The Socialists and the governing coalitions won the Hungarian elections, even though the official results are still pending until 29 April. After the first round 110 seats were contested, in single-member constituencies and on the basis of votes redistributed on the national "reserve list". (Hungarians have two votes on the first round: for the regional party lists and for the single member constituencies. When a vote is cast for someone who does not make it to the parliament, the vote gets recycled into a national list. It is here on the basis of the number of votes the rest of the seats are allocated betweeen the parties that passed the five per cent threshold. This makes the situation complicated and the estimation and calculation of the election result time-consuming.)
COALITION CONTINUES: But who will be forming the next government. There has been discussion about SZDSZ wanting stay in opposition – bravery on the model of the MDF, since this could gain them an even better position in four years, which is what MDF has been counting on – and of MSZP taking the sole responsibility of the goverment even on the Socialist ranks. However, it is highly likely that the second Gyurcsányi government will include the SZDSZ. Even if the MSZP gained a simple majority of the seats, which is unlikely, for a strong enough government they need the SZDSZ MPs support. The leaders of both parties has been emphasising the role of the coalition.
FIDESZ LOST: Fidesz lost in a lot of its strongholds, from the countryside to the eastern city of Debrecen. Already early on in the evening Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán phoned his congratulations to Gyurcsányi. When he held his speech, there was in the beginning small confusion of who would get up to stand behind him on the stage. In his speech, he gave no indication of giving up the leadership of the party. He held onto the slogan of "work, home and family", and argued for a need for a new program for the opposition party that they had (yet again) become. So there is space for internal critique.
NEW DIRECTION(S)? Inevitably, heads will fall – but whose? Antall Rogan, the activist type campaign chief was unable to win in his constituency, and is a possible scapegoat. But who will step in? Interestingly on the election day we saw little of János Ader, one of Fidesz leaders, who was representing the party in the TV debates. Nevertheless, he really was not doing well in the last TV-debate, prepared to through in negative campaigning he was challenged to outline the party policies. (He threw in Hungarian rhetorical clichées, such as "Every one knows what our campaign is", to avoid addressing the contents of their election program.) Fidesz will be holding a fraction meeting on Thursday, and a mass gathering on 1 May – curious step from a 'right-wing' party accused of playing with Socialist time nostalgia…
BREAKING POLARISATION: Some reflection is inevitably needed. Between the two election rounds, the MDF leader Ibolya David retained her conviction that the party itself will not be supporting neither Orbán nor Gyurcsányi to stay in power. In some twenty constituencies, for political convictions and/or for pressure from the Fidesz people, the MDF supporters stepped down – a policy of the unity of the 'right-wing' Fidesz was calling for. Surprisingly perhaps, generally in the constituencies where the MDF candidate stepped down Fidesz lost, because the MDF supporters finally voted for the MSZP candidates. This is really something in a country which has been plagued by polarisation, and a supposedly 'uncrossable' political frontier.
MIDDLE CLASS: Before the first round the liberal left and the MDF with its leader Dávid insisted that Fidesz is not the liberal nor conservative its potential voters are. The second round demonstrated that particularly Dávid's point had gotten through. She insists the MDF is a new modernising conservative party of the middle classes. The SZDSZ is a party of the liberal middle class and intellectuals. What does this say about the Hungarian middle class? Or of the Hungarian parties? I believe the middle classes are still also voting for the large parties, which also try to cater for them while at least paying a lip service to those worse off. Still, roughly 42 per cent of the voters supported Fidesz. This is not insignificant. Perhaps it illustrates a need for a more left-wing politics? Perhaps it indicates an emerging consistency in people's voting patters?
HISTORICAL ELECTIONS: These elections were historical in post-1989 Hungary in keeping the same government in power. They are also indicative of some consistency in people's voting, but also of the role of political rhetoric regarding political ideals. When really represented a choice between four political and not simply 'cultural' alternatives, which came accross well in the party debates, people can take their stands.
MELANCHOLIA: One of the ways in which the choice was presented, though, was the Fidesz negative view of the situation and the positive image of the country and its potential by MSZP. These were present in the campaigning rhetoric throughout the election period. Finally, the Hungarians sided with the yes-camp – IGEN MSZP – and the view that even if we are doing really badly (the worst budget deficit in the EU, relative to the size of the population) we are a great country and can still make it. What does this tell us about the famous Hungarian melancholia? That it always has a silver lining, and can be only mobilized with a generally strong and positive self-image.