Primaries and Opposition Strategies in Hungary and Europe

Conference organized by Republikon, supported by Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freihet


Primaries and Opposition Strategies in Hungary and Europe

Republikon Intézet

On September 29, 2020, Republikon held a hybrid conference with the title "Primaries and Opposition Strategies in Hungary and Europe". In the first panel political experts showed what primaries mean and how it could increase the chances of the opposition in Hungary. In the second panel, representatives of opposition parties debated the details of the primaries. After the debates, two guest speakers provided an international outlook concerning Hungary’s primaries.

In the first roundtable-discussion, moderator David Király was joined by Andrea Virág, Róbert László, Tibor Závech and Sámuel Ágoston Mráz. Topics covered included the experience of the 2019 primary and the 2021 primaries forecasts, including questions such as the prime ministerial candidate.

Andrea Virág stated that Gergely Karácsony was successful in 2019 as he was able to activate the opposition voters and create a positive image of the primaries. She believes Fidesz would not hack the primaries as the negatives outweigh the positives. She suggested it could be protected by signing a declaration of values with the voters. With well-run primaries, the opposition have a chance of winning in 2022.

László Róbert argued that the opposition should share candidates, whilst primaries should not be held in constituencies which are dominated by the Fidesz party. He expressed concerns about online voting due to secrecy and verifiability. According to him the Fidesz could hack the primaries, it is just a question of political desire. He said anyone would sign the declaration of values as many Fidesz voters are dependant and vulnerable. It is hard to find a suitable time for the primaries, the sooner the more people can be grouped.

Tibor Závecz claimed the opposition is now united. He also argued for the primaries as positive as it brings forward political skeletons in a more accepting environment in contrast to an election. He questioned whether all parties should run for prime minister candidate as it may initiate a downfall in the opposition. He stated the model which has worked in Budapest will be hard to replicate in smaller settlements. He believes Fidesz voters can hack the primaries and it is a good idea to sign the declaration of values. He puts forward the first half of next year as an ideal date and expects the opposition to win in 2022 if the needs of the voters are fulfilled.

Sámuel Ágoston Mráz argued that the six-party cooperation will still bear victims. He considered a later date to be better, as the sooner a common candidate is chosen, the more pressure and abuse they might be exposed to. He believes Fidesz will not hack the primaries as it is not in their interests to do so, however, online votes are prone to being interfered with. He sees that Fidesz has the biggest chance to win the election in 2022.

In the second discusson, Gábor Horn was joined by Tímea Szabó (Párbeszéd), Miklós Hajnal (Momentum), Zsolt Molnár (MSZP), Gergely Arató (DK), Péter Ungár (LMP) and László Lukács (Jobbik). Topics included the integration of the six parties, the advantages and disadvantages related to primaries and the requirements for a common candidate to be chosen.

Tímea Szabó said they are working on a joint program with the aim of reducing inequality and introducing a basic income. It is only the primaries which allow a candidate to confront Fidesz and mobilise the electorate. She put forward May-June 2021 as the ideal date for the primaries, adding the prime minister candidate would likely need to partake in a two-round primaries as the winner must reach a minimum of 50%.

Miklós Hajnal agreed that in individual constituencies primaries are a good option as you have to start with one against one. He argued for online votes as important because it provides multiple parties with the required votes.

Zsolt Molnár said their joint program emphasises the provision of a system based on checks and balances, social security and a sustainable green future. He suggested the primaries should be similar to a regular election and should be run as a campaign. He puts forward May-June 2021 as an ideal date and the 2019 mayoral primaries as a model to follow.

Gergely Arató considered the development of health care, social security and sustainability to be the salient messages. He considered the primaries as a democratic procedure but made clear that conflicts may escalate during the election period, leading to abuse. He said online voting should be allowed but only with certain conditions.

Peter Ungár sees primaries as an achievement; however, it does consume significant resources. He also views it necessary to hold two-round primaries for the prime minister candidate.

László Lukács argued that common visions must be synthesised in order to transcend Viktor Orbán’s populism. He said the joint program should focus on community building, rural development, and generally more on people, not power. With the primaries, the opposition narrative is revealed as soon as possible, however, he too agrees that it is very resource intensive. He agrees the prime ministerial candidate winner should have a victory of 50%.

The two guests of the final discussion were Milosz Hodun and Bernanrd Guetta. The topic was international perspectives on primaries and opposition opportunities.

Milosz Hodun claimed that successful opposition cooperation in Poland has always had a goal that went beyond the replacement of government. It was important to present a common program but also give coalition parties their own space such that parties could express themselves individually. More importantly, respect and trust is necessary between the parties.

Bernard Guetta argued there is an opportunity in Hungary for an impressive dynamic cooperation between several different parties, creating a large democratic party against Fidesz. He believes liberal parties generally need to redefine themselves.


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