Daily Archives: April 25, 2010

Hungary (runoffs) 2010

The second round of the Hungarian parliamentary elections were held today, April 25. This runoff concerned only 57 of the country’s 176 direct single-member constituencies. To win by the first round, a candidate requires more than 50% of the vote and turnout must be over 50%. If no candidate fits this rule, a runoff is held two weeks later between all those candidates polling over 15% of the vote. A plurality is required in the runoff, and there is a 25% turnout minimum for the vote to be valid. A total of 119 candidates won by the first round two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, all voters also cast a vote for a party-list in 20 regional constituencies, where 152 seats are up for grabs through the Hagenbach-Bischoff system of PR. In addition to the 57 runoffs, 58 national list seats were also allocated today. No votes are cast for these national seats, which are allocated to parties to compensate for differences between their share of the popular vote and the amount of seats that they won through the district and regional lists.

Fidesz won a strong victory by the first round, with 206 seats going to the party off the top two weeks ago. The runoff was covered much less by the mainstream international media, if covered at all, because it was relatively minor.  Turnout was 64.38% overall in the first round, and the official numbers for today place it at 46.60%. But these turnout numbers, reported by the government, are misleading since they include technical 0.00% turnout in the 119 constituencies allocated by the first round. Turnout does seem much lower, though, in most constituencies with a runoff as well. Here are the quasi-final results, with around 98% of returns in. In brackets, you’ll see the ‘type’ of seats each party won with SMC standing for single-member constituencies, RL for regional lists and NL for national list. For reference, the ‘magic number’ in this election was 258: the number of seats needed to have a constitution-altering two-thirds majority.

Fidesz and allies winning 263 seats (173 DS, 87 RL, 3 NL)
MSZP winning 59 seats (2 DS, 28 RL, 29 NL)
Jobbik winning 47 seats (0 DS, 26 RL, 21 NL)
LMP winning 16 seats (0 DS, 5 RL, 11 NL)
Independent winning 1 seats (1 DS, 0 RL, 0 NL)

For comparison, Fidesz won 164 seats in 2006 against 186 for the MSZP (plus 6 joint MSZP-SZDSZ candidates).

I have calculated the results overall of the 57 SMCs to be: Fidesz 54.59, MSZP 28.33, Jobbik 12.3, LMP 3.71 and Independents 1.07. Fidesz clearly did not lose much from one round to another, and it won all but two of the constituencies where it was leading in the first round. One shouldn’t take too much out of my calculated overall results for all runoffs because these runoffs were held in areas of Hungary where Fidesz is usually weakest. I don’t know the first round results solely for these 57 constituencies, but a look at individual constituencies does show that Fidesz increased its percentage share of the vote almost everywhere. The Socialists did pick up some speed as well, winning two constituencies, both in what seems to be areas of Budapest with lots of Soviet-era bleak apartment towers. A lot of the MSZP’s gains between the two rounds likely comes from LMP voters or better turnout on their side. On the other hand, Jobbik’s vote is down by varying amounts in almost all constituencies where it qualified for the runoff. This could also be the fact of Jobbik voters from the first round staying home, knowing that their party had little hope in their district in the runoff. The party’s leader, Gábor Vona, running in Heves-3, saw his vote share drop from 26% to around 20.3%. The LMP was qualified for the runoff in a number of Budapest districts, including a few where the MSZP apparently dropped out between the two rounds. In those districts, it pulled around 36-39%. Elsewhere in three-way runoffs, the LMP’s vote slid a bit compared to two weeks ago. In Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén 8, an Independent won, likely on the votes of Jobbik, which seems to have dropped out of the runoff there. He is coloured green on the above map, which shows only the results in those constituencies holding a runoff today. The MDF and SZDSZ have been totally wiped out, which makes this election somewhat of a turning point from the 1990 era, since the MDF and SZDSZ were the two major parties right after the fall of the Wall and both represented the anti-communist opposition in 1990.

Best not to take too much analysis out of results in only 57 districts, of course, but the overall bottom line is simple. Fidesz has won an expectedly large majority, and with 263 seats, it has a narrow two-thirds majority. MSZP obviously took the drubbing it was headed for ever since 2006, and Jobbik won the best result for the Hungarian far-right since the fall of the Wall. As I said after the first round…

As always, and especially for Fidesz in this case, the easy part is over, the hard part is succeeding in government

Fidesz, which ran on a platform promising little aside from platitudes along the lines of “we’ll create a bunch of jobs” and “we’ll put the crooks in jail”, will find it especially hard to keep it’s voters, which are plentiful after these elections, happy. Predicting the 2014 election is a bit crazy as of now, but I’d be betting something on a return to power of the MSZP by then. Fidesz’s task includes putting the Hungarian economy back on its feet, something that will require foreign loans and investments, without playing against the strong nationalist sentiment which Jobbik will continue to exploit. On the foreign scene, Fidesz, which is historically far more ‘Greater Hungarian’ in its outlook than the Socialists are, might lead to a further worsening of relations with Slovakia, whose government is, on its side, heading down a road of Slovak nationalism and alienating Hungarians living in Slovakia.

Austria President 2010

Austria held a presidential election today, April 25. Austria’s President holds a largely ceremonial office, notably in charge of officially appointing a Chancellor. However, unlike in Germany, Austria’s President is directly elected by voters for a six-year term in a classic two-round system. Most hot presidential contests in Austria happen when the incumbent retires, when it is usually contested by the main parties. The last such incidence was in 2004, when incumbent President Thomas Klestil was term-limited after two terms in office. At that point, both of Austria’s major parties, the Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP) contested the election, which was narrowly won by Heinz Fischer of the SPÖ. Presidents running for re-election usually face no major opposition, save for opposition from smaller parties on the far-right or the Greens. In 1998, for example, Klestil, a member of the ÖVP, was re-elected with the support of the SPÖ and the far-right FPÖ against three other opponents, including a Green and a Liberal.

Heinz Fischer, like most of his predecessors, built up tremendous popularity while in office, likely due to the non-confrontational nature of the office. Despite the SPÖ’s series of electoral trouncings in 2009, Fischer’s popularity broke party lines and the ÖVP could not hope to field a strong challenge. Indeed, the ÖVP’s most likely candidate, Lower Austrian Governor Erwin Pröll announced in late 2009 that he would not run and the party officially endorsed Fischer in February 2010. The Greens, who were considering fielding their former popular leader Alexander Van der Bellen as a candidate, finally decided to endorse Fischer as well. On the far-right, the FPÖ announced early that it would field an opponent to Fischer. However, since the FPÖ’s young leader, Heinz-Christian Strache is focusing on the Vienna state elections later this year, he did not run but he announced in the Kronen Zeitung (the FPÖ’s mouthpiece, for all intents and purposes) that Barbara Rosenkranz, a state deputy in Lower Austria and a known far-rightist, would be the party’s candidate. Rosenkranz, it was thought, would have more appeal to traditionally conservative voters, while Strache is more popular with young and working-class voters. Rosenkranz is a polarizing figure, given her marriage to a neo-Nazi and her controversial position on immigration, the EU and Austria’s anti-Nazi legislation. The BZÖ of the late Jorg Haider, which has seen its fortune dwindle due to scandals in Carinthia, division and civil war in the party’s Carinthian stronghold, considered fielding Haider’s widow but decided against it. A final candidate emerged from the fringes, Rudolf Gehring of the Christian Party (CPÖ), which is a Christian fundamentalist outfit and shares some of the far-right’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Fischer’s re-election was never in doubt, with polls predicting around 75-80% support against 15-20% for Rosenkranz and 3-6% for Gehring. Rosenkranz’ goal was around 17%. Many had thought that she could have broken 20%.  Turnout, which was slightly above 70% in 2004, was widely expected to reach a record low this time. Here are the results. excluding postal votes (which are significant in Austria):

Heinz Fischer (SPÖ-ÖVP-Greens) 78.94%
Barbara Rosenkranz (FPÖ) 15.62%
Rudolf Gehring (CPÖ) 5.44%

Turnout was 49.2%, including a record 7.3% spoilt ballots. This reflects well the apathy of voters vis-a-vis an unimportant election for a ceremonial position, but also the abstention of many ÖVP voters, not fond of the Social Democrat Fischer, the quasi-Nazi Rosenkranz and the fundie Gehring. The high amount of spoilt ballots likely comes from ÖVP voters as well.

Fischer’s results are remarkably similar throughout Austria (a low of 67% in one district, with highs of around 89%), and the FPÖ did relatively poorly in areas where the bulk of its vote comes from old working-class voters, showing Rosenkranz’s weak appeal to that demographic. Even in Vorarlberg, where the FPÖ polled around 25% in last year’s state election, Rosenkranz won only 8.1% of the vote, while Gehring took 10.8%. Gehring did best in western Austria, which is traditionally rural, Catholic and a stronghold of the ÖVP. It shows well that the vast majority of Gehring’s vote came from ÖVP voters. Rosenkranz won her best result, 20.8%, in Carinthia, which isn’t very surprising. Overall, Fischer did surprisingly well in western Austria as well, either due to the flukes of low turnout or Rosenkranz’s poor appeal to FPÖ voters here (or the result of extrapolating too much stuff about results in such an election).