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Hungary PM needs style change after poll setback: analysts

25 february 2015, 15:17
0

 Hungary's strongman Prime Minister Viktor Orban needs to strike a less confrontational stance after his ruling party Fidesz lost its parliamentary super-majority in a key by-election, analysts said, AFP reports.

"There is a need for a correction. Fidesz might decide to be less confrontational, but it is difficult since it is in the character of the party to fight, a strategy that has worked for a long time," Akos Balogh of Mandiner.hu, a conservative blog told AFP.

Since coming to power in 2010, the Orban-led government has had numerous run-ins with the European Union, banks, multinational companies and civil society groups over controversial laws.

His government also has an increasingly cosy relationship with Moscow, sending jitters through Washington and Warsaw.

Orban hosted Vladimir Putin last week, despite the Russian president being shunned in most European capitals over the Ukraine conflict.

In a by-election Sunday in the town of Veszprem, southwest of Budapest, independent candidate Zoltan Kesz won 43 percent of the vote with support from opposition parties while Fidesz candidate Lajos Nemedi garnered just 33 percent.

Fidesz and their coalition partners, the Christian Democrats now have 131 of the 199 seats in parliament.

After three election wins in 2014, Orban looked invincible just a few months ago. But support for Fidesz tumbled last October in the wake of mass protests over a proposed Internet tax that was later dropped.

Numbers also suggest that Fidesz voters in Veszprem did not turn out to vote in large numbers.

With the defeat went Orban's two-thirds supermajority, which had enabled his government to make sweeping constitutional changes that critics say eroded democratic principles and curbed basic freedoms.

"The result has a huge symbolic significance, although Fidesz retains full control," Kornelia Magyar of the Hungarian Progressive Institute told AFP.

    No miracle coming 

 Corruption scandals and internal strife within the right-wing camp, especially the rift between Orban and Lajos Simicska, a media mogul and long-time ally, have further eroded its support.

"It is clear that something has changed in society since last October. We have seen Fidesz react to that by trying to dominate the political agenda with conservative themes like closing shops on Sunday or increasingly hostile rhetoric towards migrants, aiming to keep their flock together," Magyar said.

"It has yielded a slowdown in the loss of popularity, but did not manage to turn around Fidesz in the polls," she added.

Csaba Toth of the liberal Hungarian think tank Republikon Institute believes Fidesz will try to hold its ground and keep the opposition divided.

"It will not, and cannot make corrections. It is difficult to change Fidesz's policies as they reflect the nature of Orban," Toth told AFP.

Cosmetic changes may be in the offing, however.

"We could see a change in style and less so in content," Peter Kreko of consulting and research group Political Capital Institute told AFP.

What is clear is that Sunday's victory for the independent candidate does not spell a comeback for Hungary's weak, divided opposition.

"I would not expect a miracle," Kreko said.

The opposition parties' poll numbers were even lower in Veszprem than those of Fidesz, which remains the most popular party in Hungary.

It is not yet clear what steps Fidesz will take in the wake of the setback.

Orban gave little hint in a Facebook post on Sunday, except to vow action of some sort.

"The lesson is: we can not rest on our laurels," he wrote.


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