In this blog – Dr. Balázs Forman, RSA Ambassador to Hungary, offers insights on the recent 2022 Hungarian Election.
As a result of the April 3rd election, a surprising turn of events placed the Fidesz party on top with a two-thirds mandate, leaving the United Opposition and other groups with the remaining third of seats. The result surprised both the winner and the loser with Fidesz not hoping to receive the two-thirds mandate again, and the United Opposition coalition bidding for the victory not expecting such a serious defeat. Fidesz won 53% of the list votes and the United Opposition 35%. Based on these results, one can infer that the majority of Hungarians entrusted the Fidesz party with the continuation of governance, however a clear polarization across the nation exists between these two political forces and calls for deeper investigation as the dust from the election settles.
Hungarian Parliament – © mariashiphotography Shutterstock
Trends in Rural vs. Urban Constituencies
I am a regionalist and not a political analyst, and this Blog presents a demographic spatial analysis of the results in lieu of individual political motivations of voters. In particular, my analysis highlights the rural-urban divide among voters and their political affiliation given the constituencies that each party won. At first glance, the United Opposition won 16 of Budapest’s 18 urban constituencies. The 2 constituencies won by Fidesz in Budapest are peripheral, suburban constituencies. At the same time, Fidesz won 84 out of 86 rural constituencies.
Interestingly, the United Opposition also won in the downtown constituencies of large university cities, Pécs and Szeged. Based on these results, one may question whether an “intelligentsia” or university student voter more open to the world with multifaceted international relations is more likely to vote for the United Opposition party, in part, maybe yes. The results of the constituencies of Debrecen, Kaposvár, Nyíregyháza and Miskolc partly show that the answer is yes. But only if this intellectual existence is not accompanied by the daily threat of financial problems, high fuel costs for commuting to work, and high heating costs for large-area homes.
However, the analysis of the constituencies of Budapest and Pest county more broadly is especially important for the study. In Budapest, with the exception of the two Pest suburban constituencies, the opposition won. But the result of the joint constituency of Csepel, a traditionally blue-collar region, and the conservative Soroksár, which is proud of its German minority, were close. But the agglomeration closely connected to Budapest, where the majority of the locals live in the capital, has brought close results and Fidesz victories everywhere. But there were the toughest battles between the winning ruling party and the opposition. The candidates of the ruling party won only 45-48%, while the candidates of the opposition coalition here at least met the approx. 40% result.
Rising financial crises and Suburbanization
For decades, this region has been the site of suburbanization, a Hungarian dream available to the not-so-rich, i.e., a well-paying job in Budapest, a relatively cheap plot of land, a house, and a big car . But the number of well-paying jobs is limited, and the crises of the past decade and a half, the foreign currency credit crisis, and rising energy prices may have slashed the budgets of many families. It would obviously be an unbearable burden for many to see energy prices, which account for a large part of their household budgets, rise in addition to the over-indebtedness prevalent in the year 2000. In the constituencies in the second ring of the agglomeration, the candidates of Fidesz had obtained almost 60%, while the candidates of the United Opposition have achieved only about 30%. Although a significant part of the people living here still work in Budapest, the costs of going to work are already higher and mostly those who do not work in high statuses live here. The existential threat of housing loans, energy prices and unemployment is even higher.
Population Political Polarization
The election map of Hungary in 2022 schematically followed the same pattern as the 2016 US presidential election and growing political polarization between the urban and the rural. The support of the left-wing, liberal parties is rising sharply in urban areas while right-wing, conservative parties continue to be favored in rural areas.
Now it seems that the current victory by the Fidesz party was (also) due to its understanding in 2014 that the many hundreds of thousands of families adversely affected by 1.5 million foreign currency loans could only be helped by significantly reducing household energy prices. The fact that the current Russian-Ukrainian war has once again highlighted the possibility that energy prices could rise significantly could have greatly affected the vote of voters adversely affected by previous crises.
Dr. Balázs Forman, RSA Ambassador to Hungary, is an Assistant Professor at John Von Neumann University. Balázs’ current teaching activities are mainly related to regional studies – regional economics, policy, programming. His current research is focused on regional policy in the EU after 2014, locally based economic development and theories of economic growth and development at the regional level.
Are you currently involved with regional research, policy, and development? The Regional Studies Association is accepting articles for their online blog. For more information, contact the Blog Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.