Hungary: Péter Márki-Zay to challenge Orbán

The independent politician Péter Márki-Zay will run against Viktor Orbán in the 2022 Hungarian parliamentary elections as the candidate of the united opposition. Six parties, from left-liberal to conservative, held a joint primary election. Márki-Zay already won one such race in 2018, and became mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. Can he repeat this success at the national level?

Open/close all quotes
The Guardian (GB) /

A clever choice of candidate

Péter Márki-Zay will lure a good few votes away from the prime minister, The Guardian predicts:

“Within the opposition alliance, a provincial conservative Christian figurehead will inevitably not be to everyone's taste. But as the defeated centre-left candidate, Klára Dobrev, said while pledging her support last Sunday, finding a way to restore good democratic practice to Hungary is the overriding priority. Mr Márki-Zay's proven capacity to win in a rural district promises a new kind of threat to Mr Orbán, who derives most of his backing from the more conservative countryside.”

Kleine Zeitung (AT) /

United they are strong

The Kleine Zeitung sees certain parallels between Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland:

“In Hungary Viktor Orbán, who has been invincible for twelve years, is currently facing an opponent in the form of the new opposition candidate Péter Márki-Zay, who is expected to be able to break the omnipotence of Orbán's Fidesz party in the spring elections. In the Czech Republic, where President Zeman remains in intensive care, a change has taken place in his absence that many did not expect ... And in Poland, where the PiS under Jarosław Kaczyński is even risking a break with Brussels, a spirit of optimism prevails. ... The hitherto fragmented opposition groups in all three countries have one thing in common: they have understood that they must join forces to win against government parties.”

Új Szó (SK) /

The hard part comes after victory

The example of Slovakia shows that an election victory alone is not enough for change, Új Szó warns:

“The fight against corruption must be legal and take place within the framework of the rule of law. And that requires a lot of patience and time ... The behaviour of the old elite in Slovakia shows that one must expect fierce resistance [also in Hungary]. If there is a change of government in Hungary, an even more tense situation can be expected because the country has gone much further in the expansion of dependency relationships, the concentration of power and the dismantling of liberal democracy.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

Orbán's worst nightmare

The opposition in Hungary has pulled off a real coup, the Frankfurter Rundschau writes in delight:

“Now Orbán must fear losing power for the first time in almost twelve years. ... His potential challenger seems to be the perfect mix to win over conservative voters in Hungary who are looking for an alternative to the autocratic Orbán but are unwilling to vote for the left or the Greens. In Orbán's Hungary, a democratic change of power no longer seemed conceivable. That could change in a few months. Péter Márki-Zay could become Viktor Orbán's worst nightmare.”

Wprost (PL) /

Small-town politician but far from isolated

Wprost also sees the mayor of the former Fidesz stronghold Hódmezővásárhely as a promising candidate:

“Small-town conservative is not a flattering term, but that is exactly the kind of person who has become the leader of the united Hungarian opposition, with a real chance of wresting power from Viktor Orbán. ... This mobilised over 660,000 voters in support of the opposition in a country with less than 10 million inhabitants. Most importantly, the winner was not just another darling of an isolated opposition bubble but a politician who managed to defeat Fidesz in its stronghold.”

Válasz Online (HU) /

The anti-establishment wave continues

The victory of an independent candidate would not be a first in Central and Eastern Europe, Válasz Online notes:

“Since the beginning of the 2010s, a number of politicians have emerged who resemble Péter Márki-Zay in many respects. These new forces criticised both the left and the right-wing establishment, they advocated a pronounced anti-corruption agenda and were pro-EU in principle. ... With an eye to Andrej Babiš, who has been toppled because of his dubious dealings, and Igor Matovič, who had to resign because of a conflict of interest, the question is how long such politicians can remain 'clean' if they do the same as those they want to replace: doing politics and holding on to power.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Perhaps the last chance for democracy

Dagens Nyheter hopes for a new Europe policy in Budapest:

“Márki-Zay said he would pursue a pro-EU, pro-Western policy, the opposite of Orbán's shift towards Russia and China. ... His words, as well as the united opposition itself, give new hope for this country in the heart of Europe. ... An oxygen boost in the form of new ideas and new answers to old social problems is good for any state. But in Hungary there is much more at stake because of Orbán's manipulations. The confrontational course towards Brussels could end with the country having to leave the EU even though the population - just as in Poland - is very pro-EU. The April election could be the last chance for democracy.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

You can't be prime minister without a party

Márki-Zay's nomination as opposition candidate does not help him at all, the pro-government Magyar Nemzet stresses:

“It is not of the slightest significance. The prime minister is not elected directly; the party that receives the most seats in parliament in the election nominates him or her. ... Do those who have now voted for Márki-Zay know that? They voted for someone who will have nothing at all behind him in the real election - neither a party nor a parliamentary group.”