‘IT IS easy to see why Viktor Orbán arouses the ire of Europe’s political and media establishment,’ wrote Campbell Campbell-Jack three years ago in these pages.
That ire has been getting plenty of airing in advance of Hungary’s General Election today, exacerbated by the Russian-Ukrainian war and Orbán’s relationship with Vladimir Putin.
But will Orbán’s insistence that he stands ‘neither for Russia or Ukraine’, only for Hungary, a neutrality that still sets him apart from the European Union’s united front behind Kiev, be enough to swing the election his way? Or will it be his undoing as his main opponent, the Christian-conservative Péter Márki-Zay, at the head of United for Hungary, a coalition of six opposition parties, hopes?
Though Márki-Zay’s alliance has brought together a variety of forces on the basis of opposition to Orbán, Anita Zsurzsán writing in the Jacobin magazine thinks that even should Márki-Zay win today, ‘his blandly neoliberal vision is unlikely to break with the orthodoxies of recent Hungarian governments’.
In this lies Orbán’s strength. This bane of the ‘progressive’ Left EU is the only European leader with the courage to chart a return to Christian values and to formulate five tenets for what he’s described as the project of building up Central Europe:
‘The first is that every European country has the right to defend its Christian culture, and the right to reject the ideology of multiculturalism.
‘Our second tenet is that every country has the right to defend the traditional family model, and is entitled to assert that every child has the right to a mother and a father.
‘The third Central European tenet is that every Central European country has the right to defend the nationally strategic economic sectors and markets which are of crucial importance to it.
‘The fourth tenet is that every country has the right to defend its borders, and it has the right to reject immigration.
‘And the fifth tenet is that every European country has the right to insist on the principle of one nation, one vote, on the most important issues, and that this right must not be denied for the project of building up Central Europe.’
Orbán, the self-confessed ‘illiberal democrat’, frames the choice facing Hungary and Europe as between the ‘new internationalism’ of pro-migration Brussels bureaucrats under the sway of ‘money men’ such as ultra-liberal billionaire George Soros, and sovereign nation states defending tradition and Christianity, believing that there is life beyond globalism.
Since 2014 he has also shown the West what a successful family policy can look like. Hungary has witnessed a 72 per cent rise in marriage since 2014 and a rising birth rate.
Leftist intellectual liberals cannot wait to get rid of him, to the point of reclaiming citizenship in order to vote against him today. They denounce the ‘Orbán regime for its corruption and its infringement of democratic norms’, and accuse it of seeking ‘to take over the judiciary and the universities, in addition to completely quashing the free press’. For them, Orbán’s stance over the Ukraine war is the last straw.
How much this view is shared by ordinary Hungarians is another question. A sample of residents interviewed here makes interesting reading.
Rebekah, a high school student, says: ‘It’s a bit of a delicate situation. Mom and dad say this is the first time they’ve had a government that has done a lot for them and for the country as a whole.’
Andras, a municipal gardener: ‘Before this government, I earned less, and even the work was sometimes miserable. We used to have to scratch out moss from between the stones on the main square of Pecs. Even when it was freezing cold, we were out there scraping away. Since the Orban government came to power, the wages improved and I’ve been able to earn enough to save up a little.’
Szilvia and Istvan, project manager and financial director in Budapest, have had enough of corruption which they say invades every aspect of life.
Endre, an engineer, is fed up with the decrees coming from the EU, ‘the same as we used to get from Moscow. They cannot just issue diktats to member states. We are a democracy. The most important thing for the future is our nation’s survival, staying alive’.
That is why his vote is going to Orbán’s Fidesz party. Will his view win? At the time of writing, the opposition was making its last-minute pitch, and jury was still out.