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Opposing assessments of low electoral turnout

October 15th, 2014

Left-wing liberal columnists contend that the Fidesz victory in the municipal elections is the result of growing defeatism and apathy among voters. A conservative commentator, on the other hand, believes that low turnout is an indication of voters’ confidence and trust in the governing party.

Voters did not believe that change was possible”, Zoltán Lakner writes in Népszabadság. The left-liberal analyst recalls that turnout was low in all three elections held in 2014 –  62 per cent at the April Parliamentary election, 29 at the EP election and 44 per cent in Sunday’s local election. As voters have become increasingly inactive, Fidesz could secure victories through a successful mobilization of its core symphatizers despite its weakening support, Lakner contends.  The figures show that “a majority of Hungarians do not like the Orbán regime”, he contends, but they also consider any efforts to replace it futile. The opposition lost because in addition to its anti-Orbán messages it had no credible program or vision, he adds. After this third defeat in a row, the Left should realize that voters do not want “eastern European crony- capitalism” back, but prefer a “post-Communist, quasi-feudal populism” which at least promises security and stability, Lakner concludes.

Hungarian voters have written themselves off, acted childishly and thus will be regarded as infantile by their government, Dávid Dercsényi comments in Magyar Narancs on the local election results. The liberal columnist finds it disappointing that despite what he sees as increasing poverty, sluggish economic growth and the weakening of democratic checks and balances, voters did not turn against the government. Dercsényi speculates that the reason for the Left’s defeat is growing apathy and hopelessness.

In Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy maintains that “the defeated Left is wrong to suggest that low turnout is due to apathy”. It is rather the result of the fact that voters took for granted the victory of the right-wing governing parties, the conservative columnist writes. Körmendy suspects that turnout would have been much higher if Hungarians were unsatisfied with their government, and wanted to express their discontent. The municipal election results should therefore be seen as an indication that voters are by and large happy with the government’s achievements. At the same time, the governing party’s victory at the local election further compels Fidesz to make sure that “positive changes will be felt in even the most remote house of the most remote village”, she concludes.

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