learned from the depression campaign of 2006 which badly backfired.

    The reality, I suspect, is that Gyurcsány will use his not inconsiderable talents to forge a new grouping that will sound good on a rhetorical level but will leave the electorate, who will never forget what a poltroon he proved to be when in power, stoney cold.

  10. Eva “it seems to me that the left-wing of MSZP (Tobiás et al) thinks that they can do it alone. They can’t.”

    Well, unity can be achieved not only by uniting, but by the disappearance of anybody but you. I think this is exactly what the MSZP leadership is playing for and the catastrophic DK performance (managing to loose the 3 districts in Budapest which were the most important for them, like it or not) is going to be oil on the fire.

    It clearly turned out once again that the EU elections are the time when the voters can send a message without much consequences (hence the good performance of Együtt and DK at the expense of MSZP) but when it really matters, they go back to where they belong. MSZP is still much stronger than many of us would have thought and I dare to say they are the big winners of Sunday. Not against Fidesz of course, but over Együtt-PM and DK definitely. Gyurcsány is definitely not satisfied.

  11. @Jano
    “catastrophic DK performance”

    Do you mean?
    district 07: 32.1% vs incumbent Fidesz mayor 44.2%
    district 10: 32.9% vs incumbent Fidesz mayor 49.5%
    district 21: 35.6% vs Fidesz 47.1%

    What about this:
    district 04: MSzP 35.8% vs incumbent Fidesz mayor 52.5%?

  12. @tappanch: So if you expect to win three district (as based on the EU election results, that’s what they were aiming at), and then loose by over 10% even though you have the joint candidates of all the opposition parties each that’s a victory?

  13. Quote from HiBoM:

    “the average Hungarian voter doesn’t seem sufficiently interested in the spirit of democracy …”

    Maybe that’s one of the problems or rather THE problem?

    In Germany we have seen coalitions in all permutations between Conservative, Liberal, Social Democrat, Green – and sometimes even including the “Left” aka Communist/Socialist Russia friendly …

    And you shouldn’t underestimate the differences between the different wings of the parties too!

    And in Italy and France this also happens (other EU countries I’m not so well informed but I believe the situations are similar) – so why shouldn’t it happen in Hungary?

    Well, the politicians (and the people …) have at least the next three years to think about this …

    But probably more interesting will be the next steps in Orbán’s “illiberal democracy” – we might see some surprises there!

  14. Estimates by the Republikon Insitute.
    Votes for mayors in Budapest, large towns and for county assemblies, October 12, 2014.

    Fidesz= 51%
    MSzP + DK + Egyutt = 25.9% = 15.3 + 6.6 + 4.0
    Jobbik= 17.1%
    LMP: 2.9%

    (MSzP + DK + Egyutt-PM) + LMP

    Budapest: 37.8%+5.4% = 43.2%
    Large towns: 30.6%+3.2%= 33.8%
    Rural areas: 21.6%+2.1%= 23.7%

    http://republikon.hu/media/18106/onkval_2014_v2.pdf

  15. Share of DK in the (MSzP+DK+Egyutt) sum

    Overall: 25.5%
    of which:
    rural areas: 27.9%

    Share of egyutt PM in the (MSzP+DK+Egyutt) sum:

    Overall: 15.4%
    of which
    rural areas: 8.6%

    THerefore, share of MSzP in the MSzP+DK+Egyutt) sum:
    Overall: 59.1%
    of which
    rural areas: 63.5%

  16. My last piece of statistics

    votes for county assemblies in rural areas, 2014/2010:

    Fidesz: 83.9%
    Left: 95.3%
    LMP: 182.8%
    Jobbik: 123.0%

  17. The gross debt of the central government has grown by 12.36% since 2013-12-31.

    It stood at 24.7 trillion forints on 2014-10-10.

  18. @tappanch

    182.8%? Somewhere too much palinka?

    Who would be in his right mind making such rigged figures public? Or am I missing something?

  19. @Minusio

    LMP was almost unknown in rural areas in 2010.
    It is easy to shoot up by a large % from a small base.

  20. @tappanch
    “Hungary was not measured.” – they couldn’t find the microscope?
    I don’t believe it..!

  21. @Palko

    “Fidesz now has 635 mayors in Hungary (while in 2010 it had only 600, so it actually increased its might in rural regions) while the entire left field now has 35.”

    Hungarians–especially, rural Hungarians–are dumb, but even they get the message that Orban
    and Fidesz had spent no little trouble to deliver: “VOTE FOR US OR LIVE LIKE ESZTERGOM”.

    Now, let’s leave off with the ridiculous commentary about the ‘weakening’ of the Left, or the growth
    of Fidesz.

    Oh, and one other thing: Jobbik? Think of them like the brownshirts in Nazi Germany in the 1930s–once the time is ripe, they’ll be done away with.

  22. I’m with Minusio on this one… what elections? Atlatszo reports on how “open voting” works in a Roma village.

    “The law governing elections does not require that voting take place in a voting both. Whoever wants to may vote outside the both as well. For example, on a table that happens to be at the polling station. Next to it stands the organization which nominated the mayor and the delegate from the minority local government. The mere fact that these actors are present exerts a strong influence over the voters.

    However, the practice is that, in addition to the “soft” inspection, the voters show the ballots to the delegate, often without being told. Anyone not voting outside of the voting both is very conspicuous: many ask for help from the committee because either they cannot see well or are illiterate. They do this despite using their drivers licenses to verify their identities. In such cases either the delegate of the local power network or the delegate of the minority government enters the voting both with them and helps them fill in the ballot.”

    http://budapestbeacon.com/politics/atlatszo-public-work-for-the-right-vote-open-elections-in-borsod-county/

    Also, intimidation and threats on part of Fidesz were explicit (if you don’t vote Fidesz at the local elections, you’ll (your city) will bear the consequences.

    A lot of people, especially in the countryside are intimidated and would dream of going against the local overlords.

    I had an acquaintance who did not go to vote, saying that Fidesz is going to win anyway. He said that Fidesz has tweaked the rules already and will do whatever it takes to win… so what’s the point in participating in a meaningless farce election. Such attitudes may explain the lower turnout.

  23. The only way to circumvent this disgraceful charade is to boycott all the elections in the las six years. For various pitiful reasons we didn’t do it, – then there is no place for complains.

    None.

    We accepted the rules, hence we gave legitimacy to the rulers – so, what’s our problem now, as we keep loosing?
    It’s been known fro day one that from now on there would be no fair election while the time being.

    Once more: we accepted the unfair rules!
    Once again: so, what the hell are we complaining about????

    Keep dreaming on common sense, rigid spines and justice is a nice gullible thing, but hey, wake up, you are in Hungary, for God’s sake!

    I am a stubborn son of a..beach.., and asking again:

    Why, oh why didn’t we boycott these shameful charades dubbed “elections” in Hungary from day one?

    OK., I know why, I just playing around here.
    Because of the countless pitiful personal reasons, that’s why.

    Well, kind folks, then we should take the shit as it comes – we worked for it, pretty hard.

    Congratulations, btw.!

  24. An, people are doing just that by emigrating. But within the country, those who are staying? What is gained by boycott if you have a sufficient number of people who come and vote Fidesz? You call it “boycott” but what we see is resignation. We read that people obey because they would not know how to earn a living. And yet not a too small number comes and votes for the non-far right opposition. For me “boycott” is close to meaningless when the state of the opposition is such that they cannot agree on any joint action. A boycott would have some effect only if stated forcefully. In current circumstances, I believe that any type of action that offers democratic alternatives to OV (no matter how amateurish, but which allows some process of learning by doing and which makes at least some claim to power) should be kept visible, so that debate, including in the public space, can still take place. OV might “find out” that the opposition has “withdrawn” on its own volition, and tell people they do not even care, he does.

  25. @An
    I think it is.
    If it have had happened from the beginning it would have been of on principle.
    Now it looks like that we boycotting because we can not win.
    Not the same effect – to me at least.

    But then again, I am an old and rigorous man, so how would I know..?

  26. @Kirsten: I did not call “resignation” boycott… that is your interpretation and does not reflect what I was trying to say. I didn’t elaborate but I am thinking “boycott” more along the lines of civil disobedience… see Eva’s post on Demszky’s ideas from a couple of days ago. I agree with his thoughts on civil disobedience there. https://hungarianspectrum.wordpress.com/2014/10/08/gabor-demszky-on-the-illegitimacy-of-the-orban-regime-and-on-civil-disobedience/

  27. While I tend to agree, I have to notice that to civil disobedience you have to have – first of all – civil who disobey.
    Its not working without them.
    At the same time just look at the figures: how many of them used to turn up on a demonstration?
    Approximately?
    Hmm… seems that you’ve got about all the civil who may- or may not willing to disobey with name, address and all.

    So, what’s going to happen if they just did?

    A handful of people demonstrating in the front of the public TV studios since ages.
    Anyone still remembers?
    Did they got any kind of support from the general public?

    We are still in Hungary, the land of “Freedom Marches” and a few millions of humble sheeps – come on, don’t you ever forget it!

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