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The left-wing government coalition slightly ahead of right-wing opposition after the first round of general elections in Hungary

The left-wing government coalition slightly ahead of right-wing opposition after the first round of general elections in Hungary

10/04/2006 - Results

The left-wing government coalition currently in power came top after the first round of general elections held on 9th April in Hungary. The socialist party (MSZP), led by the Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, collected 43.21% of votes and its ally in government, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), a party led by Gabor Kuncze, 6.50%. The socialist party is only slightly ahead of the main opposition party, the Alliance of Young Democrats – Civic Union (FIDESZ-MPP), the party of the former Prime Minister (1998-2002) Viktor Orban, which obtained 42.03% of votes. Finally, contrary to the forecasts of opinion polls, the Democratic Forum (MDF), former ally of the Alliance of Young Democrats, succeeded in passing the 5% mark, which is indispensable to gain representation at the Orszaggyules, the Parliament's single chamber. The liberal party, led by Ibolya David collected 5.04% of the votes. The Party for Justice and Life (MIEP), former parliamentary allies of Viktor Orban's government (1998-2002), won 2% of the vote.

After the first round, 212 of the 386 Parliamentary seats, that is 54.92% of total, had already been allocated: 113 to the government coalition (105 for the Socialist Party, 4 for the Alliance of Free Democrats and 4 for the coalition formed by both parties) and 99 to opposition parties (97 for the Alliance of Young Democrats and 2 for the Democratic Forum). Of these 212 seats, 66 have been designated according to the first past the post system.

The Alliance of Young Democrats achieved its best results in the western part of the country, obtaining notably absolute majority (50.84%) in the "comitat" (equivalent of county) of Vas. The Socialist Party is better established in the East of the Country and collected 50.94% of votes in the "comitat" of Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen. The governmental party also made its mark in Budapest where it obtained 45.37% of votes, compared to 36.39% for the Alliance of Young Democrats. In the capital, the Alliance of Free Democrats collected 12.73% of the vote and the Democratic Forum, 5.49%.

Turnout was high at 67.83%, i.e. 2.6 points less than for the first round of the previous general election held on 7th April 2002, but higher than the turnout recorded for the elections held in 1994 and 1998. As political analysts had announced, and as was the case during the last general elections, turnout was more favourable to the Socialist Party. Hungarians living abroad voted massively since 82.33% of them fulfilled their civic duty.

"Whichever way I look at these results, the Socialists have won the first round," declared the Prime Minister on Sunday night, stating however, "The elections are not over yet, but we're fighting and we will come out victorious". Ferenc Gyurcsany, who had never previously been an election candidate and whose party was for a long time overtaken by almost ten points in opinion polls by the Alliance of Young Democrats, can congratulate himself for having recreated trust amongst many voters. To be declared the winner of this general election, the Prime Minister will however have to confirm this result in two weeks' time. Although the Socialist Party could benefit from withdrawals in its favour on the part of its ally, the Alliance of Free Democrats, the result obtained by the Democratic Forum makes the second round of the elections extremely uncertain. "I swear that in two weeks' time I will announce victory for those who have voted for a second Ferenc Gyurcsany government" stated the Prime Minister, considering that Hungarians had shown that they wished to see a first since the end of communism in the country: re-election of the government in place.

For a long time overtaken by the Alliance of Young Democrats, over the weeks the Socialist Party caught up lost time until by mid-March it was overtaking its main rival in opinion polls. The election campaign was curtailed after the Prime Minister decreed a state of emergency on 3rd April, due to major flooding suffered by Hungary and central Europe more generally. Only the televised debate between the two main candidates for Prime Minister, planned for 5th April, was held. According to the press and public opinion institutes Ferenc Gyurcsany dominated his rival, Viktor Orban., during this confrontation.

"We have succeeded in keeping our options open for a victory in the second round. He who laughs last laughs longest", declared the leader of the opposition, Viktor Orban, on Sunday night. The leader of the Alliance of Young Democrats believes that his party is set to collect 75% of votes during the second round, thereby becoming the sole winner of the general election, an outcome that he considers "possible". Moreover, he also announced, in case of defeat on 23rd April, his desire to resign from chairmanship of his party, a position he has held for eighteen years.

At the end of this first round the "small" political parties, i.e. the Alliance of Free Democrats and the Democratic Forum, are comforted in their role as arbitrators. The independence strategy chosen by the Democratic Forum would appear to have been somewhat favourable for it. On the other hand, if the Alliance of Young Democrats does not manage to come out on top alone in the second round, this might complicate the negotiations that the main opposition party would have to undertake in order to form a government. On Sunday night the Chair of the Democratic Forum refused to say whether she was envisaging a future alliance for her party with other parties after the vote.

The second round of Hungarian general elections will be held on 23rd April in all circumscriptions where no candidate has obtained a majority. The outcome therefore remains extremely uncertain and a reversal in trend cannot be excluded. In any case, the results of the election will be a first in Hungary's history. If the score his party obtained over the first round is confirmed on the evening of 23rd April, Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany will be the first Head of Government to retain his post. On the other hand, if the Alliance of Young Democrats wins, Viktor Orban will become the first Head of Government to return to his position.

Results of the first round of general elections, held on 9th April 2006 in Hungary

Turnout: 67.83%

Source Hungarian Electoral Commission
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
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