As you know, last Sunday's parliamentary elections in Hungary were again won by the party of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is known in Europe as an extremely controversial politician who often goes against common European principles. Political scientist Alexander Ivakhnik explains why Orban managed to win for the fourth time:
“The hopes of Viktor Orban's opponents that he would not be able to win a fourth victory in a row in the parliamentary elections did not come true. Such hopes seemed real last fall, when a united coalition of six opposition parties, including the Socialists, the Greens, the Liberals and the Right, in the primaries identified a common candidate for prime minister to challenge Orban and his Fidesz party in future elections. They became the non-partisan mayor of the small town of Hodmezyovasharhey Peter Marki-Zai. His appearance did not fit in with the traditional opponents of the national populist Orban on the left. Markey-Zay is a practicing Catholic, an exemplary family man with seven children. He did not hide his conservative views, moreover, he emphasized that, unlike Orban, he always adhered to them. At the same time, he took a clear pro-European position and, like the entire united coalition, set the main goal of destroying the “illiberal democracy” regime that Orban has been building for more than 10 years. Marki-Zai quickly gained national popularity, and the ratings of Fidesz and the opposition alliance were almost equal.
Closer to the election, it became clear that Orban, with the help of state and private media controlled by him, managed to turn the tide and, judging by the polls, should have won, but by a small margin. However, the victory was unexpectedly large. According to the national party lists, Fidesz received 53% of the vote, and the opposition 35%. In addition, candidates from the ruling party won in 88 single-mandate constituencies out of 106. The leader of the opposition Marki-Zai in his constituency lagged behind his competitor from Fidesz by 12 percentage points. In the new composition of the parliament, Fidesz will have 135 seats out of 199, i.е. two-thirds, and the opposition coalition - 56 seats. The far-right Our Fatherland party will receive 7 mandates. “Maybe we never looked as good as we did tonight. We have achieved a victory that can be seen even from the moon, and even more so from Brussels,” Orban told his supporters.
During the election campaign, the opposition brought to the fore the slogans of fighting large-scale corruption, increasing funding for healthcare and education, restoring the independence of the judiciary and the media, and improving relations with the EU. In turn, Orban raised his trademark topics of countering illegal migration, protecting traditional values and the family, and rebuffing the federalist aspirations of the Brussels bureaucracy.
But in the last month, events related to the Russian military operation in border Ukraine have come to the center of the election campaign. Orban decisively changed the tone of his campaign and began to present the vote as a choice between the peace and stability that he provides, and the war and chaos that the opposition is pushing the country into. He supported EU anti-Russian sanctions and opened the border to Ukrainian refugees, but refused to allow Hungary to transit Western weapons to Ukraine, opposed the withdrawal of Russian energy and refrained from criticizing President Putin. In turn, the opposition urged to act in close conjunction with the EU and NATO, to provide more active support to Ukraine, incl. weapons, and criticized Orban for his half-heartedness and longstanding close ties to Putin. The Prime Minister's argument, powerfully disseminated by the pro-government media, turned out to be clearly closer to the Hungarian "deep people", who acutely felt their insecurity.
It can be assumed that after the victory, Orban will continue his special course regarding the Ukrainian conflict, which could lead to an aggravation of contradictions with Brussels. Within the EU, Hungary will increasingly find itself alone. Relations with its closest ally in recent years, Poland, have already deteriorated sharply. The future of the informal Visegrad Four, which, in addition to Poland and Hungary, includes the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is a big question.”