After his third convincing election victory in 2018, Victor Orban said he has been given a strong mandate that allows him to plan for the next 12 years, which means staying in power for 20 years. As well as the very likely shift of power in Hungary from a hybrid regime to an increasingly closed autocracy.
Today, Hungarians are voting in a parliamentary election in which the dream of the EU’s longest-running “illiberal” leader is facing its worst test in a decade. After each vote, Orban fanned fears of migrants and pretended to be almost the last defender of “traditional values” in the EU, now he has deftly ridden the issue of Russian aggression against neighboring Ukraine and insisted on not helping Ukrainians with weapons to Budapest was not involved in the conflict.
Of course, it is peace, and the opposition is war, and according to who the Hungarians choose, it will happen to their country.
In any case, his Fidesz party has long secured election rules that favor it. The legislation has been changed so that, according to the Economist magazine recently, Orban can retain control of parliament with 43% of the vote. For such a success, the opposition will need at least 54%.
Three-quarters of the media are controlled by the government or close to the ruling businessmen and repeat messages from the authorities and pro-Kremlin positions, while significant independent media have been virtually non-existent for years. And that’s not enough – according to the local branch of Transparency International, in March Fidesz poured in 8 times more funds for election billboards than the opposition and significantly exceeded the legal limit.
The task of the six-party motley opposition coalition to remove Orban from power is quite difficult. Reuters cites opinion polls showing that his party has a minimal lead, but about 20% of eligible voters have decided whether and for whom to vote on April 3rd.
Data from the Publicus agency from the last days of March give the union of the ruling party and the opposition bloc 47% support each, but among those who have already decided who to support. Among all eligible voters, the result is 35 to 33 percent in favor of Fidesz.
Another study from the same time, but by Zavecz Research, showed 39% versus 36% for Fidesz. According to the director of this institute, Tibor Zaves, much depends on last-minute mobilization, because about 8% of voters (nearly 600,000 people) say they will vote, but have not set their preferences.
Hungarians are worried about problems such as access to health care, the state of education, and income. But if once again, the majority of voters vote for Orban, they will most likely benefit from his confrontation with the EU. However, Brussels is already armed with a mechanism linking EU funds to the rule of law and democracy, and Hungary is likely to be the first member state to be deprived of billions of euros and placed in growing isolation.
The opposition led by Peter Marki-Zai explains that it is not a militant group at all, as described by pro-government propaganda, and reminds Hungarians that on Sunday they choose between “Hungarian Putin and Europe”, between militant East and West to ensure their security.
“Orban still can’t decide how to keep the same distance from the killers and the victims,” Marki-Zay told a rally this week. The mayor of a small town, a devout Catholic, and the father of seven children reiterated this in another form meeting in the province: “After everything that happened in 1956, we have a Hungarian politician who can’t say we should always stand up. against the aggressor “.
Marki-Zay promises to start the fight against corruption in an election victory, ensure the thawing of EU funds, restore the rule of law, the independence of institutions and freedom of the media, and introduce the euro. “This election will decide whether the majority of Hungarians are fed up with the last 12 years,” one of those gathered at an opposition rally in Budapest told Reuters.
The diversity of the opposition bloc also raises questions about how it will rule if it wins. And at the moment, it is not easy to form common messages between the left-wing Democratic Coalition, the liberal Moment, and Jobbik, which has softened its extreme nationalism.
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