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Péter Márki-Zay wins Hungarian opposition primary

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Hungary – The Hungarian opposition primary election has been won by Péter Márki-Zay, who gained 56.7% of the vote against 43.3% for his social democratic and Eurofederalist opponent Klára Dobrev (DK). Péter Márki-Zay is the mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, a medium-sized town 26 km north of Szeged, in the southeast of the country. He will be the opposition coalition’s candidate for prime minister against Viktor Orbán in the next parliamentary elections to be held in spring 2022.

A former Fidesz voter

Péter Márki-Zay, who is still relatively unknown to the general public beyond Hungary’s borders, was in a way the precursor of the present opposition coalition against the powerful Fidesz of conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. It was indeed with the support of both Jobbik (still a not-too-respectable far-right party at the time) and the left-wing parties, as well as some civil society organisations, that Márki-Zay, who defines himself as a conservative, a supporter of Christian values, and a former “disappointed Fidesz voter”, and whom almost nobody knew at the time, took over the mayor’s office of Hódmezővásárhely in February 2018, with 57.5% of the vote in what had been until then one of Fidesz’s bastions. Nicolas de Lamberterie interviewed him for the Visegrád Post at that time.

“Restore democracy, freedom of the press, the rule of law…”

A historian, economist, academic, and former private sector executive, Márki-Zay used to work for French multinationals (EDF, Legrand) and he “spent five years in Canada and the United States” from 2004 to 2009. He speaks six foreign languages and founded the Hungary for All Movement (Mindenki Magyarországa Mozgalom, MMM) in November 2018. He then declared that he wanted to tackle corruption, which he said was “bigger than ever”. It was, in his eyes, “the fundamental problem” of present-day Hungary. At the same time, he wanted to defend the freedom of the press and was already presenting what could be seen as a future government programme:

My hope would be to have a technocratic government, a management government, whose main objective would be to restore democracy, freedom of the press, the rule of law, the market economy, and commitment to European integration.

Márki-Zay said that it was “in their common interest” for the main opposition parties (Jobbik, DK, LMP and MSZP) to join together in a coalition. This is what they have done. A coalition of six parties (DK, Jobbik, Momentum, MSZP, Párbeszéd and LMP) has now chosen Péter Márki-Zay to head its list in a democratic vote. Next year, Hungarian voters will have to choose between continuity on the one hand, with Viktor Orbán and his conservative Fidesz-KDNP coalition, and change on the other, with Péter Márki-Zay and his heterogeneous coalition uniting the left, liberals, the former far-right who have repented and converted to pro-EU populism, and some disappointed conservatives.