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The political landscape after the referendum

October 10th, 2016

Commentators across the political spectrum ponder the implications of the 2 October quota referendum for the main parties and their mobilization strategies.

The lesson of the quota referendum is that Fidesz can be defeated if the opposition and the NGOs unite against it, writes Népszava editor in chief Péter Németh. The left-wing columnist calls for a broad coalition of all opposition parties and civil society to together defeat what Németh considers a deeply corrupt government. Writing in the same daily, Szabolcs Szunyogh also interprets the referendum as the success of the opposition parties, but adds that in order to challenge Fidesz, they would need to offer credible answers to the wider issue of migration.

Magyar Nemzet’s Róbert Puzsér contends that the referendum helps PM Orbán to entrench his own power. The centrist pundit found the quota campaign highly demagogic, but he admits that PM Orbán actually increased his own base by mobilising more than 3.2 million voters to take part. By appropriating the topic of migration, Fidesz took the wind out of the sails of Jobbik and isolated left-wing parties which opposed the referendum, Puzsér claims.

The referendum helped Fidesz to divert public attention from corruption, Attila Janisch comments in Magyar Narancs. The liberal film director, however, claims that the referendum was a huge blow for Fidesz, since the turnout remained below the 50 per cent threshold. Janisch thinks that Hungarians are becoming dissatisfied with Fidesz, but the current left-wing parties are unable to channel this discontent, and are unlikely to mount a serious challenge to Fidesz. Janisch speculates that in the absence of a strong Left, Viktor Orbán will lead Hungary out of the EU and the country will soon become a full-fledged dictatorship.

Neither the Left, nor Jobbik have anything to celebrate, Zsolt Bayer opines in Magyar Hírlap. In Bayer’s calculation, the outcome of the referendum suggests that in addition to  the 2.3 million voters it attracted at the 2014 election, another 600-700 thousand have now joined the ranks of Fidesz supporters. The pro-government commentator hopes that the ‘fury of the Left’ with those voters who supported the government’s proposal, will help keep the pro-government camp in a state of alert.

In a similar vein, editor András Bencsik speculates in Magyar Demokrata that unless the opposition takes a U-turn and stops defiantly opposing whatever Viktor Orbán proposes, Fidesz ‘could win 90 per cent of the seats’ in the 2018 Parliamentary election with the votes of the 3.3 million Hungarians who voted ‘no’ last Sunday.

In Heti Válasz, András Zsuppán suspects that the government wants to lure into its own political camp those hundreds of thousands of voters who supported the anti-quota proposal of Fidesz. As most of these new voters are likely to come from the ranks of Jobbik-leaning Hungarians, he continues, the strategy of Fidesz now aims to weaken first and foremost the radical right-wing party.

Although the turnout fell below the 50 per cent threshold, the government secured the support of 3.3 milllion Hungarians, while the Left did not mobilize at all, Tamás Lánczi stresses in Magyar Idők. The leading  pro-government analyst suggests that the Prime Minister’s proposal to amend the Constitution (see BudaPost October 6) will further divide the opposition. Most importantly, Jobbik will have no option but to stand behind the government’s proposal unless it wants to go against the will of its own voters, Lánczi suspects.

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