The ruling Fidesz party is likely to win the general election in 2014, but the opposition could increase its chances by enhancing cooperation, political analysts said on Wednesday.
Zoltán Lakner, political advisor to the opposition Socialists, told a conference organised by the Republikon Institute that the number of voters who rejected the opposition party had diminished and the Socialists have bounced back since their low point in 2010. But they have failed to secure a breakthrough, despite the fact that the party managed to survive the exit of former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany without any real losses.
Support for the Socialists is still strongest among pensioners and in Budapest, but the party has failed to gain advantage over Fidesz even in these preferential groups. Its efforts to woo young voters has been rather deficient, and it must compete with radical nationalist Jobbik, too, Lakner said. He attributed the Socialists’ popularity loss to the fact that the party has no real strategy to address social problems.
Lakner said the Együtt 2014 (E14) grouping led by Gordon Bajnai is both a potential ally and a rival to the Socialists. From the point of view of nominating a [joint] prime minister candidate, it is important to see how power patterns change. Potential rivalry between the E14 and the Socialists could hurt the alliance and confuse voters, so the two groups must agree on the main lines of cooperation as soon as possible, he said.
Ágoston Mráz, head of the Nézőpont Institute, said the ruling Fidesz party could claim success in sustaining a major lead in the polls and batting off any real pretenders in the race after three years in power and several conflicts.
Mráz said the number of people who want a change in government and those who want to keep Orbán’s government in power is about the same, but the Socialists and Jobbik must share the votes of those who want change. He added that in terms of popularity of a PM candidate, Orbán’s supporters outnumber even Fidesz voters. Citing data from Nézőpont, Mráz said Orbán is supported by 42 percent of the whole population sample while Bajnai has only 19 percent of support. He said that centralised, effective decision-making and a united front, despite internal disputes, had helped Fidesz. The opposition, at the same time, is divided and has a credibility and competence deficit, he added.
Kornélia Magyar, the head of the Progressive Institute, said E14 had failed to bring home its initial strategy of setting up an umbrella organisation, which soon left the opposition LMP and Socialists reluctant to join. She added that the alliance had “throttled” LMP, without overly hurting the Socialists. Since Fidesz is likely to capitalise on the utility bill cuts it has sponsored, the E14 and the Dialogue for Hungary (PM) alliance should come up with some good answers, she said. Magyar praised recent E14 communications comparing the prices of basic goods now and before the Orbán government, despite a cold reception by more educated voters.
Péter Krekó, analyst at Political Capital, said support for Jobbik is currently about level with 2010. It is popular among youth and two thirds of its supporters are men. While the general impression is that Jobbik appeals to poor people who suffered in the financial crisis, in reality it is above-average earners and more highly educated voters who supported it, he said. Based on attitude tests, most of Jobbik voters cannot be considered fascists or Nazis, he said, though they shared anti-Roma, anti-system and anti-Semitic views. Attracting more votes among similar thinkers will be hard, however, as Jobbik is especially hard hit by the new electoral system, Krekó said.