Hungarian parliamentary elections: victory or disaster?

The right-wing FIDESZ (Young Democrats’ Union) of Viktor Orbán have once again won the elections in Hungary. However, due to the very high levels of abstention, in reality only 25% of the electorate actually voted for them, most people being utterly disgusted with politicians in general.

“Can any political camp be satisfied on the day after the 2014 parliamentary elections in Hungary? In theory the Fidesz can be satisfied, moreover, they can be extremely satisfied: not only did they win again, but they could retire to bed in the early hours of Monday, 7th April knowing that they were on the cusp of winning another 2/3rds majority. However, even they should be able to see that the ‘united nation’ so fondly and so frequently mentioned by Viktor Orbán, was supported by a mere quarter of the nation. Satisfaction on the left is obviously out of the question, their defeat beats even that of four years ago, but at least four years ago there were the previous eight years to put the electorate off, while this time round their performance was sabotaged by their own impotence. So there remains the Jobbik and the LMP: the former got stronger, the latter managed to get above the threshold for entry into parliament. However, their results are all the product of the total disillusionment of the electorate with the traditional parties.”

This summary above is a quotation from www.hvg.hu, a left of centre, liberal web site, commentating on the morning after Hungary’s recent parliamentary elections. While at the time of writing the absolute final results have not yet been published, as the votes cast abroad and in out-of-home constituencies have not yet been added to the totals, the current figures are based on 98.97% of the total and therefore can be considered pretty accurate and more than indicative of the actual final results, which are not due until Saturday, 12th April at the earliest. There is much talk in the media of whether FIDESZ will attain a 2/3rds majority again, but analysis of the processes and the likely perspectives for Hungary’s next four years can be drawn accurately today. These results are based on a turnout of 61.24% and are produced by a dual proportional representation system. On the ballot papers voters voted for a constituency MP as well as a party on the National List.

Results:

In the constituency MP vote 96 constituencies elected a FIDESZ MP and 10 constituencies elected a Left Unity MSZP-EGYÜTT-DK-PM-MLP MP. The other two parties were unsuccessful in the individual constituency election.

The percentage votes cast for the national list:

Source: választás.hu

 Percentage counted:
98,97%

Fidesz-KDNP

 44,54%

MSZP-EGYÜTT-DK-PM-MLP

 25,99%

Jobbik

 20,54%

LMP

 5,26%

 

Distribution of parliamentary seats based on votes counted:

Source: választás.hu

 Individual const.

 %

National list

 %

Total

 %

Fidesz-KDNP

96

90,57%

37

39,78%

133

66,83%

MSZP-EGYÜTT-DK-PM-MLP

10

9,43%

28

30,11%

38

19,10%

Jobbik

0

0%

23

24,73%

23

11,56%

LMP

0

0%

5

5,38%

5

2,51%

Total

106

100%

93

100%

199

100%

 

Parties: FIDESZ = Young Democrats’ Union , KDNP = Christian Democratic People’s Party, MSZP = Hungarian Socialist Party, EGYÜTT = Left Liberals, DK = Demokratikus Koalíció (split off from MSZP), PM = Left Liberals (another bunch), MLP = Liberals, Jobbik = neo-Nazi extreme right wing party, LMP = Politics Can Be Different (another bunch of liberals)

Historical background

The 6th April 2014 was the culmination of a process that started decades ago, in the days of the Stalinist deformed workers’ state that ruled Hungary between 1948 and 1990. Analysis of this period has been published on this site many times in the past, so we will not go into any great detail now. However, suffice to say, lack of democracy, the defeat of the 1956 revolution and decades of struggling to survive in the totalitarian Stalinist political and economic system managed to cut the thread of history in Hungary, obliterate the tradition of working class activism, probably even more than it did in other countries in the region.

The arrival of capitalism brought with it incredible illusions for a better life on the one hand and a crass, robber baron, corrupt system on the other. Hungary had acquired a bourgeois democratic constitution and legal system, but all of that was introduced in an autocratic manner, mass unemployment, racism, poverty, lack of workers’ democracy – as demonstrated by corruption, attacks on the trade unions and a deep seated invasion of corruption and graft into all aspects of society – became an everyday condition of life for all but a tiny minority at the top. The so-called “progressive” phase of capitalism has never existed in Hungary, along with the rest of Central and Eastern Europe. The best Hungarians could hope for was super exploitation by a myriad of multinationals and as long as the world economy was booming or at least ticking over normally, some of the crumbs did come Hungary’s way.

Disillusionment

With the inability of all bourgeois governments since 1990, be they socialist or conservative, to provide a long term improvement in living standards, a stability and future for the population, a reliable and affordable health service, education system and a modicum of an attempt at openness and a real fight against corruption, the Hungarian electorate was getting disillusioned quite early on. It was common from about the late 1990’s to vote in elections for a party, not because they had policies people agreed with or really supported, but for trying them out, just in case they were better than the previous lot. This might seem rather a light minded attitude for deciding the fate of one’s country for the next four years, but the choice in front of the Hungarian electorate was never too wide and/or attractive.

“Politician” had become a dirty word quite early on. Corruption scandal after corruption scandal eroded the political capital of most parties. In the early 1990’s, after the first conservative government that sold off Hungary to Western capital for a song, Hungary voted back in the old communists, now in the form of the newly formed Socialist Party (MSZP), but with the Bokros package MSZP managed to wreak havoc in Hungarian industry, closing 30% of factories and still not managing to please international capital sufficiently.

In 1998 FIDESZ was voted in, just in case they could do better. They didn’t, but showed early signs of an ideology that hankered after the “good old days” when everybody knew their place, the Catholic Church ruled in school and home, and the oligarchy got fat on the labour of the masses. In those days they had just a small, simple majority in parliament and while attempting to introduce some laws to back up their hidden plan, those first four years were not enough. In 2002 MSZP got back into office, repeating its victory in 2006. Those eight years were also punctuated by corruption scandals and by Keynesian economics, thus exploding Hungary’s foreign debt drastically.

The secret FIDESZ plan

Two factors, in addition to the above have added to the Socialist administration’s woes: the world economic crisis which hit Hungary towards the end of MSZP’s third term, but more significantly a long term, secret plan, that Viktor Orbán’s FIDESZ party started to put into effect. There is now concrete evidence of a FIDESZ sponsored hidden plan to get organised, capitalise on the people’s natural dislike of the multinationals, banks and corrupt MSZP politicians and, taking advantage of the arrogance and chaotic or lack of organisation of the left in general, to mobilise many sections of the population against the left and in the direction of their own agenda with support from the Catholic clergy and the extreme right. So called civil movements, clubs and organisations were set up and supported, not only with ideology but with substantial sums of money coming from the corrupt millionaires and billionaires of FIDESZ connected businesses. This let the genie out of the bottle of racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Roma sentiments and the revival of those ideologies most Hungarians thought were dead and buried. In the long standing tradition of the extreme right, scapegoats were introduced and their hatred was sponsored at all levels of mostly rural society, although supporters of these clubs number many university professors, artists and ideologues of all kinds amongst their members.

The World Economic Crisis

With the world economic crisis hitting Hungary hard, this scapegoating found a strong echo in a society that has grown tired of the traditional parties and their politicians. Jobbik, the current extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi party was born out of these civic clubs and by addressing much missing needs of many people, and with the Left being by and large hopelessly out of touch to counter this extreme right propaganda, support for them grew by leaps and bounds.

The early FIDESZ campaign

Almost in the image of the Stalinist web of spies and secret services, FIDESZ established a secret register of who is likely to support them and who isn’t in all spheres of life. In 2006 they managed to lay their hands on a tape of a speech by the then MSZP Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány in which he admitted that his party had been lying about Hungary’s economic state. They managed to whip up a successful campaign in discrediting him. FIDESZ was not leaving it to the vagaries of elections, to see if they could get back into power next time round. And, of course, the corrupt nature of many MSZP politicians gave them ammunition that they used very effectively.

Political parties, in order to stay effective, have to know where their true constituency lies, what policies would attract the electorate and campaign hard and well to get the message across. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, MSZP had lost its way completely. Due to its desperation in ditching even the slightest adherence to socialism at the beginning of the 1990’s, by 2010 it had become a second conservative party with no real talent, ideology or programme. Coming up to the 2010 elections FIDESZ was preparing a very nasty surprise. Having run a concerted character assassination campaign against the leading figures of MSZP, basing itself on a wide network of extreme right-wing, patriotic, religious social strata – mostly in the countryside – but also in the towns, running secret lists of supporters and enemies, as they saw it, slaughtered all forces of the left and attained a 2/3rds majority in the 2010 elections. With this super-majority and four years at their disposal they set about achieving their two main objectives:

1. Destroying most of the gains made in the direction of democracy, albeit a bourgeois one, since 1990.

2. To stuff their own pockets and that of their friends in the process.

They had rewritten the constitution, removed the word ‘republic’ from it, castrated the constitutional court, early retired all the judges who wouldn’t do their bidding, shackled the media, both the press and TV, taken away the autonomy of schools, reintroduced religion into schools, rewritten the labour code to remove practically all protection for workers and reoriented Hungary’s foreign policy towards more and more autocratic regimes, like Putin’s Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, etc. They gave Hungarian nationality and voting rights to all Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries, thus boosting their vote by several hundred thousand of grateful electors. They in effect established a mafia state, which concentrated more and more power into its own hands and having removed practically all checks and balances that might have moderated their rapacious greed, passed all government contracts into the hands of all their friends and acolytes. The stage was set for a potentially fraudulent, or if not fraudulent, but at least grossly unfair parliamentary election in 2014.

The 2014 election

Many commentators on the left are absolutely convinced that the third FIDESZ government to be formed this week is based on the tilted laws that outrageously favoured the right, both FIDESZ and Jobbik. There is an element of truth in that. The new electoral law, abolishing two rounds, redrawing the boundaries in FIDESZ’s favour and generally favouring large, rather than smaller parties, created a ground tilting towards FIDESZ and away from the opposition parties. The entire opposition had great difficulty in finding poster space to rent, its spokespersons could not get television time in the campaign and many other provisions were denied them while FIDESZ propaganda was practically coming out of the taps for weeks and months running up to 6th April 2014. Taxpayers’ money was paying for a lot of FIDESZ party propaganda, like the utility price reductions and many other aspects. All this made it very hard for the opposition to get their message out, that is true.

The failure of the Left

But what was that message? Did it contain a single, simple, understandable and believable promise that could have enthused a tired, cynical and frustrated electorate? No it did not! Not only MSZP, the largest part of the Left Unity Coalition didn’t have a proper programme, many of its leaders could not put together one enthusiastic speech that would have got anybody going. With the possible exception of Ferenc Gyurcsány, nothing resembling a proper election campaign was waged on the left, but nowadays Gyurcsány only leads the split-off Demokratikus Koalíció which finally ended up with four of the Left Unity seats in parliament. If there is one perfect example to present to students of politics anywhere to show what happens to parties that abandon their socialism, MSZP is it.

In fact, there were rumours flying in the last weeks of the campaign that MSZP probably didn’t want to win, because many voters could not believe that they were that hopeless as they presented themselves. The left-wing media – mostly on the internet as they no longer possess a daily paper – had also shown another despicable characteristic feature of petty bourgeois lefties the world over: article after article blaming the people for this defeat, the ordinary Hungarians who are “too stupid” to understand the dangers of fascism coming from FIDESZ and Jobbik, who are “too lazy” and that did not get off their fat bottoms to go and vote etc., etc. Not one of them put forward anything that might have enthused Hungarians to go and vote. Begging them not to stay at home was as far as any of them got!

The way forward

So how should Hungary go forward from here? If there is a country where the population is crying out for a genuine Marxist alternative then that is Hungary. Many analysts quite rightly mentioned after Sunday that the nearly 40% that stayed at home was too disgusted to vote for any party, and that even those that realised that a vote for Left Unity was an anti-fascist vote, could not do so due to their disgust with the unchanged personnel of the Left Unity parties.

Marxism is supposed to be a no-no in the ex-Stalinist countries. And yes, many times the attacks are ferocious when you put forward a Marxist point of view. But where do those attacks come from? From the ruling class and that is absolutely OK. By your friends may you be known! As long as you are attacked from representatives of both domestic and foreign capital you are on the right track.

Many say that nobody would follow you if you put forward a Marxist programme, but personally I am yet to find anyone who would have said anything against my Marxist arguments, other than they are “not realistic”. “It will never happen!” it is often said. I disagreed, but at least they never said, “That is a bad idea!” Hungarians know that capitalism has been tried and has been found wanting. Instinctively they know that no matter what they are likely to try in the future, that will not work either, especially not now in the capitalist system’s twilight years. It will only bring more and more misery, especially if Jobbik has anything to do with it.

So, we can confidently predict that not until the Hungarian working class together with the rural poor, the young, the Roma, the oppressed minorities of many kind unite and put forward a Marxist programme for the expropriation of the pillars of capitalist Hungary, the oligarchs, the industrialists, the bankers, the landowners and put their factories, banks, the land and all utilities, schools, hospitals, etc. under workers’ control and management, do they stand any chance of a job, a roof over their heads and a future. Hungarian people can run their own country; they are not lazy or stupid. They just have to discover the confidence with which they can go forward and establish a socialist system based on the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy and run the country by the people and for the people on the basis of workers’ democracy.

Then the half million young people who have left Hungary in search of a job and a better life abroad will return. In spite of all those sceptics, who, based on the Stalinist 40 years, think that socialism doesn’t work, the workers can set about building their own socialism in which the widest form of democracy will enable workers, peasants, intellectuals, artists, the Roma and all nationalities to create together the future that Hungarians deserve. The only other option is a descent into chaos, poverty, war and annihilation, because that’s the only thing on offer on a capitalist basis. I know what I would choose!