Opposition to autocrat, front unites socialists on the far right in Hungary – 06/05/2021 – world

The idea of ​​forming an opposition electoral front still seems green in Brazil, but it is ripe to take on one of President Jair Bolsonaro’s main ideological allies, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Against the Fidesz party, the ultra-nationalist politician who has governed the European country since 2010, the six main acronyms from across the political spectrum, from the socialist left to the radical right, have joined.

The strategy, already underway, consists of launching in 2022 a single candidate in each of the 106 electoral constituencies, a single candidate for the post of Prime Minister, a common list for the 93 other seats in Parliament and a common electoral program. With this, they hope to concentrate the votes of those who are not satisfied with Orbán – around half of the voters.

“It’s a mathematical solution that took a long time to develop politically. It took ten years of “town planning” for it to emerge, “explains Hungarian professor and human rights expert Miklós Haraszti, OSCE (European Organization for Co-operation and Security) delegate for freedom of the press from 2004 to 2010.

What has changed this decade is that the united front has become the only way to oust Orbán from power, say political scientists. Since his return to power in 2010, the Prime Minister has changed the rules to gradually increase his control over various spheres – some critics even qualify the current situation as that of a mafia state.

To this end, he benefited from Hungary’s disproportionate electoral system, which gave him over two-thirds of the seats in the single chamber of Parliament, even though he won just over half (52%) of the vote. . The margin allowed him to amend the Constitution, an opportunity which was quickly seized by the sole European head of government to witness the investiture of Bolsonaro – who, in turn, promised Orbán a “great partnership for the to come up”.

During the first year, the Prime Minister began to implement his project of “illiberal democracy”, which served as an example for other authoritarian leaders eager to “undermine” democracy, according to the analysis of the sociologist. Yascha Mounk, Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins University and Columnist for Folha.

Orbán changed the electoral law to make the Hungarian system even more disproportionate than it already was. Under the pretext of simplifying the rules, he reduced the number of constituencies and applied so-called “gerrymandering” – he changed the constituency boundaries to favor his party. In the following elections in 2014, Fidesz won two-thirds of Parliament with only 42% of the vote.

The idea of ​​a united opposition front was put forward at the time by the current mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, but was seen as ridiculous by both left and right, Haraszti explains. In the 2018 election, with a very low turnout, it didn’t thrive either.

“But, during the municipal elections of 2019, the method seized power in ten major cities – including the capital – and showed that this was the way to go,” explains the professor.

Under the agreement reached for 2022, the candidate for prime minister will be chosen by the voters themselves in two-round primaries – with the pre-candidates having obtained the most votes in the first, in September of this year. year, show up for the final investiture in October. .

The mayor of the capital (read profile below) is named as a favorite by analysts, but in polls the most popular contender in the first round of the primaries is Péter Jakab, leader of the right-wing Jobbik. At 40, he represents the new generation of the party and tries to push it to the center and away from its xenophobic radicalism.

While Karácsony avoids friction with Orbán, Jakab has entered into a direct confrontation. At one event, he told the Prime Minister “I have never seen a coward like you”, and was previously fined for trying to hand Orban a sack of potatoes in Parliament, in protest against the government.

On the right, Péter Márki-Zay, 49, father of seven, who made himself known by defeating Fidesz and taking over the town hall of Hódmezovásárhely, also competes – “believe me, the name is unpronounceable even for a Hungarian », Jokes Haraszti. Founder of Tous pour la Hungary (MMM) in 2018, he says he represents a movement, not a party.

In the center-left, in addition to the mayor of Budapest, the candidacy of a 49-year-old MEP Klára Dobrev of the Democratic Coalition (KD) has already been defined. Vice-President of the European Parliament and married to former Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, if elected, she will be the country’s first female head of government.

The center’s representative is András Fekete Gyór, 32, from Momentum, who led large protest marches after Orbán’s attacks on press freedom and LGBT rights. According to the latest polls, he has the smallest share of voting intentions.

They are very different profiles, but the opposition has managed to take shortcuts, explains electoral expert Gábor Tóka, senior researcher at the University of Central Europe. “The parties were very cohesive, they surprised everyone with their ability to maintain the alliance,” he says.

The ability to avoid internal fractures was proven in the 2019 elections, explains the political scientist: “In thousands of small towns with local interests, there was less than 1% defections. At the national level, it should be easier ”.

The main difficulty will be after the choice of candidates, predicts Tóka, who edits the newsletter Vox Populi, on research analysis. It is in their calculations that the impact of the disproportionate Hungarian electoral system and the overhaul of the constituencies is clear: if the vote took place at the end of May, the only opposition candidate would have 2% more of the vote, but Orbán and Fidesz would win 103 seats, against 96 from other parties.

And it’s not just about voting intent. “It is difficult to quantify that, but the government has a disproportionate access to the means of mobilizing public opinion, a massive advantage which would not be possible in a fair and democratic election”, estimates the political scientist.

For starters, he says, independent and free media survive in the country, but are confined to the Internet. “The opposition will find it very difficult to reach those who are not interested in politics, and these people are bombarded by the pro-Orbán media,” says Tóka.

The government’s assault takes place in the daily bulletins of all radio stations, including musicals, and on 1 of the 2 major commercial TV channels, bought out by Lorinc Meszaros, a ruined micro-entrepreneur turned man the richest in Hungary and named by opponents of Orbán as a figurehead.

State television occupies the third place in terms of audience and its main function is to maintain the mobilization of the supporters of Orbán, “who are numerous”, specifies Tóka. “It is not an unpopular government, and Fidesz has managed to keep its base closed to the message of the opposition and quite hostile to its rivals.” The Prime Minister has benefited from European Union funds and a favorable economic cycle, and uses the media to present himself as the guarantor of “good times”, he said.

Another disproportionate force is the “extreme asymmetry” in campaign financing: according to Tóka, in the 2019 elections, for every 1 guilder in opposition, Fidesz had 100 (adding the spending of governments controlled by Orbán, public enterprises, financing of individuals).

The fact that the budgets of small towns are totally dependent on the central government should also weigh on the balance of government. “Having an opposition mayor does not prevent key political figures from playing Orbán’s game in the national election.”

Finally, comes the control of the rural population. “Unemployment insurance was virtually replaced in 2012 by a public works scheme which pays the minimum wage. Access to this is in the hands of the town hall and depends on funding from the central government, ”Tóka reports.

“With its privileged access to the ears of the inhabitants of these places, the government never tires of reminding them that their well-being depends on their coffers.”

The task of the opposition is therefore quite complex, says the political scientist, “but what can they do beyond?” An additional precaution will be to carefully monitor the vote and the vote count, Tóka adds.

Winning isn’t impossible, but it will be the easiest part of the process, analysts say, and not because it’s such disparate parts. “There are historical differences, but not programmatic, and they need to be able to live in harmony for four years,” says Tóka.

The greatest difficulty will be to “desorb” the State. The Prime Minister dissolved the divisions between the powers, “starting to control the judiciary, the electoral committee, the competition control agency, the media, universities and culture, not to mention the economy”, lists Haraszti.

“The Constitutional Court is taken over by judges who blindly obey the interests of Fidesz, and the agency which supervises the media is in the hands of a party organ which cannot be dismissed”, illustrates Tóka.

The budget council, whose members were appointed by Orbán, can also veto the accounts of the new government to the point of making it impractical. The dismantling of these traps would be viable if the opposition prevailed massively, as Fidesz did in 2010, but this hypothesis is highly improbable.

If the challenges seem enormous, “realistically, this is the best scenario for the opposition; the worst and not excluded is to be beaten again by Orbán”, explains Tóka.

x-ray

Gergely Karacsony

Son of agronomists dedicated to horticulture, the mayor of Budapest turns 46 on the 11th.

His father died when he was 6 and the four children were brought up by his mother in Nyírtass, a village of about 2,000 in the northeast of the country.

Graduated in political science, in 2009 he joined the Green Political Party May Be Different (LMP) and, since 2013, he is also co-leader of the ecologist Diálogo para Hungary.

His victory in 2019 in the Hungarian capital was considered one of the main political blows suffered by Orbán.

Married to an educator, he has three children.

Viktor Orban

Son of a businessman and speech therapist, he turned 58 on the 31st. He spent his childhood in villages in central Hungary and studied English and law. In 1989, he studied political science at Oxford (United Kingdom) with a grant from the Soros Foundation, from the investor who would later become one of his main targets, George Soros.

The only European head of government to attend Bolsonaro’s inauguration, Orbán has become one of the prime examples of authoritarian leaders eager to “undermine” democracy, according to the analysis of sociologist Yascha Mounk, associate professor at Johns University Hopkins and Folha columnist.

Married to a lawyer, Orbán has five children.

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