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Promising New Party in Hungary

Fresh of its success at foiling the country’s Olympic bid, Momentum will transform into a political party to compete in upcoming elections. 

6 March 2017

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As expected, the Momentum Movement in Hungary has taken advantage of its own momentum in derailing the country’s Olympic bid and decided this past weekend to become an official political party, reports The Associated Press.


The vote was 140-0 at a general meeting on Saturday, during which members elected 28-year-old Andras Fekete-Gyor (pictured), Momentum’s leader, as party chairman for a one-year term, according to Hungary Today, citing news site The new party intends to run candidates in all of the country’s 106 constituencies for the 2018 election.


“There is no solidarity on the right and no positive image of the nation on the left,” said a party statement quoted by AP. “It is clear from our [referendum] initiative that voters need something new.” The activists who compose Momentum’s core are largely in their 20s and 30s, many of whom have worked or studied abroad and have chafed at the government’s migration policy and relationship with Russia.


The professionally managed petition drive against the Hungarian bid to organize the summer Olympic Games in 2024 collected 266,000 signatures and must have deeply rankled Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party, who had been hoping to use the bid to rally support ahead of the elections. Instead in late February, the government announced that it would withdraw its bid, citing a lack of unity, and directly blaming opposition parties, some of whom evidently backtracked on earlier commitments to support the idea.


In a recent TOL “Middle Europa” column, Martin Ehl speculated that Momentum might have a decent chance to succeed where past attempts at coming up with an alternative to the dominant ruling party and the largely discredited opposition have failed. “But as both left- and right-wing commentators in Hungarian media recently pointed out,” he wrote, “the young party should, as soon as possible, come up with a credible program to become a serious player. And they must buckle up for an inevitable attack from Fidesz.”


Any chance of toppling Fidesz is still a longshot, as AFP suggested, writing that the party’s failed Olympic quest had hardly affected its popularity.


Political analyst Eva S. Balogh, writing on the Hungarian Spectrum blog, however, said the current poll data suggested a possible opening.


“The resounding success of the Momentum Movement’s referendum drive is widely interpreted as the first sign of the awakening of a depressingly inactive and uncaring public. The time might be ripe for action if there is a political force that can take advantage of the mood of the country,” Balogh wrote, referring to a recent poll that indicated that only a fifth of 1.5 million undecided voters said they favored Orban.


“All in all, the number of people who are dissatisfied with the present government far surpasses the 2.2 million core Fidesz voters even without the 1.2 million undecided voters who, given a viable alternative, would be inclined to vote for an opposition force,” she added.


Balogh, however, worried that Momentum’s potential might be limited without cooperating with other opposition members, something another once-promising party, the LMP, had failed to do enough.


“It [Momentum] intends to compete against the other opposition parties, although we know that fracturing the anti-Orban forces is political suicide. Under the current electoral law, which is designed for a two-party system, a divided opposition can only lose. Nonetheless, for the time being Momentum is planning to follow in the footsteps of LMP, which doesn’t bode well for either Momentum or Hungarian democracy.”


The new party’s leaders remain unfazed by the task ahead – at least publically.


"Although changing the government in 2018 seems unrealistic to many people, many people also thought that collecting more than 100,000 signatures would be impossible for us," said Anna Orosz, a Momentum leader, quoted by AFP.

Compiled by Jeremy Druker

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