Post-Election Blues

The atmosphere at my local, in Budapest's XIIIth District, was rather subdued last night.  I should explain that, aside from two or three people whose continued presence there borders on the inexplicable -  virtually all of the regulars at my favourite bar support one of Hungary's  left of centre parties. At the moment, there are at least three such parties to chose from: MSZP (the Socialist Party), which emerged from the old Communist Party; DK (Democratic Coalition), which is headed by a fomrer Socialist Prime Minister, Ference Gyurcsány, and Együtt-PM, which was founded by another former Socialist Prime Minister, Gordon Bajnai. All three parties had decided to support Lajos Bokros, a self-avowed "right winger" and head of a fourth political party, "Moma" or "Modern Hungary" in yesterday's elections for Mayor of Budapest. It was hoped that Bokros, a former Finance Minister and a combative champion of liberal democracy, had a real chance to unseat the lacklustre current mayor, István Tarlos, who belongs to the country's governing Fidesz party.

By mid-evening, it was clear that Tarlos would be re-elected with a large majority. According to the final count, Tarlos received 49.1% of the votes cast, as compared with Bokros' 36%. The only consolation is that the candidate of the extreme rightwing JOBBIK party did comparative ly badly, with 7.1% of the vote.

One of the regulars at my bar, a seasoned politial campaigner and a former Budapest city councillor, talked about emigrating. Another, one of Hungary's talented crop of young writers, lambasted the left of centre parties for their vanity and for failing to co-operate more fully in their efforts to counter Fidesz. Only the  middle-aged Irish couple who were visiting Budapest for a few days and who had somehow stumbled across  my local looked reasonably happy. But then they were blissfully unaware of the depressing realities of Hungarian politics.

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