In February, we previewed this year’s national elections in Hungary and the beginnings of what appeared to be an “anti-migrant alliance” among EU members who were disillusioned with Brussels’ unlimited, open border policies. At the time, incumbent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban looked like a solid lock for a third term and a possible expansion of his ruling party’s majority in their National Assembly.
Well, those elections took place yesterday, and if anything, Orban’s party overperformed even the most optimistic expectations among pollsters. Not only did he win with nearly three-quarters of the vote, but his party should be left with a supermajority in Parliament, giving them the ability to enact changes to their constitution and basically write their own ticket for the next few years. This is being seen as a crushing blow by those who support the socialist minority and the unlimited immigration policies of the European Union. For example, check out how the New York Times described it.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has set about transforming this former Soviet bloc member from a vibrant democracy into a semi-autocratic state under one political party’s control, appeared to have won a sweeping victory in national elections on Sunday, with 93 percent of the vote counted.
By securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament, Mr. Orban’s party, Fidesz — along with its ally, the Christian Democrats — now has the power to change the Constitution and further bend the nation to his will.
“Hungary won a big victory,” Mr. Orban told a crowd of supporters gathered on the bank of the Danube just before midnight. He added that there was still “a big fight ahead” but that the parliamentary majority would allow him to continue to protect Hungary.
The Guardian quickly declared that this election was a major blow to the European Union and spelled trouble for their long-term agenda.
The EU, used to grappling with Brexit, is now confronting a country at the heart of the continent making an exit from the club’s liberal values, but continuing to pick up the cheques.
The European commission, however, does not see a systemic problem. The current commission’s mandate ends in 2019 and many EU insiders think its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, is reluctant to pick a fight with Orbán.
Both politicians are members of the the European People’s Party, Europe’s dominant centre-right bloc, which has shielded Orbán from criticism. Before Sunday’s resounding win, some EPP members were hopeful Orbán would change. “He has been very outspoken, because he has been radicalised by the elections,” one EPP politician told the Guardian. “I think he will moderate and become more reasonable.”
Hoping that Orban suddenly becomes more moderate or “reasonable” may be a pipe dream for the EU leadership, at least to some extent. Hungary’s Prime Minister has been shaking his fist and defying their mandates for years, and has clearly leveraged the resentment many of his countryman feel toward EU supremacy into a massive victory at the polls. It’s true that he clearly seemed to up his rhetoric over the course of the campaign and there isn’t much of a need to do that now that he’s won, but expecting him to become more “reasonable” in his policies seems unrealistic.
The biggest reason for this stems from the mandate Orban continues to receive from his citizens. Unlike some elections in other countries (see: Russia or Venezuela) where valid questions are raised about the legitimacy of the voting process, Orban is widely acknowledged as being wildly popular with the people of Hungary. They hold massive rallies in the streets for him, with well attended marches supporting his policies. He has no need to suppress the opposition or tamper with the votes because he does indeed appear to reflect the will of the people and their desire for national sovereignty and control of their borders.
Hungary is already pretty tight with Austria and some other EU members who want to stop the flow of largely Muslim migrants moving into their territory. Orban will likely seek to expand those relationships now and he’s clearly not going to be leaving any time soon.