Support for Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party plummets

By bne IntelliNews December 12, 2014

bne IntelliNews -

 

Two polls released on December 11 showed an unprecedented decline in support for Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party. The survey suggests the government's approval ratings continue to plunge in the wake of recent mass protests and US pressure on Budapest. However, the trend is doing little to strengthen opposition parties.

In a poll by think tank Median, support for Fidesz among eligible voters plunged to 26% from 38% in October. The results show that Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party has lost 900,000 potential voters, which is the largest drop recorded by any party in Hungary since the end of communism in 1990.

An Ipsos poll released the same day has Fidesz losing 800,000 supporters over the past two months, reports MTI. The government's approval rating among eligible voters fell to 30% in November from 35% in October and has now fallen further to 25%.

Fidesz' waning popularity is seen as mainly a result of the mass protests over the government’s plan to introduce an internet tax at the end of October. Those plans were later scrapped by Orban.

In addition, Orban's percieved lean towards Moscow - particularly in the energy sphere - has sparked a diplomatic row with the US, raising fears amongst the population of isolation from the West. Washington banned six Hungarian officials from entering the US on grounds of corruption in November, the first ever such action against a Nato ally.

One of the officials on the list is Ildiko Vida, the head of the national tax administration. She launched a legal case for public defamation against Andre Goodfriend, Charge d' Affaires at the US Embassy, on December 11. Orban had earlier remarked that she should either bring the action or quit.

However, the polls also illustrate the challenge Hungarian opposition parties. The majority of voters abandoning Fidesz have moved over to "undecided", with that group now accounting for 36% of eligible voters.

The opposition Socialist Party (MSZP) and others on the left have consistently struggled to mount any challenge since Orban took office in 2010. The MSZP's rose to just 12% from 8% in the Ipsos poll. The far-right nationalist Jobbik remains Fidesz closest rival, and boosted its approval rating to 15% in the same survey.

Meanwhile, Fidesz has time and space to continue with its policy and rebuild support. The lull in support for Orban - who has spoken of building an "illiberal democracy" modelled on Russia and China - comes just months after Fidesz won a second constitutional majority in general elections in April. The party also won a strong majority May's elections to the European Parliament, as well as local elections in October. Hungary does not now have any scheduled elections until 2018.

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