Amid the clamour of the start of the British general election campaign, Sunday will see Hungary’s ten million citizens go to the polls to vote in the country’s general election. The incumbent Socialist Party government has trailed in the polls for more than three years – sometimes by margins of more than 30% - and is certain to be defeated by the populist opposition party Fidesz.
Certainty of a Fidesz victory aside, there’s only one party worthy of the support of British Conservatives: the Magyar Demokrata Fórum (Hungarian Democratic Forum).
The MDF’s Prime Ministerial nominee is Central European University economics professor and former Chairman of the Budapest Stock Exchange Lajos Bokros who sits with our party’s MEPs in the European Conservatives and Reformists Group.
Bokros' decision to withdraw his party from the EPP in favour of the ECR was a major coup for the group; bringing with him a legendary reputation as the Finance Minister whose mid-1990s ‘Bokros Plan’
Focuses on supporting small and medium-sized businesses.
Offers a ten point “clean hands” anti-corruption plan introducing transparency in party funding, public contract bid tendering and judicial decisions.
Advocates deep cuts in public spending in order to increase economic growth by more than 3% per annum.
States a commitment to keep the budget deficit below 3% of GDP during the party’s term in office.
Implements a long term plan to reduce Hungary’s debt to less than 40% of GDP.
During the course of the campaign, Fidesz leader and former Prime Minister Viktor Orban has struck a sharply protectionist note not dissimilar to that deployed by the theoretically right-leaning Nicolas Sarkozy.
On the issue of Hungary’s ban on the foreign purchase of agricultural land (which will become illegal under EU law from 2011) Obran declared that "foreigners will never buy arable land in Hungary" and that "every Austrian farmer who bought land in Hungary should feel pleased to have got away with it". When it comes to government procurement programmes, Fidesz promise to impose quotas to ensure a ‘closed shop’ for Hungarian companies on 70% of public tenders. The core of the party’s economic policy is based around persuading the IMF to accept an increase in the country’s targeted deficit from 3.8% to 5.5%.
The left-leaning, anti-market policies offered by Fidesz in this election are nothing new. Indeed, at the time of the 2006 general election, one witnessed the bizarre spectacle of then-Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Socialist Party advocating PFI initiatives, Atlanticism and improved conditions for foreign investment while the supposedly centre-right Fidesz advocated price controls on energy and a programme of renationalisation of former state assets.
It's no secret that this is a difficult election for the MDF who have seen their support base eroded by the vapid promises of Viktor Orban and Fidesz - but they are fighting a innovative and eye-catching campaign (see the poster to the right!) designed to maintain their representation in the Hungarian Parliament.
Polls conducted over the past three weeks show Fidesz to be in a commanding lead with more than 50% of the vote while the ruling Socialists and far-right Jobbik are scrapping it out for second place with roughly a fifth of the vote apiece.
At present, the MDF is hovering just below the threshold required for parliamentary representation.Balint Szlanko, writing in Bloomberg’s Business Weekframed the final days of the campaign well:
“There is little daylight between Fidesz and Jobbik ideologically. They are both inheritors of a right-wing tradition that, lacking the possibility of open debate for decades, has improved precious little since the 1930s. They are both characterized by strong anti-liberal and anti-capitalist impulses, stuck in an old-fashioned, blood-based nationalism that is suspicious of most things foreign, and with a strong ethos of authoritarianism.”
With the growth of populist political rhetoric in the form of Fidesz and the bigoted extremism of Jobbik on the far-right, it’s more important than ever that Lajos Bokros and the MDF have a seat at the table.
Good luck to our friends and colleagues in the MDF on Sunday!
Csak az ország!