The following is a translation of an article by Ervin Nagy, originally published in Magyar Hírlap.
In the year 2023, a political mechanism was broken in Hungary: even downturns and runaway inflation could not dramatically alter the balance of political power. After a slight decline, the popularity of the governing parties recovered, while the opposition failed to gain any ground. Of course, since it was not an election year, commitment and activity somewhat decreased, and the number of undecided or ‘no voters’ was higher than the previous year as well, but the percentages did not change significantly.
The lead of the governing parties had remained outstanding by European standards with the Democratic Coalition (DK) dominating the left, miles behind Fidesz, the Momentum brutally declining and losing the race to Gyurcsány and his party, while the others are struggling to survive.
Only the far-left opposition has been able to gain some strength, but now the far-right Mi Hazánk (Our Homeland Movement) has also faltered, and although the Hungarian joke party Two-Tailed Dog (MKKP) has crawled up to the parliamentary threshold again, this means nothing, as they were in the same position before the last two elections, too, yet they did not succeed to get into parliament then either. The national radical party has probably reached its own glass ceiling, and the joke party has only been able to make headway because there has been no renewal on the opposition side, which is a huge disappointment for those who are not sympathetic to the government. The small parties with a parliamentary group (Jobbik, Hungary’s Green Party, Hungarian Socialist Party, and Dialogue for Hungary), as already mentioned, are merely struggling to survive, and finally, the newly formed organizations (On the People’s Side, Everybody’s Hungary People’s Party, Second Reform Era Party, etc.) have been unable to become a real factor because of credibility problems.
In contrast, the Fidesz–KDNP party alliance had regained and maintained its position by the end of the year, even though we have overcome a decade of record inflation.
But what is the reason for this? Why has the government’s public image not deteriorated significantly?
On the one hand, and perhaps most importantly, the government has maintained its political stability and has addressed the country’s problems rather than itself (as the left did), i.e. it has acted rather than drifted helplessly. On the other hand, the government’s actions have been successful: inflation has been brought down, pensions have been preserved, family allowances and tax credits have been maintained, and people have not lost their jobs.
In fact, more people are working in Hungary today than before the outbreak of the war
and the crisis caused by misguided EU sanctions.
Third, the opposition has failed to develop a real vision, a coherent message. They have not renewed themselves and done the political work of the opposition, thus they have not become attractive. They were concerned with their own crisis and were constantly preoccupied by positioning themselves on the narrowed left. Their inventive messages were unreliable and incoherent, and did not inspire confidence in the masses of voters.
In other words, since politics is not a game of solitaire but a board game, the left’s ineptitude, intellectual weakness, inability to act, and lack of credibility were also necessary to maintain the government’s popularity.
If we want to simplify it, we can say that, in the case of the right, most of the electorate believed that it could overcome the crisis and this was eventually confirmed, while they did not trust the left. In contrast, the opposition, which at the same time was also fighting each other, unable to innovate and develop a relevant message, and historically fragmented, was not perceived by the majority to be able to solve the country’s problems.
In addition, of course, the foreign aid scandal has further damaged the credibility of the left—even a significant part of their own voter base feels that it is not right to campaign and play politics with American money and for American interests. Not to mention the fact that the increasingly extreme tone that leading left-wing politicians are indulging in is repugnant to many.
Overall, the political mechanism in Hungary has failed because the right is stable,
it knows what it wants, and its ideas are in agreement with reality and the opinion of the citizens, while the instability of the left is repulsive. What we saw in 2023 was that the governing parties were dealing with the country’s problems and the left was only dealing with itself, therefore the approval ratings did not change dramatically during the inflation crisis.
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