The Hungarian electoral campaign was severely impacted by the war in Ukraine. The start of the political campaign was based on traditional narratives from Fidesz, mainly promoting the historic support they offered since 2010 to Transylvania, Fidesz’s financial support to families, subsidies for schools, and kindergartens.
Historic loyalty was the main online discussion in Transylvania before the war, with people there already overwhelmingly convinced of voting for the party that has given significant financial resources, cultural and social recognition, as well as a sense of belonging in the Hungarian nation. From the outset the opposition was almost inexistent in Transylvania, its visibility being overwhelmingly negative articles and posts. The coverage of the opposition before the war was focused on Márki Zay as an enemy of the Hungarian Diaspora, or at least as an outsider that neither understands nor supports the Hungarian nation beyond borders.
- The fear of defunding was the main narrative promoted in the Hungarian Diaspora. This narrative was supported with shares of Márki Zay declarations that were either misquoted or carefully selected to suggest his rejection of the Hungarian Diaspora. What is more, his political affiliation with Ferenc Gyurcsány (former prime minister that resigned due to corruption allegations) negatively impacted his credibility in Transylvania. In fact, even before the war the message “Don’t vote with the puppet of Gyurcsany” was the main narrative used by the Pro- Orban account “Hungarians of Transylvania support Viktor Orban”, both in organic and paid posts.
- After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the pro-peace narrative supported by Fidesz became the focus of the electoral campaign. Suddenly, Fidesz decided to promote that choosing Orban meant choosing peace while choosing Peter Márki-Zay meant choosing war. As explained above, the dissemination of this narrative was a little bit more nuanced.
- Viktor Orban’s decision against sending weapons to Ukraine, against adopting decisive measures in response to Russia’s actions, and his open support from Donald Trump, played a big role in this pro-peace narrative. Hungarians first, and Hungarian interests first create a legitimate justification for Fidesz’s actions, of course, every Hungarian would like to have leaders that put their needs first. Hence, Peter Marki-Zay had little chance to penetrate the controlled media space of Transylvania and a powerful narrative that enforced the position of Viktor Orban as a power figure that is a must in these difficult times.
- In Transylvania, Fidesz’s victory was guaranteed by years of investing in and buying up the media space, public authorities, DAHR party, and local NGOs that work as a party center for Budapest’s regime interests. In the end, the Fidesz-Fluencers played their part and led the people of Transylvania to the expected outcome in Budapest. Once again, clientelism did not fail.
The link to the original publication can be found: here.
"Election Monitoring in Hungary and its Diaspora" research is conducted with the support of the International Republican Institute's Beacon Project. It is conducted in Hungary and select countries with a significant Hungarian diaspora: Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not reflect those of IRI.