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UK elections give hope to Hungary’s opposition

June 12th, 2017

Critics of the government see the surprising failure of the British Conservative Party as proof that in politics nothing can be taken for granted. Including, they hope, the highly probable victory of the incumbent Hungarian government at next year’s parliamentary elections.

On Válasz, András Stumpf thinks Hungarians have an unusual reason for being interested in what has happened in Great Britain over the past few weeks. They are otherwise rarely passionate about political events outside the Carpathian Basin, for Hungary has never had colonies or imperial interests. This time, however, there are a few important lessons he suggests can be drawn from the UK election. First and foremost, it proved, once again, that there are no foregone results in political contests. Fidesz lost two elections (in 2002 and in 2006) after being deemed the favourite. Today, of course, it leads by a huge margin in the polls, just like Mrs May’s Conservatives did 45 days ago. Then their lead shrank from over 20 to just over 2 percentage points and rather than gaining a hundred new seats in the Commons as they had hoped, they have even lost their majority in the House. Nevertheless, as he sees it, the Hungarian left lacks a Jeremy Corbyn who could attract young voters to the polls. Socialist Party frontrunner László Botka is a joke, he writes, while he sees (DK leader Ferenc) Gyurcsány as a huge handicap for the Left. Stumpf also laments the fact that Hungary’s public media lack the likes of Andrew Neil, the veteran BBC journalist who thoroughly grilled Mrs May live on TV during the campaign. No hint of a potential surprise here then, he concludes, not without adding however that “surprises are surprises because they cannot be foreseen”.

Zoltán Somogyi, a political analyst who also served as the main strategist for the MDF in 2009 and 2010, draws similar conclusions from the outcome of the snap elections that ended with a pathetic result for the big favourite, the British Conservative Party. On his Facebook page, Somogyi lambasts those many Hungarians who already consider next years’s election as a walkover for Fidesz. He accuses the opposition parties of building their “self-exempting strategies” on that thesis. He invites them to consider the ‘Tory story’ which started with a 24 percentage point lead when the elections were called and ended with the loss of the Conservative majority in the House of Commons. “So much for Hungary’s 2018 elections being already won by Fidesz”, he concludes.

On Kettős Mérce, alt-left commentator Szilárd István Pap celebrates Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as the real winner of the election, even if Labour only came in second. For the first time in sixteen years, Labour has gained seats rather than losing them, and its constituency almost equals the record levels of the best Tony Blair years. Corbyn has been depicted in the media and even among fellow Labour politicians as a complete fool who would never build a large consensus around his extremist ideas. During the campaign, however, he put up a surprisingly strong show, with over hundred mass rallies and with the most left-wing Labour programme ever, which included vast nationalisation projects, increases in welfare spending and condemnation of the hypocrisy of the government in fighting terrorism. He pointed, in particular, to the contradiction between Mrs May’s proposal to curb civil liberties while co-operating with autocratic regimes who are well-known financial and ideological supporters of terrorist organisations. Pap interprets Corbyn’s astounding success against the odds as “a good sign for left-wingers throughout the world”.

In Népszava, Tamás Rónay attributes the surprising outcome of the UK election to Corbyn’s welfare promises and to Mrs Mays’s disastrous campaign. Mr Corbyn, he writes, had an easy game in making the wildest promises, since he was sure to remain in opposition, while Mrs May, although she ducked direct debates with her opponents, nevertheless proved to have a hesitant personality, despite trying to assert the opposite. Rónay’s main point however, is that what happened in Britain fits into the sequence of blunders by pro-Trump parties in Europe. “Unorthodox policies have no future in Europe”, he concludes, in an obvious hint at the Hungarian government. He believes that young generations won’t accept such policies and therefore those who represent them will sooner or later lose their grip on power.