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Baja by-election: Fidesz wins, amidst mutual recriminations

October 15th, 2013

A left-wing daily says the close call can be interpreted as a success for, as well as a threat to Fidesz in 2014, while a liberal commentator thinks the difference in votes is less important than the unprecedented “show of force” on the ground by Fidesz activists. A pro-government daily, on the other hand, accuses the united opposition of threats and unlawful behaviour in the campaign.

The Baja municipal by-election was repeated this Sunday in one polling station covering a poor rural area with mostly Roma inhabitants, following opposition complaints. The turnout surged from 30 to 47 per cent, and the Fidesz candidate won by 69 votes, instead of 68 as two weeks before. Although the result has little direct impact, as Fidesz has a solid majority in the city council, the by-election was important as the latest attempt by a still-loose opposition alliance to beat Fidesz.  See BudaPost September 30October 2 and October 8.

In its editorial on Monday, Népszabadság suggests that the results should be interpreted cautiously, as the call was “very close”, even though the result may send the message that not even a unified opposition alliance can beat Fidesz in 2014. Fidesz must realise too that despite its spectacular lead in the polls, “in the privacy of the booth the fight is more equal”, Népszabadság continues, while the lesson for the opposition is that if Fidesz could be “cornered” then it can also be beaten. The authors end by expressing the hope that in 2014 the campaign will “be less intense, as this time it came close to harassment”.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta compares the activities of Fidesz activists on the ground to the Kádár-era practice of openly observing targeted people to intimidate them (Fidesz activists followed the opposition candidate as she was touring the constituency and recorded her movements on video, while they were, in turn, documented by Index journalists). The difference in votes is far less noteworthy, he believes, than the unprecedented “infantry deployment”, but such a scale of mobilization will be impossible next year in each and every constituency simultaneously, unless Fidesz employs “mercenaries”. And in that case, speculates Tóta, the opposition might send in some double agents to document how the campaign is run.

The Fidesz candidate won with 61,9% of the vote (in the polling station where the vote was repeated), writes Magyar Nemzet, quoting Baja mayor and Fidesz spokesman Róbert Zsigó’s claim that the opposition tried unsuccessfully to discourage voters. Zsigó claims the opposition campaign regarded Baja “as a test case” and “tried all the tricks” – from accusations to “a racist online game” (the “bad guys were originally brown on the screen, before their colour changed to blue) and a fake letter from a parent complaining that the campaign was scaring his child; the author turned out to be a Together-PM activist. In conclusion, Magyar Nemzet notes that Fidesz lodged a court complaint against the opposition’s campaign and repeats the call of the governing party that the opposition remove its “racist game” from the internet.


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