March 24, 2023


Viktor Orban, Hungary’s third consecutive landslide winner in 2018, said that his strong mandate allowed him to plan 12 years in advance, aiming for a unbroken two-decade rule in the former communist Central European nation.

Orban’s plans will be tested in a national election on Sunday. Polls indicate that six opposition parties, united against him for first time, are within striking distance of his nationalist Fidesz party.

Fidesz won elections in 2018 thanks to a fierce antiimmigration campaign. This earned him praises from Donald Trump and Europe’s far-right and put him on a collision course of sorts with Brussels.

The 58-year old leader has made Hungary an “illiberal democracy”, with a strong grip on media and loyalists at the top of institutions. He now acknowledges that this election is not a walkover.

“The stakes are, even for an older warhorse like myself, much higher than what I could have ever imagined,” Orban said to pro-government channel HirTV Monday. Orban has been evenly divided between the opposition and power since 1990’s post-communist Hungary’s first elections.

Orban’s party leads in opinion polls, but about one-fifth (of Hungary’s 8,000,000 voters) still declares to be undecided. The April 3 vote could still go either direction, however.

Voters will decide whether Brussels will face continued resistance from Hungary or Poland over media freedoms and rule of law, minority rights, or if Warsaw will remain isolated in its conflict with European institutions.

Orban’s current campaign includes the defense of Christian family values and against “gender madness”, which he describes as the current wave of violence in Western Europe. Hungarians will vote on Sunday in a referendum by the government about sexual orientation workshops at schools. Rights groups denounce this vote as a fuel for prejudice against the LGBTQ community.

Orban’s script was upset by Russia’s invasion in Ukraine, which cast a new light on his close relationship with Moscow.

He responded by taping into Hungarians’ desire for security and posing as their protector on campaign billboards.

Peter Marki-Zay, the opposition leader, seized this opportunity and told voters that they had to choose between West or East. He also criticised Orban’s close ties with Russia and the erosion of democratic rights.

Marki-Zay, an opposition stronghold and former Moscow square, in Budapest, said Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin was rebuilding Soviet Empire and Orban “still can’t decide how to maintain an equal distance between the killers, and the victims.”

The conservative mayor of a small town and a Catholic father to seven raised the topic of the Hungarian uprising that was crushed by Soviet tanks nearly 66 years ago. He also took aim at Orban.

He stated that “after 1956 there is still an Hungarian politician who cannot state the fact that we always must stand against the aggressor.”

Marki-Zay is the leader of a coalition that includes six parties from Hungary’s political spectrum. They joined forces when Orban was threatened.

Its members, which range from the leftist Democratic Coalition to liberal Momentum and Jobbik (a far-right party that has been moderated) have put aside most of their differences for the campaign. However, policy differences could pose a problem if Markizay wins.

He has pledged to crack down on corruption, get access to European Union funds that have been frozen in Brussels for the rule of law fight and to introduce the euro.

Sandor Laszlo attended Marki-Zay’s rally in the capital and stated, “What will determine this election is that there has been enough of these 12 year-long years.”

The latest Zavecz Research poll shows that Fidesz is leading the opposition by three points, with 39% support. Tibor Zavecz (director of the think-tank) stated that Fidesz seemed to have a better chance of winning, but that a lot would depend upon a last minute mobilisation of voters.

He stated that around 8% of voters, or 600,000 people, would vote, but had not chosen their preferred choice.


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