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Weeklies on new balance of power on the left

June 10th, 2019

A right-wing analyst ponders whether Fidesz will once again have to face a single left-wing opponent, just like a decade ago, while left-wing commentators wonder whether Momentum will be able to represent a liberal pole on the Hungarian political scene.

In Demokrata, political scientist Zoltán Kiszelly thinks that despite its sweeping victory with over half of the votes against a divided opposition, Fidesz cannot feel safe.  Former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, Kiszelly reasons, whose Democratic Coalition (DK) unexpectedly won over 16% of the ballots, wants to win over liberal voters as well in addition to most of the former voting base of the Socialist Party which obviously voted for the DK in the election for the European Parliament on the last Sunday of May. The so-called ‘central power-field’ in which the governing Fidesz party faced both a left-wing and a radical right-wing opposition which were not compatible with each other, assured easy victories for Fidesz in the past three elections, but since Jobbik moved towards the centre, it has steadily lost support. Hungary might therefore rediscover the basically two-party system which was characteristic of the first decade of the new millennium, Kiszelly speculates.

In his analysis in Hetek, Gábor Gavra remarks that Jobbik was not the only party to suffer a cruel defeat at the hands of the electorate. The LMP, another party which defined itself as a new option compared to the old left-right rivalry was almost annihilated in the May vote. It looks, he continues, as though there is no place for anything outside the governing forces and their old opponents. Although Momentum originally started out as something completely different from the existing parties, it is now part of the electoral alliance of the left-wing opposition for the mayoral elections next autumn. The parties to the deal offered the LMP to name only one candidate for each of the district councils in Budapest with no mayoral candidates at all, while in exchange, it would be expected to support all the opposition candidates. In other words, they have relegated the LMP to an insignificant subsidiary, he remarks.

Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, believes the novelty of the European Parliament election was the surprisingly high score of Momentum with its almost 10% share of the votes. In its editorial, the liberal weekly takes Momentum’s success as proof that liberalism, just like the left wing, are constant elements of party politics in Hungary. The editors take it for granted that the Democratic Coalition has definitively taken over the leading role on the left from the MSZP and accuse the latter of being influenced in its policies by the incumbent government.

In Élet és Irodalom, former Socialist Party chair Ildikó Lendvai thinks that the MSZP has tried to represent her left-wing views on the economy, while the Democratic Coalition represents a left-wing view on cultural and ideological issues. Hungary’s population on the other hand is overwhelmingly in favour of traditional left-wing values over social and welfare issues while they are mostly conservative on the cultural issues, with a clear preference for law and order and authority. For the moment, Lendvai writes, both winners of the election on the left side, that is the Democratic Coalition and Momentum mainly represent the cultural values of the left. However, she suggests, the Left can only send the right-wing government packing if its political parties will be able to represent left-wing values in their entirety.

In Magyar Hang, György Pápai reads the electoral results as proving that the political scene is too polarized for parties not intending to join any of the established camps to survive. Therefore, the new actors felt forced to take sides and move towards an alliance with the old Left, with disastrous effects on their identities and painful electoral failures. Nevertheless, there are many voters who don’t seem to be willing to support Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition and they are sufficiently strong in numbers to make it impossible for the left to defeat the government without them. He wonders whether Momentum will become an ally to the Democratic Coalition or rather a competitor offering an alternative to both the government and the left-wing opposition for those who have been disillusioned by the former and dislike the latter. He suggests they consider the government as the one to be overthrown and the Democratic Coalition as one to be contained.

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