April’s elections will be the first to take place under the rules of the new laws and the new constitution enacted in 2012 by prime minister Viktor Orbán, whose conservative Fidesz – Magyar Polgári Szövetség (Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance) came to power in 2010 with a supermajority in Hungary’s Országgyűlés (National Assembly).
Orbán (pictured above) is easily the most controversial head of government in the European Union, and he’s been criticized for a governing style that’s taken populist turns and authoritarian twists over the past four years, even aside from the controversial constitutional reforms that are likely to give Orbán and Fidesz an advantage in the upcoming elections.
The number of seats in the National Assembly will shrink from 386 to just 199 — 106 seats will be determined on a first-past-the-post basis in single-member constituencies, while 93 will be determined on the basis of party lists (with a 5% threshold). That’s a slight change from the previous system when around 54% of the seats were determined by party lists; under the new system, about 53% of the seats are determined on the basis of constituencies. Moreover, the previous two-round election system has been replaced with a one-round system that no longer features a minimum turnout requirement.
That’s all likely to boost Fidesz, which holds a wide lead against a fragmented, withered opposition. Polls show Fidesz with a nearly two-to-one lead against the nearest opponent, and the electoral law changes could easily amplify Orbán’s majority. The Magyar Szocialista Párt (MSZP, Hungarian Socialist Party), which became massively unpopular under former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, attracts just around 20% of voters in polls. Gyurcsány split from his party in 2011 to form the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK, Democratic Coalition), and opposition unity talks have so far failed. Meanwhile, the far-right nationalist Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Jobbik) will be looking to maintain its stunning level of support from 2010, when it won nearly 17% of the vote.