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Opposition candidate wins Jászberény by-election

January 19th, 2023

Commentators ponder the implications of the Jászberény mayoral by-election victory, by a Jobbik candidate supported by most left-wing parties.

On Sunday, Lóránt Budai, the joint candidate of five opposition parties, won with a two-thirds majority in the mayoral by-election in the town of Jászberény. Budai, who is member of the Jobbik party, ran as a candidate of an NGO backed by all the main left-wing opposition parties – except the Democratic Coalition. The Democratic Coalition called on its supporters not to vote for Budai because the Jobbik politician in 2018 posted quotes from Adolf Hitler and Arrow-Cross (“Hungarian Nazi”) leader Ferenc Szálasi.

The main lesson Mandiner’s Mátyás Kohán draws from the Jászberény by-election is that even opposition voters hate the Budapest left-wing party elites. The conservative commentator ascribes Budai’s success to the fact that he focused on local issues, rather than the ideological agenda of the Left. Kohán sees the Jászberény result as not representative at all, since polls suggest that nationwide support for Fidesz is still above 50 per cent (among decided voters).

In Heti Világgazdaság, László Iván Nagy also cautions against extrapolating the Jászberény result. According to the liberal analyst, the Jászberény election shows that even opposition voters are alienated from the left-wing parties – while at the same time, they expect them to cooperate against Fidesz.

Népszava’s Miklós Hargitai also reads the by-election as a message that opposition voters want opposition parties to cooperate. Hargitai, however, wonders if the victory of a Jobbik politician who made explicit Nazi comments can be celebrated as a success for the Left.

Magyar Nemzet’s Dorka Gabay suspects that in future, the opposition will hide behind candidates officially nominated by local NGOs to woo voters who would not support the candidates of the unpopular opposition parties.

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