With anti-refugee sentiment running high in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has succeeded in shoring up support for his Fidesz party.
Now, as Hungary prepares to hold what many consider to be a pointless anti-refugee referendum on October 2, some politicians are suggesting that Orbán may use a successful referendum to call for early elections.
One such suggestion was made by Democratic Coalition chairman and former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány at a town hall forum in Újpest last Friday, reports Index.hu.
According to Gyurcsány, “[Fidesz’s] campaign of fear and hate-mongering is helping to build a new political community that, were it to become the majority, would help lay the foundation for an early election in January or February.”
The former prime minister went on to say that Orbán has come to terms with the fact that his government is not capable of pulling off a two-thirds victory in 2018, therefore the only way Fidesz can repeat a supermajority hold over parliament is by riding this successful anti-refugee wave and calling for an early election.
The prime minister’s press office has rejected Gyurcsány’s assertion but has not flat out denied the notion of a potential early election.
According to Index, there are at least five reasons why it would be in Orbán’s interest to call for an early election after the referendum:
- If the referendum is successful, Orbán would have much more momentum going into an election. Holding the early election right after a successful referendum would help Fidesz maximize its support base.
- Fidesz activists would already be in high gear. It would be much easier to carry out an election campaign right after the referendum than to start up the election machine in early 2018 — especially if Fidesz activists are motivated by a referendum victory.
- Orbán could catch the opposition off guard. Despite Jobbik’s recent claims that the party is prepared in the event an early election, there is no question that such a move would strain the party’s ability to mobilize. Meanwhile, Hungary’s left-wing opposition parties are still trying to figure how they would run their own campaigns — they do not even have a candidate for prime minister.
- In 2018, the United States and France will have new presidents and Germany will have a new chancellor. It is likely that Orbán’s anti-refugee policies would have a much more difficult time gaining traction in a more difficult environment. A strong backing from parliament could certainly help him.
- Orbán could save lots of money. Current government plans indicate major spending (development projects, wage rises, further tax decreases) in 2017 and 2018. An early election could help the government postpone these expenses for later.
According to nol.hu, Fidesz politicians responded to the idea of early elections in one of two ways.
There are those who believe early elections are out of the question because party activists are working so hard that it would be difficult for them to keep the pace much longer. Others suggest that, while an early election has not been discussed in Fidesz circles, it would certainly make sense to hold them.
One high-ranking Fidesz politician told nol.hu that Gyurcsány’s statements are absurd because neither the party’s presidium nor its parliamentary delegation have discussed the issue.
Sources inside Jobbik tell nol.hu that the far-right party is preparing for an early election and party chairman Gábor Vona expects Orbán has called on the party’s individual constituencies to start selecting candidates.
According to a Jobbik source, it is no coincidence that the government is proposing to create a new court to render rulings over issues related to public administration — this law would require the support of a two-thirds supermajority in parliament. Furthermore, the terms of several government posts are set to expire after 2019, and Fidesz is aware that the opposition parties would not support the re-nomination of certain individuals, such as chief prosecutor Péter Polt.
Róbert László, an election expert with Political Capital, a think-tank and consultancy, tells the Budapest Beacon that an early election would make sense for Fidesz. Currently, the opposition is very weak and even Jobbik is having trouble growing. Fidesz, however, could generate serious momentum should it pull off a victory with the October 2 referendum.