Zoltán Kiszelly: The prognosis for Hungarian elections 2018

About parliamentary elections in Hungary, 8th April
About parliamentary elections in Hungary, 8th April
07.04.2018

Interview with political scientist Zoltán Kiszelly about the parliamentary elections in Hungary.

Zoltán Kiszelly. Photo: Geopolitica.ru

- What is your prognosis for these elections? What are the concerns of Hungarian people?

- According to the opinion polls, the government party, coalition of Fidesz and Christian Democratic People`s Party is leading (40-45%), which is enough, according to the election system, for the absolute majority. The question is whether it will be 2/3 majority. I don`t think so, because many Hungarians, even the rightest voters, don`t want 2/3 majority for the Fidesz party. It may be one hazard for government, 2/3 majority could be an issue for election campaign, because it can mobilize the opposition voters, and government voters can also vote against the government or stay at home – not to give the 2/3 majority again for the government.

Of course, 2/3 majority would be a major achievement for government and would show the support for it. The absolute majority for today is sure, if Fidesz don`t make any mistakes, it`s also possible, but I think that the chances for 2/3 is about 40%.

The Fidesz government is happy enough for so-called central political field of power. The opposition is divided – Jobbik party (right wing) and the socialist party (left wing), and the Fidesz is in the center. The elections in Hungary can be won only in the center, with undecided moderate voter. The far-right party and the socialist party are out of this political center, they are not able to attract this moderate voter.

Victor Orban. Photo: Facebook

That`s why the opposition is not a threat to the government – they are divided and don`t make a coalition. At the last elections there was a leftist coalition of 4-5 parties, but it wasn`t enough. Today there are small coalitions – at least, 3 leftist coalitions and the far-right party. So, there will be 3 or 4 opposition candidates against the governments candidate in the 106 single constituencies. 

I think, the major social issue is the migration. We had an experience of 2015, when more than 350,000 crossed Hungary. They all rushed to Germany, Austria and Sweden, because they hoped for the better social life, for social benefits. So, many Hungarians have fears about the migrants. There was a referendum in 2016, and 3.3 million voted for the government. It was not enough for the quorum, but it was one million voters more that the government had. The government has about 2 million voters – so, at least 1 million voters are more afraid of migrants than of Victor Orban. 

If the migration crisis will be on the agenda at the election time, Fidesz can count not only on his 2-2.5 million, but also on at least 500 000 – 800 000 other voters (most of Jobbik`s electorate, and lower part of the socialist party).

The opposition has also other social issues like education system, health care. But it`s like flu – it`s coming three days, stays three days and left for three days. The health system was wrong even in my childhood. Everybody has complaint.

It`s important to understand, that the Hungarians are individualists. Most other nations are like communities, but the Hungarians and the Americans are individualists. That means, we`re making our own escape way. We are not escaping as a group, but as individuals. If the education system is wrong, then, you make an individual choice for your child, not collective choice. And if the health system is not good, you take your money and go to the doctor that you trust. 

Photo: Pixabay

There`s no collective acting among the Hungarians – we are divided nation, the nation of individualists. The opposition wants to act collectively, but the Hungarians act individually. That`s why they are not able to mobilize. Yes, we have the protests of the students (secondary grammar schools) who want to have better education system. But after 15thof February you have to apply for University high school, and then it`s not a group of secondary grammar school students, but the individual who wants to go to the best possible university of their own choice. It`s not a group anymore.

That means, the issues of the opposition are long-term, the issues of yesterday. The problems were not solved in 8 years of the government of the leftist parties. They were not able to solve the problems when they were in power – why should they solve it after 8 years in opposition?They don`t have any alternative. Secondly, they are almost the same politicians that were in the government 2002 – 2010, people who were not able to solve the problems and almost ruined the country. There`s no trust to the opposition.

Also the opposition made a mistake to talk about coalition building – they are not talking, what they would do with the education system, how they would reform the health care. They talk about: «I won`t make a coalition with you, and you don`t make a coalition with him». And nobody is interested in what form the opposition is going to the elections. 

- The big question of these elections is the situation with Jobbik party. They represent an opposition to Fidesz, and we see the real information war in the street – all these political billboards is a good illustration. Is there some real link between Jobbik and Lajos Simicska? 

- Jobbik party was a generation party, of student leaders. Afterwards they turned into regional party, in the crisis zones where were the everyday conflicts with gypsies, where the socialist government was not able to perform law and order. That`s why Jobbik with paramilitary Hungarian Guards filled this gap, where the Hungarian police was not able to act. They are very smart, the Jobbik guys. When the Hungarian Guard was proposed in that place, then the police appeared with 200 men to prevent conflicts. But the villagers haven`t seen any policeman before, they came only because of the Hungarian Guard. They didn`t came because your chicken was stolen – only because of the Hungarian Guard. Hungarian Guard did nothing, only appeared for some hours in the village centre! But 200 policemen were enough to get order for at least 2 months. 

But the villagers connected this order to the appearance of the Hungarian Guard. So, Jobbik became regional party. Afterwards, they`ve got 15-20%, it was high enough. And they wanted to come into power. They had a question – how to break this glass ceiling?

They decided they should have their own media. Fidesz had its own media after 2002, Jobbik hadn`t. So apparently Mr. Simicska offered his media – TV, radio, national newspapers (not officially, but we can see that Jobbik politicians appear in huge number of his media). 

Gabor Vona. Photo: Facebook

I guess, they are smart guys, but Jobbik made a mistake. If I were in Jobbik’s shoes, I would go my own way. Simicska is an oligarch who wants to take a revenge on Fidesz – then, he needs a political tool. If you take your own way, so it`s him who has to knock on your door, on your conditions. There`s expression in Hungarian:if you take a small bird, then you you`re loosing tomorrow a big bird. Jobbik took the small bird today – the support of this oligarch. If they`d take their own way, so the oligarch had to knock on their door. But now it`s on Simicska`s conditions – he sold 1 100 billboard places to Jobbik for at least 100 000 euros, which is nonsense. In the contract was written they should pay the rest after elections. If they don`t pay, the contract is invalid. So, it`s not a real contract in understanding of many people. 

Mr. Simicska wanted a tool for his revenge, this is simple. And I think, the mistake of Jobbik was that they wanted their own media. Jobbik wasn`t strong enough, and they got media on Simicska`s terms. And now they are kept by Simicska. 

Also the mistake of Gabor Vona was to kick off radicals from the leadership of the party. Because if you are a catch-all-party, you need different faces, different characters. As party leader Vona is good, he`s smart, but he need other faces in party, some radicals, to attract the core electorate and some undecided voters.

(to be continued soon - about geopolitics and Hungarian foreign policy)