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Weeklies try to solve the riddle of Fidesz’s lasting success

September 18th, 2023

Some commentators attribute the government’s success in one election after another to the weakness of the opposition, while others find the explanation in its endeavour to continue a long-standing trend in Hungarian political history.

In Élet és Irodalom, Budapest’s former liberal Mayor Gábor Demszky, who won the mayoral elections five times in a row from 1990 to 2006 believes Prime Minister Orbán owes his fourth consecutive term in office to the weakness of the opposition. He describes in detail how he fought an uphill battle against Mr Orbán’s first government from 1998 to 2002 and ultimately helped defeat him. He advises the same recipe to his successor. Everything depends on the resolve of the cities in opposition hands, he writes. They should create their own media outlets and conduct an unflagging political campaign denouncing corruption. The Mayor of Budapest should be a central figure of that struggle, he adds, and should regularly consult the intelligentsia of the capital as well as Hungarian academics, as well as officials of the World Bank and the European Investment Bank. That recipe, he concludes, proved successful once and should be followed, lest ‘we sink even deeper into the quagmire of party politics’.

In Magyar Hang, Róbert Puzsér, a well-known independent influencer describes the current state of affairs in Hungarian politics as a continuation of a well-known historical pattern of long serving monolithic regimes. The first such example he mentions was that of Habsburg Empress Maria Teresa in the 18th century after an eight-year-long unsuccessful independence war waged by Hungarians against Austrian rule. The second one was that of Francis Joseph, after he suppressed the Hungarian revolution and war of independence in 1848-49. The third monolithic regime was headed by Regent Miklós Horthy in the wake of World War I, while the fourth was that of communist party leader János Kádár after Hungary’s 1956 revolution was crushed by Soviet troops. All those regimes irradiated the impossibility of any significant change, and the populace gradually grew accustomed to being ruled by a powerful leader. After two decades of democratic transition from communism, Puzsér claims, Prime Minister Orbán returned to that old ‘feudal model’.

In Mandiner, Márton Békés also compares the Prime Minister’s long and continuing term in office to earlier periods in Hungarian history, namely the so-called reform era from 1825 to 1840 when an autonomous Hungarian political class was formed to represent the country’s interests; then the 50 years of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy in the run-up to World War I, and finally the interwar regime. The latter two were backed by a strong united governing party under the leadership of a charismatic statesman, he points out. Both were faced by ineffectual oppositions which accused them of corruption and centralised decision-making. Both of the regimes he considers the predecessors of the incumbent government also brought about deep and long-lasting cultural changes, he adds.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik remarks that a government remaining undisturbed in office for 13 years is an exception in the European landscape. He identifies the explanation in Fidesz’s endeavour to govern ‘the way the majority likes it’. Most citizens consider their fellow Hungarians living in neighbouring countries as being part of the national community, he writes, as well as support offering people job opportunities rather than welfare. He believes Hungarians want the government to support churches rather than attacking them; they want Hungary to be sovereign and stand-up for her independence. In addition, most people are convinced that fathers are men and mothers are women and want their politicians to represent that view. Finally, in a hint at the war in Ukraine, Bencsik mentions that the bulk of the population wants peace and wants the government to act for peace. The governing parties, he writes, understand that, while the opposition believes that it only has to oppose whatever the government says or does. By doing so, Bencsik claims, they find themselves in opposition to the majority of the population.


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