The big winner of yesterday’s Hungarian parliamentary elections was the Fidesz party led by Viktor Orbán. After winning 99% of the vote, he obtained a constitutional majority in parliament, i.e. 130 seats out of a total of 199. The united opposition presented itself against Fidesz, which lost only three points in the last ballot electoral. What happened in the end? What did Viktor Orbán finally gain with such a convincing difference?
Unfortunately, so far I can only assume I haven’t seen more detailed analysis, but from what it looked like in the last few weeks before the election, from how the he economy has developed over the long term, how Fidesz actually controls almost all media space and public space more generally. , however limited the means of the campaign, and conversely, Fidesz being in reality unlimited, we can conclude that the playing field was very tilted to the detriment of the opposition. Also the way the electoral system is designed. In other words, we didn’t expect it to be easy.
I think in the last few days and weeks, Viktor Orbán has been able to mobilize mainly his core voters. He didn’t have many more than in 2018, just 100,000, but he was able to mobilize them, I think, by isolating them from the neighborhood war, which we all experience quite often. On the other hand, when I was there a week before the elections on the report, I did not have the impression that Hungarians were living with the help of refugees, that humanitarian or military aid was flowing to Ukraine or they were affected in some way, but rather they had this feeling ‘we here, we want our peace, our peace, and that’s what Viktor Orbán promised them.
In other words, I think that versus, say, the very poor performance of the opposition in such an emotional sphere of the last days of the campaign, when I felt that the opposition candidates did not know how to manage all this, whether at the local or national level.
Let’s look at some of these things: you mentioned the electoral system. Let us recall that the Hungarian Parliament is elected in a mixed way, 106 deputies, that is to say a majority, by majority in single-member constituencies, 93 deputies are elected by proportional representation. Does the way the electoral system is constructed really play such a crucial role?
You have to add a few other factors to this: Anglicism is called gerrymandering, ie drawing constituencies according to the ruling party. This can be seen in the example of opposition leader Péter Marki-Zay, who is the mayor of the small town of Hódmezővásárhely, in southern Hungary, where he was a popular figure, having won there against the candidate Fidesz local elections three years ago.
Now the local boss of Fidesz and the former head of Viktor Orbán’s office, János Lázár, has run against him, and the constituency has been designed so that as many villages as possible are welded to the city, in which Fidesz was assured of victory and János Lázár, the leader of the opposition defeated that one-man constituency. And it was happening all over Hungary, so it was designed.
In other words, it was other trifles, such as the change in the law on permanent residence, which allowed Fidesz to move voters flexibly, say, where it was necessary to cover the majority alleged opposition. You could denounce a hundred, a hundred and fifty people in an apartment, and so you could go to the polls where it was necessary. Such trifles, which are technical, but when you put them together, on the other hand, again create a very uneven field.
When you describe these things, can we say that the elections in Hungary were fair?
I don’t think they were.
I will return to Hungary’s relations with Ukraine and Russia, respectively. Of course Hungary has its own experience with the Russian or Soviet invasion of 1956. Why is it that with that historical experience most people yesterday backed a politician who doesn’t really want to engage in any meaningful way against the Russian invasion in the neighboring country?
It was a bit of a hassle for the government on Fidesz on February 24, when I heard that they actually had to throw away and waste the campaign plans and come up with something new. In about two or three days they started, it was the peace-war dichotomy. And I think the 56th resonates, especially with more conservative and older voters, and that’s why they’ve heard Viktor Orbán’s motto that “I represent peace while the opposition wants war.” in the sense that Hungary will join the war in Ukraine.
There, the opposition made the tactical error that opposition leaders were the first to comment on Russian aggression, so that Fidesz could counter. And because the opposition clearly supported the united position of the West and the fighting government of President Zelenský, Orbán could use them with his propaganda machine to turn them into warlords, according to older rhetoric. As a result, many Hungarians were actually afraid of being part of something that would threaten their, if not their national existence, their sense of security and safety, which Fidesz had largely developed over the 12 years.
Why does Maryin Ehl think Orbán may start flirting with the idea of leaving the European Union? And will his victory mean the end of the Visegrad Four cooperation? Listen to the full interview conducted by Tomáš Pancíř.