Hungary: The Neoliberal Parliamentary Opposition’s Alliance With the Far Right Has Failed

The Chairperson of the Workers’ Party of Hungary 2006 and member of the Secretariat of the Party of the European Left, Attila Vajnai, provides a left viewpoint on the Hungarian parliamentary election.

According to preliminary results, Fidesz won the elections with 53% of the list, giving it another two-thirds majority in parliament.

The Hungarian electoral system, modified for the benefit of Fidesz, is a mixed system of list and single-member districts. 106 members of parliament are elected from single-member constituencies and 93 from party lists. Only those parties that stand as individual candidates in at least 71 of the 106 individual constituencies are allowed to put forward a list. Only those who collect 500 valid signatures, which is approximately 1% of the eligible voters, can stand as an individual candidate. The threshold is 5 percent.

Parallel to the election, a referendum was held on "child protection" – a euphemism for the ban of any portrayal of LGBT people in materials meant for children. The referendum did not reach the required 50% of valid votes.

In 2010, under the former electoral rules, the right-wing/far-right Fidesz-KDNP (Christian Democratic People’s Party) coalition took power with a two-thirds majority. The main reason for this overwhelming victory was the crisis of legitimacy caused by the destruction of the previous neoliberal government, both ideologically and economically, which had actually been in power. Fidesz promised a clean-up and very quickly established an authoritarian, protectionist regime in place of the at least formal rule of law, without any opposition. This system – called by them a “system of national cooperation” – has fully served the needs of multinational capital, while supporting and strengthening the domestic big bourgeoisie, turning Hungary into a tax haven. Its formal ideology corresponds to that of the fascist-clerical regime of the inter-war period, and it has gained a broad social base for this ideology. In the past 12 years, the government has held all parts of administrative and economic power, including the media system. And it has reshaped the electoral system to its advantage.

The civil democratic opposition has embedded itself into this system, with no significant activity either in or outside parliament. In all but a few hundred of the 3,200 municipalities, the parliamentary opposition is either absent or only formally present. It has lost credibility to such an extent that the last election in 2018 was not only won by Fidesz, but the ‘strongest’ opposition to Fidesz, ideologically in fact its ally, the far-right Jobbik party, became the largest opposition faction.

The civil democratic opposition, claiming that Jobbik has democratised, has made a joint pact with the party that goes far beyond the electoral alliance, but also contained a common programme. In order to legalise this pact, in 2021 it held a primary election in which essentially only people from the six parties in the coalition were allowed to participate, and even before the primary election was held, there was already a competition to see which party could cooperate better with Jobbik. In the second round of the primaries, when a candidate for prime minister could be chosen, this pact became so frayed that the candidate of the party that called itself socialist withdrew in favour of a candidate linked to Jobbik. The alliance, then called United Opposition (or United for Hungary, composed of eight different parties, from the Greens and the social democrats to Jobbik), became a clear centre/right-wing formation, with an economic programme identical to Fidesz on important issues and an ideology that was a primitive version of Euro-Atlantic anti-communism and the equation of communism and Nazism.

The United Opposition has essentially abandoned representation for the massively disadvantaged, the extreme poor and the Roma, and since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war has been uncritically russophobic. For months, instead of agenda-setting and convincing people, they have been agonising over the allocation of possible future parliamentary seats. Fidesz, on the other hand, projected a sense of calm strength and security, and as it turned out, this was enough to keep it in power. This was helped by a large-scale sprinkling of money on pensioners, families, and young people.

The current system is also economically unsustainable. Severe austerity measures are foreseen, against which resistance must be organised. The struggles of workers, pensioners, students, women, minorities, the sick and all the oppressed will not be fought in parliament, but in the streets, in the factories, in the trade unions, in strikes, in the offices and in the courts.

We are certain that Fidesz will be unable to continue governing in a stable way by economic and social means, and will therefore seek to maintain its power by moving towards an Erdoğan-type dictatorship. In contrast, only left-wing politics offers an opportunity. The task is to unite and strengthen the left, which is critical of the system.