HUNGARY: Orban’s Victory Speech Gives Clues to His Future Strategy
Gyula Csak * Prague * BIRN * April 4, 2022 * 11:37
Courtesy of Balkan Insight [website: https://balkaninsight.com]
The Hungarian prime minister has won a fourth consecutive term by a landslide in the country’s general election. What comes next?
Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party won a fourth term in office with a crushing victory over the joint six-party opposition in the country’s general election on Sunday. With 98.96 per cent of the vote counted, Fidesz won 53.10 per cent of the vote versus 35.04 per cent for United for Hungary.
The National Election Office said Fidesz would have 135 seats, a two-thirds majority, and the opposition alliance would have 56 seats.
‘A victory so big that it can be seen even from the Moon’
The Hungarian prime minister, who has had a difficult relationship with the European Union, started his victory speech on Sunday night by declaring: “We have scored a victory so big that it can be seen even from the Moon, but definitely from Brussels.”
This remark came only weeks after the European Commission decided to hold off launching a new mechanism to cut budget funds to Hungary over concerns about the deteriorating rule-of-law situation in the country. The European Parliament’s decision to trigger Article 7 proceedings was made back in 2018. The EU has also withheld money from the COVID-19 recovery fund.
Teneo’s Central and Eastern European advisor, Andrius Tursa, believes that the threat of losing much-needed EU funds and mounting fiscal challenges at home could present Orban with a dilemma.
“On the one hand, the big election victory vindicates his fiery rhetoric and anti-Brussels stance. On the other hand, the projected budget deficit of 4.9 per cent of GDP in 2022 already seems unrealistic due to the slowing economy and expansive pre-election spending… As a result, the government will be forced to look for solutions and might be more willing to compromise with the European Commission to unblock 7.2 billion euros in grants from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility,” Tursa wrote in a research note.
‘So many people ganged up on us’
The Hungarian prime minister also pointed in his victory speech to potential targets for the future. “This victory will be remembered for the rest of our lives because so many people ganged up on us, including the left at home, the international left everywhere, the bureaucrats in Brussels, all the funds and organisations of the ruling empire, the foreign media, and in the end even the Ukrainian president.”
Volodymyr Zelensky has criticised Viktor Orban’s ambiguous stance over Russia’s war in Ukraine several times, including at the latest EU summit in March. “Listen, Viktor, do you know what’s going on in Mariupol? And you hesitate whether to impose sanctions or not? And you hesitate whether to let weapons through or not? And you hesitate whether to trade with Russia or not? There is no time to hesitate. It’s time to decide already,” he told the summit.
Despite the criticism coming from the Ukrainian president, it’s unlikely that Orban’s policy on Russia – which means taking a softer line on Moscow than other European leaders – will change significantly. As a member of both NATO and the EU, Hungary has condemned Russia’s invasion and backed EU sanctions, but is clearly against a ban on Russian energy imports.
In his victory speech on Sunday, Viktor Orban sent a message to the ethnic Hungarians living in the Ukrainian region of Transcarpathia, saying: “Don’t be afraid, the motherland is with you.”
‘This is not the past, this is the future’
Orban will have his work out to repair the damage done to relations with the Visegrad Group (V4) of neighbouring countries. His government’s relationship with Slovakia, the Czech Republic and even Poland has come under pressure over the last few weeks because of the clash of views over Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Only last week, a V4 meeting of defence ministers in Budapest was cancelled after the other governments demonstratively decided to stay away.
But it looks like his landslide election victory will further reinforce Orban’s belief in his policy agenda, even if he didn’t get the binding win he sought in a national referendum targeting LGBT rights that was held on the same day as the general election due to less than half of eligible voters casting valid ballots.
“The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past; this is the future. This will be our common European future,” he declared.
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