Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Hungarian elections: How a landslide to the right is actually a move to the left
Most international news about the results of the Hungarian elections are superficial and concentrate on the issue of the far right and the 2/3 majority of Viktor Orbán. If you just fly in and out of the country and look at the names of political parties, you get the impression that there has been a massive shift from the left to the right.
But in Hungary everything is the other way around.
The Socialists, who have been governing in the last eight years, and between 1994 and 1998, have in fact traditionally been a very right wing, neoliberal party - a complete break with their past of being the Communist party of Hungary until 1989. Their pendulum swang to the opposite exteme. From believers in the omnipotent state they went on to being believers in the free market. Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn carried out mass scale privatisation to foreing investors, making trade unions weak and Hungary one of the most open economies in the world. Socialist governance between 2002 and 2008 was characterised by an attempt to privatise healthcare, constant talk (albeit little action) about decreasing taxes, inflation targeting in monetary policy, and massive capital flight from amongst the Socialist political-economic elite to de facto tax havens such as Cyprus.
These Socalists have now suffered the biggest defeat in their history, and their auxilliary parties, the neoliberal Alliance of Free Democrats and the Hungarian Democratic Forum (also neoliberal lately) have not even made it into parliament. So neoliberalism maintains a 19% presence in the Hungarian Parliament.
All of the other political forces in the new parliament are to the left of the Socialists economically.
The nominally conservative Fidesz are likely to get a 2/3 majority in Parliament, perhaps even more. Although at the centre of their election campaign were also tax cuts, which would make them neoliberal and Lafferist, they are already backtracking on this issue, and it is difficult to see how they lower taxes without blowing an enormous hole hole in the national budget that is already in strongly negative territory. All other areas of their agenda are very vague, essentially populist, but past policies of Fidesz were rather social democratic in character: a stronger state, state aid to enterprises, free and state owned healthcare and education, etc.
Much has been made of the exremist party, Jobbik, which has received 17% of popular vote. While strongly nationalistic, antisemitic and racist (anti-Gipsy) in their politics, their economic policies are in fact very similar to Fidesz's except they advocate no tax cuts and would instead default on Hungary's huge debt burden - a very unrealistic idea.
The last party that got into parliament is called LMP (a Hungarian acronym for Politics Can be Different). It is a Green party of the Scandinavian type, with a root in the left wing global alterglobalisation movement. Their ideology is the New Left / Naomi Klein / Chomsky type, which realises that environmental sustainability is dependent on a radical shift of the economic system from assymetrical deregulated capitalism to societal-economic-environmental sustainability. That in fact green is red. What policies they will actually advocate in parliament is somewhat difficult to tell at the moment, as their election manifesto was a little vague on detail, not unlike the mainstream parties that they criticised.
Since all three parties are left of the Socialists economically, a landslide towards the right in fact means a decisive move towards the left in Hungary.