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Election campaign in full swing

March 26th, 2018

With just two weeks to go till the Parliamentary election, weeklies and the dailies’ weekend editions discuss corruption scandals and ponder what comes after 8 April.

In 168 Óra, Zoltán Lakner thinks the election will determine whether Hungary will fall prey to those he considers the pro-government oligarchs. The left-wing political scientist suggests that the Orbán government elite have used their power to enrich themselves through systemic corruption. Lakner contends that the government focuses on migration in the campaign in order to divert attention from corruption scandals. He concludes by predicting that if Fidesz wins, they will further entrench their economic power, so that by the end of the process, the whole country will become the private property of Fidesz luminaries.

Magyar Nemzet’s Ádám Tompos also accuses the government of wholesale corruption. The conservative critic of the government finds it sad that the Fidesz leadership dismisses any corruption accusations as empty campaign rhetoric rather than taking them seriously. All this, Tompos suggests, increases cynicism in the country. Tompos wonders if increasingly disappointed voters will completely turn their backs on politics or take revenge on Fidesz in the April election.

Magyar Idők’s Ottó Gajdics dismisses accusations of corruption levelled against Fidesz politicians as ‘typical campaign mud-slinging’. The pro-government pundit recalls that the opposition used similar accusations in 2014 and 2010 in an effort to weaken Fidesz, thus the current accusations should not be given any credit. Gajdics suspects that it is former Fidesz treasurer Lajos Simicska (the ultimate owner of Magyar Nemzet) who is pulling the strings and orchestrating the campaign against the government.

Magyar Demokrata editor-in-chief András Bencsik calls on the right to stay firmly behind Fidesz. The pro-government commentator hopes that Fidesz supporters will not be unsettled by what Bencsik considers as groundless corruption accusations levelled against government politicians. He agrees with Prime Minister Orbán who called on his followers to stay calm (see BudaPost March 21) and ‘get even’ with the detractors only after the victory of Fidesz in April.

In Élet és Irodalom, György Gábor and Kata Vörös accuse Prime Minister Orbán of vilifying his opponents. The liberal commentators accuse the Prime Minister of using anti-democratic and even anti-Semitic tropes in order to suggest that his challengers and critics are radically evil ‘others’ rather than just political opponents. As an example, the authors draw a parallel between the governing party’s anti-Soros campaign and pre-war Nazi themes.

In Magyar Idők, Bálint Botond believes that Hungary needs a strong leader. The pro-government pundit claim that the opposition liken PM Orbán to dictators including Hitler in order to suggest that Hungary would be better off with a weak man at the helm. All this suggests that the opposition would not even try to defend Hungarian interests against an EU that, among other things, wants to force migrants on Hungary.

Heti Válasz editor-in-chief Gábor Borókai cautions against firebrand campaign statements. The conservative columnist finds both MSZP-Pábeszéd frontrunner Gergely Karácsony’s suggestion that he would ignore the fundamental law and PM Orbán’s remark that he would ‘get even’ after the election as inflammatory messages. In Borókai’s view, such statements weaken the rule of law and further radicalize public discourse in Hungary. If one takes them at face value rather than just campaign stunts, these promises are indeed terrifying, Borókai contends.

In Heti Világgazdaság, László Seres finds it sad that neither the opposition, nor the government have a credible vision or programme. What he regards as the simplistic and demagogic messages of Fidesz are limited to just migration and George Soros, and the governing party does not offer any clue how it wants to improve health care, education and encourage Hungarian entrepreneurs, the libertarian columnist writes. The opposition parties have no credible program either, he claims – their sole message is that they want to replace Fidesz.

In Magyar Demokrata, Péter Farkas Zárug likens the dispute among opposition parties over cooperation in the April election to a bad joke. The pro-government pundit suspects that the opposition parties on both Left and Right risk their credibility when they put aside their previous ideological values and try to unite against Fidesz. He adds that while they fiercely debate the conditions of cooperation, the opposition does not even ponder how they would govern. Zárug hopes that they will fail to come to an agreement. If they do, and they manage to win half the seats in Parliament, Hungary will face total political chaos, he concludes.

Heti Viággazdaság’s Árpád W Tóta in an angry piece calls on the opposition parties to abandon their narcissistic struggle and unite in order to defeat Fidesz. The liberal columnist thinks that Hungary’s future is in peril, hence it is absolutely necessary for the opposition, including Jobbik, to coordinate their moves in the election. As none of the opposition parties have a chance to win a majority in the House, Tóta contends that they should suspend their internal disputes and overcome the otherwise vast ideological cleavages.

Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, in a front-page editorial argues against the Left’s open cooperation with Jobbik. The liberal weekly contends that the Left cannot and should not reach out to Jobbik in major cities. Magyar Narancs thinks that the chances of the Left would increase if Jobbik and Fidesz competed for the same constituency and divided the Right in the cities. In the countryside, some loose and informal strategic coordination between Jobbik and Left could be necessary in order to defeat Fidesz candidates, Magyar Narancs admits. However the Left should not suggest that it wants to cooperate with Jobbik beyond such occasional strategic deals, Magyar Narancs cautions.

The motley crew of the opposition is united only by their hatred for PM Orbán, Dóra Nagy writes in Magyar Hírlap. Even if they could cooperate in the election, it is totally unclear if and how they could govern the country, the pro-government columnist writes. The deep ideological cleavages between the opposition parties make it unlikely that they could reach agreement on basic policy issues.

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