Elections are held in Hungary on April 8 . The authoritarian prime minister Viktor Orban repeats the campaign of fear with migrants that already gave him such good results four years ago. It insists on the simple and effective formula of anti-European Union, anti-globalization and anti- establishment . According to Orban, who never uses the European Union concept , “Brussels wants to dilute the European population and replace it, throw away our culture, our way of life and everything that separates us and distinguishes us, Europeans, from the other peoples of the world” .
If populism were a sports discipline, Orban would be European champion. Steve Bannon, who was an ideologue of Donald Trump, has defined him as “the most interesting political man of the moment”. It has no political program with concrete measures, nor is it measured in pre-election debates. He does not need it. Good speaker and teacher of provocation and propaganda, he has not hesitated in relating refugees to international terrorism. Or compare the European Commission with the extinct Soviet Union .
With his training Fidesz (Alliance of Young Democrats), he controls the media and lacks real opposition. Now Orban has added another outside enemy. He claims that it is the American speculator of Hungarian origin, George Soros,who is behind the opposition parties to allow the entry of emigrants who are going to violate the Hungarian cultural space. The tycoon driving the “open society” in the countries of central and eastern Europe has been identified as the visible head of a global conspiracy to install multicultural societies in Europe and destroy the identity roots anchored in Christianity. Orban is presented as the only paladin able to stop Islamization and prevent the invasion of migrants. Again and as expected, Fidesz imposed itself as a remedy to external evils.
Orban leads the Visegrad group, also known as V4, formed by the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland . Its members are those who have most forcefully opposed the distribution of the 160,000 refugeesthat the EU intended to carry out. Hungary would have received 1,294. In Austria, the Christian Democratic coalition with the extreme right flirts with the idea of joining V4. The group insists that it does not seek the disappearance of the EU. But it is clear that it would become an important element of Eurosceptic pressure at a time when the Union is dealing with changes whose transcendence can surpass that of Maastricht.
Orban predicts that the V4 region will be “the engine of the European economy in a few years.” The official Magyar macroeconomic data is good. Inflation of 2.4% and public debt of 74.5% in 2017. Unemployment of 3.8% in January. And a forecast deficit of 2.4% of GDP for this year. Despite this, 32% of Hungarians live in “excessively difficult conditions”, twice the EU average, according to a December Eurostat report. Of the 20 poorest regions in Europe, four are in the east and south, where Fidesz is strongest. There is, therefore, a growing increase in poverty and social inequality. This increase is partly due to the fiscal system of a single rate, of 15%, which harms the poorest because it redistributes towards the social strata with greater purchasing power. Without forgetting that the Hungarians pay the highest VAT in the EU, 27%. Salaries have increased to an average of 722 euros at the end of 2017, although there are large differences between urban and rural areas and between the impoverished east and the more prosperous west. Another problem is the low mobility of the population, where children often inherit the poverty of their parents.
Added to this are the criticisms of undermining democracy and, increasingly, the high level of corruption in the ruling classes. The EU Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) warns in a recent report of corrupt practices with EU funds in Hungary. Among others, Istvan Tiborcz, son-in-law of the prime minister , would be involved . OLAF has not made the document public, but according to information portal 24.hu there is an organized fraud to ensure that the Tiborcz company gets big contracts without having to compete with rival firms. According to the European Commission, “the volume of frauds exceeds the European average, which negatively affects economic growth.”
The Hungarian electoral system is mixed. Similar to German. The 199 deputies of the National Assemblyare elected by two methods. 106 in uninominal electoral districts by first majority. The remaining 93 through lists prepared by the parties in a single national electoral district by proportional representation. The electoral threshold set at 5% is raised to 10% for coalitions of two parties and 15% for coalitions of three or more.
The ultra-nationalist Jobbik (Movement for a Better Hungary) would reach according to the latest estimates between 17 and 20% of the votes. Even the extreme right wants to move to the center. Its leader, Gabor Vona, has left behind his xenophobic discourse. But it keeps its messages against corruption and the political elite with which it attracts the poorest and youngest voters. Thus, it seeks the support of broad social layers, with messages sometimes less alarming than the executive itself, as in the issue of immigration, to which Vona also opposes, albeit with less radicalism.
Other parties are the Socialists, divided into two: the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) and the Democratic Coalition (DK). Then we have the two Greens, the Párbeszéd (Dialogue) and the Politics Can Be Different(LMP). The Együtt (Together) and the Momentum are new parties created from civil organizations.
It is worth highlighting the case of political scientist Gergely Karacsony, one of the presidents of the leftist Párbeszéd. According to the polls, he is the most popular politician in Hungary, ahead of Orbán and Vona. Karacsony promised that, in case of a victory of the left, the new government will reform the Constitution approved by Orbán in his first term, in addition to an amendment of the electoral system, to then call new elections.
What if there is a surprise in Hungary?
Orbán, 54, will probably win for the third time in a row to continue with his “Hungary first” policy. The father of five children was already prime minister between 1998 and 2002, initiating a transformation project in what he calls “illiberal democracy”. He has returned to the post since 2010 and has the support of almost 40% of the voters but is, at the same time, one of the politicians that most rejects provokes in the country.
And now an unexpected event has taken place. An independent took over the mayor’s office in the small town of Hódmezővásárhely. Péter Márki-Zay, politician and economist of 46 years, father of seven children and practicing Catholic received 57% of the votes. At present he was unemployed, when he was fired, at the suggestion of the Fidesz, of his work, due to his disloyalty with this formation.
The first action of Márki-Zay in the mayor’s office has been to publish the acts of concession of the illumination of the streets of his city. The project, which covers some 70 cities, was won two years ago by the company Elios, where the aforementioned son-in-law of Orban works. The extra costs presented by public works, with European funding, almost always end up in the pockets of the regime.
The circumstance has had an undeniable psychological effect on the party that envisaged a new triumphal walk. The symbolic importance of this victory is not only given by the fact that János Lázár, head of the Orbán Cabinet and the centerpiece of the apparatus , was born in this municipality . He has shown that Fidesz can be won in an election. The impact has been such that the attitude of the opposition has changed, reluctant until now to be understood. Despite their ideological differences, the parties have opened negotiations to consider the concentration of the vote in nominal nominations based on the candidate with the best chance of winning.
The opposition is beginning to bring up all the accusations of fraud and embezzlement. Corruption is already perceived by the population as the second most serious problem, behind the precarious situation of public health and ahead of immigration.
The surveys indicate that the popularity of Orban is exhausted of gradual form. It will win with a much tighter result than before. Hope for change is drawn on the Hungarian horizon.
-MARCOS SUÁREZ SIPMANN