Hungarian government wins second term

28-04-2006

Hungarians last weekend re-elected a government for the first time since 1990 and at the same time increased the government's majority. The major governing Hungarian Socialist Party will have 190 seats, their junior coalition partner - the Free Democrats 20, the major opposition Civic Party Fidesz 164, while the junior opposition Hungarian Democratic Forum 11. One independent MP was elected. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has already begun coalition talks with the Free Democrats. The main points of contention are tax reform, health care, education and reform of public administration.

Agi Varga of Radio Budapest discussed the issues with the BBC's Nick Thorp in Budapest:

"I think there are two real reasons for this victory. One is that Ferenc Gyurcsany has really proved within his own party and to socialist supporters that he is a man who they can trust and work with and that he is a good leader to take the Socialist Party to victory. Only two years ago under Peter Medgyessy this was a party in some disarray, it was unpopular and seemed to have lost its way in government. So, this is really a great personal achievement for Ferenc Gyurcsany.

"That is reflected not only among socialist voters but among perhaps 1.5 to 2 million people in Hungary who do not really belong to the left or the right but who follow politics as closely as they can as well as holding down a steady job. I think those undecided voters as a whole favoured the socialist-liberal coalition this time. This is perhaps, above all, not so much because of the programmes but I think largely because they wanted some continuity. People are tired of a change of government every four years. That is why for once they voted for the existing government and not the parties out of office."

What do you think of the performance of the individual parties, especially the small ones, taking into consideration that it was an open question after the first round on how supporters of the junior opposition Democratic Forum would vote?

"According to my calculations about half of the Democratic Forum candidates stepped down in favour of Fidesz. This is, in fact, quite an interesting split because it is a pretty small party, which only just broke over the 5 percent threshold and it doesn't fit very well with Ibolya David's future plans, her hopes that the Democratic Forum could once again become, as it was in the early 1990s, the main conservative or centre-right party in Hungary.

"I'm not sure whether the defections on the right, if we can call them that, lost Fidesz this election but it certainly didn't help. It was very noticeable between the two rounds how close the socialists and liberals were working together as they have in government. I don't suppose it was so much the Hungarian Democratic Forum who took votes away from Fidesz in the second round but I think they dented their appeal to many less decided voters. It was quite a body-blow, which Ibolya David dealt the right and I think Viktor Orban [Fidesz leader] reflected that when he said in his immediate comments after the election defeat was announced that those who are not unified cannot win."

Observers say that consequently certain changes are about to be introduced within the opposition Fidesz as well. Do you agree?

"I do agree that some changes will need to take place there and that they will take place because I Fidesz have really roved in this election that there are no reserves. There really exhausted right-wing voters. They have tried to appeal to all of them from the centre-right all the way across and almost to the far right. I don't think that they really appeal to the far right voters. But they have tried to appeal to the right. They have exhausted those votes and there are simply not enough to win an election in Hungary - perhaps less than 4 million votes there. So, if Fidesz want to win an election in the future, I think they will have to turn back towards the centre, to re-study their own liberal roots without loosing their claims to be the main conservative party in Hungary.

"But they will need to look very seriously at the centre of Hungarian politics, not to be fishing on the far right but to go back and study their liberal roots liberal roots no party and try and win back some of the centre, at least. One looks at a city like Budapest, no party can try and win an election in Hungary, which can only win 4 seats out of 4 constituencies, out of 32. They badly need to study their politics in Budapest as well if they want to win again and win back some of those Budapest voters."

28-04-2006