Between the tower blocks and family houses: what mapping election results taught me about Budapest

(Based on results of the party list vote)

1. Government party Fidesz relies on a complex electoral coalition

Fidesz first won a landslide victory in 2010 on the back of Socialist Party misgovernment and corruption; protests and riots; and the impact of the global economic crisis. It solidified its rule in ways that have been exhaustively documented by researchers, journalists and activists: bringing the country’s independent institutions, broadcasters and judiciary to heel; replacing anyone with a position of import who might resist with Fidesz loyalists; enriching not just friends and families (and the occasional gas-pipe fitter) but allied oligarchs as well, who made sure most of media and business would toe the government’s line; waging massive publicity campaigns which filled Hungary’s billboards, mailboxes and newspaper pages with increasingly apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of muslim migrants and meddling EU bureaucrats. Forcing utility companies to reduce their rates (and taking credit on each monthly bill) or just plain handing out free food helped too. So, of course, did an economic recovery with strongly rebounding wages.

2. A divided opposition will fail

Unless all the polls are very, very wrong, we will see this play out in today’s parliamentary election: nothing guarantees Fidesz dominance like the opposition’s fragmentation (with some help from a duly doctored electoral system). But we saw a preview of its impact in the 2014 European election, when the left-liberal opposition broke apart into four separate lists. The result: in most of Budapest’s city districts, there was not a single precinct where an opposition party came out on top in the party list vote. Instead, they were left to divide up second places among them.

3. The Jobbik vote — an angry bird

Less of a lesson than a question about what will happen to Jobbik’s vote today: what will happen with the bird?

Budapest districts V-VII

Budapest districts 5, 6 and 7 make up the part of Pest you see as tourist: downtown Váci street, the parliament, Andrássy Boulevard, the Jewish neighbourhood, Keleti station.

Budapest districts VIII and IX

Budapest districts VIII (the famed/notorious “Nyócker”) and IX range from gentrified central-Ferencváros and the Palace District of Józsefváros to the city’s poorest streets, and then out to post-industrial wastelands and Kádár-era high-rises. The political maps are correspondingly varied..

Budapest district XIII

Budapest’s “red” thirteenth elected Hungary’s only two socialist MPs in 2010, when Fidesz swept all before it throughout the rest of the country, even in Budapest. Not just has the XIII. kerület voted for Socialist Party candidates in every parliamentary election since 1994, the opposition “Unity” alliance topped the party list vote there in 2014 in a massive 95 out of 98 precincts, all the way from fashionable Újlipótváros to the high rises of Angyalföld.

Budapest districts XIV and XV

Towards the northeast of the city, Budapest’s XIV. and XV. kerületek represent swing districts of quite different kinds. The margins were similar: the Unity alliance came out ahead of Fidesz in the party list vote in district XIV (39% to 37%), while Fidesz was a hair ahead in district XV (36.8% to 36.4%).

Budapest district X

Budapest’s District X, named Kőbánya after the old stone quarries there and famed for its beer breweries, is a working class kerület with many high-rise estates, bits of modest family housing, and residential pockets in (post-)industrial areas. (I’m afraid I had to crop out Kőbánya-Kertváros in these maps, an outlying garden suburb settlement).

Budapest districts XIX and XX — plus “Havana”

The sound of the suburbs, or where the Jobbik voters are: the remaining maps below show Budapest’s XIX. kerület (Kispest) and most of XX (Pesterzsébet), plus the huge “Havanna” high-rise estate in District XVIII.



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Holland — Hungary — Spain