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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Far-right Orbán reelection delivers a big blow to EU

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s far-right Fidesz party won parliamentary elections in a landslide, dealing a major blow to European Union politicians hoping to see an end to Orbán’s reign. Serbia too saw its pro-Russia incumbents cruise to victory.

(CN) — Viktor Orbán, the longtime prime minister of Hungary and a pro-Kremlin politician seen as an existential threat to the liberal democratic values of the European Union, won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

Orbán’s Fidesz party won about 53.1% of the vote and will maintain a supermajority in Budapest’s parliament. Orbán, already in power for 12 years, will receive another four-year mandate.

Orbán admires Russian President Vladimir Putin’s right-wing nationalist regime and his reelection will undermine unity within the EU and NATO over the Ukraine war. Orbán has refused to allow weapons to be shipped to Ukraine through Hungary and a feud has opened between him and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who recently criticized Orbán in a speech to European leaders. Hungary is a member of both the EU and NATO.

The EU’s strategies to counter Putin were furthered frustrated Sunday by the resounding victory of Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, and his Progressive Party. Vucic has shown support for Putin and so far refused to align his country with sanctions against Russia. Serbia is slowly on the path toward EU membership.

But it’s the victory by Orbán that promises to rile EU politics the most.

“We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” Orbán said in a victory speech dripping with revenge against his critics.

Pundits and polls suggested he was facing his toughest election yet because six opposition parties led by a conservative mayor united to defeat him. But those prognosticating an Orbán defeat were wildly wrong.

“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,” Orbán said.

Orbán is blasted by many in Europe as an authoritarian at the heart of the EU and he’s seen as the leader of a far-right anti-EU political movement across Europe seeking to restrain the power of EU rules, laws and courts over domestic affairs.

Only a few European leaders, such as Putin and Italian far-right politician Matteo Salvini, congratulated Orbán on his reelection.

“Bravo Viktor! Alone against everyone, attacked by the fanatics of uniform thinking, threatened by those wanting to eradicate the Judeo-Christian roots of Europe, slandered by those wanting to eliminate values such as the family, security, merit, development, solidarity and freedom,” wrote Salivini, the leader of the Italy’s popular Lega party, in Facebook post.

Putin welcomed Orbán’s win, saying in a message that “despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral partnerships fully meets the interests of the peoples of Russia and Hungary,” as reported by Tass, the Russian state news agency.

Along with Poland, Hungary is in a bruising fight with Brussels over allegations that both countries have undermined democracy by stacking courts with allies, freezing out opposition media, attacking gays and lesbians and concentrating power in the hands of authoritarian arch-conservative and ultra-nationalist political party machines.

Poland, run by the right-wing Law and Justice party, and Hungary are facing the loss of billions of dollars in EU funds because of their refusal to reverse alleged anti-democratic laws and policies. Poland threw the EU into a legal crisis last October when its Constitutional Tribunal declared that EU laws do not have primacy over Polish laws.

The bitter clash between Brussels and Poland and Hungary has been put on pause since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and both countries, which neighbor Ukraine, became the EU’s front line in the war. Poland has taken in about 2.4 million Ukrainian refugees and Hungary about 390,000, according to figures from the United Nations human rights agency.

Fidesz trounced a coalition of six opposition parties led by Peter Marki-Zay, a conservative politician with ideas not so different from Orbán’s, who rose to prominence in the past four years after he became the mayor of Hodmezovasarhely, a small conservative city in southeast Hungary. He espoused a pro-EU stance and attacked Orbán’s refusal to allow weapons to be shipped through Hungary to Ukraine.

“I am shocked, like everyone else, and do not want to hide my frustration,” he said in a concession speech, according to Hungary Today.

Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.

Follow @cainburdeau
Categories / Government, International, Politics

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