Orban dominates as populism rules Hungary again

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was re-elected on Sunday April 8, after his rightwing, anti-migrant party, Fidesz, won a supermajority of seats in Parliament. One of the most controversial leaders in the EU will serve a third consecutive term as Prime Minister. Orban is known for his previous clashes with the EU on his often explosive rhetoric towards migrants, which some have labelled as xenophobic. Orban’s ruling coalition won 133 out of 199 seats in Parliament, and results showed the Fidesz party won almost half the vote, 48.8 percent. A high turnout, combined with the resounding result, has damaged the hopes of the opposition that Orban’s positon would be weakened by this election.

Orban’s former eight years in power has consisted of drastic changes to Hungary’s constitution and attempts to silence his critics in the media. The election was a devastating defeat for left-leaning opposition leaders, who had campaigned to reduce Orban’s power.

The Prime Minister’s re-election has been seen as a victory for the European far right. Since the backlash against a perceived terror threat in 2015, his central message has been the condemnation of the EU’s migration policy. His aggressive rhetoric has caused concern within the European Union, as well as non-governmental bodies within Hungary. Director of Amnesty International Hungary, Julia Ivan, expressed her concern following the election results in the Washington Post. “However hostile the government propaganda is, whatever legislation they pass, we will keep fighting for Hungary where everybody is entitled to the same respect and rights. We will continue to be loud critics of the government. We won’t let anyone who raises his voice to be intimidated.”

For the large number of voters, Orban offered protection of Hungarian society and traditions, which have been perceived as under attack. Fidesz focused predominately on what it said was the threat to Hungary of mass Muslim immigration, and the need to fight an alleged plan masterminded by George Soros to flood Europe with 1m migrants annually. Speaking after he cast his vote in Budapest, Orban warned: “What’s at stake in Hungary’s future?” The observers found that the hostile campaign promoting anti-migrants had “limited space for substantive debate and diminished voters’ ability to make an informed choice”. They also noted that public television favoured the “ruling coalition”. Orban told the Hungarian public, “We will form a new government. Significant changed and modification will be expected.” Despite anticipation that Hungary would become increasingly similar to Turkey and Russia in its political set up, Orban said the country was a “constitutional democracy” and functioning as such.

For the European Union, the re-election of Orban is a headache amongst a litany of headaches. Vocally critical of the EU’s migration and intergration policies, Orban and Fidez will look to pressure the Union for further concessions on these matters. Mr Orban’s position has never been stronger.


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January 2021
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