Hungary’s National Assembly Election resulted in a victory for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz Party. Not only did the Hungarian Prime Minister reclaim his seat with a 53% vote, but his party also won the majority, winning 135 of 199 seats in the Hungarian Parliament. Now back in power, Orbán added four additional years to the 12 that he has already spent dominating the parliament, judiciary, press, and media. “The entire world can see that our brand of Christian democratic, conservative, patriotic politics has won,” a smiling Orbán proudly claimed before the crowd and his cabinet on Sunday night. “We are sending Europe a message that this is not the past – this is the future.” Throughout his 12 years in office, Orbán has passed laws infringing upon the rights of several marginalized groups, as well as vocally supported autocrats such as Vladimir Putin. Hungary shares a border with Ukraine, and while a focal part of Orbán’s campaign is focused on keeping Hungarian troops out of Ukraine, his position is still dangerous, as Orbán makes up a part of the anti-West bloc that the Kremlin intends to build.
Orbán’s relationship with Putin is largely transactional. Hungary is nearly entirely dependent upon Russian fuel, and its government has been less than enthusiastic to give up this precious resource. Its alliance with Russia transcends fuel alone, as the Hungarian government is yet to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hungary is the sole country bordering Ukraine that has outright refused to offer weaponry or any other form of aid, and has even barred military aid from passing through Hungarian territory. Enraged NATO allies and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky have denounced him for supporting Russia, with Ukraine’s Prime Minister making a direct appeal to him in his address on March 25, 2022. In that address, he told Orbán to visit the World War ll memorial along the Budapest River, which commemorates the thousands of people who were brutally executed by a fascist Hungarian militia in the 1940s. Orbán’s condescending reply to Zelensky came in his victory speech, delivered on April 3 in the nation’s capital. He said, “This victory is one to remember, maybe even for the rest of our lives, because we had the biggest [range of opponents to] overpower. The left at home, the international left, the bureaucrats in Brussels, the money of the Soros empire, the international media and even the Ukrainian president in the end,” eliciting much laughter from the crowd. His obviously anti-West and Anti-EU position is one that carries great concern.
His support of Russia is not the only thing area of concern for other EU countries. Over the years, Orbán has directed his attention against Muslim migrants and the LGBTQ community. These political stances fare better in the rural areas where Orbán is most popular. Orbán was a former atheist who converted to Christianity at the beginning of his political career. “The Fidesz campaign was built on a few very clear, concise and targeted messages,” a Hungarian pastor told Evangelical Focus. “They were focusing on identifying the enemies — the EU, George Soros, the UN and Muslim migrants — for the Hungarian people and then positioning Orbán as the savior and protector of the nation.” About 80% of Hungary’s population identifies as Christian, a fact that Orbán uses to rally support for his conservative policies. He often invokes Christianity as a ploy for biased and destructive policies that marginalize various communities. For example, Orbán has used Christianity to stop the immigration of refugees and the demographic changes that were occurring in the country. However, during the start of the conflict in Ukraine, he opened the border to welcome tens of thousands of refugees from the war. This was in stark contrast to the rigid barriers imposed to keep out those fleeing conflict in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
One other major act of Orbán was changing the law to only recognize marriages between men and women. The centerpiece of this campaign was a referendum on his controversial law to ban educational material and programs for children that he believes promote homosexuality and gender reassignment. This sparked outrage as many LGBTQ rights groups, who rallied for voters to spoil their ballots in an effort to prevent the vote from achieving the support needed to make the law valid. Although this tactic was successful in preventing the vote from achieving the 4.1 million required, Orbán’s law was already in place and the ballot was mostly a symbolic act. Similarly, there was a 2016 referendum on migrant quotas which was enacted, although it fell short of the requisite numbers.
The leader of the opposition, Márki-Zay, shared with news outlets his feelings towards the outcome. This year marked unprecedented unity between the minority opposition parties in parliament who have given up on all aspirations of victory, but nevertheless hoped to steal support away from his party’s two-thirds majority. This majority afforded the party the complete power to pass constitutional reforms during Orbán ’s previous terms in power. “I don’t want to hide my disappointment and my sadness. We never expected this to be the result,” the leader of the opposition said. “We knew beforehand that this was going to be an imbalanced fight. Yes, they’ve cheated too. But we’ve also said that since there is no democracy in Hungary and they’ve changed the whole system, the districts.” The opposition has also complained that Fidesz has a huge advantage in election spending and communication. They claimed they had about 2,000 election advertising billboards throughout the country, compared to 20,000 for Fidesz. Orbán’s party has another advantage – control over the state owned media service. This gives him the power to determine what is heard and seen by everyday Hungarians, especially those outside Budapest and other major cities. The government propaganda being peddled to the public has been likened by analysts to that produced by The Kremlin.
Recently, more autocratic and non-liberal leaders are rising and aligning themselves against the West. Orbán represents a vocal member of a non-liberal club including the likes of Brazilian President Bolsonaro, Belarusian President Lukashenko, China’s Xi and, of course, Russian President Putin. These leaders have playbooks and policies that resemble the U.S.’s former Trump Administration, and are all entrenched in human rights violations and discriminatory policy choices. Due to many of shared political views regarding immigration — especially those of marginalized groups — and LGBTQ rights, Orbán was highly regarded by Donald Trump, a feeling that has not diminished in the alt-right U.S. media ecosystem. At a time when the political atmosphere is already fraught, Orbán’s victory has put the EU and US especially on edge, as he represents the growing non-liberal and anti-Western movement.
By Dominique Williams