Hungary’s local elections on Sunday delivered few surprises as Fidesz consolidated its power and the left-wing conceded ground to Jobbik. Turnout, at 44% was lower than the 46% in 2010.
Fidesz won in 22 out of Hungary’s 23 major cities. Socialist stalwart László Botka won in Szeged, the left-wing opposition’s only big city win.
“With our success in the local elections we have our third win”, while in Budapest “we have more than a two-thirds”, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. “Cohesion, cooperation and unity have won the day… animosity, division, cynicism and hopelessness have been defeated… We will make Hungary great in the next four years.”
Political analysts had expected radical nationalist Jobbik to perform well in rural areas, and the party came second in 17 out of 19 counties and won in nine towns, up from three in 2010. In Budapest, as expected, it failed to make a breakthrough. Gábor Vona, Jobbik’s leader, said his party had notched up a significant achievement in the local elections and Jobbik would start preparing for government.
István Tarlós, the Fidesz-backed mayor of Budapest who was re-elected with just over 49% of the vote, said he would focus on resolving the city’s problems: “It won’t be an easy job but we will be there and you can rely on us.”
In the capital, Fidesz won 17 of 23 districts. The others were won by the left-wing parties and an independent. In the city council Fidesz will have 20 representatives out of 33, the Socialists five, Democratic Coalition (DK) two, E-PM two, Jobbik and LMP a single one each, and there will be one independent and a joint candidate of the leftist parties.
Lajos Bokros, who was runner-up to Tarlós with 36%, said his result should be considered a victory “in a dictatorship… though we are happy with that result we will have to work hard so that Hungary can shrug the octopus off in 2018”.
Socialist Party leader József Tóbiás, lashing out at fellow left-wingers, declared that his party would no longer strike compromises. “The Socialist leadership has decided to no longer take part in a game of elites, will not strike bad compromises and will open to the public, to the people,” he vowed. He branded DK head Ferenc Gyurcsány as “authoritarian”.
Gyurcsány said DK has made a step forward but smaller than expected. “DK has not stepped backwards but has not advanced as much as it wanted to,” he added.
Green party LMP has stood the test in the local elections, its co-leader András Schiffer said, although conceding that he had hoped for better. LMP has won enough mandates nationwide to “build on its strength”, he said.
Viktor Szigetvári, manager of leftist opposition E-PM’s campaign, said the low turnout served as a warning to every democrat. Think-tank Nezőpont said the governing parties had consolidated their positions on all fronts, ranging from the capital city to the villages.
Senior analyst Csaba Fodor said the governing parties were more successful in mobilising their supporters, while the left-wing forces, facing grave difficulties in defining themselves, failed to develop a clear-cut strategy or field credible candidates. Not even in Budapest did they manage to make gains, he said, adding that the centre-left was left behind by Jobbik in several regions. The loss of local positions would pose a tough challenge for the left wing in preparations for the 2018 general election, he said.
Orbán addressed MPs in Parliament on Monday. “Sunday’s election victory has confirmed that the governing parties must continue to pursue policies which are nation-based, and follow ideas of a people’s party in the upcoming years”, he said, adding that the current situation was fit to further strengthen unity in the country.
“If this unity is used well, full employment can be reached. While four years ago 3.6 million people were in employment and 1.8 million paid taxes, today these numbers are 4 million each. Economic growth is above 3% and the jobless rate 8%,” he added.
Orbán said the vote confirmed the idea that welfare societies in Europe were crumbling, “as it transpires that welfare cannot be the basis of things, it is at best a consequence of none other than work”. He asked MPs to make use of this fortunate period and strengthen unity and togetherness in Hungary.
Tóbiás said in response to Orbán’s parliamentary address that a Hungary where the political majority is not related to the larger part of society cannot be strong or successful. He said that in the past four years the government had deprived municipalities of most of their powers. Tóbiás demanded that the central government provide local governments with all the means necessary to manage the social crisis. He insisted that every third Hungarian child lives in poverty and 3.4 million people earn less than HUF 65,000 a month.
Vona urged changes in job creation, the municipal system and issues around the Roma community. Contrary to the government’s PR campaign on increasing employment, half a million Hungarians have gone abroad and the municipal system has failed, he said. He urged finding a “humane solution to Hungarian-Roma cohabitation”, saying that the issue poses an economic, political and cultural “time bomb”.
Schiffer accused Orbán of pursuing a far-right economic policy. As a consequence, jobs have been eliminated in the private sector and the outflow of income has accelerated, he said. As a result of the government’s strategic partnership pacts with big companies, 81% of subsidies “have oozed to other countries”.
László Varju, board member of DK, said Orbán had been talking about “cohesion, unity and cooperation which had never existed”. He accused ruling Fidesz of having conducted an “unfair” vote, using platforms such as the public media that gave them gains over the opposition. Varju criticised Orbán for his remarks on improving employment statistics, insisting that figures have not shown any considerable increase over the past four years.
Tímea Szabó, co-chair of the Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party, said Orbán’s speech had been the prime minister’s “umpteenth empty address”. She called it “disappointing” that he did not even have “as much respect for his voters as to tell them what the cabinet is preparing to do in the next three years”.
Mayors were elected in 3,177 localities. In 77% of these, an independent mayor was elected, the National Election Office said on Monday. Turnout was 44.29%. The local election will have to be repeated at 14 electoral wards due to tied results in seven localities and a lack of candidates in seven others, according to minutes from the voting districts. Elections for ethnic minority representatives were also held, with turnout 65.14%. The Ruthenian minority was the most active with 78.05% turning out. Ukrainians had the lowest turnout at 50.38%. The announcement of final results is expected by 10 November at the latest, the office said.