Hungary’s Orban handily wins 4th presidential term

By Marcelo Nagy and Luis Lidon

Budapest, Apr 3 (EFE).- Hungary’s ultranationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, won a fourth term on Sunday, prevailing handily in an election dominated by security concerns aroused by the war in neighboring Ukraine.

“We have secured an enormous victory,” Orban, 58, told thousands of supporters who chanted his name in Budapest.

“A victory that perhaps could have been seen from the Moon, but I’m sure that it will be seen from Brussels,” he added in a swipe at the European Commission, which recently opened an investigation into the Hungarian law that prohibits talking about homosexuality to minors.

With 92 percent of the votes counted, the governing Fidesz party is en route to obtaining 135 seats in the 199-member parliament, while the opposition will have only 56.

That configuration would allow the government to retain the two-thirds majority that has enabled it to unilaterally implement changes to the constitutional order over the past 12 years.

That majority has guaranteed Fidesz control over all the institutions of state power – including the Constitutional Court – as well as of the state-run media via compliant and supportive media leadership, a situation that provides Orban with unending favorable media coverage.

One of the surprises of the elections, however, was the result obtained by the Our Homeland party, an extreme rightist group that surpassed the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation and will now hold 5 seats in the legislature.

One of the symbols of the opposition’s failure to prevail was the fact that its candidate for the premiership, Peter Marki-Zay, was unable to win the presidential vote even in Hodmezovasarhely, the city where he has served as mayor since 2018.

The 49-year-old opposition candidate, an economist by training, has complained bitterly in recent days that he was only given the five minutes allocated by law on public television during the entire campaign, while Orban’s face was constantly on the nation’s TV screens.

“I cannot hide my disappointment,” said Marki-Zay in a solo appearance without any of the leaders of the six parties of assorted ideologies that make up the United for Hungary coalition.

Over all, these elections have once again showed Orban’s ability to read the political situation and to take advantage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which at first seemed to disadvantage him.

The prime minister, perhaps the European Union’s politician who is closest to Russian President Vladimir Putin, correctly interpreted the fear of change among voters during a period of uncertainty, modifying his campaign slogan to “War or peace.”

Over the past month, voters’ intention to cast their ballots for Fidesz has been climbing with the party’s message that Orban is an experienced leader who guarantees stability while the opposition, if it were to win the election, could “ruin” the country and get it involved in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

The solidarity of the opposition with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was described by Orban as a bellicose step and he claimed they would damage the country’s economy by joining an embargo on Russian oil and natural gas.

Hungary imports 85 percent of its natural gas and more than 60 percent of its petroleum from Russia and Orban reconfirmed that he will not stop buying the Kremlin’s energy products because of the local economic damage that would cause.

It hardly seemed to matter that Orban’s claims against the opposition had any basis or that the “War or peace” slogan was simplistic and extremist. The important thing is that the premier knew how to read the nervousness of an electorate that appears to have lost its appetite for change.

Orban, a ferocious critic of immigration into Hungary, LGBT rights and “EU bureaucrats,” has won the admiration of nationalists and the European ultraright.

In his victory speech, he thanked his “friends in the United States, Italy, Austria and Spain” for their support in the elections.

“Conservative, patriotic policy has won and our message is that this doesn’t represent the past, but rather the future,” he said.

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