March 6, 2009
In a series of posts I will write a some information about the party lists in Hungary for the 2009 European Parliament elections. The order of the parties does not reflect any personal preference; there are still not announced lists and candidates.
The most likely outcome (at the time of writing) is 12+1 seats for EPP (there is a big and a small right-wing party belonging to this party group), 6 for PES and 2 for ALDE. Although the Hungarian voting system is a fully proportional one with simple party voting (no preferences for candidates are allowed) the likely mandates do not reflect the popularity of the parties. Usually small parties do better in EP elections with their more committed electorates.
Hungary has probably the most stable party system in Central Europe. Six parties made it into the first democratically elected assembly in 1990, and two has dropped out, one of them, the Christan Democrats, recovering as a satellite of the major right-wing party. (A far-right party had a four-years stand between 1998-2002).
The Hungarian party system has some characteristic features. The most striking is the major right-wing party, Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party is a member of EPP, however, it is a rather anti-business party with a very strong populist streak. In appearance it is close to Mr. Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (it even uses a similar Go, Hungary slogan) without the connection to the national capitalism. The Hungarian Socialist Party, on the other hand, is pro-business, closer to employers than employees. It is very similar in this respect to Mr. Barroso’s former Portugese party, which started during Portugal’s democratic transition as a left-wing party but ended up in the moderate right-wing side of European politics. The two major parties usually take 85% percent of the vote. The two minor parties are the pro-business EPP member Hungarian Democratic Forum, and the Liberal ALDE member SzDSz – Alliance of Free Democrats.
The other odd characteristic of the Hungarian political system is that it is very much interlinked with the strong Hungarian diaspora in the neighboring countries. Hungarian parties are rather strong in Slovakia and Hungary, and their political activities are both connected to their original countries and Hungarian politics. I believe that the Hungarian parties in Romania and Slovakia may grab 6 EP seats, and as a result of the interplay between the three countries political parties, one or two may be de facto extra seats for Hungary’s Fidesz party. (In the last Romanian interim elections Fidesz grabbed one namely independent seat in Romania).
The four parties have the lowest ever public approval ratings since Hungary’s democratic transition in 1990. This possibly leaves the door open for new parties, which for years have the biggest chance to score some points in the EP elections. The far-right may have a comeback in a newish party, Jobbik, which was founded a few years ago buy university students. Their voters are very committed albeit very few, and they are fueled by the ever stronger racial conflict with the Roma minority. The first ethnic Roma party surprised people when it successfully organized itself for the previous national elections, even if it collected very few votes. The Hungarian Gypsy Forum may gain some momentum.
The far-left has never achieved anything since 1990, but the former Communist party will keep on trying under the name Labour Party. A new far-left party, the Green Alternative will try to run, however, I doubt that they will be organized enough even to set up a party list.
Another contender will be LMP (Politics Can Be Different) which is a new party of disillusioned people, mainly from Green and human rights, anti-corruption and similar NGOs. They might run on a greenish platform, aiming to send the first Hungarian MEP to the Green party group. Their chances are limited. (Update – and also they have a problem: the European Green Party has a Hungarian member already, which has never had an MP or MEP elected, but there is a one party one country rule).
The next four posts will introduce the four major party’s lists.
Party of European Socialists – Hungarian Socialist Party candidates;
ALDE – Alliance of Free Democrats (Liberal) candidates;
EPP – Hungarian right-wing candidates, Fidesz and MDF
The small parties have to collect enough supporters to be allowed into the race. If they succeed, I will continue the series.Author : Dániel Antal