Dobrev wins opposition primaries, extra money to pensioners, Mészáros wins big, and extremists arrested

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Klára Dobrev and her party DK wins first round of opposition primaries

The first round of Hungary's first official primary elections ended Tuesday night, but it took the organizers two days to count all the votes and to shortlist the possible challengers who will defy Viktor Orbán in next year’s general elections.

The winner of the first round is Klára Dobrev, DK candidate. She is followed by Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony (MSZP-Dialogue), and, causing some surprise, by Péter Márki-Zay, Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely (Everyone's Hungary Movement, MMM) who came in third, before Péter Jakab (Jobbik) and András Fekete-Győr (Momentum), who was unexpectedly weak compared to his party's popularity.

Although Dobrev is the clear winner, Karácsony and Márki-Zay will have to be counted with, should they decide to join forces in some kind of agreement in the second round. Jakab and Fekete-Győr might be disappointed with their individual results, but their party candidates have done quite well in many individual districts.

The final results are as following:

  • Klára Dobrev (Democratic Coalition): 214,319 votes (34.76 percent)
  • Gergely Karácsony (MSZP, Dialogue, LMP): 168,396 votes (27.31 percent)
  • Péter Márki-Zay (MMM): 123,453 votes (20.02 percent)
  • Péter Jakab (Jobbik): 86,909 votes (14.10 percent)
  • András Fekete-Győr (Momentum): 20,944 votes (3.40 percent)

For Dobrev, wife of former Prime Minister Gyurcsány, a nemesis of Orbán, the victory is a particularly strong achievement. The DK candidate had a landslide victory in the countryside in the individual districts, which perhaps few had expected before the vote.

In addition to a spurred campaign and professional mobilization, this result is certainly due to the fact that the DK has the most committed electorate within the opposition: a DK voter is almost certainly likely to go to the polls, while the same cannot be said of sympathizers from other parties.

The big question is how much reserve does Dobrev have in the event that one of his rivals steps out of the race in favor of the other in the second round.

Dobrev has traditionally been the most divisive figure of the candidates, and also the most rejected candidate in analyzes and polls, so it is very doubtful if she can put a significant amount of new supporters behind her to achieve the ultimate victory.  She is the first candidate for many, but the second choice for only a few.

Compared to his high popularity and momentum in campaigning, Gergely Karácsony was only able to win the second place in the first round: this result is probably due to a less committed electorate, a political party measured at only a few percent, and also to a lack of rural base.

He is definitely in the next round, and with the possible standing down of Márki-Zay he can expect a tough second round against Dobrev.  However, he is the second choice, if not the first, for many people, as a kind of consensual figure.

For Márki-Zay, who entered the race without a party, the 20.4 percent result and the fact that he was able to pass Jakab is a huge success. Even a few days before the vote, he was dismissed by many analysts.  He proved them wrong. The lack of a party organization and its infrastructure is a serious disadvantage in terms of mobilization, but Márki-Zay and his followers seem to have managed to compensate for this relative weakness.

The mayor of Hódmezővásárhely now has a tough decision to make: should he step back in favor of Karácsony before the second round, when he seems eager to try and to persuade Karácsony to do so in his favor.

If both Márky-Zay and Karácsony remain in competition against Dobrev, she will have the best chance for the ultimate victory, a scenario which Márki-Zay said he wanted to avoid at all costs.

Positioning himself as the voice of the Hungarian countryside and simple common people, Péter Jakab gained considerable popularity during 2021 (managing to pull up the popularity of his party Jobbik at the same time, which was rather low due to constant internal fights).

But Jakab failed to convert his personal popularity onto votes: in rural areas, the willingness to vote was generally lower than in large cities.  Moreover, Dobrev’s promises of making Fidesz leaders and oligarchs accountable were at least as strong as Jakab’s.

Some analysts also suggested that besides polishing his “tough guy” image, he would have benefited from showing a “prime minister’s face” in the second part of the campaign.

Young András Fekete-Győr can be safely called the biggest loser of the primaries, as he performed deeply under the levels of his own party. Momentum’s campaign and negotiating positions were hindered by internal distortions, the signatures required for the candidacy were gathered painfully slowly, and the public appearances of Fekete-Győr were not always successful.

Local newspapers said that many Momentum sympathizers did not want to see the party president as a common candidate for the whole opposition, so the only question remaining was how much the candidate would fall back in the race.

Despite his personal failure, Fekete-Győr did not consider resigning, nor did his party urge him to do so. Despite the poor performance of the party president, Momentum's individual candidates performed very well in many districts: they brought several easy-to-win districts of Budapest and several other rural constituencies.

The order of strength of the parties on the basis of individual victories differs a lot from the order of the prime ministerial candidates.  Dk won the battle on these grounds as well, but Jobbik came second, compared to the 4th place of its president. MSZP and Dialogue, individually and together, are stronger than their popularity index.

The main reason for this is tradition, because the MSZP, as the oldest party, has more politicians embedded in several places than the others, and the 2018 election MSZP-Dialogue agreement also managed to retain some candidates already well known in their respective districts.

The final order of the winning candidates from the 106 total:

  • DK: 33
  • Jobbik: 28
  • MSZP: 18
  • Momentum: 15
  • Dialogue: 7
  • LMP: 5

Orban announces extra money for pensioners ahead of next year’s elections

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced the disbursement of some 80,000 forints to every single Hungarian pensioner, ahead of next year’s general elections.

Orbán, who spoke in his traditional press event of the Hungarian public radio on Friday morning, also talked in length about the development of the army, the pandemic situation, but failed to mention the primaries.

Mészáros builds ultra expensive railways between in Budapest

V-Híd Építő Zrt., which belongs to Lőrinc Mészáros, won the expansion of the existing railway tracks between Kelenföld and Ferencváros railway stations at a very high price, for almost 338 billion.  This translates to an exorbitant cost of HUF 62 billion/km.

Anonymous experts told newspaper G7 - which spotted the tender won by Mészáros’ company - that they estimated the cost of such work to amount at most in the range of 30-50 billion forints.

During the investment, a third and partly a fourth track will be built next to the existing two tracks between Kelenföld railway station and Ferencváros railway station, along with two new railway stations called Nádorkert and Közvágóhíd.

The absurd size of the investment is well illustrated by the fact that according to business portal's calculations, the Hungarian state spent HUF 346 billion on the maintenance of the entire national railway system in total. This sum includes not only the maintenance of the existing track network, but also the cost of benefits to students and pensioners, along with the cost of purchasing new trains.

G7 compared the project with other metropolitan railway developments and came to the conclusion that France’s high-speed TGVs, Vienna’s main railway station, but even Munich's second railway tunnel, were also much cheaper.

The G7 article has also listed some half a dozen other metropolitan rail developments, showing how much better improvements could be made from a similar amount.

The Mészáros development of the Budapest-Belgrade railway line, which has been one of the strongest symbols of overpriced public procurement so far, costs 590 billion forints, but it takes place on a line of more than 150 kilometers, ie its specific cost per kilometer is only one-fifteenth of the current Mészáros Project.

Leaders of extremist group arrested

The leaders of an extremist far-right group preparing to commit murder were arrested following a raid by members of the Counter Terrorism Center (TEK).  The group calls itself the “Responsible National Government of the Hungarians.”

The alleged perpetrators were arrested on Monday on grounds of preparing to assassinate.  On Tuesday, the prosecution included the charge of forcibly altering the constitutional order.

The suspects set up their organization with one of its members bestowed with judicial power, while another suspect was responsible for organizing the "executive branch of power".

The suspects also drafted a new “constitution,” in which one point stipulated that every member of society "shall have the right and duty to oppose and resist at all cost, even of his life, and without charge of infidelity, against anyone who violates the values set forth in the preceding paragraphs of the constitutional principles."

The suspects operated a partly open, partly conspiracy membership organization, which was also featured on social media.

The suspects, in addition to voicing their anti-Semitic views, took concrete steps to forcibly change the constitutional order, as they called upon their members to kill public figures during their rallies and on the internet.

According to the suspicion, at their meeting on 11 September in a village in Fejér County (which was also recorded on a video-sharing channel), the leaders of the group called on the members of the group to commit homicides, saying that if they kill, they should “kill nicely.”

According to the attorney general, several people have volunteered to carry out the killings.

The investigating prosecutor's office has requested the arrest of the suspects, and the investigating judge of the Buda Central District Court will decide on the coercive measures. 

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