How it works
A parliamentary election was held in Hungary on 6 April 2014. It was the first election to follow the country's new constitution and electoral rules. For the first time since Hungary’s transition to democracy, the election had a single round and voters elected 199 MPs instead of 386 lawmakers previously. And, for the first time, transborder citizens who live in neighbouring countries also had the right to vote for Hungarian parties.
Viktor Orbán - Fidesz - 51 years old
Hungary’s Prime Minister and the president of the centre-right Fidesz party. The 51-year-old has been a member of the national parliament since 1990 and was previously Prime Minister between 1998 and 2002. He was also vice-president of the European People’s Party from 2002 to 2012. For his second period as Hungary’s leader, Orbán led his coalition to a two-thirds majority at the 2010 elections and took full advantage of this legislative power: his party was quick to pass many laws through parliament that cemented the government’s power. Immediately after forming his government he came into conflict with the European Commission, which rejected his attempts to raise the national budget deficit. In response Orbán’s government reduced the deficit with revenues from bank taxes, corporate taxes and with the income of private pension funds. The self-proclaimed “freedom fighter economic policy” helped his government keep the budget deficit below three percent each year.
However, populist measures such as forcing banks to reduce interest rates for personal loans and forcing energy companies to cut their prices have seen relations between the Hungarian government and the IMF deteriorate and Hungary’s credit rating has been cut to junk status by three ratings agencies. Besides economic policy Orbán has fallen out with several EU institutions over the introduction of a heavily-criticised media law, a new national constitution supported only by the ruling parties and the new Hungarian electoral law.
The majority of these conflicts with Brussels have been resolved during the last third of the government’s term; Orbán has successfully given in to some requests without appearing to make U-turns. The popularity of Fidesz has never been surpassed by the opposition parties and Orbán remains for many Hungarians one of the country’s most popular politicians and one who has kept most of his symbolic promises: Hungarian citizens living outside the country were awarded dual citizenship, the middle class profited from a flat-rate income tax with reductions for families, while consumer taxes such as VAT have been increased (Hungary’s VAT rate is the highest in Europe). The minimum wage went up, unemployment fell as a result of communal works. However the national debt has not decreased in spite of the nationalisation of the incomes of private pension funds.
Attila Mesterházy- MSZP - 40 years old
President of the MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party), prime ministerial candidate for the centre-left and liberal Összefogás coalition group, Mesterházy is 40 years old and an MP since 2002. In the Medgyessy and the Gyurcsány governments he was Secretary of State for youth policy until the 2006 elections. During the second Gyurcsány government he was deputy leader of his party’s parliamentary group. From April 2009, after the forming of the Bajnai government, he became leader of the MSZP parliamentary group. At the 2010 elections he was prime ministerial candidate of MSZP and has remained leader even after his party’s catastrophic defeat in that vote.
Mesterházy’s party has suffered a split during his four years as leader; former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and his followers founded a platform called Demokratikus Kolalíció within the MSZP, before leaving the party in October 2011 to found a new party, Demokratikus Koalíció. As a result, the MSZP’s group within parliament shrank, with Gyurcsány and nine of his associates joining the ranks of the independent MPs in parliament.
Mesterházy was nonetheless re-designated MSZP party president in 2012 and given the task of making a program and forming alliances. In the autumn of 2012 former prime minister Gordon Bajnai returned to the political forefront. He is considered by many in MSZP and its circles as a possible prime ministerial candidate. But Mesterházy beat off this challenge. After long negotiations, in January 2014 it was decided that MSZP, Együtt 2014, Demokratikus Koalíció and the Liberals would set up a common list that would have Mesterházy as prime ministerial candidate.
Gábor Vona- Jobbik - 35 years old
The leader of Jobbik and the party’s prime ministerial candidate is 35 years old. The far-right party achieved its first resounding success under his leadership at the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. In the middle of the financial crisis, Jobbik won three seats after gaining 14,77 percent of the vote. Jobbik founded the paramilitary organisation Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard) but it was dissolved by a court in the summer of 2009 only to be re-issued as the Új Magyar Gárda (New Hungarian Guards).
Jobbik’s anti-Semitic and anti-Roma rhetoric attracted a large number of votes at the 2010 parliamentary elections, mainly in the northeastern constituencies of Hungary. In the first round of the elections the party obtained 16,67 of the vote and Jobbik was able to form the third largest group in the National Assembly. At the first session of the new parliament, Gábor Vona arrived wearing the symbolic waistcoat of the banned Magyar Gárda.
The first cycle of the new parliamentary party was dogged by scandals and internal disputes. Besides the provocative marches of the Gárda, the party continued with its anti-Semitic agenda; one Jobbik MP spoke about the need to list Jewish members of parliament and government, and on several occasions party members have sought to downplay the scale of the Holocaust. For the radical wing of the party this was not enough and party in-fighting began. It emerged that one of the party’s strong men, Csanád Szegedi, had Jewish ancestry. The then-vice-president of the party was eventually expelled from the party. As the consequence of the unrest within Jobbik two more MPs were expelled from the parliamentary group while another quit. The three breakaway MPs later founded a party seen by many as more extremist than Jobbik.
As the factional party arguments receded Gábor Vona was able to stabilize his position and was elected prime ministerial candidate at the party’s congress in October 2013. Since then Jobbik has tried to lead a campaign based on positive messages, but some of its provocative actions have remained. Its program includes the promotion of chemical castration and the restoration of the capital punishment.
András Schiffer - LMP - 42 years old
Schiffer is co-president and leader of the LMP (green party) list. The LMP has not named a prime ministerial candidate because it says it is preparing for a role in opposition. Schiffer, one of the founders of the LMP, has been the leader of the party’s parliamentary group for most of the last four years. The 42-year-old lawyer has been in politics since 1989, as part of both left and right wing organisations. As a lawyer he has defended Fidesz leader Viktor Orbán and in 2005 led the campaign for the election of László Sólyom as President of the Republic.
In 2010, to general surprise, LMP won seats in parliament when its party list obtained more than seven percent of the vote. The party strove to attract attention with eye-catching stunts in the National Assembly and in the streets, campaigning mainly on an environmental and anti-corruption agenda. In the middle of the parliamentary cycle the party split after the reappearance of Gordon Bajnai. Bajnai planned to form an opposition coalition in alliance with the LMP but half of the party – under Schiffer’s leadership - did not accept this alliance with the former prime minister.
At the 2013 LMP convention, members rejected Bajnai by a narrow majority. Those LMP members who did support Bajnai – calling themselves the Párbeszéd Magyarországért platform - left the party and joined the independents. Lacking enough members, seven LMP MPs found themselves without a parliamentary group until a change in the electoral rules allowed Schiffer to become leader of an (albeit smaller) LMP parliamentary group once again. In the end the LMP joined neither a left nor a right wing alliance.
Ferenc Gyurcsány - Democratic Coalition , 52 years old
Gyurcsány is President of Demokratikus Koalíció and a former prime minister. Since the fall of communism he holds the record for the longest uninterrupted time served as prime minister (2004-2009), but his period in office is also the most controversial. After a candid speech in May 2006, given in private to party members and in which he appeared to admit lying but which was leaked to the public four months later, his popularity plummeted and he was forced to lead a minority government before he was finally forced to stand down in March 2009. In 2010 he became an MP despite only appearing in 4th place on the MSZP party list. After these elections he formed a platform in his party, called Demokratikus Koalíció, but one year later he left the MSZP with all the new platform’s members to found his own party, Demokratikus Koalíció. In January 2014 this party joined the Összefogás (Cooperation) party list and decided to have common candidate. Gyurcsány appears in third place on this common list.
Gordon Bajnai - Together 2014- 45 years old
Currently leader of Együtt 2014 and a former prime minister, Bajnai worked as government commissioner responsible for development in the second Gyurcsány government, before becoming minister of development and minister of economy. After the resignation of Ferenc Gyurcsány he became Prime Minister in April 2009. As a result of his crisis management and austerity measures, Hungary managed to keep its budget deficit under control and create a foundation for economic growth. After the elections he became a lecturer at Columbia University and John Hopkins University, USA and he returned to Hungarian politics in October 2012. He later founded a coalition that included Haza és Haladás Egyesület (Homeland and Progress Association), Szolidaritás Mozgalom (Solidarity Movement) and Milla Egyesület (Milla Association). It seemed for a while that he could be the prime ministerial candidate of this leftist coalition, but eventually lost a leadership contest to Attila Mesterházy. Együtt 2014 and the MSZP had planned to set up separate lists with common candidates at the elections, but later they decided to set up a common list that included Ferenc Gyurcsány's Demokratikus Koalíció. Bajnai is second on this common list.
Zsolt Semjén - KDNP - 51 years old
Semjén is the president of the KDNP (Christian Democratic People's Party) as well as Deputy Prime Minister of Hungary. For the last three parliamentary elections the KDNP has had a common list with Fidesz. Since then they have worked with Fidesz but have formed their own parliamentary group, the fourth largest in the General Assembly. Zsolt Semjén is the general deputy to the Prime Minister and coordinates national and religious issues in the cabinet.
Gábor Fodor - Liberals - 51 years old
Fodor is president of the Magyar Liberális Párt (Hungarian Liberal Party). A founding member of Fidesz, Fodor later joined the SZDSZ (Alliance of Free Democrats). As a result of his party’s poor performance at the 2009 European Parliamentary elections, he left the party and resigned as an MP. However he returned to politics in April 2013 and founded his new liberal party. Magyar Liberális Párt is able to run a candidate in every single-member constituency and has entered the opposition Összefogás coalition. Fodor appears in fourth place on the common list.
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