In the wake of the defeat of its candidate in the Hódmezővásárhely mayoral by-election at the weekend, the governing Fidesz party might shift the focus of its general election campaign from the non-stop bashing of Hungarian-American financier and philanthropist George Soros to other topics. Meanwhile, opinion leaders close to Fidesz have suddenly spoken out about the counterproductive nature of the endless Soros smearing.
Turning down the Soros-meter
One of the conclusions drawn at Monday’s Fidesz board meeting is that the Soros campaign fails to deliver a strong enough message on a local level, so Fidesz might scale it down in the upcoming weeks, a participant told atv.hu. According to the news portal’s source, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not look for a scapegoat for his party’s defeat in the Hódmezővásárhely by-election. However, based on the party’s quick analysis, he confirmed that among independent candidate Péter Márki-Zay’s supporters were both right-wing and former Fidesz voters.
According to atv.hu’s source, Orbán told the board that even though presumably outgoing Minister Overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár still has a good chance of winning the electoral district encompassing Hódmezővásárhely, Fidesz must mobilize all forces in the run-up to the April 8 election.
The source also stated that the government’s communications department keeps a watchful eye on the pro-government media outlets, and that information was being withheld from the electorate, especially in the countryside, about the governing party’s defeat in Hódmezővásárhely.
Calls for a change in campaign strategy
In light of this latter statement and recent revelations about the workings of the government propaganda machine, it is ironic that pro-government Echo TV’s Sajtóklub (Press club) program propagandist István Lovas was outraged by the fact that neither the state-run television channel M1 nor the also state-owned radio channel Kossuth Rádió reported on the result of the by-election.
In the same broadcast, pro-government Demokrata editor-in-chief András Bencsik came to the conclusion that the George Soros smearing campaigns aimed too low, despite he personally having no problem with continuously publicizing conspiracy theories centered around Soros.
“I think this elementary school-level Soros-bashing should be stopped, for example, ‘Stop Soros’ and the others,” Bencsik said. “These are funny but the Hungarian society is more intelligent than this.” Publicist Zsolt Bayer, who on Monday urged the Fidesz camp to face the result of the Hódmezővásárhely defeat, concurred with Bencsik, saying that “solely with Soros and migrants, we won’t be able to explain, not even to our people, what this is all about, therefore the [Fidesz] campaign strategy should be changed.”
Nothing illustrates the gravity of the Hódmezővásárhely defeat better than the fact that four years after the last such event, Bayer and Bencsik announced a “Peace March”, a massive pro-government sympathy protest for March 15. “They hope and believe that they have become strong and that our dream has vanished,” Bayer said according to pro-government online and print daily Magyar Idők. “Let’s show them that there’s a couple of us.”
Bencsik said: “In 2012 too, this was the answer. We must believe in the power of love and cooperation. We must defend what we have created.” A potential seventh “Peace March” had been rumored and called off at the last minute several times since 2014.
Monday evening the frivolous Hungarian Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) also announced that it would hold its own “Peace March” on March 15.
“To celebrate the new peace march, we organize another one on the same day. Let Hungary be a country of two Peace Marches!” MKKP’s invitation reads. The party already organized one “peace march” in April 2017 protesting for more Russian influence in Hungary and parodying the Civil Unity Forum’s (CÖF) “peace marches” of 2012-2014.