Hungary: Green Chances in the new Parliament

LMP / Greens demo 17th April 2011
Teaser Image Caption
LMP / Greens demo 17th April 2011

The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), Together 2014 (Együtt 2014), Dialogue for Hungary, the Democratic Coalition (DK) and the Hungarian Liberal Party (MLP) will contest the forthcoming parliamentary elections – scheduled for 6 April 2014 – with a joint list and common candidates. Apart from the far-right party Jobbik, only the green party Politics Can Be Different will contest the elections independently from the ruling parties and the left-of-centre Alliance. Many smaller formations running for election stand basically no chance of overcoming the 5% parliamentary threshold.

The new electoral system benefits the relative winner even more than before, which is one of the key reasons why the divided left was forced to form an alliance. The other one is that support for Together 2014, the formation led by former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai and reinforced by the representatives of PM who left LMP a year ago, was dangerously nearing the election threshold of 5%, while the formerly mere 1-2% support for DK rose to almost the same heights. This dynamic undermined the previous electoral agreement between the Socialists and Together 2014-PM, which envisaged the parties presenting their own candidate lists. Had the signatories adhered to the agreement, they would have run the risk of Together 2014-PM falling short of the parliamentary threshold. More saliently, leaving the Democratic Coalition out of the agreement would have seriously damaged the prospects of the common candidates presented by the Socialists and Together 2014-PM in individual districts. These two factors led to the reopening of negotiations and the quick conclusion of a new broader agreement that includes the Democratic Coalition on 14 January 2014.

The joint list managed to eliminate the risk of losing precious votes. However, it is questionable whether the broadened left-of-centre Alliance will be able to attract undecided voters dissatisfied with the government and rejecting at the same time Jobbik. The joint list includes many politicians who are potentially repulsive for this voter group. If they vote at all, undecided voters may prefer LMP or perhaps one of the underdog small parties over the Alliance. In the end, the result of the elections will be decided by these voters.

Thus, LMP – coping with internal conflicts and written off last year – could benefit from the new scenario. It might be the most logical choice between the two bigger camps for moderate and disillusioned voters – as it was in 2010. If so, surpassing the 5% election threshold seems to be a realistic prospect, which could mean obtaining 5-7 seats in the new 199-seat parliament. Although there is no chance to obtain individual mandates, a result above 5% would enable LMP to form its own parliamentary group.

It is much more difficult to predict the expected number of mandates for PM – a green left formation split off from LMP a year ago. Its chances of forming its own parliamentary group are low, since according to the new procedural rules this requires at least 5 seats if a party does not use its own party list to obtain mandates. From the joint national list of the Alliance, co-president Tímea Szabó will surely be elected, and Gábor Scheiring and Gergely Karácsony could make it too in case of a strong showing on behalf of the Alliance. The latter two will stand for election in individual districts as well – with Karácsony having better and Scheiring having worse chances of winning. Three other PM candidates (Dávid Dorosz, Ágnes Somfai and Rebeka Szabó) have a chance of winning their individual districts. If only two of the mentioned five individual candidates win in their respective districts, PM could still hope that many of their peers high on the joint list win as well, which would in turn boost the chances of Scheiring and Karácsony securing a seat from the joint left-of-centre party list. The table below illustrates that a reasonably large number of candidates on the joint left-of-centre list will stand for election in constituencies as well, and therefore it is difficult to estimate the last place on the list that will still yield a seat. (N.B.: 106 MPs will be elected from individual districts and 93 from the party lists.) All we can say at the moment is that the most likely scenario is that PM will be forced to join Together 2014’s parliamentary group after the elections.

Below, we calculate how many mandates the joint list could yield depending on how the balance of power shifts between Fidesz and the left-of-centre Alliance, under certain assumptions (1).


  • Domestic voter turnout: 4.8 million people (60%)
  • Voter turnout abroad: 300,000 people, Fidesz gets 100% of votes (we intentionally consider a worst-case scenario for the left in order to find out which joint list places are sure to yield a seat)
  • We set the support for Jobbik at 15%.

Scenario #1: LMP surpasses the threshold

  • LMP: 5.5%
  • Other small parties failing to surpass the threshold: 3.5%

Scenario #2: LMP fails to surpass the threshold

  • Other small parties failing to pass the threshold (including LMP): 7%

In the calculation, we took into account individual district victories and their effect on the number of seats obtained from the joint list. We used our own Mandate Calculator for the calculation.

Like Together 2014, the Democratic Coalition will most likely have its own parliamentary group as well (and apart from relying on individual district victories, it may even obtain the required 5 seats from the joint list). From the Hungarian Liberal Party, only Gábor Fodor – who is 4th on the list – is likely to obtain a seat, since his fellow party members (ranked 56th, 58th and 70th) only stand a chance in the event of a landslide opposition victory (or extremely fortunate overlaps between the individual district results and the party list rankings). In other words, there will surely be no independent liberal group in parliament.

Altogether, the framework of cooperation may be new, but the challenge remains the same. The main question is whether the left-of-centre opposition, which for such a long time was mainly preoccupied with internal competition between its heterogeneous elements, can persuade about one million new voters in the next 5 weeks that Hungary would perform better in its hands.
With the help of our calculator, we also analysed the conditions for another two-thirds parliamentary majority win for Fidesz. As the extremely complex electoral system is influenced by a myriad of factors, our results only represent the magnitude of the situation. Once again we set the domestic voter turnout, the voter turnout abroad and the support for Jobbik just as we did for the above scenarios.

If LMP fails to pass the threshold and increases the share of “lost” votes to 7%, then Fidesz only needs to gain 13.6 percentage points more than the left-of-centre Alliance to secure another supermajority (Fidesz: 45.8%, Alliance: 32.2%).
LMP passing the threshold only makes this prospect marginally more difficult. If LMP receives 5.5% of the votes, then Fidesz would need a 14.4 percentage-point   advantage over the left-of-centre Alliance (Fidesz: 45.2%, Alliance: 30.8%) to secure a supermajority.

For reference, here are the 2010 party list results with which Fidesz secured 68.13% of parliamentary seats – Fidesz: 52.73%; MSZP: 19.3%; Jobbik: 16.67%; LMP: 7.48%.


(1) For lists of candidates and tables, download this article as PDF


Róbert László is an election specialist at the Political Capital Institute