Momentum Movement to run candidates in 2018 election

February 8, 2017

Were a national election held this Sunday, the Momentum Movement would get two percent of the vote.  To what can it attribute its sudden popularity?  How long will it last?  We asked Political Capital election expert Róbert László.

Hungary’s Momentum Movement intends to form a political party in the weeks to come announced one of the movement’s leaders Anna Orosz on ATV Wednesday morning.  She said that upon completing the collection of signatures necessary to hold a referendum on whether or not Budapest should withdraw its application to host the 2024 Olympic Games, the Movement would initiate the official procedures necessary to contest the 2018 general election.

“We are willing to cooperate with any party in various matters, as in the case of the NOlimpia campaign, but for sure we have no intention of a more concrete political collaboration” said Orosz, adding that it was entirely conceivable that Momentum would run its own list of candidates.

According to a recent Médian poll whose results were released on Wednesday, one percent of all voters and two percent of certain voters said they would vote for Momentum Movement candidates if the election were held this Sunday.  By comparison, two percent of voters and three percent of certain voters said they would vote for Együtt (Together), the party led by civil and political activist Péter Juhász.

“It’s clear that Momentum has done a lot of work opposition parties have not done in recent years” says László.  He says that prior to launching the referendum initiative, Momentum went to the trouble of building a network of activists, not only in Budapest, but in a number of cities outside of Budapest as well.  He says that while this does not amount to a countrywide network, it indicates that “from the outset Momentum was not merely thinking in terms of starting something in downtown Budapest, but understood the importance of establishing the foundations for a national party.”

According to László, failure to organize politically beyond Budapest has been characteristic of the political opposition in recent years.  “The success of a party does not only depend on its platform and its leaders, but primarily on whether it is possible to build a community.”  According to László, apart from Fidesz, only Jobbik has managed to do this “with a lot of hard work over many years. ” He says it remains to be seen whether Momentum will succeed in doing this, but that they appear to have laid the foundations for a national political party.

Opposition parties often complain that they are at a serious disadvantage vis-a-vis the government when it comes to media exposure.  Although László believes this to be the case, he says Momentum has proven that this disadvantage can be overcome, and that it is possible to gain popularity by focussing on a single issue.

Whether Momemtum’s momentum will die out after the referendum signature drive depends, in large part, on whether it succeeds in collecting enough signatures to force a referendum, says the election expert.

“Momentum has managed to break through walls which we though in recent years to be impossible. They took a matter public. They took the initiative instead of practicing reactive politics,” says László, who does not rule out the possibility of Momentum clearing the 5 percent threshold necessary to enter parliament 2018.  He cites the example of Politics Can Be Different (LMP) which managed to win 3 percent or the vote cast in the 2009 European parliamentary election within a few months of the party’s founding.  The following year LMP entered parliament with 7.5 percent of the popular vote.

“There is a great need for a new political power,” says László.  The question is whether Momentum can fill this void. In any event, in recent years nobody launched so successfully as they”, he adds.

“So far they are reacted cleverly to predictable attacks.  They haver succeeded in differentiating themselves from other parties, even as they accept their support.  They did not distance themselves from anybody.  Instead, they said they would accept Viktor Orbán’s support in the interested of advancing certain issues,” says László.

For now Momentum appears to have defied its detractors, including those who claim that the Hungarian Socialist Party or the Democratic Coalition is somehow behind the movement.  “If these parties had had as much invention, then they would be much more successful” says László, observing that for now the Momentum Movement does not seem to be targeting Fidesz voters.