New Report: Outlook for Hungary for 2020

Download the full report, by Cevro Institute Partner Eszter Nova, here!


Hungarian politics in 2020 will be different from 2019 in a number of ways. After years of paralysis and disarray of the Hungarian non-Fidesz opposition, they are back in the political game after a surprise non-defeat at the municipal elections in October 2019. 

The surprise result of the local elections is the single most important political event in a decade and their aftermath is closely watched for signs of where the country might be going. In January 2020 it is still too early to tell how exactly strategies and politics would change – either on Fidesz’ side or in the opposition.

The shock and surprise of the not complete victory had visibly shaken Fidesz politicians and the party is slow to draw conclusions.

Orbán may also be reluctant to openly commit to any new direction before Fidesz’ situation in the European People’s Party (EPP) is settled, one way or the other.

There is also the Article 7 procedure hanging above him, and – more importantly – the fate of the EU development funds and their continued flow to the regime.

Both, however, are spectacularly opaque for outsiders to follow – and it tells all we need to know about the image problems of the European Union. When decision will be reached, it will be as much a surprise for the public as Orbán’s decisions are domestically – we have no way to predict either.

This essay will focus on Hungarian domestic issues for two reasons. The first one is that there have been no significant changes in the international situation since last year that affect Hungarian politics.

The country is still exposed to the same processes in global and European politics and in the global economy – the discussion of which is beyond the scope of this document.

The other reason is that there are significant changes going on domestically that have the potential to bring back political competition, public debate, and even political compromise into Hungarian politics.

For the first time in years, the non-Fidesz opposition also merits some discussion. Not in their tedious inner dealings and supposed ideological stance – but their use of the powers (albeit small and waning) they have found after the municipal elections, and the chances of their anti-Fidesz coalitions because that would be the single most relevant factor running up to the 2022 general elections.

Questions emerge. Firstly, whether the economy can finally become a political issue in Hungary.

Secondly, what measures Fidesz will take to block the opposition from gaining further ground – either politically or in terms of communication. The answer to this question will likely only emerge after Fidesz’ place in their European party family has been settled, but before the 2022 general elections.

The uninitiated outsider might also ask naïve questions such as the political consequences of the defeat for Orbán, whether he would resign or whether Fidesz could split – but these questions rest on the assumption that Hungary is a country where democratic politics is still taking place (i.e. there is a back and forth between more than one political force that keep each other in check and make consequences happen).

In reality, it is just being decided.

We will discuss how Fidesz may or may not change strategy after the elections and whether the opposition can turn Fidesz’ weaknesses into political capital.

Unfortunately, there are not many concrete facts to go by as Orbán is visibly postponing any reaction until after his situation in or out of the EPP is settled and he knows more about the Article 7 procedure in Brussels.

Eszter Nova

Lecturer at Cevro Institute in Prague

Find more pieces written by Eszter Nova for 4.Liberty here: