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Lessons of the Salgótarján mayoral by-election

March 7th, 2016

Following the victory of the MSZP candidate in the mayoral elections in the municipality of Salgótarján, analysts across the political board point out that if left-wing and radical right voters back the same candidate, they can defeat the governing party.

MSZP candidate Zsolt Fekete was elected mayor of Salgótarján with 52 per cent of the votes. Fidesz candidate Tibor Simon received more votes than the Fidesz candidate two years ago, but still only just above 40 per cent.

The Salgótarján by-election is a wake-up call for Fidesz, Gábor Borókai writes in Heti Válasz. The conservative columnist suggests that Fidesz may no longer be able to dominate public discourse from centre stage. Voters seem to be worried more about cronyism, corruption and clientelism than migration, Borókai suggests. He calls on the government to adopt a more conciliatory tone, otherwise people will turn away from it, despite what he calls the government’s successes in the economy.

Gábor Török and Attila Mráz in a joint interview in the same weekly note that Salgótarján has always been a left-leaning municipality, and thus it is no big surprise that the MSZP candidate won. Both analysts agree, however, that Salgótarján still carries an important lesson for Fidesz: if all voters discontented with the current government support the same opposition candidate, regardless of their otherwise different political tastes, Fidesz can be defeated. Török and Mráz remark that if big groups of migrants appear again in Hungary, Fidesz could recapture the public discourse. But the fence it built along Hungary’s southern border is keeping migrants out of the country – and out of the sight of voters, who therefore became less worried about migration.

In Népszabadság Ferenc M. László underlines that even Jobbik supporters seem to have voted for the MSZP candidate in order to defeat Fidesz. The Jobbik candidate got nearly 600 votes less than in 2014. Taken together, the Salgótarján and other by-elections won by opposition parties suggest that the Fidesz lead may not be as big as polls suggest, László speculates.

According to the latest nationwide opinion poll by Medián, Fidesz supporters still outnumber those of all the opposition parties combined.

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