Hungary Orbán is a popular home isolated abroad after the victory

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) – As Hungarian Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban prepares to continue Hungary’s autocratic rule for another four years, he faces devastated opposition inside the country but an increasingly isolated stance abroad. democratic standards and approach, the war in Ukraine destroyed the European Union and other countries.

On Sunday, when officials from his right-wing Fidesz party gathered for an evening event on the Danube in Budapest, Orban told his supporters that their landslide victory in the country’s national election was a message to Europe that his model of “illiberal democracy” was a prophecy. the future of the continent.

“The whole world saw tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We tell Europe that this is not the past, this is the future, our common European future, ”Orban said.

But while Orbán’s party won 53% of the vote in Hungary, convincing Europe to take part will not be easy. Orban is already facing strong pressure in the EU to change his approach to corruption, minority rights and media freedom, and while the war is raging in neighboring Ukraine, his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin have alienated even some of his closest allies.

During an election campaign in Hungary, a coalition of opposition parties facing the West challenged Orbán, urging Hungary to support its neighbor, who is in dire straits, and to keep pace with its EU and NATO partners.

But Orban, considered Putin’s closest ally in the EU, has insisted that Hungary maintain neutrality and maintain close economic ties with Moscow, including by continuing to import Russian gas and oil on favorable terms.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday identified the Hungarian leader as out of touch with the rest of Europe, which has banded together to condemn Putin, support sanctions against Russia and send aid, including weapons, to Ukraine.

“He is practically the only one in Europe who openly supports Mr. Putin,” Zelensky said.

However, speaking to supporters on Sunday, Orban singled out Zelensky as part of the “overwhelming force” against which he said his party was fighting in the election – the Left House, the international left, the Brussels bureaucrats, the Soros empire with all his money. , the international mainstream media and, ultimately, even the Ukrainian president ”.

Orban’s antagonistic approach to Zelensky and marked caution over deteriorating relations with Russia, even if Moscow is accused of war crimes in Ukraine, has led to the emergence of fault lines among its European friends.

Poland, which is also run by a right-wing populist government, is Hungary’s most loyal partner in the EU. But in an interview with Polish Public Radio a week before the vote in Hungary, Orban’s ruling party leader and ally Jaroslav Kaczynski said he was dissatisfied with Orban’s position on Russia.

“Let’s see what will happen after the election, and then it will be possible to finally formulate this assessment. But we are not satisfied, ”Kaczynski said.

Voting in Hungary was expected to take place soon after Orbán came to power in 2010, as the country’s six main opposition parties postponed their ideological differences and formed a united front against Fidesz.

But of the 99% of the vote counted in the country’s 199-seat parliament, Fidesz received 53% of the vote, while the opposition coalition, which did not live up to expectations, received 35%.

Edith Zgut, a political scientist at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, predicted that Orban’s clear victory would allow him to move forward in an autocratic direction, pushing dissidents aside and capturing new areas of the economy.

“Hungary seems to have reached a point of no return,” she said. “The main lesson is that the playing field is so distorted that it has become almost impossible to replace Fidesz in the election.”

Orbán, a fierce critic of immigration, LGBTQ rights and EU “bureaucrats”, has aroused the admiration of right-wing nationalists across Europe and North America.

Along with the parliamentary elections on Sunday, a referendum was held on LGBTQ issues with issues related to sex education programs in schools and the availability of information on gender reassignment for children. Turnout did not reach the 50% threshold to make it legally binding: 20% of voters spoiled their ballots as part of the opposition’s initiative to sabotage the referendum, which it considered homophobic. Of the 44% of voters who cast their ballots, more than 92% voted for the government

As a result of an unexpected speech, the right-wing Radical Party “Our Motherland” won more than 6% of the vote, exceeding the 5% barrier required to win seats in parliament.

Opposition parties and international observers have noted structural obstacles to victory over Orbanemphasizing the pervasive pro-government bias in the public media, the dominance of Orbán’s allies in commercial news agencies, and the electoral map saturated with numerous rodents.

Speaking to supporters in Budapest late Sunday, opposition leader Peter Marki-Zai conceded defeat, but claimed Fidesz had won within his own system.

“We knew in advance that it would be an extremely unequal battle,” Marki-Zai said. “We do not deny that Fidesz won this election. Of course, we continue to dispute the fact that these elections were democratic and free. ”

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Associated Press writer Vanessa Gera of Warsaw contributed to this report.

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