In April 2014, during the last parliamentary election, the incumbent Hungarian government gained a two-thirds supermajority for a second consecutive term. The coalition, which was composed of Fidesz and its satellite ally, the Christian Democratic People’s Party, gained almost 45% of the votes. Now, Fidesz will be attempting to regain that support for a third term. On the 8th April, Hungary will be electing its unicameral legislative body, the National Assembly.
The Hungarian Electoral System
There are a total of 199 members in the Hungarian National Assembly. Of these, 106 are elected through first-past-the-post voting in the single constituencies, while the remaining 93 are elected through proportional representation from one nation-wide constituency. The electoral threshold is set at 5%, although this is raised to 10% for two-party coalitions and 15% for larger coalitions.
Each elector residing in Hungary may cast two votes, one for an individual candidate running in their constituency and one for a party list. On the other hand, voters without a domicile in Hungary may only vote for a party list. It is interesting to note that voters who register as part of one of thirteen officially recognised minorities are not allowed to vote for national parties, but must cast their ballot for the list of their respective minority. The 13 national minorities officially recognized in Hungary are Armenian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian and Ukrainian. Minority lists need only a quarter of the votes required for a national party to obtain a first mandate.
Main Parties and Issues
The current government is composed of the right-wing, anti-immigration and anti-Soros Fidesz party, in a coalition with the Christian Democrats. Such is their support, that they have not presented an official manifesto for these elections. The platform they run for can easily be deduced by the posters and slogans which have covered the country in these months leading up to the election. Hungary First is their motto, one which has particularly manifested itself in relations with the EU and the UN. The latter has been strongly criticised for its no-borders approach for the migration crisis, which Hungarians are very opposed to. The strained relations between Hungary and the EU are well-known, as Brussels is considered as an unrepresentative body imposing strict dictas on its member states.
The social-democratic MSZP is the largest opposition party, with 28 representatives. In this election, it is running in a coalition together with the green party Párbeszéd. Together, they have an action plan consisting of ten key pledges. Some of the most important of these are: reassigning EU development funds so that they actively benefit Hungarians instead of the government; raising minimum wages and pensions; taxing offshore companies and introducing heavy penalties for environmental pollution; ending poverty by ensuring a social minimum for living, for example by supporting living and health-related expenses; and removing the current Fidesz constitution via referendum.
Thirdly, there is Jobbik. Initially born as a far-right, nationalist party, it has since 2014 redefined itself as a conservative people’s party to increase its pool of voters. It is now the largest anti-establishment party in the country. Jobbik is mainly concerned with fighting corruption and re-establishing the honour and prestige of politics. Their key electoral pledge involves emigration: the aim is to focus on the half million Hungarians who have left the country in the past few years. By tackling the root causes of this emigration – through educational, health, and job reforms – their aim to ensure that no Hungarian citizen has to leave the country to live well. Jobbik also plans on re-establishing independent border guards and the national defence, in order to ensure safety and security in the country.
LMP is a green-liberal party, focused on the environment and deliberative democracy. One issue which is central for them is the development of independent and autonomous functioning of all government institutions, including city councils, educational institutions and the police. The party is well-known for its fight against corruption, and has promised to make it impossible to evade taxes by any legal or semi-legal means. Moreover, it has proposed the establishment of an anti-corruption public prosecutors office and the reinstitution of the former rights of the Supreme Court, which have been curtailed under the current Fidesz administration.
Lastly, there is the Democratic Coalition, a social-liberal, centrist splinter of MSZP. It is the most pro-European party out of the main ones, actively campaigning for the United States of Europe. Some of their electoral pledges include making basic utilities such as gas and electricity completely free for everyone, raising the minimum wage and creating a European-wide welfare level, decentralising the educational system, as well as expanding key infrastructures in the country (e.g. subways and bridges) in order to reduce traffic.
It is also the only major party that campaigns for the removal of voting rights for Hungarian citizens who have never lived in Hungary. The current legislation on dual citizenship, which was created under the Fidesz government, allows for people who were born and live outside of Hungary, but who are of Hungarian descent, to vote in national elections.
Fidesz has about as much support as all the other parties combined, gathering around 50% of approval in opinion polls. Jobbik and MSZP lag far behind, with respectively 15% and 11% of the preferences. LMP and the Democratic Coalition have both settled around 8%, while all other parties will probably not pass the 5% threshold to get into Parliament.
While Orbán is still set for an easy victory, a series of spying allegations, fake news, leaks, counterleaks and corruption scandals which have involved his party and him in particular have all contributed to dampening his support in favour of Jobbik. This all has the potential of stopping Fidesz from regaining its two thirds supermajority, making it harder for them to pass reforms so easily.