© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Opposition candidate for prime minister Peter Marki-Zay gestures as he speaks on the election headquarters after the opposition major election in Budapest, Hungary, October 17, 2021. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
By Krisztina Than
HODMEZOVASARHELY, Hungary (Reuters) – Peter Marki-Zay, the brand new chief of Hungary’s opposition alliance, has completed the maths: he must win over the younger, the undecided, and disenchanted supporters of veteran Prime Minister Viktor Orban to safe victory in subsequent 12 months’s election.
The 49-year-old Catholic conservative and father of seven is aware of will probably be a tricky job ousting Orban and his nationalist, socially conservative Fidesz social gathering, which has gained three consecutive parliamentary landslides prior to now 12 years.
However Marki-Zay, who ended 18 years of Fidesz rule in 2018 within the sleepy farming city of Hodmezovasarhely the place he’s now mayor, believes he has the abilities to forge a broad spectrum of voters who’re determined for change – and for brand new faces in a political panorama nonetheless dominated by folks like Orban who first entered public life after the autumn of communism in 1989.
A political outsider with no social gathering affiliation, Marki-Zay was the shock victor in a major contest final weekend to steer the six-party opposition alliance that’s now working neck-and-neck in opinion polls with Fidesz.
“We’ve to win this (election) within the countryside. And it is the undecided voters… principally undecided, former Fidesz voters, those that usually are not proud of the opposition but in addition are fed up with what Fidesz is doing,” he advised Reuters within the ornate city corridor of Hodmezovasarhely in southeastern Hungary.
“They need change however to date they’ve seen no various,” mentioned Marki-Zay, who himself voted for Fidesz in 2010 however turned disgusted by the corruption that has flourished on its watch and by what he calls its “betrayal of Western tradition”.
Along with his family-man picture and provincial roots, he now poses the most important risk to Orban’s grip on energy in additional than a decade, not least as a result of Fidesz’s base is in Hungary’s smaller cities and villages, the place its nationalist, anti-immigrant rhetoric strikes a deep chord.
Marki-Zay, who additionally carried out effectively in Budapest within the major race, guarantees to deal with corruption, maintain politicians to account, preserve some Fidesz insurance policies reminiscent of tax breaks for households, and needs to restore Hungary’s strained ties with the European Union.
Marki-Zay, who holds 5 college levels together with in advertising and marketing and engineering, lived along with his household in Canada and america for 5 years, returning to Hungary in 2009.
He constructed up a grassroots motion that depends on volunteers and donations after observing how U.S. election campaigns work.
“My mission is that my seven children… will not have to go away the nation… Younger folks desire a nation they will not must flee,” he mentioned.
His stamina, plain talking and his standing as an outsider untainted by scandal and established methods of doing issues maintain explicit attraction to youthful voters.
“What I like about Marki-Zay is that he’s not merely saying this present authorities has to go… He says corruption generally have to be eradicated,” mentioned Daniel Strausz, 19, having fun with a beer by the Tisza river within the close by college metropolis of Szeged.
“We’d like an actual change of regime,” he mentioned.
Strausz, who’s coaching to turn into a trainer, mentioned he may transfer to neighbouring Austria, relying on the end result of the 2022 election, as he’s so fed up with the political divisions in Hungarian society.
Marki-Zay advised Reuters he would make greater schooling extra accessible to poorer youngsters and supply low cost municipal housing for younger folks.
He would additionally scrap laws that bans the dissemination of content material in faculties deemed to advertise homosexuality and gender change, which triggered robust criticism from human rights teams and the European Union.
Orban’s re-election hopes have been boosted by Hungary’s robust financial restoration from the coronavirus pandemic.
Unemployment is close to all-time lows and labour shortages are driving up wages, however inflation is now above 5% and many citizens dislike what they see as Orban’s autocratic leanings and the rise of a brand new politically related enterprise elite round him.
That gives alternatives for the opposition.
“Marki-Zay’s honesty is convincing … He dares to say out loud what others wouldn’t,” mentioned Krisztian Kovacs, 29, who runs a flower enterprise in Szeged’s bustling market corridor.
“However… Marki-Zay has not mentioned a lot about what he really desires to vary, he has solely criticised what’s not good below the current regime.”
There will even be loads of potential for infighting amongst Marki-Zay’s broad coalition of socialists, liberals and disillusioned conservatives within the countdown to the election, which is predicted to happen in April.
Fidesz accuses Marki-Zay of signing a pact with the political left to assist them return to energy and lift taxes, however it’s discovering it exhausting to vilify a person who appears to embody the normal values Orban publicly champions.
“Seven children, a practising Catholic, a conservative – actually there’s not a lot Fidesz can say in opposition to me personally,” mentioned Marki-Zay.