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Is Viktor Orban the most cynical leader in Europe?

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Vienna, April 5, 2022

In a blistering commentary following Viktor Orbán’s victory in the Hungarian elections, honorary AEJ president Otmar Lahodynsky writes in Wiener Zeitung (DE):

Orbán the war profiteer

Hungary’s prime minister owes his re-election mainly to the war in Ukraine

by Otmar Lahodynsky

Viktor Orbán should quickly send a thank-you letter to his friend Vladimir Putin. For Putin’s war of aggression on Ukraine has helped the Hungarian prime minister to a fifth term in office and a renewed two-thirds majority in parliament.

The politician, who has been in power since 2010, skilfully adopted a far more neutral stance than Austria’s government in the final phase of the election campaign. He promised to secure “stability, peace and independence” for Hungary and to keep it out of the war in the neighbouring country, and even objected to Hungary supplying weapons to Ukraine, as if Hungary were not a member of NATO.

Márki-Zay – kept out of media

The opposition alliance of six parties – “Egységben Magyarországért” (In Unity for Hungary) – suffered a heavy electoral defeat with only 35 percent of the vote. Its liberal-conservative leader, Péter Márki-Zay (left), did not succeed with his issues – corruption in the Fidesz government, deficient rule of law. This was also thanks to the media in Hungary, 80 per cent of which had been brought into line with Fidesz under Orbán, which only reported briefly or negatively on the opposition alliance. There was not a single TV duel between Orbán and Márki-Zay, because the authoritarian prime minister refused.

Orbán preferred to hand out election gifts at the taxpayers’ expense: for example,freezing the prices of many foodstuffs and keeping fuel-prices down. And he spent significantly more on election advertising than his challengers. Everywhere in Hungary the orange Fidesz posters and huge photos of Orbán were emblazoned, but much less of the opposition alliance. Orbán still mocked his main opponent on posters. [note from ES: Orban even accused them of being “pro-war”. See DW video film during his campaign]. 

Orban election image –  “defending peace”

Talking to voters, the effect of government propaganda was often heard: Hungary paid more into the EU than it received in subsidies from Brussels. Accusations of corruption against Fidesz politicians were untrue.

Orbán’s election victory, on which, significantly, right-wing authoritarian politicians were the first to congratulate him, deepens a serious conflict in the EU family. In Hungary, fundamental European values will now be disregarded for years to come. The “illiberal democracy” established by Orbán will continue to develop in the direction of a dictatorship.

For a long time, the EU partners stood idly by or – like EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – only made weary jokes (“Hello dictator!”). However, the new rule of law mechanism introduced last year now creates the possibility to punish a Member State that persistently violates fundamental values and to cut subsidies from the common Brussels coffers. Hungary, which receives €5 billion net annually year, has already lost the first tranches of subsidy.

In future, the EU Commission will probably have to examine all project applications from Hungary more strictly than before in order to prevent further corruption on a large scale for the benefit of Orbán’s favourites and family members. Orbán’s government can still not afford to leave the EU, as he has threatened.

Orban visited Putin just before election

Edward Steen, S-G, writes: I have known, or thought I knew, Viktor Orban since his days as a fiery young anti-Communist during the Cold War, and filmed him later, in 2000, as he was accepted into the EPP Christian Democratic family in the European Parliament  (membership suspended in 2019). He addressed the key political figures on Europe’s centre-right. At one point he put down his prepared speech – full of routine blarney about being “at the heart of Europe” –  paused, and looked unsmilingly into my camera. “Anyone with a Hungarian for a friend has no need of further enemies,” he said. No one laughed or seemed to understand the joke…if it was one.

After breaking with the EPP, a little like the Brexiteers in the UK, he claimed this move  “opens up a new perspective in European politics…Now – without the EPP – we must build a European democratic right that offers a home to European citizens who do not want migrants, who do not want multiculturalism, who have not descended into LGBTQ lunacy, who defend Europe’s Christian traditions, who respect the sovereignty of nations, and who see their nations not as part of their past, but as part of their future.” This new perspective has included making personal friends with Vladimir Putin, and refusing to allow arms to be delivered over the Hungarian border to defend Ukraine. It reminds me of Hungarian pusillanimity during the long years of “gulyas Communism” after the 1956 revolution was crushed.

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