In Hungary, the EP elections campaign started with a bang at the end of February, when the center-right MDF (one of the three smaller parties in parliament) drafted The Moustache of Reform (Lajos Bokros) to lead its list. With that, abandoning the more statist and protectionist economic traditions of the local conservatives for a crass neoliberalism exceeding that of the local liberals.
Consequently, MDF's posters were out already in March. The one below (taken from a review similar to mine by Vastagbőr) shows party leader Ibolya Dávid, flanked by the No. 1 and No. 2 on the MDF list, Bokros and György Habsburg (yes, of the royal house; he lives and works as media consultant and Red Cross head in Hungary):
FOR THE COUNTRY.
WE KNOW SOMETHING BETTER.
['Better' in Hungarian: homonym for 'Right']
The first two lines were in perfect concert with the idea behind the party's re-invention of itself: an EU-compatible non-populist party that is honest about the difficult changes that have to be done (khm khm...), in contrast with the two fudging and corrupt big parties. The patriotic finish is a little less coherent... aren't they contesting the European elections?...
But, the first two lines turned out more of a problem for them... for, a number of party members -- including MDF's sitting MEP -- protested the leadership's sudden drafting of Bokros by leaving, and the party's parliament faction dissolved.
A new selection of posters appeared this past week. The most notable puts Bokros at center, and the main slogan means "More with brains!" (first part of the Hungarian version of "Brains over Brawn"). Well... no comment.
Shortly after MDF, the liberal SzDSz began its campaign, too. Last year, after much hassle, this party chose a new leader, who sought to thematise non-economic liberal values again, to get back voters lost during his predecessors' exclusive focus on neoliberalism. This was reflected strongly in the first posters, which asked for 200,001 voters who think that:
- A joint is not an issue for the police guardroom,
- Skin colour doesn't make you a better man,
- Gays are members of society with equal rights,
- Equal pay for the same job [e.g. no gender difference],
- God is not right- or left-wing.
All nice things, and a clean values-based/ideological campaign, what's not to like about it, you'd ask? (Except for them, too, nationalising the EP campaign with "Hungary needs liberals".) Well, like for MDF, the message doesn't rhyme with actions.
On one hand, the list leader -- in all likelihood, the only one with a chance to get in -- is a foreign policy expert who doesn't much embody the message. Meanwhile, a female MEP of Roma descent was first relegated to 4th place, then said no thanks and was off the list altogether.
On the other hand, in the domestic political turmoil at the end of March, SzDSz again got to thematise the same old same old neoliberalism.
That turmoil was a government change: the head of a Socialist minority government, PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, resigned; and was succeeded by his economic minister Gordon Bajnai, a non-party-member neolib yuppie from the financial sector, who set out to conduct an austerity programme with a faux 'expert government'.
For weeks before the new government was approved, the possibility of snap elections was in the air. I guess that's why for a couple of weeks, the EP election campaign was practically suspended: parties had to maintain a budget for the Real Deal, and must have considered possible changes in the message.
Like MDF, SzDSz returned to the streets recently with a new EP campaign. This time, the focus is almost exclusively on bringing out the liberal vote with the fear of the far-right.
|WHO WILL BE THE THIRD FORCE?|
Who shall decide about laws?
free democrats | Árpád-stripes guys
[The red/white Árpád-stripes flag is one used by the far-right]
But, IMHO, the new campaign material, especially the TV spots, are very bad work. (Also see my seed comment.) And with the newest slogan now asking voters to
and European future of
...one wonders who exactly the 2,000,000 (20% of Hungary's population) they mean are, and why they declare the threatened population/liberals/themselves a minority on the onset...
Speaking of the far-right: polls presently indicate that of all the small parties, it is just the far-right Jobbik that has the highest chance of passing the 5% barrier (and become the Third Force instead of SzDSz, or MDF). They started campaign in March, too; albeit with only stickers and lamppost posters: the giant posters appeared on billboards only last week.
Jobbik's poster features the list leader in a heroic pose, flanked by party leader Gábor Vona and the EP list No. 2. The election slogan is an even more threatening variation on "Britain for the British!" resp. "Deutschland den Deutschen!":
|THE NEW POWER | Hungary belongs to Hungarians!|
With anyone else in the country being what, a squatter or robber?
Of the two large parties, it was right-populist Fidesz (running jointly with the Christian Democrat KDNP, a potemkin party Fidesz uses to get more speakers' time and commission seats in parliament) that put up posters first, increasing their amount week by week.
Fidesz presently leads polls sky-high, so all they'd have to worry about is turnout. Consequently, they came out with something unprecedented: campaign posters completely devoid of any political message or even self-advertisement. It's just two words:
|ENOUGH! | VOTE!|
'Enough!' as in, presumably, enough of the Socialists running the national government. Add to that the Republican-style attack ad on TV, showing PM Gyurcsány morphing into PM Bajnai, with texts like "Lies" flashing over a black background. Again, someone remind them what we are electing here?...
It's not that Fidesz politicians don't run on any themes. They run on healing all the ills of the economy and the welfare state with tax cuts. Of all the new government's proposed measures, they have chosen to oppose a real estate tax on homes more expensive than 30 million Forints (now slightly over 100,000)...
The Socialists (MSzP) chose early on to run with three women heading the list. You can read this two ways: either as being bold, or -- as none of the three are heavyweights in the party -- as ambitious men (and women) looking in other directions for advancement/escape.
As for campaigning: they started just a week ago. All the posters bear slogans in the style of fifties shop window billboards -- I couldn't yet figure out a rationale behind that. The messages are diverse, from dissing the far-right and the right through posturing about mastering the crisis (again, what are these elections for?...) to solidarity and equality -- and the general message is thus unfocused. The main slogan is trying to suggest a renewal that aint' there:
The Socialists are also shamelessly using the government's prerogative to run campaigns for EU-funded programs. No, it is just pure coincidence that they are praising successes 2 weeks before the EP elections, really!...
I saw exactly one poster of the likely receivers of my vote, the new Green formation LMP (acronym for the "Another Politics is Possible" -- an annoying play on the altermondialist motto), which runs in alliance with the Humanist Party. I saw this one:
|Do you feel|
that s/he deserves better?
Another politics is possible!
Well, this poster is... just childish. From this, you can't even guess that they have a long election programme that is actually EUrope-focused, unlike those of the others (well, apart from Jobbik which wants to destroy it).
(My -- in all likelihood wasted -- vote for LMP would primarily be about showing colours.)
As for other parties running: two others managed to collect enough signatures to run, but I saw no posters from either. These are:
- Munkáspárt (Workers' Party), the retro-communists;
- MCF, a Roma party in a new temporary alliance with some associations. (Note added as update: Roma political organisations are very disunited; one at loggerheads with MCF is a Fidesz vassal and has a MEP who, as Fidesz list No. 7, will in all likelihood be re-elected.)
All in all: a thoroughly phony campaign.