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Weeklies on opposition doldrums

July 4th, 2022

The weeklies contemplate the prospects of the opposition, after the thrashing opposition candidates suffered in last Sunday’s local by-elections across the country. Editors agree that thorough changes would be necessary for the opposition to become a match for Fidesz.

Magyar Hang’s Szabolcs Szerető writes that if Prime Minister Orbán needs consolation amid the many hardships of the financial crisis, he need look no further than the trials and tribulations faced by what is left of the opposition arrayed against him. Opposition supporters seem discouraged firstly by the Fidesz victory in the national election in April, then in the June local elections. To make matters worse, opposition politicians appear to have no plan for the future and can therefore offer little hope to those Hungarians who yearn for change. On the other hand, Szerető continues, economic difficulties will probably weaken the Prime Minister’s voting base and thus open new chances for a viable opposition. The question is, he concludes, whether the Prime Minister plans to engineer his own tame opposition, or if public discontent will swell up to create a new opposition force.

In its front-page editorial, Magyar Narancs cautions against the conclusion that the opposition has lost most of its supporters. What happened last Sunday, the editors think, was that opposition voters largely remained at home, because they didn’t feel anything important was at stake. In fact, they explain, the opposition hasn’t lost its majority in any city under its control, despite losing a seat on the city council. Magyar Narancs fears nonetheless that the psychological impact of the local by-elections might prove painful for the opposition. The editors call on its leaders to pull themselves together for further elections this autumn and warn them that unless they manage to stop ‘the spiral of defeat’, the consequences may well be disastrous for the next general elections in four years’ time.

In an interview with 168 óra, Ferenc Gelencsér, the newly elected leader of Momentum, also regards the autumn municipal elections as extremely important. Budapest’s first district council will be paralyzed if the opposition loses its majority there, Gelencsér points out. He also thinks the opposition should change its attitude and radiate a positive image with clear and attractive messages instead of just criticising the government. He is not frightened by what some media describe as a trap set by Fidesz, to hold European and nationwide local council elections on the same day next year. He is confident that the opposition will find a solution to run separately for seats in the European Parliament while supporting joint candidates in the municipal elections.

In Jelen, sociologist Andrea Szabó finds the pervasive gloom among opposition supporters unprecedented and recalls that in 2002, when the Fidesz electorate was equally shocked by their defeat, that feeling galvanised them and helped them renew their party. This is precisely what today’s opposition should do, but in order to succeed, she thinks, they would need to build a clear-cut identity based on shared values, otherwise their alliance is bound to disintegrate and will not be able to attract and mobilise new voters.

In his customary first page Demokrata editorial, András Bencsik finds it telling that opposition parties even lost ground in major cities in last Sunday’s elections. City dwellers, he suggests, are inclined to believe their own ideas and desires rather than reality itself. However, in the long run, the facts of what he sees as misgovernment by opposition-run local councils have proven overwhelming. He would find it premature to predict a devastating opposition defeat next year, but hopes that is exactly what will happen, in European and local elections alike.


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