Ever since the local elections in October 2019, when Fidesz didn’t win, politics has been resumed.
By October last year both Fidesz and its opposition(s) have been convinced that history was over and Orbán won. And then in the local elections the united opposition took over 10 out of 23 major cities and Budapest.
Ever since then, guessing about the chances in the 2022 general elections have restarted. And just how difficult it is right now, let me show two examples of repeated mayoral elections with very different outcomes.
The first one (Jászberény) had to be repeated because the outgoing Fidesz mayor didn’t accept a narrow defeat.
The second byelection (Győr) was held because because the infamous Fidesz sex tape mayor finally stepped down – but not before winning again in October (despite his sex tapes and corruption scandal).
The repeat election in Jászberény turned out to be one of the worst miscalculations by Fidesz. It took place in November 2019, only a few weeks after the first (surprise) Fidesz defeat and it turned Fidesz’ tight loss into crushing defeat. After the initial defeat Fidesz contested the results and called for a repeat election where Fidesz’ worst fear was confirmed. With an opposition proven to have a chance, even more anti-Orbán voters turned up to cast their votes and the anti-Fidesz, all-opposition candidate scored an even bigger win than in October.
The opposition’s lead leaped from 14 votes in October to 3758 votes in November, while participation rose from 42.58% to 62%.
The second byelection in Győr was called because the infamous sex tape mayor had to be removed. But he wasn’t allowed to step down when the scandal broke – during the election campaign – to avoid the seat going to the opposition. To everyone’s disgust he won again – but then he stepped down and Fidesz built up another candidate to replace him. In this case, the calculation worked. Győr remained OfFidesz despite all the gore and open corruption in the scandal.
It is difficult to tell what happened in Győr. We know that the city is extremely dependent on Audi, an investor that is very happy with the deal they (the entire German car industry) has made with Orbán. (Bavarian political clout kept Orbán in the EPP, to name just one thing.) We also know that to this day there is no case brought against the outgoing sex tape mayor, despite his well-documented, dodgy dealings with Audi. The only investigation is against those who released his sex tape because the poor guy was blackmailed and blackmailing with a sex tape is illegal, you see.
If you contrast these two elections, you will see why 2022 is very open. For now, Fidesz foot soldiers appear to be raging angry. Orbán’s virtual absence from home due to his battles with Brussels can be felt. Party discipline is in poor shape, his internal critics even talked to independent media, some even dare to give some loving, apologetic criticism of Orbán himself. And the extremists, the pitbulls of the party pyramid are out in full force. It may turn out to be too repulsive for voters – or it may turn out to be intimidating enough to bark them back into the herd and make them vote for Fidesz again in 2022.
There will be no elections between now and the 2022 general elections, apart from the occasional byelection.
Featured image: Local election results mapped in October 2019 by index.hu