After the municipal elections in October, support for Fidesz has started to decline spectacularly. A series of government failures and internal conflicts have suddenly shaken the dominance
that had looked unshakeable. The prime minister is clearly seeking solutions. Using the Political Impact Index, Policy Agenda has checked what cases are expected during the coming half-year, and which ones may deepen the crisis of the governing parties.
The Political Impact Index (PHa-index) presents the expected provision of law, government actions, political debates and their social, economic and fiscal impacts and the opportunities for political communication based on the potential conflicts with the participants of politics. In connection with the presently foreseeable processes, as expected by Policy Agenda, we find six cases during the first half of this year that will basically determine the political life (the PHa index is shown in parentheses).
In principle, it no longer requires significant legislation, still the most important issue will be the shops closure on Sundays (4.05), which will come into force in mid-March. Over the next two months there will always be news about the places where dismissals are expected, the status of the preparation of the referendum, and where the shops are exempted. It is clear that, as almost each strata of society is affected by the changes, special attention will be paid to the first few weekends after the legislation comes into force. The news will detail how people might try to circumvent the rules.
If the government does not want to be the victim of the process, but wants to maintain the course started earlier stating that this is not about the shops closure on Sundays but the prohibition of work on Sundays, it will be forced to take steps in other areas, too. And it may intensify the debate.
The decline in support for Fidesz forces the prime minister to take action. Although national elections are not expected until 2018, and there is no immediate compulsion to move, if the ruling party is unable to stop the decline early enough it may fall into a spiral of failure. It is felt that Viktor Orbán sees the break-out point in visualising virtual enemies and trying to force his people to keep together while fighting against them.
The National Protection Action Plan (3.95) that is expected to be published early this year will announce war against multiple opponents simultaneously. Based on recent events, it is expected to have a strong anti-immigrant character on the one hand, and they will want to start a fight “against the paid foreign agents” on the other hand. No part of the action plan will be specifically directed against the United States, however actions with double meaning are expected (e.g. legislation permitting ban).
The move will clearly spark off a serious debate, which is in the strong interest of Fidesz. On the one hand it reduces the media coverage of the sensitive issues that the government would rather survive, and on the other hand it can convey powerful messages to the voters in this matter.
The borrowers of foreign-currency loans and corruption
In spring, the changes due to the exchange of foreign-currency loans into forint and the unfair crediting practices will reach a stage tangible for the borrowers of these loans (3.65). Obviously, the issue sparks off serious debates and splits society into several parts. There will be winners (with significantly decreasing instalments), losers (slightly decreasing instalments, however higher realised total loan debt due to the foreign-currency loss), people who are left out (who feel that they cause a positive change with their tax forints for others), and outsiders.
Policy Agenda expects that the fourth most important topic will be the enrichment of the governmental politicians and the banning (corruption) scandal (3.6) in the coming months. For the government, the most important thing is to avoid that new substantive matters are raised, because this issue will accelerate the loss of their popularity. If the government fails to settle this matter by the summer, it can expect serious consequences.
Putin, Merkel and the toll
In February, the visits of the German chancellor and the Russian president (3.25) will stir a serious domestic political storm. They will bring out the questions of opening to the East, the commitment to Russia, the issues of rights to freedom and will give ammunition to street demonstrations. However, none of the events is expected to determine long-term Hungarian domestic politics, and will maintain public interest for weeks.
The issue of the extension of the road toll (3.2) occupies the mind of society much more than the above-mentioned events, however if the government makes no more mistakes, the public outcry may end within a few weeks after the toll’s introduction. The debate on the introduction of the congestion charge, however, may raise the issue again and as the problem affects huge crowds, it may cause serious damage to the government.
Perhaps surprisingly, the mid-term election in Veszprém has not been included in the most important issues, however its stakes are not so high any longer because a mid-term election has to be held in the district of Tapolca by the beginning of May. If Fidesz loses either of the two elections, the two-thirds majority will cease to exist, which may strengthen the party’s falling into the spiral of failure, though, in itself, it would not lead to it.