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HUNGARY: 10 days before the elections

Political landscape in Hungary 10 days before the elections

Election in Hódmezővásárhely

Since the democratic transition in 1989/90, Hungary will hold its 8th parliamentary elections on 8 April. Six weeks before the elections, a local mayoral by-election was held in the southern city of Hódmezővásárhely, on 25 February. The event received special attention for the reason it was considered to be the „dress rehearsal” of the upcoming general elections. The reason behind is that the city is a traditional Fidesz stronghold, being the hometown of the Minister of Prime Minister’s Office, János Lázár who also happened to be its former mayor. In addition, the opposition was able to unite behind one candidate run as independent. It came as a surprise that Hungary’s ruling party Fidesz suffered a loss in the mayoral race, which gave the opposition hope that they could win even in the most government-friendly areas in case they form an alliance and support only one candidate in a given electoral district.

Opposition cooperation?

Fidesz’s defeat was portrayed as a game-changing moment by the opposition, and also as a catalyst for them to have substantive negotiations on the joint nomination process in all 106 individual constituencies.It means that the opposition parties are open to strategic withdrawal deals – for the benefit of each other – to maximise their chances of winning by fielding a joint candidate in each of the constituencies without officially forming a single comprehensive alliance by all parties in the opposition side. However, such negotiations have failed, with polls still suggesting Fidesz, led by incumbent Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is in a strong position to hold on to power. Real cooperation only exists between the Socialist Party-Dialogue and the Democratic Coalition by agreeing to the division of individual electoral districts (ratio 60:46, respectively). Nonetheless, there is no national level collaboration between them, nor between the other opposition parties.

The reason why a thorough cooperation still does not exist is that the parties on the opposition side are uncertain whether such agreement will work for them in the light of the electoral system, with special regard to the fractional votes. Based on the electoral system, every fractional vote not required for winning the given seat will be added to the votes cast for national party lists, and also the difference between the number of votes cast for the winning candidate and the number of votes cast for the second place candidate plus one vote. Hence, if opposition parties push through the joint nomination process,fractional votes of single-member constituencies will be lost for some, if such coordination will not come about then opposition votes will be fragmented, leading to Fidesz-KDNP winning the elections more easily.

Another factor that makes these parties hesitant is the willingness of their voters to cast their vote for another party’s candidate: the question is whether supporters will follow their parties’ strategy to vote for an opposition candidate most likely to gather most of the votes, even if that candidate does not represent the party they prefer on the first place.

Current standpoint of the opposition

As a consequence, the main question regarding the opposition’s success is how willing they will be to cooperate. Their situation is hard not just because the contradiction of pro-cooperation communication without any true action, but their relationship towards right wing party Jobbik. Although, the five left wing opposition parties agreed on the need for change of government, but had a sharp debate whether or not they should cooperate with Jobbik ahead of the upcoming parliamentary election. In LMP’s opinion the election maths cannot be done without Jobbik, as opposed to the Socialists and Democratic Coalition which say Jobbik is not needed for that primarily because of its „ideological and moral grounds” and also because that party itself ruled out any cooperation.

In lack of an overall, broad scale coordination between parties of the opposition, green party LMP has decided not to launch further talks, but is still opened to listen further suggestions. The party rejected the proposal of Socialist-Dialogue prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karácsony on the possibility of joining a coalition government if they win in the elections, a proposal that was made also to the Democratic Coalition. Jobbik wants to win the general election alone, but is prepared to cooperate only with the „new parties”, including LMP and „new generation” party Momentum, if power relations so require.

Possible outcomes

According to polls the most votes will be cast for Fidesz-KDNP party alliance, and the most possible outcome is Fidesz-KDNP winning the majority of seats in the National Assembly. In case majority is not achieved, the party alliance will need to find a partner in forming a coalition government. Assuming that Fidesz-KDNP fails to form a government, the opposition gets the change to set up a government, a scenario that can only be accomplished by teaming up with each other. However, based on the developments so far, this is utterly difficult. Supposing none of the abovementioned plot will take place, an early election must be held.

Aftermath of the election

Following the parliamentary election on 8 April, based on the rules a few weeks will pass before the new government is formed. As part of the post-election period, the President of Hungary will convene the inaugural parliamentary session on 7 or 8 May, where the new Members of Parliament will collect their mandate. As a next step, the Parliament will vote on the prime minister on 12 or 14 May, after which the new prime minister nominates the ministers. Finalising the new government includes that the nominated ministers participate in a committee hearing from 15 May to 5 June, after that the President appoints the ministers until 8 June. The first parliamentary session will be held in September.