Hungarian opposition embarks on difficult journey to bridge urban-rural divide

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Social crisis

Yet 2022 could be a turning point. While it is true that there has been a constant – although very uneven – increase in the standard of living until 2019, the pandemic has brought it to an abrupt halt and will have lasting and far-reaching consequences.

With 30,000 dead and many small businesses closed or on the verge of bankruptcy, people are starting to wonder about the government’s handling of the unprecedented health and economic crisis: Did it simply use the legislation? emergency he introduced to funnel taxpayer money to his cronies while failing to provide direct cash payments to the most needy in society?

“The main subject of the opposition will be the social crisis, which has hit both urban and rural areas,” Lakner said. “And the opposition should also draw attention to the obvious fact that despite slow but steady progress until 2019, Hungary is now lagging behind all of its Visegrad allies in terms of salaries and there is no absolutely no sign of catching up with Western Europe. “

Opposition parties are now rolling out across the countryside in an attempt to make up for lost time. Jobbik, the former far-right nationalist, is trying to convince that he is on the way to becoming a center-right “popular party”.

Jobbik had the largest network in the countryside after Fidesz, although statistics show it is losing ground. Jobbik vice-president Gyorgy Laszlo Lukacs disagrees: “In recent months tens of thousands of Hungarians have joined us, all of whom are unhappy with the government and want change.

Jobbik believes that rural people have been the biggest losers of the decade in power for Fidesz. “People looking for a job have had to move to the capital or travel even further to other EU countries because rural wages are so low. Young people are fleeing the villages because they have absolutely no future there. We would like to make sure that everyone can fight for a better life in their homeland, ”Lukacs wrote to BIRN in an email, while accusing the government of forcing rural people to work as“ serfs ”on the huge estates. government owned. allied owners.

Agnes Kunhalmi, co-chair of the Hungarian Socialist Party, who tells BIRN that she has spent the last few days campaigning in Bacs County, admits that the smaller the village, the harder it is to reach people. “There is a strong hierarchy in the villages, an obvious dependence resulting from politics. People are just afraid to come out and talk to us, ”Kunhalmi told BIRN in a telephone interview.

She explains that the socialists are trying to formulate policies for the poor, with a tax-free minimum wage or an increase in the minimum pension, which is currently less than 100 euros per month. But without any independent media in the countryside, their message does not seem to reach the most needy who would be most sensitive to such an offer.

The situation is more promising in medium to large cities. Klara Dobrev, MEP and prime minister candidate for the Democratic Coalition, is campaigning in eastern Hungary and tells BIRN she sees a lack of social justice, the arrogance of the ruling elite and the looting of taxpayer dollars and state property are the most critical issues for voters there. “There is a very dynamic political life in the towns I visit, with several hundred people attending our meetings,” says Dobrev.

But the opposition campaign cannot focus entirely on rural areas. Most opposition parties and analysts agree that the main message should be the reunification of the country after years of deliberately stoked political divisions. In addition to the historical urban-rural divide, long present in Hungarian cultural and political life, the divisions worsened between religious and non-religious, liberals and conservatives (being the only true patriots), the left and the right. , young and old.

“Orban can only be defeated with the combined strength of rural and urban voters, elders and youth of the opposition,” said Lukacs, vice-president of Jobbik.

Political scientist Lakner goes even further, asserting that “Hungary’s future will depend on being able to stop this political polarization”.

“But, unfortunately, that certainly won’t happen during this campaign,” he sighs.

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