Hungary Elections – a short commentary

, by Dvir Aviam Ezra

Hungary Elections – a short commentary
Viktor Orbán holding a speech in Budapest on October, 23rd 2021. Credits: Elekes Andor, CC BY-SA 4.0 <> , via Wikimedia Commons

Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz party are not friends of the federalist movement, nor of Europe in general. Their nationalist populist agenda has dominated the last 12 years in Hungary, downgrading its democracy to become a “hybrid regime” (according to the democracy index) and eroding the electoral system so much that the OSCE implemented an unprecedented full election-monitoring mission in an EU country.

Further, Orbán has undermined EU unity on the topic of Ukraine by rejecting sanctions, preventing weapons shipments through Hungarian territory, and openly exploring a neutral stance on a conflict which has resulted in hundreds of civilian deaths and suspected war crimes. In other words, he has undermined Hungary’s place in Europe and the sacrifices of the previous generation of Hungarians who fought precisely to live in a European liberal democracy.

Even though (according to preliminary results) Fidesz has won, the elections do not mean the end of Orban’s political career, but they do represent an important step. In these elections, we have seen the convergence of the previously splintered opposition parties into a broadly pro-European opposition coalition. While this unity has not resulted in an electoral success, it allowed the consolidation of an alternative to Orbán and presented a significant challenge to his rule for the first time in 10 years.

In fact, the 2/3 electoral victory of Orbán is also a result of intense gerrymandering of electoral districts as much as a show of popular support. We might also note that the elections were held on an unequal basis, with state resources supporting the ruling regime, media being bought and controlled by Orbán’s associates and cronies, last-minute social expenditures propping up the regime’s image and a populist anti-LGBT+ referendum taking place in tandem with the elections.

Going forward, while respecting the current results, federalists and pro-European activists should work to undermine Orbán’s regime using all legally available means. Those would include the activation of the rule-of-law mechanisms by the commission to withhold budgets until the government undo its anti-democratic reforms. In addition, the wider European community should pour support – moral and financial - into the opposition and independent NGOs in Hungary, to try and level the playing field for future elections and competitions.

Lastly, we should all remember that no rule can govern forever, and no regime is invincible. Even though the path for true democracy may be long and challenging, the Hungarian people have already deposed an authoritarian kleptocratic regime in 1989 and could do so again in the future. The elections were the greatest threat to Fidesz’s rule in 10 years and it is the role of the Hungarians opposition, with the support of Europe, to make the next one their final attempt to cling onto power.

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