Monday, April 13, 2015

Hungarian politics is in a bit of a mess

As I plan to go to Hungary quite soon I have been following its politics with more interest than usual and have come to the conclusion that it is a bit of a mess. We have all heard that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has been playing up to President Putin a bit, though I suspect his argument is that, given the energy situation, Hungary has no choice.

At the same time he seems not to be one of the very few European leaders who will be gracing the Mausoleum at the May 9 Victory Day parade in Moscow. At least, I cannot find him listed anywhere either as one who is going or, come to think of it, as one who has refused to go. Has the man got lost in that famous revolving door?

Meanwhile, his and his party's popularity is waning but, it would appear, the popularity of the opposition Socialist Party, last seen hitting something pretty close rock bottom, is not rising. What we are getting are protest votes.

This seemed like an excellent idea some weeks ago when Prime Minister Orbán's "super majority" was broken by the election of an independent MP in a by-election in Veszprém. The man elected, Zoltán Kész may have been supported by some of the left-wing opponents of the present government but his views are liberal/libertarian, as I know, having met him and talked with him at length. Needless to say, I was delighted he managed to win, and to do so very handsomely if unexpectedly.
The election in Veszprém, a city southwest of Budapest, was won by Zoltán Kész, an independent candidate backed by left-wing parties. When counting of ballots finished late on Sunday night, Mr Kész, a 41-year old teacher, had won 42.66 per cent of votes cast, compared with 33.64 per cent for Lajos Némedi, candidate for the conservative Fidesz party.

Mr Kész’s victory was a surprise. A poll published in January showed him trailing Mr Nemedi — who promised to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool if elected — by 6 percentage points.
Today's news about another by-election, this time in Tapolca, is less encouraging. This time the highly unpleasant right-wing party, Jobbik, managed to win their first direct constituency election though only by the slenderest of majorities. I am not sure why the BBC thinks Tapolca is a key seat but it is of significance that there is now a directly elected Jobbik MP in the Hungarian Parliament. In the past, they were there because of an electoral system that is part first past the post and part list.

Does this mean that the Jobbik really are on their way to form a government in three years' time, as they claim? I really do not think so on present showing. Does this mean that Fidesz will find it necessary to adapt its policies to out-manoeuvre the far-right party? That is not impossible. But what it all does show very clearly that the present situation, with one party with a strong majority and an opposition that cannot present an acceptable alternative is likely to create chaos in a country like Hungary.

Yes, dear readers, it does matter. Remember that their government is also our government as long as we are all in the European Union.

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