Jobbik won its first individual parliamentary seat at the by-election in Tapolca this month. Obviously it is a real breakthrough and a chance for the radical party to fulfil its ambition to win government. By analysing the results in detail the left-leaning Policy Agenda presents the causes and possible consequences.
In what respect is Jobbik powerful?
For an explanation of the result it is worth recalling the analysis made by Policy Agenda concerning the national parliamentary and European parliamentary elections in 2014. It was revealed that the country was split into three parts as regards the political preferences per settlement types:
• towns of county rank and towns with over 20,000 inhabitants;
• towns with less than 20,000 inhabitants and villages.
Hungary “got torn into three” due to different social and economic status, unequal interest enforcing power and for different communication facilities. Concerning the supporting of political powers the elections revealed a considerable difference in the “three parts of Hungary”.
According to the figures weakening in the support of the left is not the least a general phenomenon but it shows differences territorially. While the leftist parties were able to deploy remarkable powers in settlements with a population over 20,000, in settlements with less than 20,000 inhabitants they came only third in the power ranking.
For Jobbik the situation was quite the opposite. Apparently this tendency continued at this interim election, however the obvious weakening of Fidesz-KDNP accelerated the process.
Tapolca has made a decision
Three conclusions can be drawn from the election result:
1. Surely, Jobbik could not win without Tapolca. However, this also suggests that, as for this settlement the statement is wrong that it is no problem if the radical party acquires the mayor’s seat, for it will drop out sooner or later. Obviously, Tapolca was the key to the victory. If they had not won with 1,800 votes over the Fidesz-KDNP nominee, they would have lost this election district. They got altogether 1,600 votes less than the nominee of the governing party in the remaining 59 settlements.
2. The left appears only in settlements with over 20,000 inhabitants (in this case in Ajka). It is strong there. Integration plays a role in that, and it is also obvious that their messages find the target groups in this milieu. In villages the left did not manage to improve its position. Moreover they were in a worse position than at the time of elections a year ago.
3. Fidesz-KDNP lost much from its major base, in small settlements, in particular the villages. This merger of the electors will be difficult to stop and regain.
It is a fundamental principle that the majority do not support the government. By the way, the situation was the same a year ago, but the central field of force acted, dividing the electors on the radical right and the opponent left. The two minor blocks were not yet strong enough to compete. In our opinion there exist two potential explanations to the victory and forging ahead of Jobbik in the Tapolca district.
In accordance with the first one a punitive spirit predominates among the electors, moreover it is widely known that Jobbik is the second preference of the majority of the Fidesz electors. That is, the protest electors, besides leaving messages to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, change to the extreme right. This seems to be true in Tapolca, where the MSZP also lost 8%, while in Sümeg and in Badacsonytomaj they were able to slightly increase their supporting base. It means that in Tapolca not merely the masses of disappointed Fidesz electors but apparently a part of the left electors probably cast their votes for Jobbik to defeat Fidesz.
According to the second explanation the messages of the left and Jobbik are aimed at very different target groups. This differs in each type of settlement. The MSZP built its local hustings on the broker scandal echoed throughout the country but this was less accentuated locally. Among the victims this must have been a noisy scandal but it did not affect the entire region, therefore it did not really affect those living in small settlements. Parallel with this Jobbik builds upon the fact that it cannot be blamed for the past 25 years, therefore it is the only party supposed to be able to put an end to corruption.
What can Fidesz and the left do?
Fidesz, and especially Orbán, is under pressure to move. In our analysis made after the election in Veszprém in February it was said that there were three scenarios tabled before the party chair-primer (waiting, the illusion of consolidation and consolidation). Then it made arrangements to wait, possibly until the results were in, and then to step forward. The present results may cause internal corrosion, which is more and more difficult to manage. Therefore they are to attack Jobbik and try their best to regain the electors’ trust. On the other hand they are to implement personal changes to confirm political ones. If Orbán will be unable to overcome internal problems by summer, then the beginning of autumn might bring a severe crisis of confidence for the government.
In our opinion, for a year now the left must have been aware that it is unlikely to be able to become visible in small settlements. Hitherto it has been unable to take steps to serve the needs of village populations. This must be accomplished without alienating the inhabitants of large towns and cities (the inhabitants of centres of modernising).
Additionally it must make others believe that it is the real contender of Fidesz, and not Jobbik. Apparently, one of the most significant issues of the current period is, which party will manage to make the electors believe in its capability to replace Fidesz? After Veszprém it seemed the left would benefit from the situation, but after acquiring its first individual seat in Tapolca it is Jobbik that received impetus to progress.