The opposition won Budapest. They can now brace for the mother of all punishments.
A few days before the elections the solid Fidesz (orange) and the solid opposition (green) districts looked like this. Purple represents undecided districts where the difference was not measurable beyond statistical error.
Then the unimaginable happened and hundreds of thousands of hiding Fidesz voters came forward. Poor things. You have to be so brave to admit your loyalty to Orbán in the 12th year of his uncontested reign – of course they were hiding. (No.)
While the opposition could genuinely mobilize in Budapest – in the old fashioned way, with a campaign and messages – Orbán took the countryside by storm. His method? (Apart from cheating in every imaginable way before the elections.) Physically dragging people to vote.
The results look like this.
All but one Budapest districts went to the opposition.
They can now brace for the mother of all fiscal punishments from Orbán. He didn’t hold back when half the major cities went to the opposition in 2019 – he certainly won’t hold back now.
But what does Budapest know that is missing on the countryside?
Let’s get the clichés out of the way:
- Education level inversely correlates with Fidesz sympathies.
- The poorer (!) a village the higher its vote for Orbán. The poorest villages came up with North Korea-like support for Orbán.
- Budapest consumes independent media. The countryside doesn’t.
Existential dependence is also the strongest in the countryside.
Orbán’s media control is absolute in the countryside. The opposition was invisible – people only heard about them from Orbán’s media and only smears. (So any navel gazing of what else should the opposition have communicated testifies of major ignorance about the nature of the problem.)
In the last few years activists went door to door distributing actual news to houses on the countryside. Many have learnt from them that Orbán might be lying. It wasn’t enough to counter propaganda though. And it certainly didn’t get opposition messages into these villages. Even opposition politicians touring the countryside like maniacs could not breach this bubble because many of those who showed up to vote had zero idea about politics.
Because the ultra-high participation rate is not down to Orbán’s messages but his activists physically dragging people to vote and instructing, threatening, bribing them to vote for him. These people would simply not vote under normal circumstances. And they can’t be persuaded by any opposition orator coming to their village.
Whatever Orbán did on the countryside – but didn’t do in Budapest – he knew well in advance. His party’s important politicians have abandoned their Budapest constituencies two years before the elections in a spectacular move.
But these are the individual districts. On the national list there is another factor at play: dodgy, unchecked mail votes coming in from Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Slovakia, from voters who got their passports from Orbán in the last couple of years. Those votes were completely unsupervised, even the voters don’t have to be alive to vote. We are talking about over 318 000 votes here, but only 230 000 deemed valid. 94% of the votes deemed valid were for Orbán.
The reason no one is contesting the elections even more is because the overall win was so high for Orbán. If the results were tighter, he would have to put work into it – this way all strength went out of his opponents. Lucky.