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The Socialists' autumn role has served as a timely warning for Fidesz: the party has recognised that it could lose next year's elections. Viktor Orbán, who spoke in parliament on Monday for the first time since the elections three years ago, hopes to win the 2006 elections on a personal platform.

Viktor Orbán must be grateful to the Socialists for their early campaign start, because end-October polls have made clear something that many in Fidesz were reluctant to acknowledge: if the Socialists make an effort, they could defeat their rivals. The gap between the two major parties has closed in recent weeks to within the statistical margin of error - with the Socialists leading in polls by Tárki and Gallup.

The forecasts result from a combination of factors, but Fidesz's dip in the polls serves as a warning to the party leadership. Not only was the six-week image campaign that the Socialists launched in September a success (one they hope to repeat with a follow-up campaign), but Orbn's team have also committed a series of tactical errors since the summer.

For example, Orbán sought to shore up his base by reverting to his old anticommunist rhetoric, something which has proven to be a mistake for the party in the past. Furthermore, Fidesz has progressively abandoned its earlier successful strategy of launching non-ideological, policy-driven attacks on the government, showing how they would adversely affect a particular group of voters. And they have found nothing to fill the gaps, judging it too soon to publish details of their electoral manifesto. They worry that leaked policy proposals might be stolen by their opponents or be torn apart under heavy criticism.

Repeated petition campaigns have met with little success. (After the summer's "people's candidate" campaign to "nominate a president", they are collecting
signatures for an anti-privatisation campaign). One source told HVG that these campaigns were a way of testing the committedness of the party's base - like a lover, frantic at signs of a cooling, asking "do you still love me?" repeatedly. It is no coincidence that the party's support has fallen primarily because of supporters' "autumn fatigue" - a decline in their voting propensity.

Fidesz's political 'performances' (counting promises made during the prime minister's parliamentary speech, knocking down a house of cards during the budget debate, presenting a pillow to the "tired" mayor at a sitting of the Budapest Assembly) have been of doubtful utility. This is especially the case in the uncertain camp, a million-strong voter majority the party cannot do without if it is to win the elections. The uncertain camp provides the largest potential reserve of conservative voters. Surveys show that it was this camp that voted for Fidesz in 1998 and for the Socialists in 2002. Today they seem to believe that the Socialists are no better at running the country than Fidesz - but they have grave concerns about the consequences of Orbn returning to power. Seen in these terms, the contest is about which party can paint a scarier portrait of their opponents - witness talk of the 'luxury left' (with reference to the Gyurcsány family's property holdings) or the Socialists' labelling of Orbán as a 'weathervane'. English version

Declaration of war?

The Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) is taking the gloves off in its fight for the extreme-right and radical votes. This is not the first occasion since 1989 when a political force has portrayed itself as a resistance movement. English version

Hungarians working

Eighteen months after accession to the EU, the number of Hungarians working in western Europe is about the same as the population of a major city in Hungary. Whilst the positive and negative impacts of this are still unclear, one thing is certain: the outflow is set to continue. English version

Opinion: Péter Kóczián

In 1988, Gyurcsány called for Fidesz to be "squeezed out politically." In 1988, using the word "political" signalled that democratic methods were to be used in place of the tools of a police state. English version

With six months to go until the elections

With six months to go until the elections, it's worth looking back to the run-up to the 1994, 1998 and 2002 elections. In each case, the government's impending defeat was clearer six months ahead of time than immediately before the election. The parliamentary see-saw has functioned impeccably so far. English version

An old obsession...

The National Security Office (NBH) is preparing to file charges of violating state secrets in the Szatmári spying scandal. The HVG has learned that one of their employees filed a lie-detector test, raising the possibility that he or she played a role in the leaking of classified documents relating to the case. English version

Crowded out

The number of unemployed career-beginners has almost doubled over the past two years, despite the government's decision to focus on their plight at the beginning of the year.

Ennyi volt az elektromos autók állami támogatásának, de nem végleg

Ennyi volt az elektromos autók állami támogatásának, de nem végleg

Tisztifőorvos: nem kell minden tüsszentést megkoronázni

Tisztifőorvos: nem kell minden tüsszentést megkoronázni

A szélsőjobboldaliak és a populisták hajráznak jobban a szlovák kampányban

A szélsőjobboldaliak és a populisták hajráznak jobban a szlovák kampányban