April 12, 2010
The Hungarian elections in 2010 have completely changed the political landscape of the country and may result in thorough constitutional changes. The Hungarian party system, which had been the most stable since 1989 in Central Europe has changed dramatically with the entry of to new parties and the exit of two new ones. The anti-establishment forces have gained considerable support.
The clear winner of the elections with 52,75% of the vote, the highest ever in the new Hungarian democracy, went to coalition of Fidesz (EPP) and the tiny Christian Democrats. Fidesz had been one of the two grand parties (one of the countries that has enough MPs to block constitutional changes alone) of Hungary since the mid-1990s when it forged other right-wing groups. Fidesz is a populist centre-right party, very much alike the EPPs Southern, Italian and Spanish members led by the charismatic Viktor Orbán (who had been running the party since its foundation as an opposition university student group in 1988). In the Hungarian mixed system this party has a chance of winning all non-party-list seats, thus probably gaining a 2/3 majority that allows it to rewrite the constitution alone. (The Christian Democrats are a separate party only in name).
The second place went to the Hungarian Socialist Party (19.31%), which has been a grand party since 1994. The party is not a legal successor of the Communist dictatorship’s party (it had never made it into the democratically elected parliament) but it had inherited most of its politicians and estates. After 8 years in government (and the first democratically re-elected Hungarian government) it has sunk in sleaze and misrule. With 19% of the vote it is a medium-sized party that cannot block constitutional changes.
The third place with 16.88% of the vote went to Jobbik, a radical nationalist party that first won seats in the European elections in 2009. Except for 1998-2008, Hungary had no extremist party in the democratically elected parliament. Jobbik, a youthful far-right organization, under the wily leadership of Gábor Vona has united the traditional Great-Hungary nostalgia voters, the anti-Semitic far-right, the racist anti-Gypsy far right, none of which could make it to the parliament with a huge number of anti-establishment voters that were fed up with the minority Socialist government. The party gain support after the resignation of Mr Gyurcsány, a Socialist leader who lost the legitimacy of the left-coalition. Instead of early elections, the Socialist party has remained in power with the help of MPs in small “opposition parties” that had no future in the parliament. The anger of such deals have empowered anti-establishment parties on the right and left, too. Jobbik is as difficult to label as the late Jörg Haider’s Freiheit Partei or Geert Wilder’s party, although it clearly has no Liberal roots.
LMP (Lehet Más a Politika – Politics Can Be Different, 7.44%) is a new, green-alternative party that is a mix of environmentalist and human rights grass root movements. The party has gained from the exit of the Liberals (ALDE) group from the European Parliament in 2009. The Liberals, who were devastated by the scandals of the left-wing governments, did not have enough support to field candidates for a party list. LMP has fought hard for the centrist voters support with MDF, a centre-right former EPP member party, which made a fatal error when it allowed the hapless Liberals into its party list to form a pro-market right wing platform. MDF has exploded with the infusion of the Liberals, and eventually the centrist vote went to LMP, the first Green party in the Hungarian parliament.
The Hungarian party system had been very stable since 1990. The Christian Democrats did not meet the 5% minimum threshold in 1998, but arrived back as a fraction of Fidesz. The Smallholder’s Party, the successor of the winner of the brief 1945-1947 democratic period has dropped out in 2002. New parties never gained ground, the ‘Hungarian National Front’, MIÉP had a brief spell in the parliament between 1998-2002. Since 1990, at least two parties were needed to make amendments in the parliament, the assembly had six party groups, and there was no new entry. In 2010, there is only one grand party, two parties, MDF and the Liberals have fallen out, and Jobbik plus LMP are in.