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How the Hungarian Opposition’s disastrous night unfolded

Fidesz won its greatest ever majority, while the Opposition only gained seats in Budapest. Far-right Mi Hazánk also got in Parliament.

Hungarians started voting on a snowy April morning on Sunday. The morning weather seemed to affect the turnout, but as the conditions improved, the numbers quickly caught up with the 2018 attendance numbers.

Before the polls opened, Opposition-leader Péter Márki-Zay had held a rather optimistic campaign finale on Saturday. Viktor Orbán on the other hand held his final rally on Friday, where he seemed unsure of himself, and especially about the prospect of the local Fidesz candidate in the crucial seat of Székesfehérvár.

By 11 pm on Sunday, it turned out both leaders, as well as most Hungarian pundits, were wrong.

A disastrous night for the opposition?

In the earliest hours of the counting, there were conflicting reports about the expectations at the United Opposition’s headquarters, given the final turnout. Once one of Péter Márki-Zay’s closest allies, Katalin Lukácsi gave a statement to journalists, though she did not say anything indicative, her facial expressions already foretold what was about to be a disastrous night for the opposition.

Results in small settlements started to trickle in first at around 9 pm, which were always going to favour Fidesz. But at that stage, Orbán’s party was leading so confidently already that it was clear that Fidesz would win. The question was: by how much?

That answer became clear by the early hours of Monday. The Opposition drastically underperformed even in major cities, which means that outside Budapest, they only managed to win in two constituencies, one in Pécs and one in Szeged. This is a worse result than 4 years ago as they lost a constituency in Dunaújváros as well.

The Opposition could only gain seats in Budapest. Two Momentum politicians won in Buda. Anna Orosz won comfortably in Újbuda and Miklós Hajnal won in the Buda Hills in a tight contest against Fidesz’ Budapest-strongman Balázs Fürjes. Párbeszéd’s Bence Tordai also beat Csaba Gór in the capital’s District 2. Szikra’s András Jámbor also comfortably overturned the 2018 results in Budapest’s Districts 8-9.

A campaign overshadowed by war in Ukraine?

The Opposition’s performance in the capital is still a disappointment, given that they were not able to win every constituency as they were predicted to. The results are still outstanding but as things stand, they won 16 out of 18 constituencies in the capital (though this could easily become 17 once votes cast in embassies are counted).

Nationally, Fidesz dominated the country, and they won in all constituencies even in Pest County, which is also a relative surprise and underlines how abysmally the Opposition performed. The reason for this performance will likely be analysed in the coming weeks and months, but Péter Márki-Zay’s provocative communication style was perhaps unsuited for a campaign that was overshadowed by a neighbouring war.

Another crucial aspect of this defeat is that the United Opposition was simply unable to attract Jobbik’s (former?) voters. Far-right Mi Hazánk got more than 6% of the votes which means they will also be part of the Hungarian parliament. Fidesz on the other hand got 3% more than they did last time, which means that roughly half of the Jobbik voters deserted Péter Jakab’s party. As things stand, Fidesz are likely to get 134 or 135 seats, the Opposition 56 or 57 seats, and Mi Hazánk 7 seats.

“Terrible times” ahead?

In Bálna, where Fidesz traditionally holds its post-election parties, Viktor Orbán seemed to be surprised by the extent of the victory but stated that “this victory was so big that it could be seen from the Moon, but definitely from Brussels.” He also stated that now Fidesz won in various different electoral contexts and stated that “the Hungarian left was George Soros’ worst investment.”

At the City Ice Rink in Budapest, Péter Márki-Zay accepted the result in the current system but disputed that the elections were fair. He called for young people not to leave the country and stated that the opposition would still stand up for anyone who the regime attacked.

It is telling of the state of the Opposition’s unity that, apart from Márki-Zay’s family, only Budapest-mayor Gergely Karácsony and Momentum-leader Anna Donáth stood behind him at the podium. In a deep sense of foreboding, Donáth said that “terrible times are coming” but reminded opposition voters that all regimes end one day. Karácsony closed the statements by labelling Budapest an island of freedom in Hungary.

“We must preserve what’s left of our country.” -he said.

By Ábel Bede

Ábel Bede was born in Budapest and has two degrees in History from Durham University. He specialised in Central Europan history and has been contributing to Kafkadesk since 2019. Feel free to check out more of his articles right here!

Coordinated by Ábel Bede, Kafkadesk's Budapest office is made up of a growing team of freelance journalists, editors and fact-checkers passionate about Hungarian affairs and dedicated to bringing you all the latest news, events and insights from Hungary.