The country has been divided into three parts when we consider the results of the parliamentary election last month. The forces between the governing parties and the left-wing opposition alliance are balanced in Budapest. The left, however, represents only the third force in the villages. Policy Agenda has examined the wide difference between the villages and the capital city, and what might have influenced voters.
Villages where the left alliance is only the third force
Policy Agenda has processed the figures of three counties with different party preferences, economic and geographical situations in order to make an in-depth examination of the votes cast in villages, by going down into the voting districts.
In Vas County by the western border with a relatively good economic position, the number of village voters was about 84,000. In this county 40% of citizens with voting rights live in villages, that is to say the party preferences living there basically define the results of the election. In the small villages of Vas county Fidesz-KDNP acquired 58% of votes while the Governmental Change leftist alliance acquired 15.6%. Far-right party Jobbik came safely second with its 19.7% in the same villages. Green party LMP (“Politics Can be Different”), which nationally just squeezed over the parliamentary entrance threshold of 5%, acquired only 3.7% in this area.
The situation of individual candidates was not different either. The candidates of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) had a better result to some extent (by 0.7%) than the votes cast for the shared list of the associated parties. Votes for the individual candidates of Fidesz were 0.3% fewer than their national list while Jobbik’s individual candidates were 0.1% down on its national list.
The 14 minor parties – excluding the four parties composing the current parliament – did not receive many votes, only 2.9% in total, which is much worse than the country-
Our second examined county was Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg where 45% of citizens with voting rights live in villages. Fidesz-KDNP received 54.4% of these votes. It is not surprising that Jobbik came second with its 26.1% while the left alliance acquired only 15.3% and LMP 1.2%. Jobbik’s second place was no surprise because, contrary to Vas County, here the extremist party came second in all the voting districts, that is to say including towns. Opposite to this result, in Vas County the left was able to overcome its loss in towns and remained the second force over the whole county.
It is interesting to mention that while a minimal difference could be shown between the votes for individual candidates and the party list in Vas County, this difference can be ignored completely in Szabolcs County.
The third examined area was Csongrád County. Its situation is special because except for Miskolc town it is the only county where the individual candidate of the Government al Change alliance was able to win. This voting district might be in Szeged but its social composition is different from the composition of villages. Twenty-four-point-four per cent of citizens with voting rights live in villages in this county, and from this aspect the proportion is the lowest compared to the other two examined counties.
In Csongrád County, the left alliance came second owing to the votes acquired in the county headquarters (Szeged) and towns. However, the shared party list could only achieve third place in villages in this county. The victory of Fidesz-KDNP was undeniable with their 49.4% while Jobbik acquired 23.1%. The left-wing parties came third on 18.7% and LMP would not have been able to enter Parliament here either with its 4.5%.
In the villages of Csongrád County there was no important difference between the votes cast for individual candidates and party lists, although the left saw its individual candidates receive 1.4% more votes than the
What is behind the expansion of Jobbik?
We have analysed the voting in villages from the aspect of their social situation. We have projected the figures of the registered unemployed at village level in March against the results of the election. We have used this parameter because it includes people living on grants (regular social grant, grant replacing employment), constant unemployed and people that receive a job-search grant.
The figures show interesting contexts. Regarding the proportions of Fidesz, it achieved the best results in villages in the best situation and in the worst situation. It achieved the worst results in villages which are in an average situation in this aspect.
For MSZP, the best results were in villages where the proportion of registered unemployed and people living on grants is low, while it achieved the worst results where the social problems are the most serious.
The most surprising was that – as the figures show – the true terrain of Jobbik is where the financial crisis is the deepest. This party has achieved far the worst results where there are relatively fewer helpless people living in a difficult situation.
The left-wing parties did not have a message for the poor
Almost all political analysers share the opinion that the main reason for the beating of the left is that they were not able to talk to the poor, which is confirmed by the figures in the villages. If we project the main messages of the campaign to village-dwelling voters based on their media consumption habits then the reason for the problem can be seen clearly.
Previous analyses also proved that most villagers acquire information from the two commercial television channels and the public service media. Policy Agenda has analysed continuously since February what topics rule such channels from political aspects. If we compare the matters advantageous to left-wing parties to the problems of villagers then no concordance can be found.
This is because in the two months before the election, the contract with Russia to expand Paks nuclear power station, the dispute over the Holocaust memorial year, the election abuses (fake parties, criticism of the election system) and the real estate matter of Rogán Antal were topics of no interest for villagers.
The eight promises of the left must have been relevant to villagers but the alliance was unable to transfer such promises to public talk and into the mass media. The consequence was that such messages melted away and only internet users could learn about them. Only a few villagers use the Internet.
Fidesz did not have many messages for villagers either. At the same time, the reduction of bills and the promise to continue this was an evident help, or at least gave this feeling. The promise to maintain labour services in villages offered the hope that at least there would be some work, even for starvation wages.
The expansion of Jobbik in villages can be explained by several concurrent causes. First, its image as a party free of scandals and having a professional programme was developed via the public service media that could clearly touch villagers. Second, there is an image of Jobbik as apparently being clean because it has not governed yet. Third, it tried to word an alternative against Fidesz opposite to the left-wing parties. To sum up: Jobbik was regarded as a government-changing force by villagers living in the worst situation, rather than the left.
It is an error for the left side to think that they can stop Jobbik by selecting better candidates and to get closer to Fidesz. It is clear that there was a minimal difference between the votes cast for individual candidates and country-wide lists. Moreover, left-wing candidates were better than their respective parties from this aspect.
Figures show that the left needs new messages, the contents of which are different from the messages used in Budapest and in big cities. They also need communication channels that are out of the control of the governing party. This is a much more difficult task than renewing the contents of messages.