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Campaign Watch Hungary: Hungarian Orange

by DoDo Thu Dec 29th, 2005 at 04:25:05 PM EST

From the front page ~ whataboutbob

This is not another adaptation of the Ukrainian Orange - it is earlier and homegrown. It was a joke in a film from 1969, which compelled the then liberal youth party, now big right-wing opposition party Fidesz to choose orange (both the fruit and the colour) as its symbol.

To find out what's up with the Orangemen, and what else is new in this campaign season started early (elections only in five-six months), or to seek out links to older posts to clear some confusion about Hungary's crazy politics: just dive below the fold.

A clever poster campaign
First a little explanation: Fidesz started out really progressive and youthful, but when the leading yuppie cabal around Viktor Orbán saw the collapse of the first main right-wing party, they thought Orbán will be PM only if they step into the vacated position on the political palette - and that's what they did, a complete turnaround to the right, and Orbán was PM in 1998-2002. Their rule was characterised by extreme arrogance and power-lust, and an absolutely reckless choice of means - they picked rhetoric and policies from the far left to the far right, assimilated most of the far right, and copied the worst campaign methods from US Republicans, Berlusconi, Bliar and Tudjman. They seduced a lot of people, and alienated just as many (especially here in the capital Budapest).

In this light, the poster campaign (and accompanied TV/film commercial campaign) they started a few weeks ago seems extremely clever. Nothing shiny, bombastic, triumphalist, or hostile. Instead,

  • pictures of some second line politicians, all in a humble and tame pose and smiling - as if saying, "see, we aren't that scary at all!";
  • simple white texts on the background of an orange ball - the apparently most frequent is: "There are errors we don't want to commit again." As if saying: We understood, this time, we'll do it differently!

But did this campaign work? First, anecdotal evidence: at a movie theather, when this commercial ran, a younger guy a few seats behind me just began to curse, "sodding scum... sodding scum..." But, here is some more representative evidence:

As reported earlier (see links at bottom), Fidesz led the polls for long, but the governing Socialists (who aren't any better than Fidesz) closed the gap between August and October this year for reasons beyond me. That in all four main polls. In November, there was a swing back, but this month, its near level again in three of four1.

As for smaller parties: the (now regrettably only neo-)liberal SzDSz, which is in coalition with the Socialists, seems at the 5% limit. MDF, the fourth party still in Parliament, which is the remains of the original right-wing party and is currently hostile to Fidesz, seems poised to fall below it. The dark horse is the resurgent far-right - old Fidesz-ravaged anti-semitic party MIÉP forged a coalition with a youth group which thought Fidesz is too timid because it won't start a revolution, but their 1-2% may be much higher due to the secretiveness of its sympathisants.

Let there be armed rebellion - against the majority!
What may have damaged the success of Fidesz's clever poster campaign is the contrast with the rhetoric of some party members. Take Imre Kerényi, a playwright who once didn't shy away from protesting against media censorship alongside liberals and socilists, is presently kind of a protest cheerleader for the 'civilian' groups formed around Fidesz.

A few days ago at a protest, he declared that Fidesz supporters, especially the youth, should form an army, and should the Socialists win the next elections, they have to start an armed rebellion!... Fidesz leaders are now saying that this was just flowery rhetoric (which it was, but a dangerous one), and won't disavow him or his words.

But Orbán himself also fires up supporters by declaring a now-or-never elections.

What you find in my older posts on Hungarian politics (oldest first):

  1. After a bizzarre press vs. politicians court case, an introducion of parties & history since 1989.
  2. The workings of non-issue-based politics: the tragicomedic double referendum on barring hospital privatisations and giving neighbouring countries' ethnic Hungarians double citizenship.
  3. Bush and Hungary: why the nominal centre-left (now governing) is pro-Bush and the nominal centre-right opposition anti-Bush.
  4. Campaign season opens - half a year early.
  5. Further in the campaign, October polls and nonsensical rhetoric (how can you give preferential treatment to both the elites and the poor?)
  6. The juiciest of the many storm-in-the-bathtub scandals: Mata Hari in Budapest
  7. A foray into history (not much to do with recent Hungarian politics, but some further perspective for the debate on Turkey's accession to the EU).
  8. European Dream: where would Hungarians like to live?

  1. Equal in the closest-to-Fidesz poll, Socialists 1 percentage point ahead in the poll closest to them, Fidesz 3% ahead in the most neutral poll, and Gallup - also thought close to Fidesz - has a result very off, a gap widening to 15%.

Some dirt on the Socialists and some positive on conservatives in a commentary I'll post in the evening.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 07:00:11 AM EST
I'm back (from some Christmas visits all afternoon) - but sorry, I'm too tired now to do this tonight.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Dec 25th, 2005 at 03:51:48 PM EST
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