Viktor Orbán and Fidesz are in trouble: Record loss of popularity

A few weeks ago Tárki, one of the three or four reliable opinion polls, announced a serious slide in Fidesz’s popularity. HVG introduced the news by calling it an avalanche. The poll was taken between November 13 and 23 and showed that Fidesz-KDNP had lost 12% of its sympathizers within one month. The drop was so great that I’m sure Endre Sík, the lead researcher at Tárki, must have worried whether something went wrong with their methodology. Well, he can relax. Médián came out with its latest poll, and its figures show that no party has lost as much as fast since the change of regime in 1990.

Just to give an idea of the kinds of numbers we are talking about, in a single month Fidesz lost 900,000 voters. Two-thirds of eligible voters think that the country is heading in the wrong direction. For a party that is so proud of its two-thirds majority in parliament, achieved only a few months ago, that is a devastating statistic.

Among the voting-age population Médian, just like Tárki, found that before the attempted introduction of the internet tax and everything that followed Fidesz-KDNP had a comfortable lead: 38% of the electorate would have voted for the government party. That figure by the end of November when the poll was taken had shrunk to 26%. Although 5% of those who abandoned Fidesz are still undecided, others joined some of the opposition parties. There was a 4% rise for MSZP and 2% for Jobbik.

When it comes to those who claim they would definitely vote if elections were held next Sunday, Fidesz-KDNP’s drop of popularity is even more glaring. In October 57% of those asked said that they would definitely vote for Fidesz. A month later Médián measured only 34%.

Médián collected another interesting data point. Fidesz voters’ enthusiasm for voting has waned. The party’s inability to mobilize the troops was especially noticeable in the repeated election in Budapest’s 11th electoral district where the MSZP candidate won with a very large majority. According to Médián, today only 52% of Fidesz voters say they would vote come hell or high water. This figure is significantly lower than for Jobbik (64%), DK (63%), or MSZP (59%). Another telling sign is that 22% of those who voted for Fidesz in April would not vote for the government party today, as opposed to the October figure of 4%. In October only 48% of the respondents thought that the country was heading in the wrong direction. Today that figure is 68%. When it comes to satisfaction with the performance of the government, only 31% of the voters still approve of the government, 14% less than in October.

The popularity of Fidesz politicians also dropped precipitously. The great loser was the prime minister himself who lost 16 points, followed by his closest associates: János Lázár (14 points), Antal Rogán (13 points), and Lajos Kósa (13 points). Even János Áder lost 10 points. Endre Hann of Médián noted in an interview with György Bolgár that even Ferenc Gyurcsány after the introduction of the austerity program after the 2006 election lost only 8 points. At the same time opposition politicians all gained. Not much, but a few percentage points. Viktor Orbán with his 32 points is tied with Gergely Karácsony (Együtt) and Gábor Vona (Jobbik).

Popularity of politicians: October and November

Popularity of politicians: October and November

These findings correspond with anecdotal observations. People openly criticize the government and call Fidesz politicians all sorts of names.

Viktor Orbán yesterday visited Blikk, a tabloid that the prime minister uses for his own political purposes, and agreed to answer questions from readers. Twenty-five in all. This is the second time that he participated in something called Sztárchat. As opposed to last year, this time 95% of the questions were antagonistic. The very first was a whopper from “a former Fidesz voter” who wanted to know about “the useless scrap of paper that was actually full of concrete details,” or what the prime minister thinks of Antal Rogán “conducting business with an ordinary criminal.” Someone wanted to know how it is possible that “the whole country and half the world knows what is going on here, except you. What kind of dimension do you live in that you have no idea about the real world?” Zoltán and his family wondered how “the government has money to buy banks and build stadiums and move [your office] but there is no money for hungry children, pensioners, hospitals.” He was the second person who accused the prime minister “of taking our extra money away for working on Sundays.” Someone asked why Orbán “does not dare to stand in front of people and instead tells his story in an empty studio.” There was a question about whether Orbán’s daughter is studying some manual profession in Switzerland. Sándor wanted to know when Orbán is going to resign, and “ráadás” asked him “why he thinks that the Hungarian people are so stupid” that they believe all the humbug his government feeds them.

It was, in brief, not a friendly crowd. Among the questions I found only one or two that were not antagonistic and only one that supported his anti-American policy.

His drop in the polls and the brutally honest questions addressed to him are not his only woes. Zsolt Semjén, until now a most faithful ally, decided to show his independence. He announced that as far as he knows government officials visited Germany to talk to officials there about their church law which the Hungarians allegedly want to copy. As we know, the present arrangement concerning the churches was not accepted by the European Court of Human Rights and the Hungarian government is obliged to change it. Today Semjén threatened Orbán with the KDNP caucus’s refusal to support the law once it gets to the floor.

To tell you the truth, I have been suspecting for some time that Viktor Orbán’s change of heart concerning the Sunday closing of stores might have had something to do with pressure brought to bear on him by the Christian Democrats. Perhaps Orbán thought that he could appease the KDNP caucus by supporting their proposal to shut all the stores on Sundays. Obviously, he was wrong.

There’s trouble everywhere. I wonder how he can escape from the hole he dug for himself and his government with his shoddy governance, his irresponsible foreign policy, his taxing the population to death and not producing sustainable economic growth. Hungarians are getting more and more fed up and antagonistic. If Orbán continues down the same path he has been following in the last five years, the end might not be pretty.

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49 comments

  1. They aren’t really in trouble because there is no election for three years and they control things so tightly that they are effectively unopposed.

    It is the fact that they appear to be running around like headless chickens, when they don’t need to be that is the really interesting story at the moment.

  2. This proves what I was just saying, that Hungarians will be very angry when they find out they’ve elected a closet fascist, since they mostly don’t approve of fascism (only 2% gain for Jobbik). Hopefully Orbán doesn’t just find a way to mollify or intimidate the population, again.

  3. As HiBoM says, none of this really matters, as long as they can ‘arrange’ to win again in 4 years time (and again, and again). Their popularity has declined drastically before, but then it has also recovered pretty quickly too.

    What’s actually happening at the moment is just froth and fuss, and mostly only in Bp and a few other left-inclined urban areas, and it’s mainly limited to the disaffected youth (who seem to have very little idea of what it is they are complaining about, or what it is they want).

    And the ‘opposition’ are as disorganised and pathetic as they ever were. They no more look capable of fighting their way out of the proverbial wet paper bag now, than they did back in April – and I see no signs of that changing in the near – or even long-term – future.

    Basically, it doesn’t matter what Orbán does or doesn’t do, or says, or retracts, or whether it makes any sense or not. It doesn’t matter what his body language is like or what we may think about him or his temperament. He is under no threat from the Hungarian people, or what is left of Hungarian ‘democracy’.

    The only potential threat to Orbán would be an internal coup, if the ‘men in suits’ started to think he was becoming a liability. But for that to happen, they’d need a credible alternative to put in his place, and who would that be – Kósa?!

    But I will concede that there is a certain amount of nervousness in the Fideszniksz ranks at the moment – if my wife’s recent behaviour is anything to go by (for new HS readers, my wife is a died-in-the-wool Orbán supporter and comes from a solid Fidesz family). For instance, she almost never posts or likes anything vaguely political on Facebook, but recently she has liked and commented on two bits or pro-Orbán propaganda.

    The most interesting one was the Blikk interview Éva mentions above. Although to us that was an exciting moment of people at last standing up against Orbán and making him wriggle with their awkward questions, the Fidesz propaganda dept. and their faithful followers are presenting it as a major victory for Orbán. He stayed calm and “statesmanlike” despite the crude and stupid bating from the peasants (who had obviously been set up by the left-liberals). Their proudest moment was how Orbán ‘cleverly’ dealt with the suggestion that Hungary had a Roma Prime Minister (i.e. the old rumour that Orbán has Roma roots – regarded by the Fidesz faithful as too stupid to be true and “typical” of the crude attacks of the left).

  4. Article 21
    (1) One-fifth of theMembers of the National Assembly may, together with the designation of a candidate for the office of Prime Minister, submit a written motion of no-confidence against the Prime Minister.
    (2) If the National Assembly supports the motion of no-confidence, it here by expresses its lack of confidence in the Prime Minister and simultaneously elects the person proposed for the office of Prime Minister in the motion of no-confidence. For such decision of the National Assembly, the votes of more than half of the Members of the National Assembly shall be required.
    (3) The Prime Minister may put forward a confidence vote. The National Assembly expresses its lack of confidence in the Prime Minister if more than half of the Members of the National Assembly do not support the Prime Minister in the confidence vote proposed by the Prime Minister.
    (4) The Prime Minister may propose that the vote on a proposal submitted by the Government be simultaneously a confidence vote. The National Assembly expresses its lack of confidence in the Prime Minister if it does not support the proposal submitted by the Government.
    Minister’s mandate shall terminate:
    35
    (5) The National Assembly shall decide on the question of confidence after the third day, bu tno later than eight days following the submission of the motion of no-confidence or of the Prime Minister’s motion pursuant to Paragraphs (3) or (4).

  5. I would think there will be a very large power struggle will start out now in Fidesz. We already seen the signs for the last few months, but now everyone will start to fight for survival. I would not be surprised if Orban will shuffle his cabinet but I also think someone is just waiting to pull him down “Et tu, Brute?”

  6. @ Some 1

    Really, #1, you’ve got to stop drinking the bath water. “Large power struggle..”? Are you kidding? The mealy-mouthed, gutless, Hungarians who surround Orban want only the continuation of his power so that they can continue the unparralled level of government corruption. If Orban leaves the game is up: the lineup for the planes to Dubai, Cyprus, Moscow
    will snake through the airport.

    There is no beating Orban. He’s here to stay. Enjoy it.
    Orban is the culmination of everything Hungarians have done in the past: reap as you sow.

  7. @HiBoM – Fidesz will not fall through regular elections. I have more faith than most in the electoral process, but Fidesz has locked up the system.

    Orban will fall eventually. I don’t know when, but the recent weeks give me some optimism.

  8. @petofi: Power struggle for new positions -> as Orban will shuffle his cabinet. THose who will loose in the game will in fact try to do something. I never said he will leave.

    Simicska already put his middle finger up. Does not mean he wants to be the new Orban…

  9. Unless Orban starts to spend on the voters, he is in trouble.

    Unfortunately there are always diminishing returns to the same method (e.g. utility rate cuts, pension increases).

    People just hate his face, they’ve been seeing it for 25 years.

  10. Let’s not forget that this wouldn’t have happened without RTL Klub.

    I remember the idiotic Tamas Deutsch laughing his asses off because i his opinion RTL’s new nightly news show style (more politics) resulted in less viewers.

    Well, it didn’t, and it certainly resulted in people becoming much more open about criticizing/hating Fidesz. If RTL is allowed to do it, then were are allowed to criticize Orban too.

    That’s how a dictatorship works, people when they no longer believe in the system, they don’t dare to speak up until it turns out they can speak up.

    All foreign corporations who could’ve spoken up made their private “compromises” with Orban (e.g. content-wise German Telekom all but killed Hungary’s most popular origo.hu site when Lazar’s minions demanded it, since then the site became a modest supporter of Fidesz actually) hoping they won’t get ripped off. They were duly ripped off regardless and they actually deserve it because thereby they prolonged their own and of course our oppression by this crime syndicate.

    Kudos to RTL.

  11. Orban and his minions will soon be in a mad dash to warn the EU and the US that if he falls then the anti-semitic and Russia-backed Jobbik will form a government and surely neither the EU nor the NATO can’t desire that. So they must keep Orban politically alive and he will promise to be a good boy.

    I just hope that this last ditch effort will fail and Orban can’t fool the West once more — as it was Orban himself who nurtured Jobbik and could have gotten it banned among others due to its Russian backing (interestingly the KGBéla case seems to have fizzled out).

    But Orban always felt that Jobbik’s existence could be a bargaining chip with the West. He knew that at one point he was going to position himself as the “moderate” “fighting” against the “extremists”.

  12. Ildikó Vida has launched her anti-defamation lawsuit against André Goodfriend. Prediction: a kangaroo court will try and convict Mr. Goodfriend in absentia.

  13. I’m sorry but could someone explain to me how Orbán could “fall” before the next election? Short of some sort of internal coup (which in my view would come from Pintér rather than anyone inside Fidesz), there is no remote likelihood of him having to step down before the end of this parliamentary cycle (that is over three years away.)

    There is some hope that Fidesz will become hugely unpopular but that is the fate of most governments as some stage or another. So we may see a crisis of Orbán’s ego but not a political one…

  14. @HiBoM. You have never heard of such popular pressure that causes the resignation of the prime minister? For example, series of strikes, mass rallies, physical disturbances, police refusal to obey their superiors, etc. etc. The men around him realize that if he does not leave they themselves will be swept away. There are ways and ways to remove a hated government.

  15. Ms. Vida initiated civil litigation alleging defamation seeking HUF 5m in damages (sérelemdij) and she initiated criminal proceedings with the prosecution also alleging defamation.

    Barnabas Futo is back in the picture. This guy must know something (although it’s not the law).

    I think lawyers are curious what will happen, obviously the complaints must immediately be thrown out, but these days nothing’s sure.

  16. Eva, if there is a repeat of 1956 then I agree. But do you really think that there will be armed revolt and civil disobedience in Hungary because of Orbán’s corruption? I hugely doubt it

  17. It doesn’t have to be a repeat of 56. Just continuous unrest. Also internal revolts like János Bencsik (MEP) against the urine test, or a Fidesz mayor against the toll on M0. What can follow is a meltdown in the government. Chaos.

  18. Well, until Fidesz MPs start voting against the government (for which they will be fined most of their salary), I am not holding my breath…

  19. Some1 Article 21 act subsection 3 does not require the Prime Minister to call a vote of confidence even if half the members of Parliament under subsection 2 support a motion of no confidence. The PM “may” call such a vote, he also may not call such a vote, if it was required that the PM call the vote the Basic Law would use the word “shall.”

    This is clear from how the Basic Law consistently uses these two words in the offical translations I have seen and it is also clear from the what is called the rules of construction. So the PM does not have to constitutionally ever authorize a full vote of no confidence between election cycles.

  20. @Barna Instead of paying 5 million Ft., maybe the US Embassy could strike a plea bargain where they offer Ms. Vida a gift certificate to a local English language school.

  21. For comparison here are the figures for MSZP after őszöd:

    2006-6 2006-7 2006-8 2006-9 2006-10 2006-11 2006-12
    MSZP 28 27 23 22 24 25 22

    The party lost a few points but nothing like Fidesz now.

  22. Eva S. Balogh: “It doesn’t have to be a repeat of 56. Just continuous unrest. Also internal revolts like János Bencsik (MEP) against the urine test, or a Fidesz mayor against the toll on M0. What can follow is a meltdown in the government. Chaos.”

    I think Eva S. Balogh have to watch out before petofi tells her to “got to stop drinking the bath water. There is no beating Orban. He’s here to stay. Enjoy it.”

  23. I’m not sure how valid comparisons with Öszöd are. I was in Hungary at the time and people were genuinely livid about it, including quite a lot of people who were more liberal in orientation. We can argue whether they were right to be so upset but there is no denying the abundant anger that was felt then. I am not convinced that there is anywhere near the same emotional repulsion at the moment.

  24. Orban sooner or later will have to open the purse and or will have to create a war in some form.

    The latter has been prepared re the EU and the US as the enemies, but he will need new enemies too.

    There are no miracles, the range of viable options is limited.

  25. When listening to a speech about treacherous trade union leaders in the UK some years ago I heard the following expression: “He managed snatch defeat from the jaws of victory!” It was very apt, as the membership was rock solid in a strike on the verge of gaining everything they went on strike for when their General Secretary sold them out to the government with a pitifully inadquate agreement he signed against the membership’s will.

    When reading HiBoM’s comments above I thought that he might be such an individual – I apologise if you think me rude writing this – who is so wrapped up in his negative appraisal of what Hungarians are like and how powerful would be dictators are, that the masses would have to be in their millions breaking down the Prime Ministerial office doors and he would still be finding reasons why nothing will ever change.

    The absolutely best question in today’s discussion was Eva’s when she asked you if you ever heard of popular pressure, like a series of strikes, mass rallies, physical disturbances, police refusal to obey their superiors, etc. etc. or of the rats that would be deserting the ship as soon as they feel that their gravy train is stopping due to the insupportability of the PM.

    I cannot think that HiBoM is so narrow that he would not know history or read world news now. We live in the epoch of sharp and sudden changes, where entrenched dictators can be hanged overnight, when millions can get out on the street very quickly, when new parties are formed and suddenly have millions of followers. Have some imagination man! Defeatism is what the right uses to keep the people on their knees. You may not think that you are on your knees, but while you choose to ignore the now myriad of promising signs of the Fidesz edifice crumbling, you are metaphorically on your knees. I feel this week that the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is for the first time in at least 5 years is not a train coming the other way, but the light.

  26. I almost forgot. I have just read this on Népszabadság online. Obviously the trolls are at it even using quality papers like Népszabadság. Is George F. Hemingway one of those lobbyists Eva was writing about? The text is actually quite cleverly done, it is not blatant, it’s subtle, but just as much propaganda as if it was the usual abusive and crude version.

    http://nol.hu/velemeny/a-kitiltas-ugy-es-urugy-1503501

  27. wolfi –

    Tubingen can cry for Hungary.

    The Gimes research article was rejected by most Hungarians in 2010.

    Too many Hungarians sympathize with the Elod Novaks, and Gabor Vonas, until it is too late again.

  28. “If Orbán continues down the same path he has been following in the last five years, the end might not be pretty.” I’d be really interested in the likely scenarios you see for the end of the Orban government. Given Orban’s personality, I could envision an extra-legal outcome. Also he has at least sometime left for him to arrange to become the lifetime president of Hungary.

    But I would really like you thoughts.

  29. Reality check: Just because Mr Goodfriend is making a court appearance does not mean the US Deparment of State has agreed to waive his immunity to civil litigation in a Hungarian court. If he did agree to waive his immunity I would ask my US Senators to investigate such a development, because it would set a horrible precedent.

  30. @Reality Check: That’s an interesting piece from BBJ about Goodfriend. They claim that Goodfriend said that he “can expect to appear before a court.” BBJ is citing VS, a Hungarian news portal as the source.

    According to VS, this is what Goodfriend said:
    “A rendezvény után az ott megjelent André Goodfriend is nyilatkozott a sajtónak. Arra kérdésre, hogy lehetséges-e szerinte, hogy bíróság elé áll, azt felelte: mindent elképzelhetőnek tart. ”

    In rough translation: To the question whether it is possible that he would stand before court, he (Goodfriend) replied, “Everything is possible.”

    Now, I don’t know what he exactly said in English, but according to the Hungarian report, it sounds more like a diplomatic answer that he wouldn’t rule anything out…and not an indication that he would or should stand before court. I think the BBJ article is misleading (unless they quoted Goodfriend’s original English reply verbatim, but I doubt that, since they cite VS as their source).

  31. Actually I came to similar conclusions what Eva outlined above: Orbán can/will be toppled, and it most probably will come from inside.
    When Large enough numbers of senior Fidesniks will start seriously worrying for their sheer existence, let alone their hefty incomes, they have no other choice but put him aside, before the whole crap-heap comes crashing dow upon them and their sizeable court of minions.

    Even the ”all for one” idea has it’s limits, when it came down to the purse.

    I’d bet that they’re already weighting options, what would work best as a smokescreen to the populace, in order to make the shifting of power acceptable.

    After all, the straitjacket wouldn’t look that great in the news, even if it was well deserved and suitable by all means…

  32. @Eva and @ spectator Thank you for confirming that I am either not alone “drinking bathwater” or there are other people out there who think that “Orbán can/will be toppled, and it most probably will come from inside.”

  33. Spectator,

    Ever wonder why there have been so ridiculously few defections or exhibitions of disloyalty from Fidesz ranks? My bet is that, like every successful mafia organisation, Orbán has something damning on most of them, and has shown what will happen to those who double-cross him. Ask József Ángyán how things went after he publicly challenged a corrupt Fidesz practice.

    If there will be a palace coup (literally, once Orbán moves to the castle district), it will have to be committed by the vast majority of Fideszniks, and there will have to be a mechanism that will keep a lid on all the dirt that would otherwise be revealed. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, I’m sure.

  34. I agree again, googly!
    According to ‘information’ from the know, he either have someone by the balls, or bought up the person and his/her loyalty. Corrupting them in short, which later on just as good.

    At the end collectively they can persuade him, though, to step aside/up in some position when he has no executive power in order to avoid te most straightforward form of disaster, if things getting even more out of control, or else, it will cost the whole carefully built empire.

    Yes, there is rather strong conflicting interests in the works in Orbán, partly his limitless megalomania, partly his equally great greed, so it won’t be easy to the poor man to decide..!
    So it takes some persuasion.
    Either by his cronies from inside, or by the angry people from the outside, if he keep holding on too long. It didn’t worked particularly well to Ceaușescu either, as I remember.

    Orbán clearly is a pragmatist, so as long as he will be able to reason, I guess he will chose some kind of (semi)dignified retreat when the time comes.
    It still could take quite long, though.

    I see no other way to the Fidesz to be able to get away with all their deeds otherwise, and since there is no substantial democratic power to take over governing, it will be Jobbik-land if the Fidesz will go down with Orbán – I hardly think that they will accept that, so they need a solution.

    Anyway, how I see it.

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