Right gets back in Hungary

I said on Friday that the only real uncertainty about yesterday’s Hungarian election was whether the government would lose its two-thirds majority in parliament. And indeed that turned out to be very close; there will probably be recounts, but for now it looks as if the centre-right Fidesz party of prime minister Viktor Orbán has just cleared the two-thirds mark, with 133 seats out of 199.

Fidesz finished with 44.5%, down 8.2% on its 2010 result. The centre-left coalition, Unity, has 26.0%, up 7.7% from the Socialist Party’s total last time. The far-right Jobbik is up 3.9% to 20.5%, and the Greens have held just above the threshold at 5.3%, down 2.2%. No-one else was anywhere near 5%; the Communists were next with 0.6%. (There is also a provision by which ethnic minority parties can compete for a reduced threshold, but none of them appear to have made even that.) Turnout was down slightly, to 61.3%.

So if Hungary had a fully proportional system, Fidesz would have lost its majority. The other three parties had a clear majority of the vote (51.8%) between them, so they should have won a majority of seats – although the chance of them being able to agree to put together a government would have been negligible.

But although there are 93 proportionally-allocated seats (on a D’Hondt system), they mostly just supplement the 106 constituency seats rather than correct for their lack of proportionality. And the constituency seats went overwhelmingly to Fidesz: it won 96 to Unity’s ten. Unity will therefore have a total of 38 seats, Jobbik 23 and the Greens five. You can see all the official results here, although be warned that Hungarian is a deeply impenetrable language.

Two constituency seats were in doubt until very late in the count. In Budapest’s 15th district, Fidesz led Unity by just 22 votes. And in Miskolc’s second district there was almost a three-way tie, although in the end Unity pulled away to win by 360 votes from Fidesz, with Jobbik another 110 behind. If the opposition had managed to win both, it would have deprived Orbán of his two-thirds majority.

Expect plenty of recriminations now about how fair the election was, how the opposition could have done better and the appeal of euroscepticism in central Europe. Certainly Orbán’s government has some very disagreeable features. But if anything it’s probably a sign of Hungary’s political maturity that voters are reluctant to chuck out a first term government, particularly when the other side was universally seen to have made a mess of things last time. Encouragement there for Tony Abbott, who has a similarly controversial sort of profile.

There will also be plenty of hand-wringing about the rise of the far right. According to the BBC, the various components of Unity will sit separately in parliament, making Jobbik the largest opposition party. It’s reported to have toned down some of its violent and anti-Semitic rhetoric in order to appeal to mainstream voters, but it remains probably the most successful European party located quite so far down the fascist road.

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