The most significant political trends of the last six months in Hungary


GERDA MEGYERY
Research Fellow


In the April parliamentary elections, the governing Fidesz-KDNP coalition cemented its leading position by winning a third consecutive two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. By preserving its overwhelming political support, the government has created an opportunity to continue virtually unopposed. We can now take a look at several trends identifiable in politics over the last six months.

 

1. FOREIGN POLICY OFFENSIVE

 

In terms of foreign policy, the last half year has been the most intensive period in Hungary since the end of Communism. In the last few months, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has met with all of the world’s most important political leaders. After the elections, the head of government’s first foreign trip took him to Poland, he then met with the German Chancellor, the Chinese and Israeli prime ministers and the Russian and Turkish presidents. He has also spoken to the American President by telephone and exchanged a few words with him in person at the NATO summit. These endeavors have helped the strategy change in foreign policy which began in 2010 to reach maturity and begin producing results. In its first few years, the foreign policy offensive of the Hungarian government was dominated by conflict: in the 2010-2015 period, the government had to establish the conditions for a sovereign Hungarian foreign policy in the face of incredibly strong international opposition. The diplomatic offensive of the last few months, however, are a sign that Hungary is a point of reference in European politics in 2018. More and more governments are aligning themselves with the Hungarian position – be it regarding immigration, the sovereignty of nation states or the Hungarian model of a work-based economy.

 

2. GOVERNMENT SHAKE-UP

 

Following the April elections, after eight years in power the structure of the government underwent significant transformation. As well as changes in personnel, adjustments were also made to the structure of the ministries, with two main changes worthy of note. The first is that instead of politicians, the most important posts have been filled by policy experts. After creating stable economic and financial conditions, the government also now has the opportunity to focus on new areas. These include issues of competitiveness, innovation – a new ministry, the Ministry for Innovation and Technology has been created – and demographics.

 

3. COLLAPSE OF THE OPPOSITION

 

In the months following parliamentary elections, it is typical for the parties who end up – or remain – in opposition to lose support, while the support of the governing parties tends to increase. However, the scale of the collapse of the Hungarian opposition parties in recent months is almost without precedent. On the night of the elections, almost every single opposition party leader tendered their resignation, while the parties themselves have shown no sign of making an impression in political discourse. The greatest fall has been suffered by the party which had the best chance of instigating change, Jobbik. When the leader of the party, Gábor Vona, resigned from office, he left Jobbik in a grave state. Under Vona’s leadership the party had seen several hundred million forints get mixed up in prohibited party funding, while Jobbik’s brightest and most popular politicians have left the party. The leavers founded their own movement (Mi Hazánk Mozgalom, or Our Home Movement), before creating the Mozgalom (Movement) Party two months later. The left-wing liberal opposition parties have been faced with similar problems. The leadership of Együtt also resigned after electoral failure and the party was then dissolved. MSZP’s share of the vote fell from 29 seats to 15 and the party continues to struggle with an ongoing crisis of direction and leadership. In August, the leader of LMP, Bernadett Szél, also resigned from her positions as co-Chairman and leader of the party.

 

4. MEDIA SHAKE-UP

 

The opposition media has also lost ground in parallel with the collapse of the opposition parties. The Jobbik-linked billionaire, Lajos Simicska, has withdrawn from his media interests.  Most of these have now folded, or in the case of previously pro-government media, returned to their original approach. The most compelling question on the Hungarian media market is what will become of the most popular online portal, index.hu and RTL Group.

The most important upcoming political issue is the European Parliamentary Election, which the governing parties expect to have long-lasting significance.