Hungarian Parlamentary (S)elections

, by Daniel Bartha

Hungarian Parlamentary (S)elections

In spring 2006, while Europe was focusing on the Italian elections another EU Member State voted on it’s future as well. Even though the Hungarian interests are not as highly-ranked in terms of importance for the EU, the election campaign and its results could well affect the European attitude of the country.

The Hungarian election system seems to be quite complicated; even many Hungarians have limited knowledge of its structure. The two-round, mixed election system combines elements of the single-member-constituency and the list election systems with a mandate threshold, which essentially means that only the parties that have obtained more than 5 percent on a national basis are allocated seats from the district and national lists. Therefore because of this system, public opinion polls are anything but reliable and for this year’s elections most of the predictions were totally wrong as well.

After the first round there was no doubt that the ruling Socialist-Liberal coalition would probably win the majority again. This was already a milestone in the modern Hungarian history, since traditionally the governing parties could not repeat an electoral victory due to the increasing number of protest votes. Nonetheless, looking at the background, we don not see that big of a difference.

This election was interesting also in the following aspect: the two candidates for the role of Prime Minister were the focus point of the current election. Their populist political voice, the nonsense promises and the heavy political attacks provided enough space for the two smaller parties, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ, the small coalition party, liberals) and the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF, conservatives) to make themselves heard. Since the MDF were as well the target of the biggest opposition party Fidesz (right-wing, nationalist) and their campaign was built on the idea of having an alternative to the right wing party, they declared after the first round that they will never help Viktor Orbán, the candidate of Fidesz into power even though they in his governing coalition between 1998 and 2002.

The reason of the success of Ferenc Gyurcsány, the candidate of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) was that his promises were much more limited and the promotional campaign much better marketed. Another key element was the appearance of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) as the satellite of Fidesz, in which leaders made radical statements against the young generation, the gay people, called the Liberals deviant and declared that they will not let religion become a private matter.

One of the hottest topics of the elections was the current situation of the Hungarian economy and the introduction of the Euro. Budapest has to make radical steps to stabilize the state budget and eliminate the huge deficit. At this point it is getting harder and harder for the country to meet most of the Maastricht criteria, and the new Gyurcsány government already announced a 3 billion euro cut in public spending as a kick off to the structural reforms. Today, even the most optimistic experts predict that the country will only be able to join the euro-zone in 2012. The only positive aspect for Hungary in the past weeks in this regard is that the Czech Republic also announced a delay, and the situation is not much better in Poland either, which indirectly helps avoid the crash in prices, and prevent future speculations against the hungarian currency.

One of the most ambitious goals of the government is to become a prime destination in the EU for Russian investors.

Regarding the Hungarian Foreign Policy the socialist-liberal government is aiming to sustain the relatively good connections with the neighbouring countries, which have always been a touchy issue because of the huge Hungarian minorities. Both of the coalition parties are very much pro-European, but the Hungarian-Russian friendship which is heavily based on the Socialists can play a much bigger role, especially regarding the energy policy. One of the most ambitious goals of the government is to become a prime destination in the EU for Russian investors. Hungary also supports the Visegrad cooperation (V4: Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Rep., Poland) and is targeting an effective regional cooperation within the EU even though the V4 states are the biggest competitors among each other for foreign investments.

Image: The Hungarian Parliament called Országház; source: Wikimedia

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