Együtt (Together) chairman Péter Juhász has pulled out of the race for Budapest’s 1st electoral district, two weeks before Hungary’s April 8 general election.
Budapest’s 1st electoral district perfectly illustrates how Hungary’s democratic opposition has failed to seize what political scientists claim is their only hope at defeating Fidesz: the joint fielding of candidates. Polls show Hungarians who want a change of government outnumber those who support Fidesz, but as long as the opposition parties split an opposition vote, Fidesz will easily win. In Budapest’s electoral district, candidates representing the four main opposition parties have each been polling at anywhere between 7-14 percent, compared to Fidesz’s candidate who has been polling at around 32 percent. However, if all but one of the opposition candidates step back and support the strongest of the four, the opposition stands a good chance of winning.
Announcing his decision to withdraw, Juhász said on Facebook: “It really doesn’t matter what party interests the parties cite for not pulling back their candidates. By [staying in the race] they are helping Fidesz to victory. If they continue like this, they will help Fidesz win a two-thirds [in parliament]. This behavior is very destructive, regardless of whether it’s being done for campaign finance reasons, to maximize the returns on compensation votes, or any other reason. If opposition candidates run against each other, it is a betrayal of the shared goal: to topple the Orbán system.”
Róbert László, an election expert with Political Capital, a Budapest-based think-tank and consultancy, says Hungarians can expect to see similar moves by opposition party candidates between now and election day. According to the National Election Committee, the deadline to pull back candidates is 11am Budapest time on April 7.
“It would have been better for the voters if these candidates stepped back months ago,” László says.
According to Juhász, the various parties need to coordinate candidates in at least 50 electoral districts if the opposition wants a change in government.
“Not a single candidate has been pulled back from the MSZP-DK pact,” Juhász said on Saturday. “They have not coordinated with anyone else. LMP has pulled back in two districts, Momentum has pulled back in three. This is not coordination, this is the tricking of voters. Együtt chose to not field candidates in 63 districts for the purpose of increasing the odds that Fidesz can be defeated.”
So far, the remaining candidates in Budapest’s 1st electoral district – representing Momentum, Politics Can Be Different, and MSZP-P – have still not committed themselves to coordinating their campaigns. With time running out, these politicians lose the opportunity to campaign behind a single candidate for defeating Fidesz — a task made more difficult by their lack of access to Hungary’s Fidesz-controlled media.