“The world of politics is brutal. There are a few talented women who could cope with it but I am not surprised they don’t apply for the job.” – Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary in 2015
Hungary is one of those few countries in Europe whose government is made up entirely of men. Each and every minister, as well as the vast majority of undersecretaries and government commissioners, are men. Even though women make up over 50 percent of the population, only ten percent of Hungarian MPs are women. By contrast, almost 44 percent of Swedish MPs are women. Even in neighboring Slovakia one in five MPs are female. No wonder Inter-Parliamentary Union ranked Hungary 151 out of 193 on its list of women in national parliaments.
Time for women
Interestingly, a recent study by Hungarian research center Integrity Lab shows that most Hungarians would prefer to have more female MPs, and some of them would definitely support a female prime minister. The research center asked people whether it matters to them if a political party deliberately nominates female candidates for higher office and whether they could accept a female head of government.
It turned out that most Hungarians think women are just as capable of holding political office as men: 84 percent reject the notion that the number of female MPs is low because they are incompetent. There is a small difference between supporters of the government and the opposition: 22 percent of Fidesz voters think women are incompetent, while only 12 percent of people supporting Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika – LMP) share this view.
Integrity Lab also asked whether Hungarians would support a female prime ministerial candidate. (The question, however made no sense for Fidesz and Jobbik supporters, as they already have their – male – candidates). Of left-wing voters, 58 percent agree their parties should nominate a female candidate in 2018.
An important aspect of the research was how supporters of the governing Fidesz party view the situation of women within the government. According to data collected by Integrity Lab, 22 percent of them are of the opinion that women are not capable of holding political office – the highest percentage of any political party in Hungary.
Can’t they cope?
They share the opinion of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who gave quite an interesting answer last year as to why there are no women in his government. According to a recording leaked by Hungarian news website 444.hu, Orbán told his audience that women are not strong enough to endure constant attacks against them.
“The world of politics is brutal. There are a few talented women who could cope with it but I am not surprised they don’t apply for the job,” Orbán said.
The prime minister said Hungary can only be compared to the United States in terms of the brutality of its politics. He reminded his audience that the percentage of female politicians is also low in the U.S.. However, since then the Democratic party has named Hillary Clinton as its candidate for president. Both the U.S. and Hungarian ambassadors to each other’s countries are women. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has elected its second female prime minister (Theresa May) in half a century.
It is also worth mentioning that while its ratio of female politicians is incredibly low, Hungary is considered by experts to be one of the best places in the world to be a working woman. When financial magazine The Economist published its “glass-ceiling index” this March, it turned out that Hungary ranks fifth on the list of countries in terms of workplace equality.
The magazine combined data on higher education, labor-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs. It also took paternity rights into consideration. Hungary ranked fifth by having the lowest gender wage gap, of 3.8%. Despite having few women on boards (11%) and in parliament (10%), Hungary has generous paid leave for mothers (71 weeks at 100% of recent pay) and low child-care costs, wrote The Economist.