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Weeklies on last week’s election for the European Parliament

June 17th, 2024

Opposition-leaning commentators welcome the unexpectedly good performance of Peter Magyar’s recently founded TISZA party and interpret the result as a setback for Fidesz. Pro-government columnists expected better scores from Prime Minister Orbán’s party but see no imminent threat in the outcome of the election.

In Élet és Irodalom, István Váncsa describes the results of the election as a political earthquake – harbinger of a perhaps distant but certain end to the rule of the incumbent government. He recalls that the communist regime showed few cracks before its sudden collapse. The difference is that many officials of the communist regime ‘built vessels for themselves to reach the opposite shore’, that is, to survive under the conditions of democracy, whereas today’s leaders whom he accuses of having stolen enormous fortunes, stubbornly cling to power.

In Mandiner, on the other hand, Soma Vízvári sees no reason for the government side to be worried about the outcome of the election. Its electoral list got exactly as many votes as at the parliamentary election 10 years ago, where it won two thirds of the mandates in Parliament. He admits that due to the high turnout this year, that number of votes only accounted for somewhat less than 45% of the ballots. However, it would still be enough for Fidesz to achieve the usual two-thirds majority in Parliament, he assures his readers.

Magyar Hang’s Szabolcs Szerető concedes the same numbers but goes on to underline that the emergence of a new dominant opposition party does indeed amount to a political landside, because it puts an end to the long-standing ‘paralysis’ in Hungarian politics, with one side being dominated by Viktor Orbán and the other by Ferenc Gyurcsány. Péter Magyar filled masses of voters with hope, he writes, though he cannot tell whether Magyar will be able to make those hopes come true.

In Jelen, Balázs Vető believes that Magyar and his TISZA party have activated a civic middle-class that retreated from politics about 20 years ago because it felt no party represented its aspirations. Those Hungarians have now found a political force that might achieve a shift, Vető writes. Meanwhile, he is also uncertain about whether Magyar will be able to become the effective leader of such a community.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Hungarian-Italian historian Stefano Bottoni likens Péter Magyar to President Emmanuel Macron of France. Mr Macron also came from the ruling elite and was the person who pronounced the fatal diagnosis on the French Socialist party. Péter Magyar is doing the same over the sick body of the Hungarian Left, which everyone knew was on its deathbed, but no one was bold enough to say so.

In Demokrata, András Bencsik admits that the election was not a success for Fidesz. ‘The fearful rise of a completely new party’ is a novelty in Hungarian political history, he writes, and should give right-wing opinion makers a good deal of food for thought. Despite all that and despite the cities that Fidesz lost in last week’s municipal elections, Bencsik suggests that the overall result is positive. However, he warns his party not to neglect seemingly small but potentially dangerous mistakes that might make its life difficult in the future.

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