Hungary’s Election: Solidifying the Radical Right

Originally Published by Policy Network: 8 April 2014. Original linked here

Despite accusations of gerrymandering and campaign tampering, Fidesz won an overwhelming victory against the left-wing opposition, while one in five Hungarians voted for Jobbik, making it the strongest far-right party in the EU.

On Sunday, 6 April, Hungary held its 7th democratic elections. With 96% of the votes counted there was a clear win given to right wing conservative party, Fidesz, and a significant increase in support for radical right party, Jobbik, who is estimated to have won just over 20%. Despite the Unity Alliance bringing together six separate liberal and left-wing opposition parties, the coalition only managed 25.9%. Green party, LMP, barely managed to pass the 5% electoral threshold. The final parliamentary balance will depend crucially on the last votes being counted in Budapest and Miskolc, determining whether or not Fidesz will maintain its supermajority. Fidesz needs just one more victory to hold 133 of the 199 seats in parliament.

Fair Elections Called into Question by Liberal-Left Opposition

Opposition forces have called into question both the campaigning of Fidesz as well as the new election format instated by the Fidesz government in the lead up to elections. The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) had declared on Sunday that the Prime Minister’s office had violated election law by reporting on campaign speeches in the two days leading up to elections, breaking laws against campaigning after the official campaign period. On Monday, the National Election Committee ruled that the campaign speeches of the Prime Minister Viktor Orban that had been posted on the government’s website had not broken election law.

The new election format instated by the Fidesz government had also been called into question by opposition prior to elections. In previous national elections there had been two rounds of voting resulting in a 386-seat parliament. Fidesz legislation simplified the election process for the 2014 elections to one round of voting and decreased the size of parliament down to 199 seats, stating that Hungary would now have a parliament set-up in line with other European countries of a similar size. However, in decreasing the size of parliament electoral districts were also redrawn with critics claiming the revised format benefited Fidesz. National news outlet hvg.hu analysed that Fidesz won an estimated 800,000 fewer votes compared with 2010 national election results, yet the party still seems set to win a two-thirds majority despite decreased support of up to 8%.

Despite accusations of gerrymandering and campaign tampering, Fidesz won an overwhelming victory over its opposition, as predicted by most polls in the lead up to elections. Liberal and left wing opposition forces failed to appeal to the broader public, uniting parties under antagonistic campaigns against Fidesz without providing a strong united program to counter the government’s momentum.

The one surprise in electoral results has been the growing support for the radical right. One in five Hungarians cast their vote in support of Jobbik, making it the strongest far-right party in the EU. Trends such as the increased radical right presence and Hungary, along with recent trends in France and Ukraine, undermine theories that predicted a decline in support for populist radical right parties across Europe.

Future Paths for Hungary: Euroscepticism and Greater Ties to the East

Economists have predicted that Fidesz is expected to face structural and growth challenges in coming years. The Fidesz government made major, often controversial, changes to legal and financial sectors during their last four years of governing and there is no sign of them changing course. Tax cuts to households by enforcing utility companies to lower prices as well as an entirely new constitution are just a couple examples of the major changes that have affected domestic and international policies. Foreign investors are wary of the constantly changing policies affecting potential investments and business developments.

However, the Orban government has been clever in stabilising economic recovery for Hungary not only from internal restructuring but from recent deals made with Russian state company Rosatom to develop Hungary’s Paks nuclear plant. The project will be financed by a 10 billion Euro credit loan to Hungary. This move solidifies Hungary’s actions to wean itself from EU dependencies, having paid off its debts to the IMF.

Meanwhile, Jobbik’s party leader Gabor Vona stated on public radio station Kossuth yesterday that as the strongest Eurosceptic national party in the EU Jobbik planned on playing a ‘constructive opposition’ role, supporting proposals that serve the interests of Hungary. Controversial Jobbik MEP Krisztina Morvai will head Jobbik’s list in the European Parliamentary elections to come in May, hoping to amend the treaty of Hungary’s EU accession to decentralise further away from Euro-central control.

Even without if Fidesz remains one-seat short of a supermajority there will be scope for the party to ally itself with certain Jobbik representatives over issues they want to push through. With liberal-left and green representation making up only around 25% of parliament there will be very little room for opposition to manoeuvre in the next four years.

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