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Apr 13, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Five surprising takeaways from Sunday’s parliamentary elections

As the dust settles after Sunday’s parliamentary elections, a clearer picture is now emerging of what happened on that extraordinary day. It will take a few days yet before the final results become official, but in the meantime, here are five takeaways from Hungary’s 2018 parliamentary elections.

Takeaway #1 – Voter turnout reached 69.5 percent, a near record

“Hungarians have stood up for Hungary’s sovereignty,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at Wednesday’s press conference, and our voters did so in huge numbers.

Not since the elections of 2002 has voter turnout been so high. This is important for many reasons not least because critics of the Orbán Government have long said that the governing parties, Fidesz-KDNP, depend on lower turnout to win elections. The excitement was palpable early on Sunday – particularly among some in the international press corps – as trajectories indicated that turnout would be high. Yet that near record turnout produced another landslide victory for Prime Minister Orbán.

Voters sent a clear message,” I said on election night, “that Hungarian democracy is alive and kicking." 

Takeaway #2 – Fidesz-KDNP won more votes for the national party list than all opposition parties combined

In the domestic arena, the Fidesz-KDNP alliance took 49.5 percent of the party list vote, totaling more than 2.6 million as mail-in votes were counted. Jobbik won approximately one million votes while the Socialist Party and Dialogue received the support of 652,000 citizens. LMP counted 367,000 votes, and the Democratic Coalition received only 295,000.

An aggregate of these results (2.34 million) shows that the Fidesz-KDNP party list boasted some 256,000 more votes than all opposition parties combined.

Takeaway #3 – Fidesz-KDNP ranked most popular in all age groups

According to exit polls conducted by the Nézőpont Institute, Fidesz-KDNP appeared to be the most popular among voters in all age groups, including those between 18 and 29. For young voters, 38 percent pledged their support to the governing parties while Jobbik, previously considered popular among many young voters, was backed by only 31 percent in that age group.

Takeaway #4 – Fidesz-KDNP preserved its lead in Budapest, contrary to reports otherwise. In fact, Fidesz-KDNP was the only party to expand its voting base

Much of the post-election coverage has run with the conclusion that Hungary is deeply politically divided between the capital and the countryside. The facts say otherwise. True, the opposition parties won in a few more of the individual electoral contests in Budapest than in 2014. But winning 38.3 percent of the vote in the capital, the Fidesz-KDNP alliance took 20 percent more than their closest contender, MSZP-PM.

If we take a look at the domestic results from Sunday, compared to 2014 when Fidesz-KDNP gathered 2.1 million votes, the governing alliance managed to expand its support by almost 400,000 votes and reached 2.5 million people. That amount of growth in voter support has never happened in Hungarian elections.

Meanwhile, the number of ballots cast for the political left (MSZP-PM, DK, LMP, Együtt, Momentum) decreased to 1.49 million from 1.56 million four years ago. Support for the political Left in Hungary continues to decline. Ponder that for a moment. 

Takeaway #5 – The current election rules work, and no, they’re not rigged to ensure a Fidesz-KDNP victory

Critics argue that Fidesz-KDNP’s victory is thanks to the modifications made to the electoral system in 2011. But removing the second round of polling and opting for a single-round election system is consistent with other European elections. Except for France, most other European countries, Germany and the UK for example, adhere to a single-round electoral system. They’ve also been putting up a flimsy argument about gerrymandering. But one of their favorite examples of alleged gerrymandering, including in this New York Times piece – Budapest’s 1st electoral in the heart of the capital – went to the opposition candidate. So much for gerrymandering.

Earlier this week, the popular news portal Index, which is a strong critic of the Orbán Government, published an article about alleged irregularities reported from a polling station in the Hungarian village of Bogdása. The immediate accusation from the fever swamps of the Twittersphere charged electoral fraud. 

Shortly after the story was published, Hungary’s National Elections Office responded. According to NVI, 25 voters who were registered as ethnic Germans were accidentally handed national party list ballots instead of ballots for the ethnic minority list. This produced 161 national party list ballots in a polling station with only 136 eligible voters. Despite other reports of inconsistencies, which are being clarified, none of these would have changed the outcome of the election.

Democracy is great, it seems – and high voter turnout is reason to celebrate – as long as the opposition is winning. But when it’s not the Soros-backed interests, the liberal left that’s winning, then cry fraud! It just can’t be!

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s voter support increased in Sunday’s elections. He won in a landslide where Fidesz-KDNP gained more votes than all of the opposition combined. For opposition activists in Hungary – and some in the international media – that fact is simply intolerable.