“The people of Veszprém have given the government a yellow card and sent the government the message that they do not accept the theft of the country, state-organized crime with impunity, and the impoverishment of many millions of people.” – United democratic opposition
Independent candidate Zoltán Kész won with 43 percent of the vote in Sunday’s parliamentary by-election in the western Hungarian city of Veszprém. The fact that much was riding on the outcome of the election helps explain the relatively high (44.8%) voter turn-out.
The by-election was held to fill the parliamentary seat vacated by Tibor Navracsics upon assuming his responsibilities as European Commissioner for Education, Youth and Culture. At stake was the ability of the governing Fidesz-KDNP political alliance to pass “cardinal laws” requiring a 2/3rds parliamentary majority, appoint constitutional and supreme court judges, and even elect the president of the republic without the support of any other parties in parliament.
Voting returns in Veszprém by-election of Sunday, February 22nd, 2015
The Fidesz-KDNP candidate, Lajos Némedi, received 33.6 percent of the vote. Radical right-wing Jobbik candidate Andrea Varga-Damm received 14 percent. LMP, the only “left-wing/liberal” party not to endorse Kész’s candidacy, received around 4.5 percent.
Out of eight other independent candidates, Ferenc Bősze received the most votes (2.75 percent).
This is the second by-election held since the general election of April 2014 that Hungary’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP political alliance has lost. In November last year Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) candidate Imre Horváth won a by-election in Budapest’s 4th district. However, unlike Budapest’s 4th district, Veszprém has a long history of returning Fidesz candidates to parliament.
Other by-elections are scheduled to be held this year in Tapolca, Ajka and Sümeg.
444.hu writes that Fidesz lost the election despite “promising everything” including a new public swimming pool. Fidesz chairman and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán even met personally with his party’s candidate, but to not avail.
Based on local returns, 444.hu opines that many who voted for Fidesz in April 2014 voted for the Jobbik candidate this time around. “Fidesz lost by 9 percent what it won by 20 percent last year.”
Fidesz appears to have lost despite leaving no stone unturned, including closely monitoring who showed up at the polls. According to Jobbik, Fidesz activists were seen “ticking off names from lists” at the polls in at least one settlement.
Even the presence of Fidesz managing director Gábor Kubatov was not enough to save the day, although one of his assistants reportedly managed to arrange for Veszprém police to harass reporters from daily paper Népszabadság hoping to interview Kubatov.
At a press conference held after some 97 percent of the votes had been counted, Kész announced that “the people of Veszprém had done what the country demanded of them, and with that Fidesz-KDNP’s two-thirds parliamentary majority ended.”
The coalition of left-wing and liberal parties supporting his candidacy announced: “So far Veszprém has been known as the kings’ city, but from now on it will be known as the ‘city of common sense’. The people of Veszprém have given the government a yellow card and sent the government the message that they do not accept the theft of the country, state-organized crime with impunity, and the impoverishment of many millions of people.”
Kész told reporters that “I feel the responsibility and I will be a true critic of the governing power.”
MSZP chairman József Tóbiás said the vote was an an example of a “new social cooperation”, and the election proved that his party is prepared and able to cooperate with local civil society. He emphasized that MSZP’s support was instrumental to Kész’s victory.
In a statement released to state news agency MTI, Hungary’s radical right-wing Jobbik said the independent candidate had not won but rather Fidesz had lost.
“The Orbán government continues its downward spiral, the machine built on the Kubatov lists (allegedly compiled illegally from voter endorsement slips-ed.) has collapsed, because the people are immune to the government’s media lies,” Jobbik said.
The party promised to “drive the second nail in the coffin of the government and the discredited political elite of the past 25 years” in the by-election in Tapioca on April 12.
Opposition party Together, the self-styled “party of epoch change,” also released a statement to MTI congratulating Kész and stating that “justice had won” in Veszprém and surrounding settlements.
Party managing director Viktor Szigetvári said Together was proud to have had the opportunity to actively support the winning candidate, and the party’s activists and sympathizers had supported his campaign. Szigetvári said the past few weeks had shown that the campaign “had again brought the worst out of Fidesz and the media it controls and funds from public monies.” He said truth had triumphed over “lying accusations and the active counter-campaign of public television.”
Szigetvári said the independent candidate’s victory had restored hope to many of the possibility of building politics based on straight talk and honest politics.” He said that “contrary to what Fidesz radiates” politics is not about a war between paid activists, or dishonesty based on public funds and stolen money, or the industry-sized deception of voters, but rather how it is possible to live in peace and prosperity.”
He warned Fidesz and the “state machinery helping it” not to resort to “legal tricks or experiments” in any attempt to “change the will of the voters.”
Orbán posted this comment to his Facebook page after the defeat:
Dear Veszprem supporters, activists! Thank you for your work. We will continue to stand up for you and for Veszprem. We respect the decision of the voters. At the same time there is a lesson to be learned: we cannot sit on our laurels.