Yesterdayˋs election came as a surprise for the Fidesz-controlled media and their pundits. They didnˋt report the unexpected defeat of Fidesz’ candidate in the party’s stronghold for hours. They focused on another, much less significant local election, where Fidesz did indeed win.
Then one of the pundits, masquerading as a neutral analyst tried to downplay it, stating that this election was local – and not about Viktor Orbán, since he wasˋt actively involved. Even this is claim is not correct, the news site 444.hu dug up a Facebook entry with pictures of Orbán and the Fidesz candidate campaigning together.
Itˋs natural that everybody tries to spin the event in a way it benefits their view or interests. Those who advocate for full cooperation among the opposition parties, from the Socialists to the far right Jobbik, will point to Hódmezővásárhely. Some even see a path to victory in the spring, something few considered possible a couple of days ago.
In this scenario, the opposition parties have to find a common candidate in each constituency who has the trust of the majority of the voters – and lo and behold – Fidesz is defeated. This is supposed to be completed in a few weeks’ time and by the same parties, who havenˋt been able to unite in a common cause during the last five years. And they still have to face a formidable force supporting Fidesz – the state-funded propaganda machine and Orbán’s loyalists at nominally independent institutions.
And of course, no one knows what kind of policy such a rainbow coalition would lead to if elected – with far-right and left wing / green parties stuck on the same side.
Yesterdayˋs vote was almost certainly a protest against Fidesz and its policies marred by accusations of corruption. As a voter put it “people like Fidesz, but they donˋt appreciate theft.” The mayor-elect is certainly not left-wing nor liberal, and he doesn’t belong to the far right either. He is a religious father of seven, who identifies with traditional conservative policies supposedly represented by Fidesz, but abhors corruption.
Hódmezővásárhely is a traditionally right-wing town and it has now elected a right-wing politician who called himself as a disappointed Fidesz-voter. If Fidesz really believes that Péter Márki-Zay is a stooge in service of Soros and Simicska, they are fooling themselves.
It should be a warning sign for Fidesz that it has become the party of the likes of Szilárd Németh and János Pócs, chasing away the likes of Márki-Zay. (Fidesz has never been a traditional right wing conservative party, but that is another story).
Yesterdayˋs election shows that Fidesz can be defeated, but it didnˋt prove that it can be done by the current opposition parties. They had nothing to loose by rallying behind the mayoral candidate in Hódmezővásárhely, and everything to win. On a national level, the struggle for parliamentary seats and party funding will trump lofty promises of a possible change of government.
Unlike Márki-Zay, there are no credible candidates to threaten Orbánˋs position as prime minister. They haven’t been able to tell the voters what plans they have for Hungary.
Two important things can be accomplished this spring – which will benefit Hungarian democracy in the long run:
- a severely weakened Fidesz but still in government, and
- the ousting of the inept and corrupt Socialist party from parliament.
The next four years will be hard for any government, due to the probable decline of EU subsidies, and the result of bad policies enacted by Orbán in the years 2010-18. Fidesz should not be allowed to escape responsibility in case of an election defeat, and be able to claim, that all would have been fine if only they were allowed to stay in power. The end of the Socialist Party will hopefully pave the way for new parties and fresh faces.
Those who are looking for change should concentrate on the local elections in 2019. The election in Hódmezővásárhely shows that it is possible to defeat even a state-backed candidate with nearly infinite resources at his disposal, if there is a locally respected and able candidate.
The first important step would be to establish a credible mayoral candidate in Budapest, well ahead of the election in the autumn of 2019.
Fresh opposition politicians with base and experience in local government will be able to challenge a weakened and corrupt Fidesz government in 2022. Given the autocratic culture in Fidesz, there is little chance of a change, unless Orbánˋs reign were to end.
Yesterdayˋs election showed the the greatest threats to Fidesz’ rule are not the disorganized and inept opposition parties. It is talented and bold citizens willing to take risks and pursue a new career as politicians , in combination with voters who can make up their own minds. They might be able to even save Hungary one day.
Featured image: rantotthus Tumblr