Was it a triumph of the opposition or a defeat of Fidesz? Can it be repeated? How will the government react? Will there be repercussions? Can the new mayor help publish new evidence in the scandal of Orbán’s son-in-law?
Yesterday, the good people of Hódmezővásárhely turned up in record numbers (62%) at the local mayoral by-elections and 58% voted for the non-Fidesz candidate.
Yes, I am calling him a “non-Fidesz” candidate because he was. All opposition parties, including Jobbik supported him as independent candidate. And the extra 4000 voters who suddenly woke up and decided to cast their votes were more likely to be motivated by their opposition to ruling Fidesz – rather than a personal love for any opposition party.
Its relevance cannot be overstated. To give you an idea: the social media impact of this by-election was only slightly behind the Oscar win of a Hungarian movie in 2016 (the current most mentioned event on Hungarian Facebook)
1. Opposition cooperation is not about ideology
The question on everyone’s mind is whether the same all-opposition candidate can happen in every constituency in the general elections in April.
Not if it depends on the opposition parties.
Coalition talks among the fragmented opposition are turning into a never-ending farce, prompting questions whether these jokers even want to win. They are acting like they are all pure and keep rejecting election cooperation.
After the surprise triumph in Hódmezővásárhely, Jobbik was quick to declare that they are still too good to support a common candidate with anyone else – not surprisingly, since their rhetoric is built on dismissing the establishment (pardon, The Establishment!) as corrupt – and they count pretty much everyone else as the establishment.
2. “F*#$ck Fidesz!”
…is the Zeitgeist – even among those who could otherwise support a conservative party. But Fidesz is no longer a party of ideas, it is a gang organised to take over the economy, the media, as well as all branches of power, preferably forever.
Ending Fidesz’ mafia rule is a negative goal – but something people can stand behind. Opposition parties’ own silly ideas and “ideologies” are unimportant.
Yet, they cannot stop pretending that they are all about ideas and keep rejecting coalitions based on their perceived ideological differences. And petty personal hatred.
3. Opposition parties are all unsupportable in their own ways
The electorate may want Fidesz out – but they are better off not listening to the programs of opposition parties. And their behavior in the wake of the surprise triumph is just as appalling as it was before. They have all declared that they would totally want to cooperate – just not with any party in particular.
Don’t get your hopes high.
4. This candidate was a disillusioned Fidesz supporter
…and heavily supported by Jobbik.
In other words, voters may have found it easy to relate to a candidate that represented what they liked in Fidesz (the branding?) – while renounced the undeniable corruption.
After all, Hódmezővásárhely is the constituency of one of Orbán’s most powerful ministers who had amassed a spectacular fortune by now and owns a mansion and lots of land in the area. Such things don’t go unnoticed, and when the mainstream media has to wait for rock solid evidence, locals don’t.
5. The arrogance of unchecked power getting out of hand
I always marveled how politicians caught in a corruption scandal are genuinely aghast that they are being publicly criticized. They deem it unfair. From the outsider’s point of view it may seem odd. But if you look at it from their angle, they have probably seen worse. They are not the biggest or most corrupt dogs out there, others they know are also stealing, may be even more aggressive or harmful – so why single out a small dog such as themselves?
But putting yourself in the shoes of corrupt politicians can reveal other things, too. Like the arrogance of those who became rich on the taxpayers’ money – while convincing themselves that it was actually talent. In fact, János Lázár himself became infamous when he opined that those who have nothing are worth nothing. And I believe that he believed it. They have genuinely never seen actual economic productivity and never met a rich person who didn’t make his money winning overpriced public tenders.
A recent series of articles by index.hu quoted baby oligarchs (children of the newly rich tender winner class) anonymously complaining about the plebs because we are envious. See, they have to fly a helicopter to the nearest airport abroad to board their private jet because their fellow countrymen (peasants) would be jealous. That article has never reached most voters, but the arrogance dripping from these people inevitably did.
And even if you are hell bent on voting for the Fidesz brand, these arrogant pricks will make you waver.
6. Hiding opposition voters and useless polls
Opinion polls did show something, but not triumph for the opposition – let alone by 16%. That was unheard of and unexpected.
Some opposition voters may be in hiding because regard the ballot as a test where they have to guess the winner. Indeed, exit poll articles from local papers couldn’t find a single voter who admitted to voting to the opposition candidate – even though all have remarked how unusually large the turnout was.
Other times, the ruling power is known to be vindictive – such is the case in Hungary these days. And no one is too small. In Hódmezővásárhely, for instance, local individuals were listed on a leaflet as enemies of the town for attending opposition forums.
Lists of voters’ preferences are known to be kept, often obtained illegally, and often for intimidation purposes. When another opposition movement, Momentum went on the road last year, Fidesz activists took photos of forum attendees. Just to remind people…
Not giving your recommendation slip to the Fidesz candidate or not attending pro-government march can cost your job, especially if you are in the ever-growing public sector. Or private sector depending on public contracts. Or private sector that can be harassed by a tax audit. Which is everyone.
And in the life-and-death war psychosis of the election campaign, physical atrocities against those listed as enemies wouldn’t surprise anyone.
7. High-turnout is Fidesz’ enemy
…and 62% is huge.
We don’t have registration for domestic voting intention, but those who wish to vote from abroad, have to register before 24 March. So far, expats living abroad have registered in record numbers – but so did newly minted Hungarian passport-holders in neighboring countries.
But it’s a few thousand expats versus roughly 800 thousand new citizens.
But before we even start to hope that the unified opposition finally takes off on the back of the expected high turnout, don’t forget that Fidesz has successfully created one million new Hungarian citizens abroad, 98% of whom who voted for them in 2014.
On top of it, these new citizens can vote via mail – while expats have to make their way to the capital cities of their countries on April 8.
9. It will be an uphill battle
…for the mew mayor. Fidesz has threatened on every level to make a precedent out of a city that dares to reject Fidesz. Candidates even campaign with it. And if voters consider the sad examples of Esztergom or Szeged, they can see their future under a Fidesz government – with an opposition mayor. Who also has to combat his local representatives, who are pro-Fidesz and extremely loyal to their party.
The government spokesman had already congratulated to the new mayor and wished him good luck, smirking. The billions of development money that has been flowing towards the town under the Fidesz government will no doubt evaporate overnight. We have seen sharper about-turns in funding before.
10. Will Fidesz become even more aggressive?
Apparatchiks have been quite aggressive already. Depending the top-level decisions that will no doubt be made this week, the campaign may get even worse, with intimidation stepped up a notch. Fidesz politicians on every level have been speaking about the possibility of a bloody campaign since last autumn – and it is never a coincidence. They get their talking points centrally, just as the Fidesz-controlled media does.
And when the bully muses that there may be blood, you know he doesn’t mean the uprising of the minions. It is a warning.
On the other hand, aggression and warmongering are exactly what their supporters resent about Fidesz. But then again, they also reject Fidesz’ corruption, but are too scared to even contemplate voting for opposition parties. They consider the “leftliberal” or “bolshevik” parties to be evil of demonic proportions, they want to sell out the homeland, want to demolish Orbán’s wall and let a swarm of dark-skinned zombies take over the homeland and rape women.
I am not exaggerating.
11. The Tiborcz scandal
Hódmezővásárhely happens to be the epicenter where the Tiborcz scandal originates.
In a nutshell, Orbán’s son-in-law, István Tiborc, is the unstoppable winner of public light tenders countrywide. Recently, OLAF had published a report on how suspicious the whole thing is.
Tiborcz managed to win most of these tenders on the strength of the reference his company gained with installing new streetlights in Hódmezővásárhely first. In the own words of minister Lázár (who was then the mayor of the town), he and the royal son-in-law developed the model (of winning tenders) together. The following string of ridiculously suspicious public tender winnings was investigated by OLAF because it was mostly financed by EU money.
Will and can the new mayor release details about this – and many other suspected scandals? If so, the public anger for the enrichment of the young oligarch might reach Orbán himself.
Expect a lot of dirt coming to light in the last minutes before elections on April 8.