Election 2022

Election outcomes 3/4 – Opposition alliance wins by a simple majority

This is the scenario many are hoping for. But would Orbán hand over power? 

A simple majority for the opposition seems achievable. How they would cooperate and how they could govern without any legislative power and against the headwind of hostile institutions is anyone’s question.

As of their political leanings the opposition would steer the country back into the western alliances – as much as it is still possible, and depending on how much room for maneuver they would have. They have already announced a return to value-based foreign policy (back from what Orbán called “interest-based” one – it is unclear whose interest.) Although learning about the confidential details of the Russian and Chinese deals might put them off from trying to backpedal.

As of their remaining policy proposals the opposition appears to be just as tightly limited. With big parts of the economy and institutions pitted against them an opposition majority will always have their hands tied. Orbán’s populist price fixing and interest rate fixing measures would expire after the elections – it is questionable whether anyone would dare not to extend them. Especially in a deteriorating economic climate.

The only respite is that the EU might stop withholding funds in case or a change of government – although it is difficult to see how, since the spending irregularities would still be present and so would the laws that clash with rule of law requirements. Past incidents of corruption would also begin to unravel, causing a range of possible fines and consequences that would fall upon a new government.

A simple opposition majority would thus be quickly crushed under the double weight of a hostile institutional and economic environment and an economic crisis coming home to roost, complete with inflation, a weakening currency and hundreds of thousands of families stuck in mortgages and exposed to any rate rise.

Price controls would have to be undone but market conditions could not be reinstated that easily.

No wonder many speculate that this might be Orbán’s preferred scenario. The economy would crush the lame duck opposition alliance and he would add pressure with his followers from the streets. He could return even before 2026 if he plays this hand right. But would he contest the results violently?

To answer that one must first establish that Orbán always repeats a trick that has once worked for him. Contesting the election results by way of street violence worked miracles for him in 2006. It eliminated dissent within his own party and served as a core around which his 2010 strategy was built. There are signs that everything that worked for him in that period is now used in the elections: a referendum, Gyurcsány-bashing, even price controls.

The second important thing is to understand that under a backsliding autocracy (like in many realms of life) the recent past is a poor guide to what is possible in the future. In other words, just because it hasn’t happened yet, or it has only happened a long time ago, it does not mean it can not happen in the future.

The internal logic of autocracies is a continued push against the boundaries of civility and what they can allow to themselves. It is the political equivalent of bullying – and without credible resistance the bully will never deescalate.

It is also worth noting that Orbán’s political mentors have all resorted to open violence against dissent. To shrug it off as an inconvenient factoid is a common position – but increasingly untenable.

Would Orbán hand over power if he lost the elections?

Can the militarization of the regime really not happen?

Election outcomes 1/4 – Supermajority for Orbán

Election outcomes 2/4 – A simple majority for Orbán

Election outcomes 3/4 – Opposition alliance wins by a simple majority

Election outcomes 4/4 – Opposition alliance gets a supermajority

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