Hungary Swings Left as Socialists Lead in National Vote

Article excerpt

FOLLOWING the examples of Poland and Lithuania, the pendulum of political power in Hungary has swung away from the incumbent government back to the former rulers, who want to soften the impact of the nation's economic transition.

In Sunday's elections, the Socialists, successors to the Communist Party that ruled for 40 years, received the most votes with 33 percent, election commission totals showed. Next came the Free Democratic Alliance, a liberal party that advocates deregulation, with 20 percent. About 70 percent of eligible voters voted.

The parties of the governing coalition saw a significant drop in support compared with 1990's vote. The dominant coalition partner, the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), gained 12 percent, while its coalition partners, the Property Holders Party and the Christian Democrats, gained 8 percent and 7 percent respectively.

For the MDF, the popular rebuke was a disappointment, but not necessarily a surprise. For the Socialists, the election results represent a vindication of sorts against what party leaders term a dirty campaign waged against them by the government. During the election campaign, MDF officials warned of a return to Communism if the Socialists came to power.

"These are libels and lies," Socialist Party chief Gyula Horn said last week. The Socialists insist they are not the Communists of old, but are more like social democrats according to the Western European model. As for the economy, the Socialists say immediate steps must be taken to stabilize inflation and reduce unemployment. According to the party program, the Socialists also want to introduce extensive reform of the welfare system. "We wish to augment basic social rights and extend the number of people concerned," the program says. …