Election 2022

Election outcomes 4/4 – Opposition alliance gets a supermajority

In this environment it may look foolish to even consider the possibility of a supermajority for the opposition – but we will do it nonetheless. Thinking has never hurt anyone.

Would the coalition stay together if they won? Would their victory go to their heads? There isn’t even talk about the possibility of a full-blown opposition triumph – but there should be. At the very least this scenario highlights the nature of the opposition and even Hungary’s path ahead after Orbán.

If an opposition supermajority happens, it will be because of hiding voters. Voters hiding their sympathies are not new but Hungarians have experienced an army of fake pollsters (on top of the obviously pro-government ones) with suspiciously good databases and loaded “questions” that are designed to manipulate instead of asking questions. Telling any pollster that one doesn’t wish to vote for Orbán runs the risk of getting onto a list. And you don’t want to get on that list. And even if the list doesn’t exist (it does) the psychological impact of the suspicion is the same. Maybe even worse because sometimes the known threat feels smaller than an unknown one, just because it is known and confirmed.

The other reasons for a landslide victory for the opposition alliance could be a well-timed and targeted scandal before the elections. This is the scenario what Orbán and his men are referring to as “foreign interference”. If a scandal hits Orbán’s person, the impact would be even bigger.

A revelation about his private wealth would not come as a surprise, but it would send and even more poignant message. It would show that he is no longer the strongest one and he is not untouchable. And for a strongman that is devastating. It would repel his followers and galvanize the opposition.

A similar erosion of Orbánist voters would take place if the public got credible proof that Orbán is planning to leave the EU. His campaign would not survive such a blow.

An opposition supermajority might also happen due to Orbán’s self-dealing electoral law. It has a magnifying effect that propels a party with a mere plurality of the votes into the realm of a constitutional supermajority in parliament. Normally, that would mean Orbán’s Fidesz. But since the opposition was forced to unify, something Orbán also thought was not possible, this magnifying effect might begin to work against him at a certain point. But it is not expected to happen in the view of the jilted advertising and media environment and with over a million new citizens in neighboring countries who are expected to vote for Orbán. At the moment the problem for the opposition is the opposite – namely that they need to beat Orbán by up to 5% just to break even in parliament.

But if the balance tips over, it may inadvertently start to benefit Orbán’s opponents. The election law punishes small parties and pushes the party system towards bipolarism so hard, it is a miracle they haven’t teamed up yet for a two-party showdown. (Orbán has also worked on it, having mastered the so called salami-tactic against parties in the 90s, when he created a unified pole in the party system.) This might be the reason Fidesz is building up opposition entities and they created a legal opportunity and incentives for scores of fake parties to appear on the ballot sheet. They also recently changed the rules again, directing every election-related dispute to their own, loyalist courts.

Even with a supermajority, the opposition would be an uneasy alliance of multiple parties.

The reason behind the opposition’s failure to unite can be found in Fidesz’ interference in opposition politics as well as opposition politicians’ general incompetence and self-defeating stupidity. Also, because the opposition is still thinking in the old paradigm when one has to appeal to voters (rather than just manipulating and intimidating them), publish programs (rather than just hate targets) and deal with policies (rather than an in-the-long-run-we-are-all-dead kleptocracy).

If their primaries and the aftermath are any guide to their behavior, the opposition alliance will start falling apart the day after their victory, starting with the rift between the extreme right Jobbik (that basically agrees with all of Orbán’s policies minus the corruption) and the rest.

Winning a supermajority would most definitely go to their heads and hungry in-fighting would commence. At the very least these men are hungry for status and positions after a decade languishing in Orbán’s hell designed for them: opposition, where not even the private sector is a safe haven. (Not that they have the skills for the private sector.)

The coalition would probably last long enough, however, to vote out Orbán’s basic law, and maybe even long enough to agree on something else to replace it with, a new constitution. It would also very likely contain several checks on the ruling power – a thing Orbán removed – because they don’t trust each other. And that is a good thing. They would also be willing to launch investigations into a few cronies and their ill-gotten wealth.

Revenge is also a strong possibility and the general prosecutor would be quickly replaced. Whether it means that there would be genuine investigations – or that oligarchs would have to buy their freedoms from the opposition – remains to be seen.

Beyond that the opposition coalition is unlikely to move in lockstep and vote together on every issue like Orbán’s militant supermajority does. Instead, endless policy debates would ensue. Which is to say, democracy would ensue. After experiencing the damaging effect of a militant supermajority without internal debates (at least not on policy) one must appreciate the way debating parties keep each other in check. Which is to say they are slow and less “effective”.

But Hungary should put the cult of effectiveness to the rest. It is a synonym for strongmen and autocracy. A continuously debating coalition would not only be a welcome development, it may be necessary for an entire generation to be able to see democratic politics for the first time.

The biggest story is what would happen to Fidesz if a supermajority for the opposition would materialize (if it would be allowed to happen). Would protests be likely?

The chance of Fidesz politicians supporting violent protests would be lower due to higher legitimacy of the opposition triumph – but only among those who 1) believe the results and/or 2) still care about election results. The militant core of Orbánist sympathizers would refuse to believe any result that is not to their liking – or pretend they don’t believe it because they really don’t care. If the events of the autumn of 2006 are any guide there could be violent protests denying the election results.

Orbán’s position within his party would probably remain solid – if there was no contest before 2010, there shouldn’t be any now. A few names regularly emerge as potential successors but without a major blow to Orbán’s person they couldn’t take over the party. Orbán would easily return in four years, even if the opposition would now win.

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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