Elections in Hungary: what's at stake?

Hungary will elect a new parliament on Sunday. Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay will face Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been in power since 2010. Until the war, Orbán was considered a close ally of Putin's. He agreed to sanctions against Russia but blocked arms deliveries to Ukraine across the Hungarian border. Europe's press sees various scenarios for the future.

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Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

Orbánian state virtually indestructible

Without a two-thirds majority of the opposition, much of the Orbán system would remain in place despite an election defeat, explains historian Péter Techet in a commentary in the Wiener Zeitung:

“There are many corrupt countries. In Hungary, however, a clan has been able to take control of state institutions to such an extent that, from a purely legal point of view, the corruption even conforms to the law, because the laws are adapted to the political-criminal will beforehand, and the control institutions, such as the public prosecutor's office, don't do their duties. If Fidesz actually loses the election, it could, in the best case, erode this system. Otherwise, a new government would be helpless and penniless in the face of an Orbánian 'deep state' that would continue to have the country firmly in its grip.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Don't let them copy the Hungarian model

Orbán has shown Spain's right-wing populists in the Vox party how to dismantle a democracy. El Mundo finds this disturbing:

“After losing power in 2002, Orbán ran for office in 2010 convinced that he only had to win once, but get it right. ... From then on, he peacefully and legally dissolved the institutions to prevent any other party from defeating him. The reforms came one after another until they had turned the constitution into a worthless scrap of paper. ... To escape this deadlock, for the first time there is a single, overarching candidacy that wants to bring democracy back to the country. ... If it doesn't succeed, the confidence of populist parties like Vox in the Hungarian model will be reinforced.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

A country at a crossroads

If Orbán continues his policy of division, it could even trigger an exit from the EU, fears Hospodářské noviny:

“Three out of four Visegrád members massively support Ukraine's fight against the Russian aggressor. As the pro-Russian Trojan horse in the EU and Nato, Viktor Orbán is pretending that the war has nothing to do with Hungary and that peace must be secured for the country. ... But if he is elected for a fourth term, he can no longer afford to look like a close friend of Russia because of the consequences of the war. At least not if he wants to cooperate with Western democracies. In Hungary, some analysts speculate that Budapest will either humbly move closer to the EU and Nato or that the process of Hungary leaving the EU will begin.”

România liberă (RO) /

EU must prepare for a veto

The EU must stand up to Fidesz policies, political scientist Péter Krekó demands in România liberă:

“If Orbán remains in power after the elections on 3 April, he will threaten the West with breaking the unity of the sanctions and using them as leverage in future European Council decisions, blackmailing his so-called allies with a veto. ... The most important thing now, therefore, is for the EU to recognise this threat and take action against it. ... Two steps are immediately necessary: imposing sanctions on Hungary, and combating state-sponsored, pro-Russian disinformation that seeks to undermine the unity of the alliance.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

United opposition could win

For Tygodnik Powszechny it is not a foregone conclusion that Orbán will win:

“He is being challenged by an alliance made up of almost all the opposition parties, from the right and the liberals to the Greens and the left. Today, no one is surprised to see the flags of the formerly far-right Jobbik party and the post-communist Hungarian Socialist Party flying side by side at demonstrations. A decade ago they were bitter opponents. Today they are united against Fidesz. What brings them together is less a programme than political necessity: individually, none of these parties would be able to pose a threat to the hegemony Orbán has built up over the years.”

Népszava (HU) /

The people will choose Europe

As after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Hungary is once again faced with the choice between the East or the West, publicist Károly Herényi observes in Népszava:

“The Hungarian population is not stupid. The people will not decide on the basis of fake news, but on the basis of their own experience. The Hungarians' decision will hurt Orbán. Thirty-two years ago the people of Hungary chose Europe. Orbán wants to hurl us back to the point we were at three decades ago. On 3 April, the Hungarians will choose Europe once more.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Not our war

Magyar Hírlap publishes a commentary by Ervin Nagy, an analyst at the pro-government research institute XXI Század Intézet:

“This could have been avoided, but the opposition behaved destructively and made the war an election issue. Our past, our history teaches us that we must stay out of the Russian-Ukrainian war. ... Much is at stake. Who wants peace, and who would rather drag the country into a war? That is the question here!”

Népszava (HU) /

The umpteenth change of stance

The Fidesz electorate is divided, observes Népszava:

“The Russian aggression has sowed confusion among the hitherto unified [Fidesz] electorate. As prime minister of Nato member Hungary, Viktor Orbán was forced to endorse the statements condemning Moscow. ... After twelve years of pro-Russia propaganda not even Orbán's supporters know how to react to this umpteenth change of stance on the part of their idolised leader.”

Magyar Nemzet (HU) /

Those who know war have the advantage

Orbán's years of experience could now give him an advantage over his rival, the pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet believes:

“Now of all times, the mayor of a small town who has only been in politics for a few years wants to become prime minister. ... In 1999, Nato bombed Serbia only a few weeks after Hungary's accession. For Orbán, who at the time was a newcomer as prime minister at the age of 36, this was certainly a defining experience. ... Now, after almost a quarter of a century, the capital of a neighbouring country is being shot at for the second time. We are experiencing times in which the advantage lies with those who have smelled cannon powder before - even if only symbolically.”