A new movement in Hungary has become the country's second most popular political force just days after it was founded, an opinion poll showed on Thursday.
The Median poll showed that the Egyutt 2014 association was second only to the government in popularity in October. Former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai launched Egyutt at a rally on October 23 to try to unite fragmented opposition groups in a push to replace conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party at the next elections, due in 2014.
Fidesz won a two-thirds majority in 2010 and opposition parties have struggled to mount a credible challenge for years. Bajnai had stayed out of the limelight since handing over the reins to Orban and returned to politics only last month.
The name Egyutt means "Together". In the Oct. 16-30 Median poll, Egyutt's support was put at 14%, making it the strongest opposition force ahead of the Socialists who ran four of Hungary's eight post-communist governments. The poll showed Fidesz leading with 22%, one percentage point down month-on-month, and said the Socialists had shed 4 percentage points since a September poll. It put their support at 10%, level with the far-right Jobbik.
The proportion of undecided voters, who have made up nearly half the electorate for most of the past two years, dropped sharply to 37 percent from 46 percent, the poll showed.
"There had been a huge vacuum and expectations before Egyutt appeared," Median Managing Director Endre Hann told Reuters. "Left-wing active voters with no party preference had been wide open (for a new political force)." Egyutt also appears to have attracted less committed supporters of the Socialists and to have profited from Bajnai's own personal popularity ratings.
The former premier is now rated the second most popular politician behind President Janos Ader. Soft-spoken Bajnai has pledged to sweep away the belligerent ruling style of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government at the next elections and to tackle economic troubles such as high unemployment. Hungary has been criticised by the European Commission for unorthodox policies including introducing Europe's highest bank tax.
Talks with the EU and the International Monetary Fund about a financial backstop have been dragging on for a year. The government has partly blamed the economic woes on what it said were misguided economic policies and a surge in state and household debt, something that happened under the rule of Bajnai and his Socialist predecessors.