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Orban’s Party Loses Stronghold to Opposition

Independent elected mayor in a town seen as staunchly loyal to the ruling Fidesz party.

26 February 2018

An opposition party candidate’s victory in a mayoral race has delivered a wakeup call to the ruling Fidesz party six weeks ahead of national elections.


Independent candidate Peter Marki-Zay was elected mayor of the southeastern Hungarian town of Hodmezovasarhely in yesterday’s vote, beating Fidesz candidate Zoltan Hegedus, who was expected to win.


“We stood up and Hodmezovasarhely has shown that we want to get rid of the big boys bullying the whole class,” Marki-Zay told a news conference, as quoted by Reuters.


Marki-Zay won 57.4 percent of the vote in the town of 47,000 inhabitants, beating Hegedus by 15 points. Turnout reached 63 percent, well above normal for a local election, Hungarian Free Press writes.


The conservative Fidesz has held a virtual lock on national and local politics for years. The result in Hodmezovasarhely was all the more surprising because the town has been a stronghold of Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s party for the past two decades, RFE/RL says.


Caption: Peter Marki-Zay casting his ballot for the mayoral elections in Hodmezovasarhely, on 25 February. Photo via Peter Marki-Zay's Facebook page.


More painful still, it is also the hometown of Janos Lazar, the prime minister’s powerful chief of staff and a former mayor of the town, BNE Intellinews writes.


Marki-Zay was supported by all major opposition parties: The Socialists, the radical nationalist Jobbik, and the liberal LMP, RFE/RL reports. The 45-year-old economist is new to politics. He describes himself as a conservative and a disenfranchised Fidesz voter, BNE Intellinews says.


According to RFE/RL, Marki-Zay said that his victory showed that "there is an enormous demand for corruption, lies, and intimidation to cease in the country."


Even though Fidesz is widely expected to retain its hold on power at parliamentary elections set to take place on 8 April, the unexpected opposition victory in Hodmezovasarhely has sent a signal, said analyst Robert Laszlo at think tank Political Capital.


The result “has a sweeping psychological significance,” because “it shows that Fidesz is beatable even in a place like this and the result could jolt opposition parties into action and rethinking their strategies,” Reuters quotes him as saying. 



  • After announcing that he would run for mayor, Marki-Zay was fired from his job, Hungarian Free Press says, and according to BNE street cameras were suddenly installed near his home.


  • Orban and Lazar both campaigned alongside Hegedus, and government ministers promised lavish investments in the town, Hungarian Free Press says.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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