Hungarian MPs in the context of political transformation (1990–2010)
Two stories can be told about the development of the parliamentary representatives in Hungary after systemic change – and these stories seem to be fairly diverse at first glance.1 The first story is about how Hungary was different from the other post-communist CEE countries by going through early consolidation and party and government stabilization (Ágh 1995; Lewis 2000; Nikolényi 2004) – and increasing parliamentary elite homogeneity and professionalization as a result (Edinger 2010; Ilonszki and Edinger 2007; Olson and Ilonszki 2011). Behind this background increasing bipolarization and bloc politics were observed without having any effect on the composition of the parliamentarians in fundamental socio-demographic and political respects. Apparently, new representative elites were formed with features that made them distinct and different from the past, while diverse processes of political consolidation made them increasingly homogeneous and stable. The other story starts in the second half of the first decade of the new millennium and culminates in the 2010 critical elections (Enyedi and Benoit 2011; Róbert and Papp 2012), when fundamental party system transformation – with the two once large parties of systemic change disappearing, and two new parties emerging – provides the background for the formation of the new parliamentary groups. The obvious question is whether homogenization continues or, as a result of party and electoral change, the parliamentary elite framework also transforms. With these diverging developments and interpretations in the background, our chapter aims to target several questions. First, how were the new parliamentarians different from the previous ones? Systemic change will certainly have an impact but, considering the negotiated nature of the transition in Hungary, can a thorough initial transformation be expected? Second, how had their characteristics evolved during five parliamentary terms (between 1990 and 2010)? Since democratic institutions, particularly parties, which are responsible for political recruitment, were not initially properly established, can we expect that after some time and with party consolidation the profile of parliamentary politicians will fundamentally transform? Finally, in what respects did the 2010 electoral turn have an impact – if at all – on these former processes? Is party system change after two decades of transition just “business as usual” – which might
occur and indeed often occurs in other “old” democracies as well – and thus its consequences on the elite level are not remarkable? The analysis will evolve in three sections: first, we shall introduce the new political-institutional opportunities that provided the framework for the formation of the new representative elite; second, the processes of the parliamentary groups’ transformation will be presented; finally, the characteristics of the 2010-14 MPs will be compared with those of the former two decades with – as always – only tentative conclusions for prospective developments.