Lessons From the Hungarian Opposition Primaries

It was in December 2020 when six Hungarian opposition parties announced that they will join forces for the 2022 parliamentary elections to end the era of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his national conservative Fidesz party, who have been in power since 2010 and whom they accuse of dismantling of the rule of law, political favouritism in the Hungarian public procurement system and scapegoating of migrants and LGBTIQ persons.

The united opposition – centre-left’s Democratic Coalition (DK), the far-right-turned-conservative Jobbik, the liberal Momentum Movement, socialist MSZP and the green LMP and Párbeszéd – proceeded with holding an open primary election in which Hungarian voters could choose the joint candidate for prime minister and for each of the 106 single-member constituencies (the remaining 93 seats in the National Assembly of Hungary are derived from a list system).

After first round of voting, which took place from 18-28 September, DK won 32 single-member constituencies, Jobbik won 29, MSZP 18, Momentum 15, Párbeszéd 6 and LMP 4.  Another two candidates can be tied to of Everyone’s Hungary Movement of Péter Márki-Zay.

In the second round of voting, which took place between 10-16 October, the moderate conservative political newcomer Péter Márki-Zay was chosen as the opposition’s joint candidate for prime minister with 56.7% of the vote against his opponent, the DK’s candidate Klára Dobrev, who came in with 43.3%, according to the official final results.

Márki-Zay is to run against Orbán in April 2022 as the top candidate of six parties and represents the departure from the voter polarization between the right-wing Viktor Orbán and the DK’s leader and former socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány that has defined the last two decades of Hungarian political discourse.

The primaries have brought forward noticeable voter participation with around 850,000 people casting their vote both on and offline. The six ideologically extremely different parties, still have to hold out and maintain unity until April 2022 and beyond. Opinion polls show Orban’s Fidesz party and the opposition alliance running neck-and-neck.

We asked Andrea Virág, Director of strategy at Republikon Institute, what lessons can be drawn from the Hungarian opposition primaries, what kind of politics Péter Márki-Zay represents and what the challenges facing the united opposition and the ruling Fidesz-KNDP coalition are in the period up to 2022 parliamentary elections.

Toni Skoric
Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom