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Pre-election excitement

April 7th, 2014

One day before the elections political dailies publish passionate battle cries, pinpointing enemies which readers should not vote for under any circumstances, barring an unavoidable national tragedy. Sunday’s general election is the first in Hungary without a 48 hour a ban on campaign messages. Weeklies that mostly appear on Wednesday and Thursday took a more analytical attitude, but also made a final effort to mobilize voters.

In Népszabadság, economist and political analyst László Lengyel depicts a horror picture in the event that the present government is returned to office. In the very first paragraph of his long essay, he prophesizes that “in three years’ time, every young person will have left this country with no one remaining who could understand these words”. He goes on to enumerate the potential benefits the opposition alliance could bring to Hungary, concluding with a reference to Orwell’s words from 1940: just as the British nation rose together to meet and defeat the enemy, so Hungarians must wake up and mobilize this weekend.

Magyar Hírlap’s Zsolt Bayer, on the other side of the aisle, also claims that the stakes are high: the nation either survives or goes to its grave. “Unimaginable powers conspired to crush us during our thousand year history”, he continues, “but we are still alive and must see this as our success”. There is no bridge, no possible compromise between these two worlds, he states, and “this decision will be one for the next thirty years”. While Fidesz takes Hungary thirty years forward, “the other force” would push it thirty years back, he warns, and by implication, whoever chooses not to turn up at the polling station “endangers the future of our children and grandchildren”.

Political analyst Zoltán Novák in the liberal HVG (print edition) examines the consequences of this polarization and the accompanying hysteria. He argues that calling for national unity is both counter-productive and deceptive. The deep division between “the two Hungaries” may serve the interests of the political elites, but was not created by them, he explains: these differences have historical roots and are here to stay. Such a concept of Hungary necessarily implies the strategy of “crushing and annihilating the illegitimate opponent who divides the nation”. Instead of withdrawing into an increasingly isolated and irrational barracks-mentality, Novák advises, the political camps must give up the idea of a unified nation and start creating formal and informal institutions that make co-existence and interaction viable.

In Heti Válasz, political analyst Gábor Török says a Fidesz victory is almost certain but despite the new election law that favours the winner, a new two-thirds majority depends on several factors, mainly on the distribution of anti-Fidesz votes. He envisions three scenarios: if Fidesz ends up with less than 100 MPs, they cannot form a government and must either enter a coalition with another party, or new elections will be held. If Fidesz has 100 to 131 places, they can form a government, while with more than 132 MPs they can retain their two-thirds majority, leading to “a powerful boost to the government and devastation on the Left”.

In its weekly editorial, the left-liberal Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, “hears the bell tolling for Fidesz”. They acknowledge that a vote for the LMP is not necessarily wasted – LMP aspires to replace the old left and may yet become a credible alternative to Fidesz. On balance, however, they think the left-wing opposition alliance, despite all the bickering and the lack of political talent, have a better chance to beat Fidesz, “at least in the long run”. The Socialists, are here to stay and will have an important part in “re-instating democratic institutions, getting the economy going and restoring some social justice”. These considerations lead Magyar Narancs to endorse the left-wing ballot led by Socialist Party chairman Attila Mesterházy.

In Demokrata, László Szentesi Zöldi suggests that the government enjoys solid support all over the country, but warns that “Jobbik is still a dark horse”. Admitting that the radical right-wing party has a strong appeal to young voters, he depicts Jobbik’s candidates as shady figures, turncoats without any credibility. Their party has no allies and under the present first-past-the post system they must win all alone, which is beyond the realm of possibility. That is why, Szentesi Zöldi continues, the main opponent of Fidesz is the left-wing opposition alliance ”which enjoys the support of global forces, and of background power structures the elimination of which is a matter of life or death for the nation”. In comparison, Jobbik is “a proletarian party” and even if some good-intentioned supporters do vote for them this time, they may turn around and return to Fidesz, especially “if they bump into cases like that of Csanád Szegedi” (a former Jobbik MEP who quit the party after he discovered Jewish ancestry).

Ákos Mester in 168 óra also turns his attention to the far right. He condemns the decision of a regional court which turned down the prosecutor’s request to ban an extreme rightist organization named “Civil Guard For a Better Future”. Although the law prevents them from parading as a law enforcement force, he complains, the judge thought their freedom to assemble should not be curtailed. Therefore Better Future members, fulminates the author, may move around freely in their near-Nazi uniforms and if “others feel offended” that is their problem. He concludes, with a somewhat sudden turn, that if Fidesz wins the elections, this kind of “better future” is in the offing for Hungary, and concludes with a passionate exhortation: “Vote! Vote! Vote!”





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