Hungary under the sign of Viktor Orban. Interpretation of Hungarian election results
Viktor Orban scored the most important victory in the parliamentary elections, marking a first not only in Hungary but also in the post-communist states integrated into NATO and the EU: he is the first leader to link three consecutive government mandates with his party. After the 1998-2002 governing, Viktor Orban returns in 2010 and wins 3 consecutive government mandates by a two-thirds majority (the majority lost for a short period in his second term). The most important victory is the last because it comes after eight years of government and a 70 per cent presence in the ballot boxes, giving a strong popular legitimacy to the FIDESZ leader.
How is Orban’s success explained? What are the ingredients of your last election victory? How does the outcome of the Hungarian region influence? What is the message for the West and the EU?
Following the failure of the 2002 and 2006 elections, Viktor Orban wins power by 2/3 in 2010, taking over a country with an economy to the gorund after two left-wing government mandates, characterized by corruption scandals and the economic crisis. It was Viktor Orban’s time to take revenge on the humiliations of the loss of previous elections, the beginning of the „iliberal” system implementation. But what does Orban „iliberalism” mean?
Iliberalism of Vikor Orban is the result of the analysis of the reasons for the consecutive electoral defeats of FIDESZ in 2002 and 2006. One of the causes identified by the FIDESZ leader was that economic power is not in the hands of the Hungarians, Hungary has lost its sovereignty over the economy as a result of the misapplication of free market rules. The loss of economic sovereignty has led to major influences in the freedom of political choice of the Hungarians.
In order to get the country out of the economic crisis and to regain its „sovereignty” over Hungary’s economy, Viktor Orban intervenes on two levels: limiting the power of the financial and banking sector and multinationals, and substantially increasing the absorption of EU structural funds.
The limitation of the power of the financial and banking sector and of the multinationals was achieved by increasing their contribution to the state budget and limiting their profits to the detriment of the population (see, for example, the conversion into national currency of all foreign currency loans in favor of Hungarian citizens , the successive obligation to lower the costs of housing maintenance for the Hungarians). Through these „iliberal” measures, Viktor Orban has managed to create a form of social equity for those who have been the losers of the transition to the market economy, but also among the broad population struck by the economic crisis.
Another result of the „illiberal” economic policies was the creation of a strong local economic class in all areas (financial, banking, industry, agriculture, etc.) and of course closely related to FIDESZ.
At the same time, Viktor Orban successively redesigned the constitutional system, adopting highly „contested” measures which were qualified as major slips from the democratic principles. Viktor Orban has created a „suffocating” system, a monopoly of power in the economy, in the media, in justice, and in all public institutions that will be present and operate generations, even if FIDESZ will lose the election at some point. All these measures were motivated by the FIDESZ leader: the creation of a Hungarian sovereignty in which the Hungarians decide freely about their present and future without any external interference (of any kind, whether state, economic, non-governmental, etc.). ). Of course, this system favors the party in power: FIDESZ. This is why political analysts say the elections in Hungary were democratic, but not fair.
The defense of „iliberalism”, of Hungary’s sovereignty, was the message of Viktor Orban in the electoral campaign of 2018, the defense of „social equity” created by the Orban regime. „For us, Hungary is the first,” Orban said, adapting Donald Trump’s campaign slogan to regional realities. The enemies of Hungary are: migrants, Brussels and George Soros. Migrants represent danger and insecurity over Europe’s cultural and religious identity, associated with the image of terrorism. Imposition of migrant quotas presented as a form of abusive decision of Brussels. Viktor Orban makes a distinction between the EU and Brussels, the EU executive is constantly criticized and presented as an entity wishing to illegitimately intervene in the affairs of Hungary. George Soros represents civil society with occult interests in Hungary, a personification of „evil” represented by a strong civil society.
Viktor Orban chose a negative campaign strategy, which generated a sense of fear, a danger among the Hungarian population, created the image of Hungary and Europe under the siege of migration, the bureaucrats in Brussels and the international civil society, personified by George Soros.
Orban not only created these enemies of Hungary, he even believes in their existence! These enemies were present everywhere; even on the water tap in the kitchen follows the message of the enemies against which Viktor Orban’s Hungary must be defended by voting in elections. And it worked!
The electoral system, the media power, the financial power, the total control of the state institutions, the professional campaign strategy and the charisma of Viktor Orban were other elements that led to the most important electoral victory of the Hungarian leader.
As some analysts in the neighboring state say, this victory is Viktor Orban, one man show! In these elections, the party was a milestone for the leader, given the many cases of public corruption. The loss of partial elections in the party (Hodmezovasarhely) was a powerful signal that mobilized the party mechanism. Party leaders charged with corruption and conflicts of interest have been withdrawn from the campaign. The whole campaign was taken over by Viktor Orban, who knew when to speed up and how to mobilize especially his own voters in small towns and rural areas. Practically, the opposition won uninominal districts only in Budapest.
What’s next? Visibly exhausted by the effort and emotion of the campaign, Viktor Orban urged modesty in his speech after the announcement of the results, thanked the Polish brothers for support, the Hungarians from abroad and the Hungarians in Hungary for the votes through which they defended the country.
In the presence of a 2/3 majority, FIDESZ will adopt the Stop Soros law, which will impose a drastic control over the activity of non-governmental organizations, will also introduce in the Constitution some provisions against the share of migrants and other symbolic aspects of protecting Hungary’s sovereignty over other demons.
Internally, Viktor Orban wins time to rethink his party and manage corruption cases, but also power groups, leaders who are preparing to inherit his position. The iliberal policy will continue with even greater momentum, the strengthening of the FIDESZ power will affect generations of Hungarians.
There is a strong polarization of the Hungarian society, a cleavage between Budapest (big cities) and rural and small towns. Increased distrust will arise in opposition parties, which are likely to lose local elections in the autumn. Their chance is represented by next year’s European Parliament elections.
Externally, Viktor Orban has a strong legitimate stance in the EU and the region. It remains a trendsetter, whose themes and discourse are taken up in the region, but also in the West. What will the West and the EU understand from the election results in Hungary? Has he understood something from Brexit, the situation in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, Italy or Germany (the main opposition party is extremely right)? There are already too many states in the EU with a series of political and democratic challenges that Brussels does not analyze its own policy and assume no responsibility for the existing trend.
Regarding post-communist states, the EU faces the revolt of those who have lost in the transition to the market economy, but also with the illusion of rapid integration through the recovery of competitive and living standards. As I have already written, the EU has, in a relatively short time, integrated the post-communist states, serving the communist acquis on the tray, which subsequently created indigestion in these societies. The relatively short integration time of the post-communist states was not enough to disseminate the democratic values and principles, of the antibodies of democracy.
But the most important element that led to the democratic rebound of the post-communist states is the failure to recover the economic and competitive gap with the West, the failure to achieve a substantial increase in living standards. Post-communist societies woke up in a „wild” market economy, where „greed” of companies was and is on the order of the day. For most western and EU economic actors, the post-communist states that have received the Euro-Atlantic system were just a market and nothing more.
Ignoring the competitiveness gap between post-communist states and Western economic actors, the failure to catch up, the failure to generate a significant increase in quality of life, coupled with the economic crisis that debuted in 2008, have generated a critical mass of losers of integration, challengers of the unconditional directives from Brussels, a critical mass calling for a fairer rethinking of the rules of the game.
This economic reality has been doubled by the Western mistake of prematurely withdrawing democratization tools from post-communist states, believing naively that they have developed their own antibodies to respond to democratic slips. No, post-communist states have not developed these antibodies to a reasonable level. Withdrawing the support of independent media, Western media services (Radio BBC and Radio Free Europe) has allowed media players and media monopolies to be set up in the hands of political actors, and they have offered a field of action to Russia’s communication strategies. Freedom of expression, the right to information is seriously affected in these post-communist states, at a time of major challenges in managing unbiased communication.
The result of the elections confirms the policy of Victor Orban’s government to reunify the Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin. In Romania, about 195,000 Hungarians with dual citizenship voted, 80% of those who registered in the electoral register. More than 95% of them voted with Viktor Orban, the votes bringing two FIDESZ mandates, being decisive in getting the absolute majority, 2/3.
Beyond these decisive mandates, the Hungarian vote in Romania has a symbolic significance for Viktor Orban: the Hungarian nation reacts unitedly, Hungary is also defended by Hungarians from outside the borders.
The major investment policy in the Hungarian community in Romania will continue. Hungary connects the Magyars of Romania with their state of kinship by all possible means: media, education, social, cultural, economic, sports etc. In Romania, Budapest has invested heavily in the educational, cultural system of the Hungarians, expanded most of their social benefits (scholarships, students, financial support at birth, etc.), created sports facilities, supported the work of Hungarian NGOs and invested in the economic capacity of the Hungarians in Transylvania.
Romania refused to create a state university in Hungarian language; Hungary founded and finances a university with Hungarian language teaching under the Hungarian historical cults in Romania.
Through massive investments, Hungary creates the conditions for a form of educational, cultural and economic autonomy for the Hungarian community in Romania, the aim being, in time, to fully fund these areas of the Budapest budget.
Viktor Orban has a vision, a picture of the future, for the Hungarians in Romania, Bucharest is now stuttering. The result of the elections shows that Orban won the struggle for the souls of the Magyars of Transylvania.
In this context, it is important for the Hungarian community in Romania to preserve its political autonomy. There are a number of criticisms of the relationship between UDMR and FIDESZ, but so far the two parties have worked very efficiently and have supported each other in the electoral campaigns.
For Romania, the results of the elections in Hungary and the developments in the neighboring state are relevant in terms of political themes, public discourse, but also in terms of Viktor Orban’s relationship with the Hungarians here.
The Romanian political agenda has already taken over elements and themes from Viktor Orban’s „illiberal philosophy”, such as soros supporters, the illegitimate involvement of multinationals in internal politics, the need for the control of nongovernmental organizations, Romania – a Brussels colony, etc. Romania has a fertile ground to create an „iliberal” regime, Viktor Orban’s result may be a powerful impetus for political leaders in the sense of naturalizing the model in the neighboring state. Of course, there are differences between the two states: Viktor Orban is a competitive, charismatic leader who has been careful about the meritocratic selection of party cadres and civil servants. Even if there is corruption, Hungary public investments are made, even if the auction is won by a company close to the ruling party, the highway, the school, the gym, etc. are built. The population has these facilities.
Conclusions. The Hungarian electorate offered internal legitimacy to Viktor Orban’s „illiberal” politics, thus enforcing the international and regional scene with a premiere for a post-communist state: winning for the third consecutive time, with 2/3 of the parliamentary elections. The states in the region already have public discourse or measures of „illiberal” philosophy, the result of Viktor Orban being an impetus for „deepening” and applying the model. Romania is in such a position.
The fast-forward Euro-Atlantic integration of post-communist states, the Western decision to prematurely withdraw democratization and democratic consolidation instruments from these states, the failure to recover the competitive gap, the rise in the level of life in these societies, and the „greed” of Western economic actors , all generated a critical mass that supports regimes that offer a form of social equity, even with the acceptance of democratic skirmishes. Also, the democracies of these states are still not strong enough (they do not have the necessary antibodies) to resist the „temptations” of consecutive mandates of a single political party, and Hungary is an example in this respect.
The West and the EU have an obligation to analyze from this perspective the outcome of the Hungarian elections and to think public policies that respond to this critical mass. The result of the elections in figures. The Hungarian Parliament consists of 199 deputies, of which 106 are elected by uninominal vote, the rest on lists. The result of the vote on lists: FIDESZ-KDNP – 48.8%, JOBBIK -19.50%, MSZP-PARBESZED – 12.35%, LMP – 6.93%, DK 5.58%, the other parties did not reach the threshold of 5%. FIDESZ won 91 mandates out of 106 elected in the uninominal system.
At a data processing of 98%, the mandates are distributed as follows: FIDESZ-KDNP-133, JOBBIK -26, MSZP-PARBESZED-20, DK 9, LMP-8, Independent 1, Egyutt 1, on 8 April 2018, a record 70% was recorded. No changes are expected in the election results even after the counting of the remaining votes, especially following the processing of data from the diaspora, most of them in Romania (about 195,000 – 2 mandates of MP) where Hungarians are known to vote massively (98%) Viktor Orban.
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