According to the researcher Political Capital there were five important things to be learned from the municipal election: the continuing decrease in voter turnout shows that the public is turning its back on politics, Fidesz managed to get away with becoming weaker over the past four years, the left is at a standstill, Jobbik is still far from becoming a challenger of the governing forces and the liberal LMP was the biggest loser of the poll.
1. Rejection of politics is indicated by steady decrease in participation
Since 2006 voter turnout has steadily decreased (at European Parliament elections since 2004 and at general elections since 2002), a clear sign that the populace is consistently turning its back on politics. The inactivity of voters opposing government policies offers the greatest support for the Fidesz regime. For a low turnout guarantees that, despite a Fidesz camp shrinking with each election, it remains sufficiently strong to keep the party in power.
2. Fidesz wins despite losing
Fidesz scored a huge victory again thanks to an opposition in total disarray and pursuing catastrophic policies, and by a mass of voters staying away. This is well illustrated by the re-election of Budapest Mayor István Tarlós, who this time received fewer votes (290,675) than in 2010 (321,908) – falling well behind his achievement in 2006 when he finished second behind the incumbent Gábor Demszky with 349,412 votes. On 12 October, Tarlós received only 13% more than the far-from-popular Lajos Bokros, who only had last-minute impetus.
Compared to 2010 Fidesz lost two more Budapest districts (XIV and XV) and two more cities with county-rank (Békéscsaba and Salgótarján). However, Fidesz preserved its majority in the Békéscsaba assembly, while in Szombathely things turned out the other way: the mayor from the governing party will have to look for at least one more vote to carry the assembly. While 20 cities with county-rank will be run by Fidesz mayors, with three exceptions the party won considerably fewer seats than four years ago.
The lack of an alternative to Fidesz is demonstrated by the fact that the party managed to hold on to an absolute majority in each county assembly with 2-10 percentage points, even as (with the exception of one county) its support dwindled (in Tolna County support for the party declined sharply due to local conflicts, where a group distancing itself from the party ran on a separate ticket, winning 6.5%).
3. Left-wing parties are unable to attract new voters
Based on county assembly votes (not including cities with county-rank) MSZP managed to come out ahead of Jobbik in only one county, although in nine additional counties when taken together left-wing parties still received more votes than the far-right party. Four years ago Jobbik beat MSZP in only three counties.
In politically relevant districts where the left won this time and in 2010 (districts XIII, XIX and XX and Szeged) it won by a bigger margin than four years ago. Of all Budapest districts it only managed to recapture two, although it failed to line up an assembly majority behind its mayors in districts XIV and XV.
In most cities with county-rank where it had a chance leftist parties suffered a defeat (the only exception being Salgótarján where it won by a slim margin). There were a few places (District IX and Szombathely) where it came close to achieving an upset. All this suggests that there is demand for a new political wind but the current leftist formations are in no position to deliver.
In Miskolc Albert Pásztor failed to unseat the incumbent: with 33% he fell short of the 38% performance of MSZP’s 2010 candidate, Sándor Káli. In the past few years long-running feuds between leftist formations have intensified and thus further eroded support.
As for the relationship between these formations, county assembly results show a clear picture: MSZP continues to lead the field, followed by the Democratic Coalition (DK) and Together-PM. In the capital one may compare the seven districts where all three ran mayoral candidates. In this category as well MSZP appears to be the strongest, although the differences here are less significant. The picture is made somewhat more complex when one considers that all seven districts were seen as long shots, and the fact that in District XXIII they had no chance against the independent candidate, Ferenc Geiger.
4. Jobbik consolidated its position in urban centres
Jobbik managed to hold on to the majority of its mayoral seats; with the exception of one county, it is the second-largest party in county general assemblies. More importantly, the party managed to surge ahead in urban centres and cities with county-rank.
Fourteen of its mayoral candidates won and in 10 municipalities independent candidates, enjoying the party’s support, came in first. After the closing of the polls, party president Gábor Vona positioned his party 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 lost more ground and had to be content with coming in before LMP.
5. LMP is the biggest loser of the municipal elections
For LMP, just clearing the threshold at the general and European Parliament elections, the municipal elections ended in serious defeat. Not only did their Budapest mayoral candidate lag far behind the party’s 2010 performance (dropping from 10% to 5.7%) but in districts, with one exception, all party candidates lost ground.
It is indicative of the party’s national embeddedness that having fielded candidates in four counties in 2010, after four years it managed to add but one county, even as the number of required recommendation slips was cut by half. It only managed to improve its position in Pest County where it received 8%, while in other counties it failed to break out of the 3-6% bracket.
Its 13 mayoral candidates in cities with county-rank received an average of 1-8%. In Szekszárd its candidate, Ákos Hadházy, received 40% of the votes cast, although here the other left-wing parties did not field a single candidate.