- 14 Oct 2020 6:57 AM
In the Sunday by-election in a relatively poor region of 38 villages and 4 towns, the Fidesz candidate Zsófia Koncz won with 50,9 per cent of the votes cast. László Bíró, the joint candidate of the opposition, came second with 45,9 per cent.
With a 45 % turnout (compared to 66% at the 2018 General Election) the opposition candidate – from the Right wing Jobbik party – successfully attracted left wing votes, but still trailed Zsofia Koncz by 1,700 votes. The election was caused by the tragic death of the incumbent Fidesz MP, Ferenc Koncz, father of Zsofia Koncz, in a traffic accident In July).
The by-election was seen both by opposition and government as a test case for the opposition strategy to run joint candidates against the governing party in all 106 constituencies in 2022.. An opposition victory would have ended the Fidesz two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Magyar Nemzet’s Ottó Gajdics interprets the result as proof that voters do not buy the opposition’s ‘cynical’ strategy to grab power by any means. The pro-government commentator recalls that the joint candidate of the opposition parties, Jobbik member László Bíró was supported by left-wing parties despite the anti-Semitic remarks he posted on a social media site in 2018 which he later apologized for.
Gajdics expresses his dismay that the opposition candidate came so close to Koncz. Gajdics suspects that those who supported him ‘would vote for a warty pig as well’, but he nonetheless cautions the governing party against dismissing such voters as ‘brainwashed zombies’. Gajdics concludes by suggesting that the 2022 election will be a tough one for Fidesz.
Alt-left blogger András Jámbor in a Facebook post writes that he might have thrown up had Bíró won. He does not believe, however, that Bíró’s failure to win was connected to his anti-Semitic remarks,. He thinks that the main lesson is that to win in 2022, the opposition will need more substantial messages than just saying that they want to defeat Fidesz. Jámbor adds that the by-election result is unlikely to help settle the debate on whether the opposition parties should run jointly or separately.
More repercussions of the Borsod by-election
Pundits across the political spectrum ponder the implications of the joint opposition candidate’s defeat in the Borsod 6 district by-election.
In Népszava Róbert Friss, commenting on Sunday’s by-election, wonders whether the cooperation of opposition parties could and should be maintained in the 2022 election. The left-wing columnist blames the defeat of opposition candidate László Bíró on what he calls the ‘anti-Nazi campaign’ waged by Fidesz, which ‘successfully divided the intellectual hinterland of the opposition’.
Friss underscores that anti-Semitism is unacceptable, but adds that moral qualms may hinder the opposition in achieving its main aim, which is to defeat Fidesz. Friss notes that Bíró apologized for his statements, made on his Facebook page in 2018. He goes on to suggest that once the opposition defeats Fidesz, the left-wing parties can get rid of Jobbik.
On Index, Attila Tibor Nagy, an analyst of the centrist Fairness Policy Analysis Center thinks that the opposition was defeated in the Borsod by-election partly because of Bíró’s anti-Semitic remarks, but also because Fidesz spent much more on political marketing than the opposition parties. The opposition can only win in 2022 if it finds stronger joint candidates than Bíró, who can successfully challenge Fidesz candidates even in rural districts, Nagy writes.
Magyar Hírlap’s Mariann Őry believes that the opposition is failing to face the real reasons for its defeat. The pro-government columnist writes that as well as making anti-Semitic statements, Bíró was also accused of corrupt business manoeuvers. Independent MP Ákos Hadházy in an interview accused Bíró of the embezzlement of 50 milllion Forints of EU funding.
Őry finds it nauseating that the opposition parties, always so vigilant in matters of anti-Semitism, took Bíró’s apology at face value and lined up behind him. As for the long-term implications, Őry suspects that Jobbik’s bargaining position will weaken in the opposition, and Ferenc Gyurcsány will become even stronger after Sunday’s by-election.
MTI Photo János Marjai