Orbán’s dream of two decades in power hangs in the balance in the Hungarian vote

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – After his third landslide victory in a row in 2018, Hungarian Viktor Orbán said his powerful new term allowed him to plan for the next 12 years, targeting a two-decade uninterrupted period in power in former communist central Europe. country.

On Sunday, Orban’s plan will be severely tested in a national election where polls show six opposition parties united against him for the first time within close proximity to ousting his nationalist party Fidesz.

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Fides swept the 2018 election in a fierce anti-immigration campaign that earned him praise from former US President Donald Trump and the far-right in Europe and put him on a collision course with Brussels.

Now, the 58-year-old leader, who has turned Hungary into an “illiberal democracy” with strong control of the media and loyalists in charge of major institutions, acknowledges that this election will not be easy.

“The stakes of this election, even for an old war horse like myself, are much higher than I ever could have imagined,” Orbán, who has divided time equally in opposition and in power since the first post-communist Hungarian election in 1990, told pro-government HirTV on Monday.

Opinion polls have given Orbán’s party little lead, but with a fifth of Hungary’s 8 million voters declaring undecided, the April 3 election could still go either way.

The vote will decide whether Brussels will continue to face resistance from Hungary and Poland over media freedoms, rule of law and minority rights, or whether Warsaw will remain isolated in its confrontation with European institutions.

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Defending conservative Christian family values ​​against what he calls the “sexual frenzy” now sweeping Western Europe is part of Orbán’s current campaign. On Sunday, Hungarians will also vote in a government referendum on sexual orientation workshops in schools, a vote that rights groups denounced as fueling prejudice against the LGBTQ community. Read more

Orban leads ahead of elections

East or West?

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban leaves the podium after delivering his annual State of the Nation address in Budapest, Hungary, February 10, 2019. (Reuters) / Bernadette Szabo / File Photo

The Russian invasion of Ukraine upset Orban’s scenario, highlighting his close relations with Moscow.

He responded by taking advantage of the Hungarians’ desire for security, posing on billboards of protection for them and accusing opposition politicians of trying to drag Hungary into war, a charge they denied.

However, opposition leader Peter Markie Zay seized the opportunity, telling voters they faced a choice between West and East, criticizing Orban’s close ties with Russia and what he said was an erosion of democratic rights.

Marky G., once called Budapest’s Moscow Square, a stronghold of the opposition, said on Tuesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin is rebuilding the Soviet empire and that Orban “is still unable to decide how to maintain an equal distance from the killers and victims…”

Addressing his jubilant supporters, the small-town conservative mayor and a Catholic father of seven spoke of the Hungarian uprising crushed by Soviet tanks nearly 66 years ago while criticizing it in Orbán.

“After 1956, there is still a Hungarian politician, who cannot state that we must always stand up to the aggressor,” he said.

Marke Zay leads a six-party coalition from the Hungarian political spectrum that has joined forces, spurred on by the possibility of Orbán’s ouster.

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Its members, from the left-wing Democratic Alliance, to liberals Momentum and Jobbik, a far-right-turned-moderate party, have put most of their disputes aside for the campaign, but political differences could pose a challenge if Marki-Zay wins on Sunday.

He promised to crack down on corruption, gain access to EU funds frozen by Brussels for fighting the rule of law, and introduce the euro.

“What will decide this election is that the majority are tired of 12 years,” said Sandor Laszlo, who attended the Marke Zay rally in the capital.

According to the latest Zavecz Research poll, Fidesz leads the opposition by three percentage points with 39% support. Tibor Zavic, director of the think tank, said Fidesz seemed to have a better chance of winning, but much would depend on the last-minute voter mobilization.

About 8% of voters, about 600,000 people, said they would vote but still had a preferred option.

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(Reporting by Christina Than) Editing by Tomasz Janowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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