Can the Hungarian opposition win in 2022?
In recent months, Hungary has made sure to be widely represented in major Western newspapers. Even though, as a Hungarian myself, I welcome such interest in my country, the fact that it happened for the wrong reasons again is disappointing, but not surprising either. The truth is that in anticipation of the legislative elections of 2022, domestic politics have intensified and the occasional outbursts have reached European newspapers. We think in particular of the examples of the adoption of oriental vaccines, the Fudan University project in Budapest and the anti-LGBT + law (entered into force yesterday). But what do these policies on the part of the Hungarian government mean for the next elections? Given that for the first time the opposition parties have decided to unite and run against Fidesz, another question must also be resolved: what are the chances of a possible victory for the opposition?
The three topics described above share an interesting dichotomy. It seems that the decision to continue these policies was mainly motivated by domestic or foreign policy. As such, considerations of the effects of how foreign policy might affect the domestic public, or vice versa, have not been taken into account. Although in the case of oriental vaccines it is more complicated, the fact remains that the government of Orbán rarely deploys policies aimed at both domestic and foreign policy. This tactic has worked for more than a decade now, as repeatedly evidenced by Orbán’s fiery speeches against the EU in Budapest while making a hushed argument for Hungary’s defense in Brussels. However, the resulting conflict could ultimately lead to crises that will be the ruin of Orbán, as the following topics might suggest.
Vaccination policy in Hungary
Among European nations, Hungary was the only one that vaccinated masses with vaccines of oriental origin, namely Russian Sputnik and Chinese Beijing CNBG. Doing so against the advice of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control was not only a symbolic middle finger for the EU, but also a foreign and domestic policy objective. These two points produced their effect, although the the efficacy rate of the latter vaccine has been questionedeven by China itself. As such, it is not surprising that with the emerging variant Delta already planned to dominate Europe At the end of August, Merkel was skeptical of the idea of allowing large crowds at Euro 2020 matches in Budapest. To sum up, Orbán has continuously used the Covid-19 pandemic as a tool of his corrupt politics to the detriment of public health. This effectively meant playing into the hands of eastern powers such as China and Russia. These policies have resulted in a partly justified mistrust of the eastern jabs that have hampered vaccination efforts in Hungary. Overall, the relatively rapid reopening of the country was widely viewed as a success for Fidesz. However, the significant issues with the vaccine rollout in early 2021 and the fiasco over access to EU vaccination passports in Hungary both show just how unprepared the government has been to deal with such a situation. crisis.
Fudan University campus in Budapest
More recently, in September 2020, the government announced plans for the construction of a campus for Chinese Fudan University in Budapest. This was particularly strange, because just over a year ago the government forced the Autonomous University of Central Europe, a much-loved institution, to gradually move from Budapest to Vienna. The location of this new university has also been controversial. Not only did he promise the same real estate on which developments were planned for Hungarian students called the “student city project”, but also the construction was to be financed by a Chinese loan and built by Chinese workers. The combination of these factors, and the fact that Chinese influence is viewed with growing concern around the world, led to the first major protests since the start of the pandemic and forced the government to back down. First, the government is promising a referendum in Budapest on whether to go ahead with the project, while also examining options to cover construction from different sources.
The reaction from the public and the opposition so far has been very strong. This is not surprising, since according to a recent poll 90% of Budapest residents oppose the University. All of this is also compounded by the government’s inability to explain why an anti-religious Chinese Communist dictatorship would be a good partner for a government that sees itself as a free and democratic nation rooted in Christian values. This conflict is probably best illustrated by how a local council renamed the streets in which the university is offered as “Uyghur Martyrs Route”, “Hong Kong Free Route”, “Dalai Lama Route” and the fourth named after a Chinese Catholic. Bishop: “Xie Shiguang”. In conclusion, as Orbán’s government tries to play a geopolitical game, it has so far struggled to explain these actions to the national public, thereby alienating even its own electorate.
Anti-LGBT + law
The most recent and still ongoing crisis was the implementation of Putin-style anti-LGBT + laws that effectively ban teaching about LGBT + people to those under the age of 18. To add insult to injury, the law clearly mentions LGBT + people in the same category as pedophiles. The reasons for the rapid passage of such a law are not yet perfectly clear, but there are two dominant theories which are not mutually exclusive. The first indicates that before the elections of 2022, and in the absence of public enemy n ° 1, Orbán has decided to follow the Polish example and support himself with hatred towards LGBT + people. The second says it was an attempt to fracture the united opposition which is made up of both far-right and far-left parties. Whatever the goal, it seems that Orbán has played too much, as the new law has caused a huge international reaction, as well as national protests. The disconnection was clearly visible during the European Council meetings on 23 June. Orbán again tried, as always, to smooth things over by declaring that Hungary is a committed member of the EU and the Western world, adding that he has always been a defender of LGBT + rights. However, it seems other European leaders have had enough, such as the Dutch Prime Minister who made it clear: ‘If you don’t like LGBT rights, you can leave the EU’, or other top leaders who expect the introduction of sanctions against Hungary. As such, we see another example of how a policy clearly created for a national audience has derailed Hungary’s position in the EU yet again, but this time there could be real consequences.
The failure of the Hungarian decision-making process regarding the ramifications of these policies above had a negative effect on their chances of re-election. But as we move forward, the likelihood of a controversial policy is likely to increase, thus warming the campaign ahead. Perhaps the main reason is that after a series of lost elections, the opposition parties decided to overcome the unfair electoral system by regrouping and agreeing on the candidates. Fractured, they have no chance, but united, they could beat Fidesz at least according to the polls.
As a result, the next elections could be the first in more than a decade in which Fidesz has a real chance of losing its grip on power. Therefore, the coming months of the campaign will surely be difficult and dirty, as Orbán will use all the tools in his toolbox to cling to power. It remains to be seen how far he will go, which depends largely on how far the international community lets him go. For now, even though far-right Jobbik voted for the LGBT + bill, the United Opposition is still firmly committed to sticking together for the greater good. This is best illustrated by the primary elections they organize to find the best candidates for the prime minister and local MPs. Meanwhile, work on a common agenda for a potential government has been smoother than expected, but this could be because the parties have deliberately avoided the cultural war issues that divide them the most. fracking, and its vulnerabilities will surely be tested by Fidesz, such an alliance is not without chance, especially considering that Benjamin Netanyahu was dethroned in similar circumstances. However, at this point other than after the polls, it is almost impossible to judge who will win. One thing is certain: it will not be such an easy fight for Orbán, like the previous elections.