The Hungarian people have gone to the polls for the sixth time since the 1990 shift from communism to democracy. I mean capitalism. You know what I mean.
The Hungarian Socialist Party has been wiped out, gaining just 19.3% of the vote after many revelations of corruption and economic mismanagement, and the admission by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany — secretly recorded and then broadcast on Hungarian radio — that he and his party had grossly misled voters about the state of the public finances.
The centre-right Fidesz has had an easy (and widely predicted) victory on a platform of economic growth, taking 52.8% of the vote. Actually, they were so confident in the lead-up to the election that they barely even bothered campaigning, preferring to let the protest vote sweep them to victory rather than letting actual issues alienate any of their newly broadened constituency.
New Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, of Fidesz, probably wrote his victory speech months ago. But the real news is the emergence of two new players in Hungarian politics: one from the radical right and the other a sapling green party.
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At the last election in 2006, the radical right-wing party Jobbik did not reach the 5% threshold for representation in Hungarian parliament, but it seems that their anti-Semitic, anti-Roma, and rabidly nationalistic campaign messages have struck a chord with many Hungarians who are mired in recession and sick of the ineptitudes and corruptions of government. Jobbik is now a major player with 16.7% of the vote.
In brighter news, Hungary has its first green party — the LMP — who entered the political scene one year ago and jumped on the web 2.0 bandwagon to secure support among young voters and campaign finance from small donations. LMP has surpassed all expectations to gain 7.4% of the vote.
Many Hungarians that I spoke to believed that they faced an impossible decision in this election. The socialists have utterly disgraced and discredited themselves, but many people feel that corruption is standard operating procedure in Hungarian politics, and that Fidesz will probably be just as crooked in government. The central policies advanced by the radical Jobbik are incompatible with the principles of the European Union, and the green LMP are not yet a viable alternative since they do not have the experience (let alone the support) to govern.
The best parties (political and festive) steer clear of disillusionment, cynicism and despair. And the best party in Budapest tonight was the party for the LMP campaigners in Budapest’s 6th District. The name of their political party, Lehet Más a Politika, expresses the hope that politics can be different.