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Mixed reactions to local election results in Tiszavasvári

October 31st, 2012

A pro-government columnist says the election result shows Fidesz still has a strong backing, while the leading left-wing paper describes the alleged fraud in Tiszavasvári as a foretaste of how Fidesz intends to run elections in general. A centre-right analyst says the Tiszavasvári result foreshadows a possible political landscape where neither Fidesz, nor Jobbik nor the left are strong enough to form a government.

On October 28th local elections were held in Tiszavasvári (a township in Szabolcs-Szatmár county, one of the poorest regions of Hungary) as well as in Baja and in Dabas. The Tiszavasvári case was seen as a test for Jobbik whose mayor stood and won new elections. The vote was made necessary after Jobbik lost its majority in the local council when some Jobbik municipal representatives defected and joined the Fidesz ranks. On Sunday, Mayor Erik Fülöp kept his seat and Jobbik regained its majority in the council. Jobbik activists claimed Fidesz tried to bribe voters with presents (mostly food) and presented video footage as evidence. The local Election Office decided to annul the results in two districts citing evidence of voters being transferred by car to the polling stations. In the other two towns, Fidesz won and MSZP came in second, with the rest of the opposition parties, Jobbik, LMP and DK receiving about the share of votes which reflects their standing in national opinion polls. Voter turnout was relatively high in Tiszavasvári and lower in the other two towns.

In a front page editorial entitled “Fraud”, Népszabadság claims the Tiszavasvári elections foreshadow a national election with the voter registration soon to be passed in Parliament (see Budapost November 23rd, 2011), as well as “doubtful ballots” to be cast by citizens living in neighbouring countries who will be allowed to vote by mail. The author mentions that the Ukrainian parliamentary elections over the past weekend are widely believed to have been rigged, adding that Ukraine can get away with some inefficient complaining from international organizations but if it happens in Hungary, as a member of the EU and the OSCE, election fraud would imply further sanctions against the country. Ending the editorial on an optimistic note, Népszabadság believes there is reason to trust the Hungarian legal system to investigate potentially fraudulent results.

Zsolt Bayer says in his Magyar Hírlap column title that “the Sopron express has been halted”. The MSZP triumphantly presented two earlier local election victories, including a newly won seat on the Sopron city council, as evidence of the tide turning, but the new results prove that Fidesz is still the leading political force in the country. If “the trend were to turn red” as MSZP enthusiasts forecast, he argues, at least one of the three elections victories should have gone to the left. Fidesz’s support is intact, he concludes, and will remain intact in 2014 as well.

In Mandiner, Ákos Balogh suggests Tiszavasvári was a much needed boost to Jobbik, while Fidesz could hold on in a region where “hardly any beneficiaries of the past two years live.” Yet Fidesz cannot rest content, for electoral geography suggests that there may be areas where Jobbik can win parliamentary seats under the new, ‘first past the post’ system. (See BudaPost, October 26). The MSZP seems to have taken over the lead in Budapest, and major urban centres may follow suit. Fidesz has to contend with Jobbik for right-leaning voters. All in all, the reformed election system may turn into “another media law”: what seemed a good idea at the time, provoked serious backlash without bringing meaningful advantages. The proposed system –the analyst warns – may result in legitimacy problems, were Fidesz to win in 2014, but may also produce a Hungary divided where no political force has a clear majority.

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