Party shakeup: Fidesz politicians might pay the price for low turnout

October 6, 2016

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Fidesz has been analyzing voter participation data from Sunday’s anti-EU refugee resettlement quota referendum to determine where party personnel should be replaced, reports news site Index.hu.

The massive media campaign encouraging voters to show up for the referendum was by no means the only method the ruling party used to drum up support for its position. Fidesz also mobilized its politicians and activists across the country to work within their own constituencies to bring the rate of participation as high as possible. Some 200 “public forums” were held by prominent Fidesz officials around the country, and millions of letters were distributed by local governments to the electorate.

It seems party politicians were motivated to get out the vote. Rumors of a shakeup within the party had been circulating for weeks before the referendum, and mayors and voting district leaders were given explicit instructions to do everything they could to boost participation in their towns.

Now that detailed data is available on voter participation, some Fidesz politicians have reason to worry their performance wasn’t up to par. One such notable example is controversial Budapest District 8 mayor and Fidesz director of communications Máté Kocsis, who was among the most vocal in calling on mayors to take personal responsibility for referendum results.

“People aren’t deciding in general about forced settlement,” Kocsis said in early September, “but are deciding about whether they want immigrants in their communities, whether they accept the burdens and perhaps risks associated with that.”

Kocsis’ working-class Józsefváros district had a very low rate of participation (32 percent, the lowest in Budapest) even relative to the poor turnout in the capital at large. Still, not a single county in the country managed to mobilize 50 percent of the electorate into casting a valid ballot, the closest being Vas county in western Hungary, with 49.35 percent participation.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will be deciding this year who he wants leading the 106 voting districts across the country, an important decision going into the 2018 parliamentary election. As Index.hu wrote earlier, “Fidesz is analyzing in what voting districts and settlements the vote slipped, and where there was lower participation, there could be personal consequences. Népszabadság has already written that the leaders of weaker districts would be replaced by Orbán, and he will pull them off the 2018 candidate lists.”