1945 Hungarian parliamentary election


Parliamentary elections were held in Hungary on 4 November 1945.[1] They came at a turbulent moment in the country's history: World War II had had a devastating impact; the Soviet Union was occupying it, with the Hungarian Communist Party growing in numbers; a land reform that March had radically altered the property structure; and inflation was rampant.

1945 Hungarian parliamentary election

 1944 4 November 1945 1947 

All 409 elected seats in the Diet
205 seats needed for a majority
Turnout92.52%
  First party Second party Third party
 
Leader Zoltán Tildy Árpád Szakasits Mátyás Rákosi
Party FKGP MSZDP MKP
Leader since 20 August 1945 19 February 1945 23 February 1945
Last election 57 seats, 24.78% 42 seats, 18.26% 89 seats, 38.69%
Seats before 124 125 166
Seats won 245 69 70
Seat change 121 56 96
Popular vote 2,697,137 823,250 801,986
Percentage 57% 17.4% 17%
Swing 33.1% 2.54% 21.69%

  Fourth party Fifth party
 
Leader Péter Veres Sándor Szent-Iványi
Party NPP PDP
Leader since February 1945 27 July 1945
Last election 16 seats, 6.95% 12 seats, 5.21%
Seats before 42 21
Seats won 23 2
Seat change 19 19
Popular vote 324,772 76,393
Percentage 6.9% 1.6%
Swing 0% 3,6%

Prime Minister before election

Béla Miklós
Military

Elected Prime Minister

Zoltán Tildy
FKGP

In what is generally reckoned as the first relatively free election in the country's history,[2] the Independent Smallholders Party won a sweeping victory. However, the Smallholders' gains were gradually whittled away by Communist salami tactics, fulfilling the prediction of Communist leader Mátyás Rákosi that the defeat would "not play an important role in Communist plans".[3]

Background


Elections (which had not taken place since 1939) were required by the Yalta Agreement; moreover, the revolutionary social and political changes of 1945 were effected without popular consultation, and in view of the special ties developing that year between Moscow and Budapest (an agreement on close economic cooperation and the resumption of full diplomatic relations), the Western powers urged free elections and withheld acknowledging the Provisional Government until the Soviets agreed to hold them.[4]

The election, by secret ballot and without census or fraud, is reckoned as the first relatively democratic election ever held in Hungary, and was certainly the closest thing to an honest election held in the country until 1990.[2] It was also one of only two remotely free elections ever held in what would become the Soviet bloc (the other being the 1946 elections in Czechoslovakia). One author states it was "generally fair, but not entirely free", as only "democratic" parties were allowed to compete, meaning most of the pre-war right-wing parties were excluded, as well as those parties that did not participate in the Hungarian National Independence Front, a wartime anti-fascist alliance.[5] Only the leaders of the dissolved rightist parties, SS volunteers and those interned or being prosecuted by the people's courts were barred from voting. The liberal electoral law was also supported by the Communists, who were not bothered by the failure of their proposal to field a single list of candidates on the part of the Communist-Social Democrat coalition parties, which would have ensured a majority for left-wing parties: intoxicated by their recruitment successes and misjudging the effect of the land reform on their appeal, they expected an "enthralling victory" (József Révai predicted winning as much as 70%). To their bitter disappointment, the result was nearly the opposite: the Independent Smallholders Party, winning the contest in all 16 districts, won 57% of the vote, the Social Democrats won slightly above and the Communists slightly below 17%, and the National Peasant Party just 7% (the rest going to the Citizen Democrats' Party and the new Hungarian Radical Party of Oszkár Jászi's followers).[6]

Election ballot, 1945

Of the many reasons for the success of the Smallholders and the failure of the Communists was the fact that Cardinal József Mindszenty, head of the Hungarian Catholic hierarchy, infuriated at the loss of the overwhelming majority of its property without compensation and at the clergy's being excluded from voting upon Communist initiative, condemned the "Marxist evil" in a pastoral letter and called on the faithful to support the Smallholders, who upheld traditional values.[6] Also, in this, Hungary's first election under full universal suffrage, and its only one where men and women voted with different-coloured ballot papers, women surprised the Communists by generally backing the Smallholders; the former launched a propaganda campaign implying these women were easily deceived or ignorant.[7] Still, the verdict of 4.8 million voters, 90% of the enfranchised, was clear in general terms: they preferred parliamentary democracy based on private property and a market economy to socialism with state economic management and planning. They hoped these preferences would prevail in spite of the presence of Soviet occupying forces, who were expected to leave once a peace treaty was signed. However, guided by the same expectation and wishing to avoid confrontation until then, the Smallholders yielded to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov (Chairman of the Allied Control Commission), who made it clear that a grand coalition in which the Communists preserved the gains already secured (that is, the Ministry of the Interior and control over the police) was the only kind of government acceptable to the Soviets.[6]

Parties and leaders


Party Ideology Leader
Independent Smallholders' Party (FKgP) Agrarianism
Liberal democracy
Big tent[8]
Zoltán Tildy
Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSzDP) Social democracy
Democratic socialism
Árpád Szakasits
Hungarian Communist Party (MKP) Communism
Marxism
Mátyás Rákosi
National Peasant Party (NPP) Agrarian socialism
Left-wing populism
Péter Veres
Civic Democratic Party (PDP) Liberalism
National liberalism
Sándor Szent-Iványi
Hungarian Radical Party (MRP) Liberalism
Social liberalism
Imre Csécsy

Results


Party Votes % Seats
Constituency National list Total
Independent Smallholders Party2,697,13757.021629245
Hungarian Social Democratic Party823,25017.460969
Hungarian Communist Party801,98617.061970
National Peasant Party324,7726.920323
Civic Democratic Party76,3931.6202
Hungarian Radical Party5,7630.1000
Public figures appointed by Parliament[9]12
Invalid/blank votes44,244
Total4,773,54510035950421
Registered voters/turnout5,160,49992.6
Source: Nohlen & Stöver
Popular vote
FKGP
57.03%
MSZDP
17.41%
MKP
16.96%
NPP
6.87%
PDP
1.62%
Others
0.11%
Parliamentary seats
FKGP
58.19%
MKP
16.63%
MSZDP
16.39%
NPP
5.46%
PDP
0.48%
Ind.
2.85%

Aftermath


After the election, on 9 November the four major parties divided the portfolios. The arrangement, in which the Smallholders took the Interior while the Communists obtained Finance, was rejected by Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, who instructed Voroshilov to renegotiate Interior and a deputy premier post for the Communists.[10] A debate on the form of the state also ensued; Mindszenty led a vigorous monarchist campaign but despite some uncertainty among the Smallholders, a republic was chosen.

The Smallholders' leader, Zoltán Tildy, was elected president on 1 February 1946, while Ferenc Nagy became Prime Minister of a government in which the Smallholders had half the portfolios. The Communists received the Interior (László Rajk) and Deputy Premier (Mátyás Rákosi) posts, as well as transport and social welfare. Control of the Interior Ministry and especially the security police helped the Communists marginalise political opponents one by one. Selected assassinations, sabotage of opposition parties' offices and the closure of Catholic youth organisations were among the methods employed.[11]

Notes


  1. Dieter Nohlen & Philip Stöver (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p899 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7
  2. Andorka, Rudolf et al. A Society Transformed, p.8. Central European University Press (1999), ISBN 963-9116-49-1
  3. Borhi, p.77-8
  4. Kontler, p.395-6
  5. Wittenberg, Jason. Crucibles of Political Loyalty, p.56. Cambridge University Press (2006), ISBN 0-521-84912-8
  6. Kontler, p.396
  7. Duchen, Claire and Bandhauer-Schoffmann, Irene. When the War was Over, p.135. Continuum International Publishing Group (2000), ISBN 0-7185-0180-2
  8. “An Attempt at a New, Democratic Start.” Hungary 1944-1953, Lesson 1. The Institute for the History of the 1956 Revolution,
  9. Az államiság újjászervezése és az ideiglenesség időszaka
  10. Borhi, p.77
  11. Best, Antony, et al. International History of the Twentieth Century, p.217. Routledge (2003), ISBN 0-415-20739-8

References


  • Borhi, László. Hungary in the Cold War, 1945-1956. Central European University Press (2004), ISBN 963-9241-80-6
  • Kontler, László. A History of Hungary. Palgrave Macmillan (2002), ISBN 1-4039-0316-6