Hungary - Political parties

Following the general elections of April 2002, four political parties are represented in the 386-member National Assembly, split into two coalitions. This situation has raised fears that Hungary is drifting into a two-party state, divided by ideology and personalities, instead of reflecting other interests not representated in government.

The predominant party is the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSzP), whose government was toppled in 1998, but returned to power in 2002. Its leader is Péter Medgyessy, who as of 2003 was prime minister. It has 178 seats in the National Assembly. The MSZP is the Hungarian Communist Party renamed and, to a certain extent, reoriented. The party's platform indicates strong support for the market economy system, albeit with a wide net of social services. It supports diversity in Hungarian society, as opposed to the center-right's more populist, nationalistic party Fidesz.

The leading opposition party is the Federation of Young Democrats-Hungarian Civic Party (also known as Fidesz), which holds 164 seats. The party's leader, Viktor Orbán, was named prime minister in 1998; he was out of office in 2002 when the Socialists came to power. Originally known as the Federation of Young Democrats, the party was formed on an anti-Communist platform by student activists and young professionals in 1988. During the 1990s, it evolved into a mainstream center-right party and was renamed in 1995.

The Alliance of Free Democrats (SzDSz), which holds 20 seats, is the coalition partner of the MSZP. This party was a liberal opposition party during the Antall government, with positions strongly in favor of closer integration with Europe, cooperation with Hungary's neighbors, and support for alien Hungarians. In economic terms their platform is very similar to that of the MSZP, which was the basis of their agreement to enter into a coalition.

The Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF), which has been reduced to 24 seats, is a party of strong support for the ethnic minorities within Hungary. It is currently aligned with Fidesz. The Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIEP) first gained parliamentary representation in 1998, winning 14 seats, and was founded by Istvan Csurka, who was expelled from the MDF for his nationalist and anti-Semitic sentiments. The party is populist in orientation, seeking to elevate "Hungarian values." It won4.4% of the vote in 2002 but held no seats.

The Independent Smallholders' Party (FKgP), which held 48 seats in the 1998 government but no seats in the government formed in 2002, is a center-right party that seeks to ensure Hungarian interests in the context of European integration. It draws particular support from rural districts and among farmers.

Other parties include the centrist Center Party and the communist Worker's Party. Hungary also has a noticeable "skinhead" movement, which has provoked fights and other disturbances, especially with Gypsies.

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