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Hungarian Socialist Party

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Hungarian Socialist Party
Magyar Szocialista Párt
Deputy PresidentLászló Varga
Vice President
Parliamentary leaderBertalan Tóth
Chairman of BoardIstván Hiller
Founded7 October 1989; 34 years ago (1989-10-07)
Preceded byHungarian Socialist Workers' Party
Headquarters1114, Budapest, Villányi út 11-13.
Youth wingSocietas – Baloldali Ifjúsági Mozgalom
Membership (2021)5,000[1]
IdeologySocial democracy
Political positionCentre-left to left-wing
National affiliation
European affiliationParty of European Socialists
International affiliation
Colours  Red
National Assembly
10 / 199
European Parliament
0 / 21
County Assemblies
1 / 381
General Assembly of Budapest
1 / 33
Party flag

The Hungarian Socialist Party (Hungarian: Magyar Szocialista Párt), commonly known by its acronym MSZP, is a centre-left[2] to left-wing[3] social-democratic[4][5][6][7][8] and pro-European[9][10] political party in Hungary.

It was founded on 7 October, 1989 as a post-communist evolution and one of two legal successors of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (MSZMP). Along with its conservative rival Fidesz, MSZP was one of the two most dominant parties in Hungarian politics until 2010; however, the party lost much of its popular support as a result of the Őszöd speech, the consequent 2006 protests, and then the 2008 financial crisis. Following the 2010 election, MSZP became the largest opposition party in parliament, a position it held until 2018, when it was overtaken by the former far and now centre-right Jobbik.


The MSZP evolved from the communist Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (or MSZMP), which ruled Hungary between 1956 and 1989. By the summer of 1989, the MSZMP was no longer a Marxist–Leninist party, and had been taken over by a faction of radical reformers who favoured jettisoning the Communist system in favour of a market economy. One of its leaders, Rezső Nyers, the architect of the New Economic Mechanism in the 1960s and 1970s, was elected as chairman of a four-man collective presidency that replaced the old MSZMP Politburo. Although General Secretary Károly Grósz, who had succeeded longtime leader János Kádár a year earlier, was elected to this body, Nyers now outranked him–and was thus now the de facto leader of Hungary.[11]

At a party congress on 7 October 1989, the MSZMP dissolved and refounded itself as the MSZP, with Nyers as its first president.[12] A marginal "Communist" faction led by Grósz broke away to form a revived Hungarian Communist Workers' Party, now known as the Hungarian Workers' Party, the other successor of the MSZMP.

The decision to declare the MSZP a successor of the MSZMP was controversial, and still carries repercussions for both the MSZP and Hungary. Another source of controversy is that some members of the former communist elite maintained political influence in the MSZP. Indeed, many key MSZP politicians were active members or held leadership positions within the MSZMP (like Gyula Horn and László Kovács).

On economic issues, the Socialists have often been greater advocates of liberal, free market policies than the conservative opposition, which has tended to favor more state interventionism in the economy through economic and price regulations, as well as through state ownership of key economic enterprises. The MSZP, in contrast, implemented a strong package of market reforms, austerity and privatization in 1995–96, called the Bokros package, when Hungary faced an economic and financial crisis. According to researchers, the elites of the Hungarian 'left' (MSZP and SZDSZ) have been differentiated from the 'right' by being more supportive of the classical neo-liberal economic policies, while the 'right' (especially extreme right) has advocated more interventionist policies. In contrast, issues like church and state and former communists show alignment along the traditional left-right spectrum.[13] It is also noteworthy that, according to research, the MSZP elite's positions used to be closer to voters of the SZDSZ than to their own.[14]

Besides a more liberal approach to the economy overall, the MSZP differentiated itself from the conservative opposition through its more recent focus on transforming state social policy from a collection of measures that benefit the entire population, such as subsidies available to all citizens, to one based on financial and social need.

Besides Gyula Horn, the MSZP's most internationally recognized politicians were Ferenc Gyurcsány and László Kovács, a former member of the European Commission, responsible for taxation.

Electoral history[edit]

The MSZP faced the voters for the first time at the 1990 elections, the first free elections held in Hungary in 44 years. It was knocked down to fourth place with only 33 seats.

Nyers handed the leadership to Horn, Hungary's last Communist foreign minister. Horn led the MSZP to an outright majority at the 1994 parliamentary election. Although the MSZP could have governed alone, he opted to form a coalition with the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ). He not only wanted to allay concerns inside and outside Hungary of a former Communist party holding a majority, but needed the Free Democrats' votes to get economic reforms (what became the Bokros package) past his own party's left wing. Thus the MSZP was released from a so-called "political quarantine" imposed by the other Hungarian parties; during the first five years after the change of system, the other parties cooperated to shut out the MSZP from decision-making.

After being turned out of office in 1998, the party was able to form a renewed centre-left coalition with the Free Democrats in 2002.

At the 2006 elections, MSZP won with 43.2% of party list votes, which gave it 190 representatives out of 386 in the Parliament. The MSZP was therefore able to retain its coalition government from the previous term. In earlier elections, the MSZP polled 10.89% (1990), 32.98% (1994), 32.92% (1998) and 42.05% (2002).

After the successful fees abolishment referendum, MSZP formed the first minority government of Hungary, following the SZDSZ's backing out of the coalition with a deadline of 1 May 2008.

2010s decline[edit]

On 21 March 2009 Gyurcsány announced his resignation as Prime Minister due to failure management of the economic crisis.[15][16] Gordon Bajnai became the nominee of MSZP for the post of prime minister in March 2009[17] and he became Prime Minister on 14 April. Gyurcsány also resigned from his position of party chairman, which he had occupied since 2007.[18]

MSZP lost half of its supporters during the European Parliament election in 2009, receiving only 17.37% of the votes and gained four seats compared to the previous nine seats. This electoral defeat marked the end of the de facto two-party system in Hungary, which had lasted since 1998.

The Hungarian Socialist Party suffered a heavy defeat in the 2010 election (won by Fidesz with a ⅔ majority), gaining only 19.3% of the votes, and 59 seats in the parliament. Following the resignation of Ildikó Lendvai, the party's prime minister candidate Attila Mesterházy was elected Chairman of the Socialist Party.[19] Nevertheless, MSZP became the biggest opposition party in Hungary.

The left-wing fragmented after the 2010 election; at first Katalin Szili left the MSZP to form Social Union (SZU), following the similarly significant defeated local elections in October 2010, nevertheless Gyurcsány's detachment was a much worse disaster for the Socialists. Initially, the former PM wanted to reform the party, but his goals remained in the minority. As a result, Gyurcsány, along with nine other members of the parliamentary group, left MSZP and established Democratic Coalition (DK). Thus MSZP's number of MPs reduced to 48.[20]

The Socialist Party entered into an alliance with four other parties in January 2014 to contest the April parliamentary election. Mesterházy was elected candidate for the Prime Minister position, but the Unity alliance failed to win. After that the electoral coalition disestablished.[21] On the 2014 European Parliament election, MSZP suffered the largest defeat since the 1990 parliamentary election, gaining third place and only 10% of the votes.[22] After the obvious failure, Mesterházy and the entire presidium of the Socialist Party resigned.[23][24]

József Tóbiás was elected leader of the Socialist Party on 19 July 2014 following the resignation of Mesterházy.[25] He also became leader of the parliamentary group in September 2014. During his leadership, the Socialist Party won a parliamentary by-election (2014) and an important mayoral by-election (Salgótarján), however the party itself was permanently pushed back to the third place by far-right Jobbik according to the opinion polls. Tóbiás did not support the full cooperation and unification of the left-wing opposition parties against Viktor Orbán. During the MSZP party congress in June 2016, he was defeated by Gyula Molnár, a former Socialist MP and mayor, who succeeded him as party chairman.[26] In February 2016, the party decided to sell its headquarters at Jókai Street for financial reasons. In June 2018, Bertalan Tóth was elected president in the MSZP, shortly after the party suffered its worst electoral defeat since 1990.[27]

The party further declined in the 2019 European election, only scoring 6.61% of votes (even in alliance with Dialogue for Hungary) and being overtaken by the Democratic Coalition and Momentum. In 2019 local elections the party managed (due to cooperation with other parties) to win mayorships ir Érd and Szombathely. Also in these elections MSZP managed to win mayorships in those areas, where it never had a mayor since 1990 (e. g. Mohács).

The 2019 local election results caused resignations from the party on the local level (e. g. Szeged mayor Laszlo Botka).

In 2020, the party's congress supported a change to the party's structure. Instead of having one leader, the party would nominate two co-leaders – a man and woman (similar structure has been implemented in 2019 by the Social Democratic Party of Germany).[28]


In political terms, the MSZP differentiates itself from its conservative opponents mainly in its rejection of Hungarian nationalism. The party is a member of the Progressive Alliance,[29] the Socialist International, and the Party of European Socialists (PES), and it holds a chairmanship and several vice-chairmanships in committees at the European Parliament. The MSZP is a centre-left to left-wing party, but it has historically been centrist.[30]

Election results[edit]

National Assembly[edit]

Election Leader SMCs MMCs Seats +/– Status
Votes % Votes %
1990 Rezső Nyers 504,995 10.18% (#4) 534,897 10.89% (#4)
33 / 386
New Opposition
1994 Gyula Horn 1,689,081 31.27% (#1) 1,781,867 32.99% (#1)
209 / 386
Increase 176 Supermajority
1998 1,332,412 29.82% (#1) 1,446,138 32.25% (#1)
134 / 386
Decrease 75 Opposition
2002 Péter Medgyessy 2,277,732 40.50% (#1) 2,361,983 42.05% (#1)
178 / 386
Increase 44 Coalition
2006 Ferenc Gyurcsány 2,175,312 40.26% (#1) 2,336,705 43.21% (#1)
190 / 386
Increase 12 Coalition
(MSZP-SZDSZ) (2006-2009)
(MSZP minority) (2009-2010)
2010 Attila Mesterházy 1,088,374 21.28% (#2) 990,428 19.30% (#2)
59 / 386
Decrease 131 Opposition
Election Leader Constituency Party list Seats +/– Status
Votes % Votes %
2014[a] Attila Mesterházy 1,317,879 26.85% (#2) 1,290,806 25.57% (#2)
29 / 199
Decrease 30 Opposition
2018[b] Gyula Molnár 622,458 11.31% (#3) 682,701 11.91% (#3)
17 / 199
Decrease 12 Opposition
2022[c] Bertalan Tóth
Ágnes Kunhalmi
1,983,708 36.90% (#2) 1,947,331 34.44% (#2)
10 / 199
Decrease 7 Opposition
  1. ^ Run within Unity coalition.
  2. ^ Run in coalition with Dialogue for Hungary.
  3. ^ Run within United for Hungary coalition.

Single Member Constituencies voting consistently for MSZP[edit]

The image shows Single Member Constituencies (or SMCs) voting for MSZP in 1998, 2002, 2006 in dark red, while showing SMCs voting for MSZP in 2002 and 2006 in red. The dark red districts are considered the strongest positions of the party. Most if not all districts shown in dark red and red also voted for MSZP in 1994, a landslide victory for the party. So actually, dark red districts have an even longer uninterrupted voting history of supporting MSZP.

Consequently, MSZP SMCs won between 1998 and 2006

European Parliament[edit]

Election year # of overall votes % of overall vote # of overall seats won +/- Notes
2004 1,054,921 34.3% (2nd)
9 / 24
2009 503,140 17.37% (2nd)
4 / 22
Decrease 5
2014 252,751 10.9% (3rd)
2 / 21
Decrease 2
20191 229,551 6.61% (4th)
1 / 21
Decrease 1
20242 367,162 8.03% (3rd)
0 / 21
Decrease 1

1 In an electoral alliance with Dialogue for Hungary
2 In an electoral alliance with DK–MSZP–Dialogue Alliance

Party leaders[edit]

Chairpersons (1989–2020)[edit]

# Image Name Entered office Left office Length of Leadership Notice
1 Rezső Nyers 9 October 1989 27 May 1990 230 days
2 Gyula Horn 27 May 1990 5 September 1998 8 years, 101 days Prime Minister 1994–98
3 László Kovács 5 September 1998 16 October 2004 6 years, 41 days
4 István Hiller 16 October 2004 24 February 2007 2 years, 131 days
5 Ferenc Gyurcsány 24 February 2007 5 April 2009 2 years, 40 days Prime Minister 2004–09
6 Ildikó Lendvai 5 April 2009 10 July 2010 1 year, 96 days
7 Attila Mesterházy 10 July 2010 29 May 2014 3 years, 323 days
László Botka
31 May 2014 19 July 2014
8 József Tóbiás 19 July 2014 25 June 2016 1 year, 342 days
9 Gyula Molnár 25 June 2016 17 June 2018 1 year, 357 days
10 Bertalan Tóth 17 June 2018 19 September 2020 2 years, 94 days

Co-leaders (2020–present)[edit]

# Image Male co-chair Entered office Left office Length of Leadership Notice Image Female co-chair Entered office Left office Length of Leadership Notice
11 Bertalan Tóth 19 September 2020 22 October 2022 2 years, 33 days Ágnes Kunhalmi 19 September 2020 Incumbent 3 years, 273 days
12 Imre Komjáthi 22 October 2022 Incumbent 1 year, 240 days

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Szabadon –Az MSZP végkiárusítása". YouTube.
  2. ^ Freedom House (24 December 2013). Nations in Transit 2013: Democratization from Central Europe to Eurasia. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 255–. ISBN 978-1-4422-3119-1.
  3. ^ Szebeni, Zea; Lönnqvist, Jan-Erik; Jasinskaja-Lahti, Inga (24 December 2021). Rios, Kimberly (ed.). "Social Psychological Predictors of Belief in Fake News in the Run-Up to the 2019 Hungarian Elections: The Importance of Conspiracy Mentality Supports the Notion of Ideological Symmetry in Fake News Belief". Personality and Social Psychology. Frontiers in Psychology. 12 (790848). Frontiers Media: 4. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.790848. ISSN 1664-1078. OCLC 701805890. PMC 8740309. PMID 35002884.
  4. ^ Nordsieck, Wolfram (2018). "Hungary". Parties and Elections in Europe.
  5. ^ Dimitri Almeida (27 April 2012). The Impact of European Integration on Political Parties: Beyond the Permissive Consensus. CRC Press. p. 71. ISBN 978-1-136-34039-0. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  6. ^ José Magone (26 August 2010). Contemporary European Politics: A Comparative Introduction. Routledge. p. 456. ISBN 978-0-203-84639-1. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
  7. ^ Petr Kopecký; Peter Mair; Maria Spirova (26 July 2012). Party Patronage and Party Government in European Democracies. Oxford University Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-0-19-959937-0.
  8. ^ Igor Guardiancich (21 August 2012). Pension Reforms in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe: From Post-Socialist Transition to the Global Financial Crisis. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 978-1-136-22595-6.
  9. ^ "Hungary - Europe Elects".
  10. ^ https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Europe/hungarian.pdf [bare URL PDF]
  11. ^ Hamilton, Denise (25 June 1989). "Reformer to Head Hungary's Communist Party". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  12. ^ Harden, Blaine (8 October 1989). "HUNGARY FORMS NEW PARTY". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  13. ^ Bodan Todosijević, "The Hungarian Voter: Left–Right Dimension as a Clue to Policy Preferences" in International Political Science Review (2004), Vol 25, No. 4, p. 421
  14. ^ Bodan Todosijević"The Hungarian Voter: Left–Right Dimension as a Clue to Policy Preferences" in International Political Science Review (2004), Vol 25, No. 4, p. 424
  15. ^ Kulish, Nicholas (22 March 2009). "Hungary's Premier Offers to Resign". The New York Times.
  16. ^ "Hungarian PM offers to step down". Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  17. ^ Edith Balazs and Charles Forelle (31 March 2009). "Hungary's Ruling Party Picks Premier". WSJ. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Hungary's PM resigns post as Socialist Party chairman_English_Xinhua". Archived from the original on 1 April 2009. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  19. ^ "Mesterházy lett az MSZP elnöke". VG. 10 July 2010. Archived from the original on 12 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  20. ^ "Gyurcsány announces departure from Socialists, formation of new "Western, civic center-left" party". Politics.hu. Archived from the original on 14 February 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  21. ^ "Socialists to delegate PM candidate for opposition alliance". 8 January 2014. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Egyetlen ábrán megnézheti az MSZP tragédiáját". 25 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  23. ^ "Mesterházy: Újabb leckét kaptunk". 25 May 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Mesterházy lemondott az MSZP vezetéséről". 29 May 2014. Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Hungarian Socialists picks Jozsef Tobias to head party". Xinhua. 20 July 2014. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Elzavarták Tóbiást, Molnár Gyula az MSZP új elnöke". Index.hu. 25 June 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  27. ^ Szabolcs, Dull (1 June 2018). "Tóth Bertalan az új elnök, Mesterházynak nem sikerült" (in Hungarian). Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  28. ^ "MSZP Urges Opposition Coordination for 2022 Election". hungarytoday.hu. 25 June 2020.
  29. ^ "Participants". Archived from the original on 2 March 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
  30. ^ Eastern Europe: Newsletter - Volumes 12-13. Eastern Europe. 1998. p. 11. The MSZP's nominal coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats, will probably be in opposition in the next parliament, about half way in the political spectrum between the centrist MSZP and the right-wing led by Victor Orban of the Federation of Young Democrats.

External links[edit]