Should I stay or should I go?

On April 8, the Hungarian population voted a new Parliament into place and showed its stance towards the European political discourse. To some extent, the outcome of these elections was quite predictable. The leading party of Viktor Orbán (the Fidesz–KNDP alliance) won the third consecutive term in Parliament and will continue to govern the country for the next four years.

Surprising or stable victory?

Experts claim that the victory of the Fidesz–KNDP alliance is the result of a stable winning position. The electoral results of the past elections show a consistent trend of support for the Eurosceptic party. During the previous elections, which were held in 2014, the coalition won 133 seats. The 2018 elections do not show much of a difference from the ones held in 2014. 134 seats of 199 in total were granted the first place to the alliance, which obtained around 67.34% of the overall votes.

Nevertheless, what makes this victory memorable and different from Orbán’s previous successes is voter turnout. Fortunately or unfortunately, these elections almost broke the historical records since the fall of communism with almost 5.4 million voters turning out in comparison with 5.1 million in 2010 and 5.05 million in 2014.

Fidesz–KNDP alliance’s main standpoints

In general, the Fidesz-KNDP alliance is famous for promoting protection at every level, from international to domestic politics. Hungarians warmly welcome Orbán’s policies towards cutting taxes, decreasing unemployment and fighting the growth of multinational companies. Besides this, and possibly even most importantly, a well-functioning campaign machine brought home the victory to the party.

Let’s start with two famous campaigns, which were held by Orbán‘s government close to election day, in order for the electoral program to mirror people’s concerns. The aim of the anti-Soros “national consultation” was to investigate public views on the “Soros plan”, a program to encourage Europe to give shelter to more migrants and consequently demolish border fences. At the same time, the anti-Brussels “national consultation” aimed at seeking advice from citizens on how to deal with EU policies. Both campaigns led to a general belief among Hungarian citizens that the EU wants to overflow the country with refugees and that Fidesz is the only party capable of protecting the state from the “monstrous” Union.

Favorable trends, such as low unemployment rates and growing macroeconomic figures, which are according to Fidesz purely their merit, helped to secure the win as well. On top of this, small tax cuts (especially VAT for certain categories of products and services), controversial public works programs and housing subsidies for couples who are ready to have children, form a genuine feeling of Hungarian economic success. This economic success is used as an example of why Hungary does not need the EU.

Consequently, both above-mentioned points underline the hostility towards the EU and feed strong nationalist sentiments among citizens.

The dismissal of common EU values – a reality or a myth?

The victory of Viktor Orbán has again underlined an absolute lack of action plan from EU institutions for facing Eurosceptic moods in different Member States and a constant uncertainty on whom to support. The reaction of European People’s Party’s MEPs was so broad and inconsistent that it is very hard to say if the most pro-EU block still stands for common EU values.

The president of the EPP and some of its leaders joyfully congratulated Viktor Orbán on the victory and declared their willingness to continue with the current cooperation model between Hungary and the EU. This does not come as a surprise since Fidesz is an official member of the EPP political group in the European Parliament.

Nevertheless, it is hard to expect from the “old-new” Hungarian government a promotion of common EU values, or a favorable stance towards EU’s common migration policies, or an introduction of more press freedom on the national level for that matter. The corresponding political discourse together with recent closures of an oppositional newspaper, Magyar Nemzet, and a radio station, Lánchíd Rádió, raise additional questions about the future of democracy in Hungary and the country’s willingness to remain in the Union.

Author: Irina Kruhmalova

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