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Friendly fire in the weeklies from Right and Left

November 18th, 2019

Two pro-government commentators call on Fidesz to take the results of the October local election very seriously, and change course. A left-wing columnist cautions the opposition against revengeful politics.

Magyar Demokrata’s editor-in-chief András Bencsik contends that the local election results, and even more the repeat local elections (see BudaPost November 15) suggest that the governing parties are facing a crisis. The right-wing commentator writes that despite the government’s successful politics, voters seem dissatisfied and want change. Bencsik explains this in terms of what he calls the rising expectations of Hungarians: they compare their well-being with that of people in the richest countries in the world. In order to reinvent itself, Fidesz and its intellectual hinterland should rethink their communication strategy, Bencsik recommends. He suggests that the government should stop targeting simple voters. As an example of the controversial messages repeated until now, Bencsik mentions simplistic anti-immigration rhetoric. Bencsik believes it is a mistake to consider voters as simpletons. Instead, the government should offer reasonable answers to the real challenges of our times and a clear vision for younger voters. He proposes that Fidesz should start a new mass movement similar to the Civic Circles launched by Viktor Orbán after the lost 2002 election, in order to reorganize its base.

In a response to Bencsik’s article, György Pilhál in Magyar Nemzet agrees that Fidesz needs to reinvent itself. The pro-government pundit thinks that Fidesz needs to return to the strategy and tone it used until a few years ago. Pilhál also believes it is time to re-activate the Civic Circles, in order to reconnect with its voters.

In 168 Óra, Péter Somfai calls on opposition mayors and local representatives to show more restraint. The left-wing commentator finds it very unfortunate that some of the newly elected opposition local leaders began by taking a revenge and initiating purges (see BudaPost November 11). He is afraid that if the opposition follows this line, it will rapidly lose electoral support. It would also be important, he continues, that opposition politicians reach a compromise rather than fighting with each other for important positions. If the opposition cannot maintain cooperation in municipalities, voters will turn their backs on them, Somfai thinks. In an aside, he criticizes those opposition politicians who accuse left-leaning media of not being sympathetic enough to them.

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