At record turnout, an independent candidate (supported by all opposition parties) beat the Fidesz candidate running for mayor in Hódmezővásárhely, Fidesz’ uncontested stronghold, by 57.49% of the votes against 41.63% for Fidesz. It’s a big deal.
We are normally unconcerned by the daily news (unless they are outrageous, funny, or include cats), but these mayoral by-elections have been a sight to behold.
All eyes have been on Hódmezővásárhely, the uncontested stronghold of Fidesz, where the February mayoral elections were regarded as a testing ground for the April 8 general elections. Will discontent with the ruling Fidesz finally shake the party’s militant support? Can the opposition stand behind a single candidate and put aside their petty differences? Will anger beat apathy and can a high turnout really make a difference?
The answers turn out to be YES, YES, and YES.
As usual, Fidesz fighters didn’t leave it to chance. They promised to bring down the stars for voters (10 thousand HUF voucher to every pensioner). They intimidated candidates and voters alike (listing people who attended the local forums of the opposition candidate). They went above and beyond – because no one dares to face the boss if they lose.
Not sure which was the low point of the campaign:
- when the opposition candidate was fired immediately after he was nominated,
- when security cameras appeared in his street,
- when the local priest preached to vote for Fidesz –
- or this leaflet:
In a creepy (it is the new normal) move, the back of the leaflet lists local individuals who are accused of opposition things. Like a respected, 92 year old, retired high school principal, who attended an opposition forum, a taxi driver (we don’t know what his sin was), and the local Jewish community.
The leaflet reads:
At the local elections of Hódmezővásárhely: 1998, 2000, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2012
“Always the same bitter, loser, power-hungry people want to take over the town. They want jobs, money, power. They have brought shame on the town many times, this is why we never voted them trust in 27 years.
DON’T DO IT NOW!”
“Their interest is chaos and discord, and looting the town’s budget. They found a fool now, a Soros-agent, whom they can support.”
By which they meant Péter Márki-Zay, independent mayoral candidate who brought upon himself Fidesz’ ire by gaining support of all non-Fidesz parties – thereby accumulating non-Fidesz votes. And it worked.
At a record 62.45% turnout, 57.49% of voters voted for Péter Márki-Zay – leaving Fidesz’ candidate over 16% behind.
I cannot press hard enough how loyal to Fidesz Hódmezővásárhely had always been. The leaflet is right on one thing: they always voted for Fidesz militantly. Every mayor had been from Fidesz, and they either died in office or were promoted to minister – never even replaced within the party. It is also the town of Fidesz’ strongman and minister, János Lázár, who will have a tough day on Monday.
It won’t be an easy ride
As a local Fidesz candidate bluntly put it the other day, if your town doesn’t vote for Fidesz, it will rot. Márki-Zay will face an uphill battle, the town will probably be starved – if not now then after the general elections in April. He will also have to coexist with a Fidesz local representatives who are known to sabotage non-Fidesz mayors – just ask the good people of Esztergom (if they still have phone service there).
UPDATE – Fidesz just released their statement that reminded that another local by-election today for a seat on the local representatives of Kiskunhalas, a Fidesz candidate had won by 70%. They then added that out of 17 local by-elections last year, “Fidesz won 14 by a high margin”.
Another Fidesz mouthpiece published an opinion piece from the head of Orbán’s think tank (with startling speed) arguing that the Hódmezővásárhely by-elections was low-stakes. Another one discusses a minor academic skirmish on front page. If I get wind of what went on on TV, I may add that as well.
Featured image: Péter Márki-Zay, Facebook