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Weeklies on the campaign for the European elections

May 20th, 2024

Commentators find significant novelties in this year’s electoral contest, mainly because of the appearance of a strong new opposition force – Péter Magyar’s TISZA party.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Réka Kinga Papp finds it surprising that Péter Magyar was able to mobilise unusually large crowds in north-eastern Hungary, as the local population has been politically mostly passive over the past decades and usually votes for the strongest political side. Many local inhabitants now regard Péter Magyar as someone who can bring significant change to their lives. The Tisza party, Papp writes, can only fulfil those expectations by offering something more than just Péter Magyar’s personality cult and standing up for the interests of the poor rural areas forsaken by the state.

In one of its two first-page editorials, Magyar Narancs vituperates against the tone of the government campaign, calling it outright idiotic. The liberal editors ask what little respect Fidesz leaders must feel for their voters when they feed them the tall story that the only way to avoid war is to vote for Prime Minister Orbán in the European elections. They lament that such a low intellectual standard still appears to  enjoy the support of at least 1.5 to 2 million Hungarian voters.

In a more detailed analysis on the same subject in Magyar Hang, political analyst Attila Tibor Nagy writes that by brandishing the threat of war, the governing party addresses people’s most elementary instinct, that of self-preservation. Such slogans helped them win a landslide victory two years ago in the last Parliamentary elections, he explains. However, since then, people have got used to the idea that a war is raging in Ukraine and therefore Fidesz had to raise the stakes to achieve the same effect – now they claim that by voting for them, Hungarians can help avoid a nuclear world war. Another weapon they use in their campaign, he adds, is trying to discredit Péter Magyar who has become the most interesting figure in politics this year. Nagy mentions however that Magyar doesn’t shy away from negative campaigning himself, either, and may have recordings or revealing documents in his pocket that might surface sometime in the campaign.

In Demokrata, Gábor Bencsik describes the Tisza party as ‘a castle built on sand’. Yet without mentioning pro-government posters that depict four opposition leaders including Magyar as ’humble servants’ of EC President Ursula von der Leyen, he dismisses any allegation that Péter Magyar is somebody’s puppet. However, he adds, politics is not a one-man show. Péter Magyar may pocket 20 to 25% of the vote in June, with 4 or 5 MEPs, yet without having a community or an institution behind him. Scores of people will flock to his party, but he will have no means to screen them, although they will necessarily include madmen, conmen and all kinds of frustrated people unfit for politics. Lasting political success cannot be attained without a community held together by loyal people who trust each other, he concludes.

In Mandiner, Tamás Deutsch, the Fidesz frontrunner for the European elections, explains that he will only take part in pre-electoral debates on national public television and ATV. He describes the rest of the channels, including 444, Telex, HVG, 24.hu, RTL and Partizán as ’dollar media outlets’ who push their own political propaganda. Summarising his message to the electorate, he explains that Hungarians should not confine themselves to lamenting the unjust treatment their country gets from Brussels. Instead, they must bolster their presence in European institutions in order to put an end to attacks on Hungary’s sovereignty from there.

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