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EU Election, Day 3: opposition faulters as Fidesz dominates yet another Hungarian Election

For nearly a decade the conservative Fidesz party (EPP) has dominated Hungarian politics. Led by Viktor Orban, the party has scored repeated massive electoral victories, including in the last two European elections, where the party won over 50% of the vote and an even larger share of Hungary’s seats in the European parliament. However, Orban has come under increasing scrutiny over the years for his political practices, bringing him into conflict with his partners at the European level and leaving questions about Fidesz’s place in the European People’s Party (EPP).

Fidesz won 12 seats out of Hungary’s 21 in the 2014 European election, and we project they will repeat the result, with some variation in their share of the popular vote. In 2014 Fidesz was second only to Malta’s Labour Party in its proportion of the national vote. With such a large and strong electoral base, it is incredibly unlikely that the party loses any seats, and if anything, it may win more than 12. Orban has campaigned extensively for this election, focusing on Hungarian sovereignty and fighting against the European establishment.

This has not helped his popularity in the EPP, where many think Orban’s party has no place anymore due to its drift to the right in recent years. Orban withdrew his support of the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber, accusing him of not being conservative enough for the EPP. This after a government-sponsored billboard campaign in Hungary attacking the EPP’s most senior member, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Earlier this year, the EPP suspended Fidesz’s membership in the EPP, but did not actually expel the party, and Orban has not expressed any will to leave it.

Nonetheless, the crisis has left Fidesz’s popularity unaffected and does not seem to have changed much else in the election. Remarkably, we project the result in this election to be nearly exactly the same as in the last one. The far-right party Jobbik (NI) will likely get 3 seats, as long as it does not lose ground to Fidesz. As Fidesz has drifted to the right in recent years Jobbik has seen its electoral growth stunted, unable to capitalize on issues such as migration and sovereignty when Orban has already taken such a strong stance.

While Orban does enjoy broad support, his policies have been met with significant opposition from urban voters, which has materialized in several huge protests in the capital Budapest, one of the only remaining parts of the country where Fidesz does not win most of the vote. But the opposition is fragmented and simply not popular enough to offset Fidesz’s popularity. The Hungarian Socialist Party (S&D) is projected to win the same 2 seats it won in 2014, though there is a good chance they pick up one more. This depends on whether or not smaller parties are able to make it past the 5% threshold.

We expect the green party LMP (Greens/EFA) to just make it past the threshold and pick up one MEP, as they did in 2014, while the new liberal party Momentum (ALDE) should also enter the EU parliament with one MEP. The social-liberal Democratic Coalition (S&D) is also expected to repeat its 2014 result and retain its 2 MEPs.

Fidesz’s strong presence at the top of Hungarian politics makes the possibility of any major surprises basically zero. If LMP or Momentum miss out on the electoral threshold – which is unlikely – the Socialist Party will gain an extra seat or two, which will not be a huge electoral upset on the European level. The one major shock that could happen is the victory of the Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (NI), which is a satirical party that managed to get close to 2% of the vote in the last Hungarian legislative election. We give them a 16% chance of winning one seat, which admittedly isn’t a huge chance, but if it did occur would bring a satirical party into the European parliament.

(Edited by Euan Healey)