From the first round it looked as if Hungary’s
parliamentary election would be close, but the second round, held on
Sunday, turned out not to be particularly close at all. The Social
Democrat-Liberal coalition of prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was
returned with 54.4% of the vote and 210 seats against 175 for the two conservative opposition parties (although Wikipedia says 209 to 176), substantially unchanged from the last election in 2002.

This is a rare thing in central and eastern Europe.
Having for so long had governments that they were unable to change,
since 1989 the people of the former Soviet satellites have changed them
at almost every opportunity. This is the first Hungarian government to
win re-election.

Now there’s nothing wrong with changing government – I was brought
up on H L Mencken’s rule that you should always vote for the
opposition – but
the ability to at least occasionally avoid doing it is a sign of
political maturity, so the re-election of Gyurcsany can be seen
as a good thing regardless of his policy issues.

As it happens, his government has been a mixed bag
in policy terms: it has run significant budget deficits and is failing
to meet the criteria required for early adoption of the euro. But it
has continued to give verbal allegiance, at least, to economic
liberalism, modernisation and European integration: values that the
opposition FIDESz had threatened to turn Hungary away from.

More interestingly for foreign audiences, the result
further cements the alliance between social democrats and liberals: a
phenomenon that is no longer unusual in Europe, but still raises
eyebrows in Australia – as the fate of Mark Latham reminded us.

Peter Fray

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