March 25, 2023


Hungary’s Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to extend his 12-year-old rule in Sunday’s election. This was helped by the firm control of state media by his government.

Orban has had to adjust his plans due to the war in Ukraine. He is now having to make uncomfortable decisions at home, after more than a decade with Moscow. It also has changed the conversation in Hungary as we approach the election.

In the polls, six party opposition alliance is within striking distance from Orban’s Fidesz party. Zavecz Research’s latest poll shows Fidesz leading with 39% support, against 36% for opposition. One-fifth voters are yet to make a decision on who to back in this race.

Orban retains the lead before the election

Peter Marki-Zay (49-year-old conservative) is the leader of the opposition. He has presented the election as a choice between East and West for Hungarians. Orban, he claims, has turned Hungary toward Russia and directed the Central European country away form the European Union.

“A Hungarian Putin or Europe? Opposition billboards show a picture of Vladimir Putin and Orban, stating that they are either Russia or Europe.

Orban, 58 years old, has presented himself as a defender for Hungarian interests by refusing EU sanctions on Russian oil & gas.

He also accused his enemies of trying to drag Hungary into Ukraine’s war, which they deny.

“The Ukrainian left has made a deal with them. Orban posted the following on his Facebook page: “If they win, weapons shipment will start (to Ukraine), and they will close gas taps to ruin the economy.”

Orban has not vetoed EU sanctions against Russia, even if he stated that he didn’t agree with them. His government also permitted NATO troops to be deployed into Hungary, where support for NATO membership was 80% according to a GLOBSEC survey.

He supported the EU’s decision to send weapons to Ukraine, but he has now banned weapons shipments from Hungary. This was because such a move could be a security risk.

His strategic gambit has helped him cement his support among core Fidesz voter. However, it has drawn criticism from allies such as Poland, whose ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kalinski stated that he wasn’t happy with Orban’s cautious stance towards Russia.

“If you asked my happiness, I would say no. But, I will wait until the election. “We will see after we have the election,” Kaczynski stated.

Laszlo Corona, a long-time fan of Orban, stated his unwavering support when asked about his preference for voting in Budapest.

He said that he liked him so much when he stood before more than 100,000 people and told them to go home (in 1989).” This was a reference to a well-known Orban speech of the time.

“We must put politics aside to have energy. Orban is doing this now, but it’s not betrayal.

Despite the Ukraine conflict taking center-stage, many Hungarians face rising consumer prices. Inflation reached 8.3% in February, a record high for the country, even though Orban placed limits on fuel prices and mortgage rates.

GKI, a think tank, reported that its consumer confidence survey revealed a 11-point drop in March despite Orban’s preelection spending spree to help households.

The opposition alliance, which includes parties the leftist Democratic Coalition, the liberal Momentum and far-right-turned-moderate Jobbik, has tapped popular discontent, criticising what they said was systemic corruption that has enriched oligarchs close to Fidesz.

“It is unacceptable that they have destroyed democracy and… stolen our country from our people, they have taken the wealth of our nation and channelled it into private property,” Annamaria Varnai, a Budapest opposition supporter, said. This week’s Median poll suggests the alliance will win a clear victory.

After years of fighting with Brussels over media freedoms and the rule of law, Orban’s current campaign focuses on protecting conservative Christian family values against “gender madness” in Western Europe.

Hungarians will vote on Sunday in a referendum regarding sexual orientation workshops in schools. This is something that rights groups denounce, saying that it encourages prejudice against LGBTQ people.


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