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Weeklies on the state of the opposition a full year after the last general election

April 10th, 2023

Opposition-leaning commentators paint a desolate picture of the chances of the opposition to vote Fidesz out of office any time soon. A pro-government columnist describes the recipe that in his mind has kept the governing forces unchallenged over the past years.

In his front-page Élet és Irodalom editorial, János Széky suggests that the opposition should give up any hope of winning general elections and should concentrate on big cities instead. He quotes recent polls showing the bulk of the population dissatisfied with their plight as well as with the direction the country is moving, while Fidesz still enjoys the support of 51% of decided potential voters. He believes that the middle classes of the big cities are more resilient to what he calls illiberal and nondemocratic regimes, while the majority of the population lives outside these towns and falls for government propaganda. After four elections lost, he would find it illusory to believe that the opposition can defeat Fidesz. Széky, therefore, calls on the opposition to try and mobilise the urban middle classes rather than waging an uphill battle to win a nationwide majority. He pins his hopes onto the rule named after Harvard political scientist Erica Chenoweth, according to which no government is likely to stand in front of just 3.5% of the population mobilising against it.

In his weekly Heti Világazdaság column, Árpád W. Tóta takes up the defence of Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony against an accusation by DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány who said the Mayor was not fulfilling his patriotic duty. In an interview last week, Mr Gyurcsány explained that in his view the left-wing mayor of the capital should wage a relentless struggle against the right-wing government, instead of bargaining with it. Tóta interprets that statement as opening the ‘traditional infighting’ within the opposition ahead of the local elections scheduled for next year. The Democratic Coalition, he writes, has no viable alternative candidates for Budapest Mayor and therefore such an attack on the incumbent only plays into the hands of the government side. His main point is however that it is the duty of the Mayor to negotiate and bargain with the government on public development funds. He concedes that Karácsony hasn’t transformed Budapest into an anti-government fortress. On the other hand, the Mayor has shown an alternative, more friendly style of leadership than the one represented by the government in his view.

In Magyar Hang, István Dévényi depicts the landscape of the opposition in dark colours. He sees the Democratic Coalition as the only opposition party in good shape, however, with the highly divisive figure of Ferenc Gyurcsány at its helm, he sees no chance for them to replace Viktor Orbán’s government. He characterises Momentum as ceaselessly in search of a new identity, while he describes the Twin Tail Dog party as ‘less and less funny’. As for the rest, he continues, when Jobbik and the Socialist Party disappear from the scene, they will not leave a sizeable void behind. He would find it futile to hope that a new saviour will miraculously appear out of the blue to lead the majority to the conquest of government. Dévényi admits that he himself sees no solution in sight, as the regime that he would like to see fall is actually getting ever stronger.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik replies to a question put to him by a left-liberal acquaintance of his about what in his view makes Fidesz successful enough to stay in government for the fourth consecutive four-year term. He believes the secret lies in a complex vision of a viable Hungary. The first factor of that vision, he writes, is a work-based society where people are offered jobs that give them more self-esteem than mere welfare payments would. The second element he mentions is uniting Hungarians within and outside Hungary’s borders. The third one is national self-determination and interpreting Europe as a union of nations, rather than a supranational organisation led by invisible and unaccountable people. He also mentions the government’s efforts to preserve the country’s cultural traditions including the Judaeo-Christian heritage. All these components together offer a prospect for a self-assured country with its eyes on the future while safeguarding its traditions as well as caring for its children. He makes no mention of the opposition but leaves no doubt about his opinion that it has no such comprehensive vision to propose.


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