Sun Oct 1st, 2006 at 06:49:14 AM EST
Today (Sunday) in Europe, while Austria elects a parliament, there are local elections in Hungary. The right-populist opposition party Fidesz calls it the "third round of this year's elections", hoping that in the wake of last two week's troubles, a big loss for the Socialists and liberals in the cities and villages could bring down the government.
The most coveted prize is that of the mayor of the capital Budapest, a post won in all previous free elections by Gábor Demszky, of the (now neo-)liberal SzDSz party. After much gnashing of teeth on part of the Socialists (MSzP), he is now again the joint candidate of MSzP and SzDSz.
To make the choice wasn't a pleasure for me... which resulted in the situation described in the title. More below the fold.
Update [2006-10-2 8:9:13 by DoDo]: Now with results.
I moved away from Budapest recently, but I'm still registered to vote there. Budapest is a bit like London: the districts have their own mayors and assemblies, and these are stronger than the central Budapest counterparts. So I had four different votes.
In my district, the right to far-right parties (the latter is the anti-semitic MIÉP) are in an explicit coalition endorsing the same candidate for major, so my choice was easy: whoever is most likely to beat them. So I picked the Socialist candidate for both district mayor and local representative.
Not a choice out of love. For, the local 'soc-lib' party landscape is as follows:
- the last 'communist' "Council President" of the district and his patronage took over the local branch of the liberal and ex-dissident SzDSz(!);
- the current mayor of the district, elected a Socialist, got at loggerheads with another group within his party, and now runs as an independent,
- that another group, around the district's representative for Parliament, took over the local branch of MSzP and made her also their candidate for district mayor...
Now for mayor of Budapest. I have several issues with the current major, such as: he grew grey in the office, he is too much of a media politician, he moved out of Budapest into the agglomeration (though he also has an apartment in the city), he doesn't care enough about environmental issues and too much about cars. However, consider the most likely alternative, long-time district III mayor István Tarlós:
This guy made a name as a local strongman, a straight-talker, an advocate of law and order, and conservative values. That included attacks on youth culture, on issues like noise emissions from a concert or drugs. Also, just look at the expression on his face. All in all, a guy reminding of France's presidential hopeful Sarkozy.
Tarlós runs as an independent, but with the support of a wide spectrum of right-wing parties, most notably the main right-wing party Fidesz, and Jobbik, a far-right youth party that had a role in organising the recent anti-government protests that led to riots. Given that right-wing parties failed to win majority in every single election in Budapest (both local and national), Fidesz now chose to hide behind Tarlós's independence completely, meaning that there are no election posters in Budapest displaying Fidesz's emblem! E.g. Tarlós is Fidesz's stalking horse.
Of the also-ran, I will mention Kálmán Katona, candidate of the small Fidesz-independent centre-right party (and onetime dominant party of the first freely elected government...) MDF. (My diary The Laughing Fourth was about MDF's miraculous survival). I remember Katona from the 1998-2002 period, when he was in the Fidesz-MDF government, and would spew out the most blood-boiling incendiary rhetoric with a flashing smile.
However, MDF broke with Fidesz since then -- and Katona's election programme is simply the best. It is easily the most detailed and practical, and it is heavily focused on what would be green issues. (Even his election poster, which I couldn't find on-line: Katona on a bike.)
So what should DoDo do?...
I checked out some recent polls (one week old), and even the one closest to Fidesz showed these preferences for all voting-age Budapesters:
...and for certain voters (who promise to go voting):
So Tarlós looks like losing to Demszky even if participation is low, and first reports are that it will be high (higher than in 2002).
So this is what I did: no fear of Tarlós, so let's protest vote for the chanceless candidate with the best programme, Kálmán Katona. But I don't like those MDF faces actually sitting in the Budapest assembly, and it is no good for anyone if Demszky is mayor against a right-wing majority in the assembly, so a vote for the SzDSz list.
Polls close at 19h, I post first predictions then; meaningful results late night.
Update [2006-10-2 8:9:13 by DoDo]: So the results are:
- Participation: 53.12%, a new record (it grew every four years since the 33% in 1990), which partly reflects a right-wing mobilisation vs. 'left-wing' voter base demoralisation.
- Right-populist Fidesz won almost everywhere: 18 of the 20 regions (and a stalemate in the other two), almost all villages and small towns, most major cities.
- For mayor of the capital Budapest, Demszky won with 46.86%, Tarlós is just 1.66% behind, Katona got exactly 6%, and far-right MIÉP's candidate got a mere 1.4% (pollsters' expectations were up to 5%, who thought MIÉP voters are hiding their choice).
- Four parties (MSzP, SzDSz, MDF, Fidesz) made it into the Budapest assembly, with a left/right stalemate that translates into a hairthin Socialist-liberal majority with the mayor's vote.
- MSzP or SzDSz mayors still in the najority of the 23 districts, but in my former district, the right-wing got a narrow absolute majority... while in my new town of residence, the incumbent Socialist mayor won reelection by a mere 73 votes.
Quite some punishment. In the wake of (figurehead) President László Sólyom's speech, PM Ferenc "I lied!" Gyurcsány might call for a vote of confidence in Parliament.