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No (left-wing) country for young men

September 13th, 2011

According to recent surveys, most young Hungarians support Fidesz. Left-wing analysts, and a right wing blogger share the view that the Socialists and the Liberals are unable to offer their supporters a civic culture with which they could identify.

Why does Fidesz still have a significant lead even among younger voters? Why is Jobbik not stronger, although its radical rhetoric appeals to the young? Why are there so few Socialist-leaning youth? Why is LMP’s support so weak?” – asks the conservative liberal blogger Gellért Rajcsányi in Mandiner.

According to recent surveys, Fidesz maintains a significant lead among younger voters. The report entitled Youth 2008 suggests that 21 percent of young Hungarian adults below 30 claim to be right-wing, while only 8 percent identify with the left. On a liberal-conservative scale 10 percent declared themselves to be conservative, while only 17 claimed to be liberal. A more recent survey published by the TÁRKI Social Research Institute shows that 56 percent of Hungarians below 35 support Fidesz, 19 percent Jobbik, 14 percent MSZP and 11 percent LMP.

Rajcsányi finds it somewhat surprising that younger Hungarians support the centre-right Fidesz, while in most European countries the left or the radical left is over-represented among younger generations.

Among the possible explanations, he mentions the left-wing parties’ poor communication strategy and the lack of attractive left-wing political myths and visions. Another contributing factor for the popularity of Fidesz is the “the inept governance shown by left-wing liberals,” from 2002 to 2010. The strong antipathy towards liberals and socialists helped young people “to tolerate the ideological and political twists and turns of Fidesz.”

A different explanation is offered by Attila Antal, analyst of the left-leaning Méltányosság (Fairness) think tank in Heti Világgazdaság. While both Fidesz and Jobbik have successfully built a political hinterland which mobilizes those parts of civil society which incline to the right since 2002, the Socialists could not offer a coherent political culture behind which to mobilise and to unite their supporters into a single institutional unit.

The Socialist government led the country more like a manager or a company. They did not act as a political community that spreads values which make its supporters proud of their political identity,” Antal writes. He attributes Gyurcsány’s success on the left to his (failed) attempt to come up with a left-wing vision. Now the MSZP is too unpopular to provide a credible left-wing political culture, LMP is too associated with the urban middle class, while new initiatives, including the alternative left-wing initiative “Fourth Rebublic” are not strong enough to connect with the wider public and marshal left-leaning voters into an easily mobilizable political force.

Curiously, Péter Pető noted in the left-wing Népszabadság in early August, that the popularity of Fidesz is to a large extent due to “young right-wing liberal intellectuals who built an alternative public sphere from which they emerged as credible and leading pundits of the right.” Among others, Péter Pető identifies Mandiner and mentions Rajcsányi as an important figure among the new leaders of the young right-wing public sphere.

Pető adds that left-liberal websites and journals have no young columnists who could popularize a left-wing culture among the younger generation. In response, Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, replies that left-wing weeklies and opinion sites do not have sufficient funds. Mihancsik suggests that the young right-wing pundits are paid commentators of leading right-wing weeklies that rely on advertisements from state run companies. “The real question Pető should ask … is why right-wing online and other forums have money, while others do not,” Mihancsik concludes.

It is only fair to add that the new conservative blogger generation matured well before last year, when the right wing government was sworn in.

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