April 8, 2018
Result: Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party won 133 seats in Parliament, an absolute majority, while opposition party MSZP won 20 seats. Orban is now serving a fourth term with a majority allowing him to pursue further constitutional changes.
- Unicameral parliament in a unitary parliamentary republic; the National Assembly elects the Prime Minister (usually from largest party) and the President.
- A 2011 constitutional change (Hungary’s constitution has been changed or amended five times since 2010) halved the National Assembly to 199 seats; members are now elected for 4 years based on a mixed-member majoritarian system: 106 first-past-the-post (majority) members, and 93 members from party lists. This change strongly favors the ruling party.
- In 2014, the ruling party earned 44.5% of the vote, which guaranteed a majority of the seats (66.8% of them) without a majority of votes.
- Parties must pass a minimum 5% threshold vote on party lists to enter parliament (only concerning the 93 members elected this way).
- Current coalition: Fidesz and Christian Democratic People’s Party; Fidesz holds the Prime Minister and President positions.
- Establishment parties polling above the 5% threshold:
- Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP): center-left; social democracy; socially progressive; free market economy with more progressive taxation; pro-EU; anti-Russia; pro-NATO.
- Politics Can Be Different (LMP): green, centrist party; socially progressive; pro-labor policies and competitiveness through SMEs; pro-immigration but with revamped asylum and resettlement principles; pro-EU; anti-Russia; pro-NATO.
- Democratic Coalition (DK): center, “third-way”; breakaway faction of MSZP; socially progressive; neo-liberal economic policies; pro-EU; anti-Russia; pro-NATO.
- Extreme and populist parties:
- Fidesz: started as center-right but now far-right; populist, nationalist; socially conservative; seeks “ethnic homogeneity”; interventionist economic policies; anti-immigration; Euroskeptic; pro-Russia; pro-Chinese; pro-U.S.; pro-NATO.
- Jobbik: far-right but is attempting to tack toward the center; populist and nationalist; socially conservative; interventionist economic policies with emphasis on Hungarian companies; anti-immigration; Euroskeptic; previously very pro-Russian but now seeks a balance between Russia and NATO.
Impact on U.S. Interests
- NATO ally, contributing close to 100 troops to Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan; provided military equipment to the anti-ISIL coalition; hosts the Heavy Airlift Wing (Strategic Airlift Capacity) at Pápa Air Base;
- A NATO member since 1999 and EU member since 2004, Hungary was a Central European success story as it made its democratic transition and became a market economy; it has since backtracked on rule of law, anti-corruption and transparency measures, media, judicial freedoms and democratic standards as Prime Minister Viktor Orban creates an “illiberal democratic” Hungary;
- Hungary has been the most divisive voice related to migration within the EU, and has joined with Poland to prevent EU sanctions against either country for democratic backsliding.
Key Issues to Watch
- Fidesz continues to be very popular, particularly in rural areas, due to the party’s media dominance and a fractured opposition. Its policy positions have become more extreme against migration advocates and civil society organizations while fueling anti-Semitic sentiment. Yet despite being in power for 8 years, Fidesz is not invincible: it recently lost an election in a political stronghold against a unified opposition candidate.
- The left in Hungary remains extremely fragmented and disjointed, making this election a fight between two far-right parties.
- As Fidesz moves farther to the right, Jobbik has attempted to claim the center-right ground by distancing itself from its most extreme views to defeat Fidesz. This shift is likely an electoral stunt to increase votes rather than a political change of heart.
- A recent controversy promoted by Fidesz suggests that Hungarian NGOs have been colluding with foreign interests to destabilize Hungary, supporting the government’s policies of preventing these NGOs from working in Hungary.
- Prime Minister Orban’s most significant political rival is his former supporter and oligarch, Lajos Simicska, who now supports Fidesz’s main challenger, Jobbik. He has used his media ownership to attack Orban and accuse Fidesz of money laundering and corruption.
- Because Orban has substantially weakened civil society and silenced dissident voices, the question of voter turnout is unclear: some estimate that one-third of the population is undecided, which could make final results volatile.
Data Source: Nezopont