Jobbik managed to hold on to the majority of its mayoral seats at the on Sunday. Except in one county, it is the second-largest party in county general assemblies. Fourteen of its mayoral candidates won and in six municipalities independent candidates, enjoying the far-right party’s support, came in first. Researcher Political Capital offers this analysis.
After the closing of the polls, party president Gábor Vona positioned Jobbik as the challenger of the governing party in 2018. Jobbik is still far from its target; it failed to capture the much-coveted mayoral seat in Miskolc and in Budapest it had to be content with coming in before green party LMP.
Gaining strength in cities
In light of a puny leftist opposition, Jobbik’s performance was one of the hottest issues of the municipal elections. Data on fielding candidates already indicated that the party had made an effort to consolidate its position in major urban areas, for in the past its presence was limited primarily to small towns and villages.
In 2010 it managed to capture mayoral seats in only two small villages and one mid-sized town (Tiszavasvári), and later it took over in 12 municipalities in part when independent mayors joined Jobbik and in part by winning by-elections. This time, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates won in 14 municipalities, including in a number of mid-sized towns, such as Tapolca, Tiszavasvári, Ózd and Törökszentmiklós.
In addition, in six municipalities independent candidates also supported by Jobbik came in first. As a result, a policy of strict law and order, discriminating welfare policies and school segregation may gain new momentum in a number of municipalities.
In a number of cities with county-rank, Jobbik mayoral candidates came in second and the party’s representatives will be present in larger numbers in the city assemblies. However, Jobbik failed to win the top prize, the post of mayor, in Miskolc, where eventually its candidate, Péter Jakab, was soundly defeated by both the incumbent mayor from the governing party and the leftist candidate.
Importantly, in most municipalities where Jobbik ran, it managed to hold on to its leading position, disproving the commonly held view that once in power the far right tends to lose appeal.
From its vantage point, Jobbik politicians are right to emphasise the party’s achievements in the assemblies of cities with county-rank and the victory of Békéscsaba’s independent candidate supported by the party. However, when it comes to county assemblies, it must be taken into account that residents of the 23 cities with county-rank are excluded from voting for the members of county assemblies.
Thus 1.6 million citizens living in the largest cities outside Budapest do not have the option of expressing their party affiliation directly. Only people living in smaller settlements vote for county party lists, which offer Jobbik a disproportionate representation.
In the 19 county assemblies Jobbik gained 81 mandates, 23 more than in 2010. The distribution of the new mandates is even among the counties. In other words the party’s second place in 17 county assemblies is rather misleading, and its resurgence in urban centres is a significantly more relevant development.
The case of Békéscsaba should not be seen as an unequivocal victory for Jobbik either. While the far-right party supported the winning independent candidate, Péter Szarvas, he can thank the local Fidesz organisation, rent by infighting, for his victory.
Budapest is Jobbik’s Achilles heel
The capital continues to be the weakest point for Jobbik. Despite its efforts to show a more moderate face, Jobbik has failed to make any significant headway in Budapest. The poor result is also highlighted by the fact that despite Jobbik having a mayoral candidate in all 23 districts, they got only 40,590 votes. This is far less than Jobbik received in the April 2014 parliamentary election (111,129), and even worse than the European Parliament result in May, when Jobbik got only 51,995 votes on the party list.
In Budapest, Jobbik’s mayoral candidates typically received 4-10%, although in some districts 10-12%. The over 40,000 fractional votes earned a single Jobbik seat in the Budapest assembly. With 42,093 votes (1700 fewer than four years ago), the party’s Budapest mayor candidate, Gábor Staudt, received 7.1% and finished third, far behind its two major rivals. The party’s only consolation is that it managed to finish ahead of LMP, which was in a stronger position in 2010.