Elections in Hungary: Viktor Orban declares victory

Orban’s Fidesz party had a leading lead with 71% of the vote counted, Hungary’s national election commission said Sunday night.

The election campaign was dominated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban’s long-standing cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin under scrutiny. In his victory speech, Orban called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky one of the “opponents” he had to overcome during the campaign.

Hungary is heavily dependent on Russian energy, and Orban has avoided the possibility of condemning Putin’s attacks on his neighboring state, complicating the EU’s efforts to present a united front against him.

But despite opinion polls predicting a closer race, Orban’s Fidesz party won comfortably in large parts of the country. Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay did not even manage to win in his own district, where he had served as mayor.

“We have such a victory that it can be seen from the moon, but it is certain that it can be seen from Brussels,” Orban said in his speech Sunday night, highlighting his government’s long-standing tensions with EU leaders.

“We will remember this victory until the end of our lives because we had to fight a huge amount of opponents,” Orban said, quoting a number of his political enemies, including the Hungarian left, “bureaucrats” in Brussels. the international media, “and the Ukrainian president too – we have never had so many opponents at the same time.”

Orban visited his ally Putin weeks before Moscow invaded Ukraine.

A difficult relationship with the EU

Orban has gained close control of Hungary’s judiciary, media and educational institutions during his 12-year term in power, which is now to be extended to 2026. He has pushed legislation aimed at migrants and the LGBTQ + community and has spoken of his intention to build an “illiberal” state in the EU.

Critics have long complained that he has tipped the political rules of the game against his opponents. Last month, the European Bureau for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE) recommended a full-scale international monitoring operation of the April 3 poll – a rare step for an EU state – after assessing allegations of “a general deterioration in democratic elections.”

“The whole world could see this evening in Budapest that Christian Democratic politics, Conservative politics and nationalist politics won,” Orban said Sunday night. “Our message to Europe is that it is not the past, but the future. This will be our common European future.”

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Orban campaigned primarily on a platform to keep Hungary’s troops and weapons out of the conflict. He has supported most of the EU’s sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine, but has opposed moving forward and positioning himself as a peacemaker to the electorate.

On Wednesday, his foreign minister accused the Ukrainian government of coordinating with Hungary’s opposition parties without quoting evidence.

The opposition criticized him for his stance. “Putin is rebuilding the Soviet empire and Orban is just looking at it with strategic calm,” opposition leader Marki-Zay said at a demonstration in March, Reuters reported.

But Marki-Zay admitted defeat late on Sunday, telling supporters: “We are not discussing Fidesz’s victory, but we are discussing that this election was democratic and even.

“We will stay in this country, stand up for each other, hold hands and not let each other go. Hard times are coming, regardless of the election result. We know they will blame us, we will be scapegoats, so it’s more important than ever to hold hands and not let go. “

Even before the invasion, Orban had a difficult relationship with the EU. His government has been paralyzed by high-ranking officials in the rule of law bloc; Earlier this year, Europe’s Supreme Court allowed the EU to block funding to Hungary and Poland for violating democratic rights.

On Sunday, a referendum was also held on Orban’s controversial law banning educational materials and programs for children considered to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.

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