Hungary’s Viktor Orbán consolidates his hold on power

Often described by the Western media as an authoritarian leader and the most vocal critic of the European Union, Viktor Mihály Orbán will head Hungary’s government four more years
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán consolidates his hold on power
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban waves during his campaign closing rally in Szekesfehervar, Hungary - Photo: Bernadett Szabo/REUTERS
19/04/2018
15:27
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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Despite the mass protests organized by the opposition last weekend in Budapest after the April 8 elections, Prime Minister Viktor Mihály Orbán will head Hungary’s government four more years with a two-thirds majority in Parliament—for the third time in a row—that allows him to change the Constitution and consolidates his hold on power in the Central European country.

Often described by the Western media as an authoritarian leader and the most vocal critic of the European Union within that bloc, along with his ally Jaroslaw Kaczynski, Head of the ruling conservative Law and Justice party in Poland, Orbán ran a campaign focused in the alleged plans to turn Hungary into a “immigrant nation” from the EU, the United Nations, and Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros, well known as the béte noire of the extreme alt right, including American Republican politician Steve Bannon and French former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

In his last campaign speech, Orbán attacked the moderate and leftist opposition and said to his supporters: “For us, Hungary comes first; for them, George Soros and the power he offers comes first, because for power and money they are capable of anything.”

Ironically, he was the recipient of a Soros-funded scholarship and went to Oxford University at the start of his political career, as were several other government and Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Alliance) party members.

On March 15, Hungary’s national holiday, the Prime Minister declared that “after the elections [they would] take revenge—moral, political, and legal revenge.”

This week, pro-government magazine Figyelő published a blacklist with the names of 200 Orbán critics. The list includes academics, journalists and nongovernmental organization workers from Hungary’s Helsinki Committee, the local branch of Transparency International, and the Central European University, labeling them “mercenaries” of Soros.

In power for eight years straight, after the scandal triggered by the infamous “Öszöd speech” delivered in 2006 by then Prime Minister Ferenc Gyursány, admitting that his Socialist Party had misled the electorate and that its coalition government had enacted no significant measures over its tenure, Orbán, now the third longest-serving Prime Minister in Hungarian history, led his Fidesz-Christian Democratic party (KDNP) coalition to victory with around 50% of the vote and a new constitutional majority of 134 seats in the National Assembly, while the left-wing opposition won 12 of 18 seats at stake in Budapest districts.

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Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban addresses the supporters after the announcement of the partial results of parliamentary election in Budapest, Hungary - Photo: Leonhard Foeger/REUTERS

Fragmented opposition

On Saturday, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters marched in Budapest demanding a new parliamentary election and a new national electoral system in the biggest opposition rally in years.

They stressed the need of changing the electoral system, “which forever cements Fidesz in power,” ousting Chief Prosecutor Peter Polt, because “as long as he is in office not a single corruption case will be investigated” and getting Fidesz out of state media, which has been used with private friendly media outlets such as television channel TV2 to consolidate Orbán’s government.

Hungary has an electoral system with the highest disproportionality in terms of translating votes into seats of the EU member states. In addition, Hungarian speakers in bordering countries such as Romania and Croatia—once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—whom Orbán had offered Hungarian citizenship, voted almost unanimously for Fidesz-KDNP.

Nevertheless, foreign and national observers concur on the fragmented nature of the opposition, unable to join forces and put up a single joint candidate in order to beat the ruling coalition, even in local contests.

Facing his new term, Orbán has established himself among the “strong men” in world politics such as Vladimir Putin from Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan from Turkey, and Xi Jinping from China.

He is expected to continue his hard-line towards Brussels and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, demanding changes in the EU in order to “essentially transform it into a mere administrator of European subsidies and a single market—and not a Europe of shared values that get involved in domestic political debates,” according to the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Thus, to achieve this goal Orbán can rely on the support of his allies from the “EuroscepticVisegrad Group, composed by Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary, whose respective governments have also exploited the refugee crisis of 2015 and the profound discrimination against Gypsies and other minorities.

In domestic affairs, Orbán will have to face the corruption problems, the second-worst negative population growth in the EU and a brain drain of highly educated young people who move to the West, despite a projection for Hungarian GDP growth in 2018 of 3.8%, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook.

Edited by Sofía Danis
More by Gabriel Moyssen

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