Same tactics, same outcome: Orbán’s latest victory should raise alarm for EU

From sweetening voters with cash to amplifying anti-EU rhetoric, Orbán used a familiar strategy to reaffirm power, but the EU needs to respond to its latest wake up call.

The Fidesz party picked up a convincing victory in the Hungarian parliamentary elections on April 3, handing its leader and prime minister, Viktor Orbán, a fourth consecutive term in office.

Even though there was pre-election optimism of the opposition alliance overcoming Fidesz, the ruling party ended up winning with 53 percent of the vote in what was its biggest victory since 2010, and hands Orbán 135 of the 199 seats in parliament.

However, this victory for Fidesz has not gone without raising alarm and, for some, reinforces the notion that Hungarian elections are decided ahead of election day.

There have been claims of electoral fraud carried out in regard to mail-in votes due to a suspicious 90 percent of such ballots going in favour of Fidesz, but the major cause for concern is the gerrymandering that has been happening for over ten years in Hungary.

Bar a significant change, Fidesz will continue to come out victorious in Hungary, given the disproportionate power it reaps. After all, the 53 percent of the vote that Fidesz won has given them 68 percent of the seats in parliament.

Orbán’s sweeteners

Certain practices in the build-up to the election have been questionable. Within one month of the vote, the Fidesz party issued cash payments to households totalling around three percent of the GDP.

On top of that, tax refunds were handed to 1.9 million workers, an extra month of benefits was given to 2.5 million pensioners and large bonuses awarded to 70,000 members of the police and armed forces.

Feeding off Brussels

“We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” Orbán said during his victory speech.

This type of anti-European Union rhetoric has been a cornerstone of Orbán and Fidesz’s success for numerous years, but that doesn’t mean the EU has no responsibility in this, as it continues to ignore the genuine needs and concerns of the Hungarians who have to resort to voting for the ruling party.

Opposing Orbán cannot be as simple as taking the opposite stance, but rather opposition needs to critically engage with the talking points that lead voters to Fidesz in the first place.

Nothing helps super-boost a leader more than having Brussels oppose them and while Orbán continues to feed off the European boogieman concept, the EU resorts to its usual smear tactics, incapable of creating an identity and presence in everyday people’s lives.

Mainstream political engagement is doomed to fail, as Orbán has created a perfectly rigged pseudo-democracy which will perpetuate his rule.

 

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