Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

Tactical voting stands in way of Orban's majority

Something unexpected is happening in Hungary these days - there is actually a competitive election campaign before Hungarians head to the polls on Sunday (8 April).

What seemed like a done deal for prime minister Viktor Orban's Fidesz - a third consecutive parliamentary majority - could be undermined by citizens turning to tactical voting, meaning they vote for the strongest opposition candidate despite previous party allegiances.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Hungary's governing party has been running a hate camapign against migrants and US billionare George Soros (Photo: Lydia Gall/Human Rights Watch)

The shock mayoral win in February for an opposition candidate in Hodmezovasarhely, a stronghold of Orban's Fidesz, was made possible because liberal and socialist voters banded together with the far-right Jobbik (that has recently moved to towards the centre), forming an ad hoc alliance unthinkable only a few years ago.

"Up until then, opposition parties were in survival mode, and it seemed like the election was over before it had started," Andras Biro-Nagy, analyst with Policy Solutions, told EUobserver.

However, there is little doubt among experts that most likely Orban will win a third consecutive term, a fourth in total, and Fidesz will hold an absolute majority in parliament.

But the mayoral win prompted opposition voters to demand that their parties put forward a single candidate against those of Fidesz.

"Voters are more determined that something needs to change," Biro-Nagy said.

However replicating the Hodmezovasarhely model across the entire country seems almost impossible, although on Wednesday (4 April) a few opposition candidates stepped aside in several districts.

Almost a third of Jobbik supporters asked in a March poll were willing to support leftist candidates, and 43 percent of leftist voters said they would vote for Jobbik if necessary, Zavecz Research showed on Wednesday.

To circumvent bickering amongst opposition parties, citizens have set up websites advising voters on which candidate is the strongest in each district to help decide whom to support.

Record high voter turnout and a high rate of tactical voting could make it difficult for Fidesz to acquire an absolute majority or maintain a two-thirds majority it once held in parliament.

Built-in advantages

On Sunday Hungarians will vote for candidates running for 106 seats from local constituencies on a first-past-the-post basis, and parties on national lists for a further 93 seats in parliament.

In 2014, Fidesz won 96 of the districts and 45 percent of the votes on the national list, ending up with a two-thirds majority.

A poll by Republikon Institute put Fidesz at 49 percent among people certain to vote, Jobbik at 19 percent and the Socialists at 17 percent.

Although analysts suspect the opinion polls are biased towards Fidesz, because some people are afraid to reveal their true sympathies. In particular, government employees, teachers and doctors fear reprisals or job losses if they are publicly known not to support Fidesz.

Opposition parties also face several hurdles built into the electoral system that favours Fidesz.

The ruling party dominates the media, public and private as well - even if a once-close ally of Orban before their fallout in 2015, the oligarch Lajos Simicska is now fuelling media critical of Fidesz.

Fidesz redrew constituencies to benefit the party, while party financing laws dissuade opposition parties to unite behind one candidate in local districts.

Orban also made it easier for members of the Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries, who usually vote for Fidesz by around 95 percent, to cast their ballot by allowing them to vote by mail, while Hungarians who emigrated – and tend to support the opposition – can only vote in person.

"It is a system featuring anti-democratic elements," Biro-Nagy pointed out.

Orban's base

The premier who inspired 'illiberalism' in central and eastern Europe, and has gained admirers in western European right wing and far right parties, has turned up the notch on the rhetoric. In the final weeks of the election he had threatened vengeance to anyone who opposes him.

Orban long ago stopped talking to the entire population.

Polls show there are several hundred thousand voters want to see a change in government but have no party. No single opposition parties has been able to rally their support.

One poll puts those who want to see change at 46 percent, while 40 percent are undecided.

Fidesz has a voter base of approximately 2.4 million, a quarter of the total, which is enough to secure the absolute majority.

It only needs to mobilise them, which it does much more efficiently than opposition parties.

Over Easter Orban said only Fidesz puts Hungary's interests first, and that the opposition serves foreign interests dictated by US billionaire George Soros, who has been at the centre of Fidesz's latest hate campaign and who is accused by Fidesz of trying to bring a million migrants into Europe.

"Viktor Orban does not want to convince more voters, he only wants to mobilise his base," Biro-Nagy pointed out.

"Everybody is considered a 'Soros-agent' who does not support Fidesz, this is the rhetoric, this is the mood in the country now," he added.

Orban also accused Western liberal democracies of lying, and falsifying news on migration. He claimed the election is about the very existence of Hungary, saying that opposition parties will allow immigrants into the country, who will destroy its European, Christian culture.

Analysts point out that Fidesz's hate campaign has most likely galvanised the opposition as well.

Point of no return

Orban's win will mean a further escalation in politics and rhetoric, analysts say.

The logic of illiberalism and Orban's combative character prevent any consolidation after the elections.

"The basic logic of the illiberal system will not allow consolidation. This is the political posture it can play," Peter Kreko, an analyst with Political Capital.

"In an illiberal system every criticism is considered treason. If Orban loses his majority Fidesz will not back down, instead will push to dominate media and threaten civil society even more," he adds.

But how far Orban could go is still a matter of debate.

Csaba Toth of the Republikon Institute warns that there is little space where Orban can escalate.

"They will most likely not have a two-thirds majority to change the constitution and have people loyal to them in all the key posts already," Toth said.

Commission takes Orban's Hungary to court

The EU executive steps up several probes over Hungary's illiberal tendencies, while it is also suing Poland and the Czech Republic over migrant quotas.

Corruption report: Hungary gets worse, Italy makes progress

Italians, Czechs and Latvians perceive less corruption than a few years ago in Transparency International's annual ranking. The Berlin-based NGO said Finland was a 'worrying case', whilst Bulgaria - which holds the EU presidency - is EU's most corrupt.

Analysis

Orban, the 'anti-Merkel', emboldens European right

Hungary's premier Viktor Orban has inspired 'illiberalism' across central Europe and far-right politicians in the West. His expected re-election this Sunday will further reinforce his standing as a symbol for being tough on Europe's political mainstream.

Agenda

Facebook and Hungary top EU agenda This Week

The US internet giant's massive data breach will be discussed in the EU, while Europe will find out whether Viktor Orban and his party are re-elected for another term to lead Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. Full text of Brexit withdrawal agreement published
  2. UK cabinet agrees Brexit deal after marathon session
  3. Czechs join other EU states in rejecting UN migration pact
  4. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  5. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  6. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  7. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  8. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls

Opinion

On Armistice Day, EU is still best gift we can give our children

While young people fought each other in 1918, young people in 2018 travel to study together under the Erasmus programme. But there is a risk of limiting our commemoration to representing the past through just speeches, museum exhibits and visits.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Asylum for Macedonia's ex-PM put Orban on spot
  2. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  3. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  4. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  5. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  6. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  7. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  8. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  3. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  5. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  6. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  8. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  9. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  10. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  11. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us