Hungarian politics have been mostly one-sided ever since Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party assumed control of the parliament. However, a new force has been rising and gaining increasing momentum in Hungary’s political landscape.
The Momentum mozgalom (‘Momentum movement’ in English), is a rather new political force in Hungary. Touting itself as the party of the first free Hungarian generation, Momentum seeks to strengthen its foothold and attract young voters who were born after the fall of communism or were too young to remember the years prior to 1989.
A new force that could reshuffle the cards of Hungarian politics
Founded in 2015, Momentum stands out as one of the most dynamic and vocal opponents to the Hungarian political regime (specifically the anti-democratic tendencies of PM Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party) and current status quo, appealing to the country’s youth – but not only – with the message that there is still hope to dare dream for a better future despite Hungary’s gloomy and saddening political climate. As a young and grassroots movement of the 21st century, Momentum challenges the current populist and ideologically divided spectrum of policy-making, stressing that common goals rather than ideological differences should be the ones binding Hungarians together as a nation.
“The time has come for those from Kazincbarcika, from Budapest, and from London, the right- and the left-leaning, the Christian and the atheist, the poor and the rich, the young and the old, to recognize our shared national fate, because we have a task.” Momentum leader András Fekete-Győr said. “Let’s set aside our animosities, because we’re all patriots, because we’re all valuable constituents of Hungarian nationality, and our task is no less than this: building an entrepreneurial, cohesive and modern nation in the Europe of the 21st century”.
The party won great publicity after opposing Hungary’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, citing concern for the economy and costs associated with holding such an event. Budapest’s bid was eventually withdrawn due to public outcry, and Momentum gained traction.
Challenging the current predicament
Momentum represents a breath of fresh air in Hungary, especially for the younger generations. For many of its supporters, tired of and deeply disappointed with their political elite and representatives, the current parties represented in Parliament aren’t progressive, don’t challenge the status quo and remain for the most part relics of the past, unable to work for a better present and brighter future. Furthermore, the current opposition has been unable to form a strong and common block against the ruling party Fidesz, dashing hopes of any change, as the most recent national and European elections have shown.
Populists, whether conservatives, nationalists or conservative socialists are all the rage these days in Central Europe, with Visegrad Group countries largely dominated by opportunistic movements whose policies and rhetoric are more based on blatant electioneering that on a set of beliefs, values, ideas and policies. Hungary’s ruling Fidesz is one of them, combining its worst aspects and creating a potent, anti-democratic and authoritarian concoction.
Contrary to other Central European countries (Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic) where the rule of law and the system of checks-and-balances are still able to put up a strong fight against their respective leaders’ attacks on democratic values, Hungary appears to be struggling to break out from its prison cell.
Establishing a healthy opposition is a must in any democracy. Paradoxically, Fidesz used to represent such a salutary opposition party to the MSZP (Socialists) in power, criticising the reckless spending, policies and corruption of the ruling party. This is the reason why Fidesz jumped in the polls, promising the correct long-standing problems within Hungary’s political system and economy.
Fidesz’s rise to power was a pyrrhic moment for the country, as its democracy and freedoms are now in danger too. One might say it went out of the frying pan, into the fire. Momentum is now in a similar situation, one of the main driving forces, as shown by the prominent role they played in the anti-government protests earlier this year, of an alternative to the current ruling party and political status quo established by Fidesz’s growing concentration of power and the opposition’s inability to rise up to the challenge.
Time is a flat circle
The situation in 2019 presents a number of similarities. Although the economy is booming like none other in Europe, Hungary is walking on thin ice and remains extremely vulnerable to any abrupt downturn or external choc. The government, meanwhile, is ruled by a party that disregards all the basic rules of democracy and tries to silent all dissent. And it’s only getting worse. The solution to the current ills of the Hungarian state is definitely a shake-up of the status quo established after 2010. It is time for the younger generation to show that they are ready to rise up to the challenge, be responsible citizens, take matters into their own hands and take up the mantle to set the path for Hungary’s future.
Momentum is trying to be the voice of the new generation. Challenging the status quo is important. So is the need to remind the young that they do have a right to vote and finally have someone to represent the younger their aspirations, spearheading and promoting ideas to bring Hungary closer to Europe, giving new opportunities to the current generation, relocating EU funds to places where they are desperately needed (education, healthcare, etc.), among many other pressing issues.
The fundamental idea and one of the underlying goals of Momentum is to build a Hungary that would appeal to the young, a place where the Hungarian youth could imagine spending their lives, thus addressing the brain drain problem the country shares with other Central and Eastern European countries.
But that’s not all. Momentum also seeks to bring the EU closer to its citizens, highlighting the need for a closer relationship between Europeans and their representatives in the European Parliament, as the (geographical, mental, ideological) distance between Budapest and Brussels is one of the reasons why Orban can be so outspoken against the EU – and get away with it.
Momentum has won two seats in the European Parliament this year, hailed as an important success and milestone for this young party. Current predictions for the 2022 parliamentary elections in Hungary aren’t too promising, but many things can change until then. As time is said to be a flat circle, and history allegedly repeats itself, the hopeful young generation of Hungary is hoping to achieve a result similar to 1989… If their current momentum continues, those dreams might very well become reality.
Written by Mark Szabo
An international relations and European politics student at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, Márk grew up in a bi-cultural Slovak-Hungarian family, stoking his interest in Central European politics and cross-national relations. A former intern at the Bratislava-based Globsec Institute, Márk aims for a career in diplomacy. He joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. To check out his latest articles, it’s right here!