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Klára Dobrev wins first round of opposition primary

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Hungary – The suspense did not last long, as the trend became clear as soon as counting began. The Democratic Coalition (DK) candidate, Klára Dobrev, came first in the first round of the Hungarian opposition primary.

Klára Dobrev leads in all counties

Out of 616,512 votes cast, the wife of former socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány received 214,319 votes (34.7%), beating Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony (168,396 votes, 27.3%), as well as Hódmezővásárhely’s Péter Márki-Zay (123,453 votes, 20.0%), Jobbik candidate Péter Jakab (86,909 votes, 14.1%), and Momentum movement chairman András Fekete-Győr (20,944 votes, 3.4%). Klára Dobrev came first in all of the country’s counties, as well as in 84 out of 106 constituencies.

The Democratic Coalition’s success was also reflected in the vote for single candidates in the constituencies, as

the party of Dobrev and Gyurcsány obtained 32 nominations out of 106, compared with 29 for Jobbik (a formerly far-right party which has become centrist), 18 for the Socialist Party, 15 for Momentum, 6 for Párbeszéd, 5 for the Greens, and one for the New World People’s Party (Új Világ Néppárt)

led by a former Fidesz minister, József Pálinkás.

Gyurcsány: “Klára Dobrev has been wonderful…”

Klára Dobrev’s campaign manager and deputy chairman of the Democratic Coalition, Csaba Molnár, could not hide his satisfaction with this first success: “The first Hungarian national primary was won by the Democratic Coalition […]

Tonight, Klára Dobrev has become the common denominator for the voters not only of DK, but of all opposition parties.

For his part, Ferenc Gyurcsány welcomed his wife’s result: “Klára Dobrev was wonderful in the campaign and will be equally wonderful as the country’s leader.” According to Dobrev herself,

Change has begun in recent weeks and is continuing. We will not stop until next April when we can say that we live in a European democratic Hungarian republic. This is the goal that guides us.” 

In the meantime, the three leading candidates in the first round (Klára Dobrev, Gergely Karácsony and Péter Márki-Zay) are supposed to run off in a second round of voting in October.

Nothing is decided yet

Unexpectedly qualifying for the second round of this primary, the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, Péter Márki-Zay, who won the race for mayor in 2018 by being the first to implement a united opposition strategy including Jobbik, would not say at first whether he would withdraw in favour of one of the other two candidates.

If Márki-Zay chose to compete in the second round, victory would be almost certain for Klára Dobrev. This would likely be good news for the Fidesz majority, as it could then campaign against Klára Dobrev’s husband, former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány. Márki-Zay said he did not see why he should automatically withdraw in favour of Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony, stressing some points he has in common with Klára Dobrev, even if he considers that a candidacy by Ferenc Gyurcsány’s wife is not a good idea.

On the other hand, it is clear that the first round of the opposition’s primary has confirmed

a golden rule of Hungarian politics: a national election is won by winning the provinces.

Thus, betting on Gergely Karácsony, who has only been successful in and around Budapest, while DK and Jobbik have won the provinces, would not necessarily be the best option for the opposition in April 2022.

DK is likely to push this point to the extreme in the coming days and has already announced that it will not participate in the inter-party negotiations, while Péter Márki-Zay remains in his posture of an oppositionist within the opposition, hitting right-wing, conservative notes and upsetting both Dobrev’s and Karácsony’s plans.

However, Péter Márki-Zay and Gergely Karácsony announced on the afternoon of 1 October that one of them would step aside in favour of the other, and that in the event of victory in the April 2022 parliamentary elections, the one who steps aside will be chosen to take up the post of deputy prime minister. The two candidates have given themselves a week to decide who should withdraw from the race. For the time being, the mayor of Budapest, Gergely Karácsony, seems to be the one less willing to do so.