Orbán’s victory puts Hungary on a course of confrontation with the EU

The Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán addresses supporters after the announcement of the partial results of the parliamentary elections in Budapest, Hungary, on April 3, 2022. REUTERS / Bernadett Szabo

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  • Fidesz Orbán gets two-thirds of the seats in parliament
  • Inflation is rising, the economy is slowing
  • EU funds are frozen, tough talks on sanctions against Russia are ahead
  • Orbán’s position on Russia distanced some of its eastern allies

BUDAPEST, April 4 (Reuters) – Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is expected to take action against energy sanctions against Russia and strengthen his position in talks with Brussels to unblock EU funds.

Nationalist Orban, who retained his overwhelming majority on Sunday after defeating the opposition despite efforts to unite against him, is likely to continue to abandon any EU sanctions on Russian oil and gas, arguing they will destroy an economy that is already slowing down due to the effects of the war in Ukraine.

Using his strong mandate, Orbán will also strengthen his conservative policies at home and may try to oust foreign companies in some sectors, such as retail, where Hungarian property is still not dominant as his Fidesz party seeks to form its own class of loyal industrialists.

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But Orbán faces some difficult challenges: he needs to forge relations with his eastern allies, such as Poland, which is strained by its cautious stance on the war in Ukraine after a decade of close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It must also contain the budget deficit, which is growing at a time when the Hungarian economy is slowing down due to disruptions in supply chains in the automotive sector.

Unlocking the recovery funds held by Brussels could play a key role in amending the budget, so Orban is expected to fight for it, but it could be a long process.

The EU has suspended payments to both Poland and Hungary from its pandemic recovery funds due to alleged democratic shortcomings, which economists say could start putting pressure on Budapest and Warsaw from the second half of the year, except for a compromise. read on

“The expectation that there may be a relatively quick agreement with the European Commission (on EU funds) is questionable after Victor Orban repeatedly struck in Brussels in his speech last night,” said Peter Viravac of ING in Budapest.

“We can hardly expect his government with a two-thirds majority to be as willing to compromise as it would be if a simple majority won the election.”

Pre-election polls showed a much closer race.

Among the party’s leading members, the triumphant 58-year-old Orban said Sunday’s victory came even with opposition from Brussels bureaucrats and major international media.

“We have won so much that it can be seen even from the moon, but from Brussels,” he said. read on

SUPER MAJORITY IN PARLIAMENT

According to preliminary results, Fidesz will get 135 seats, a two-thirds majority in parliament, 56 seats will get the opposition alliance.

His critics say the victory could encourage Orban in what he sees as eroding democratic norms, media freedom and LGBTQ rights.

“I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but it’s a tragedy. It looks like the end of any dream of democracy in Hungary,” he said.

“We would have to cut remittances so that he would not build his oligarchy on our money.”

In Poland, Orbán’s re-election was met with mixed feelings among the ruling nationalists.

“Putin is a long-term threat to Hungary as well, and anyone who doesn’t see it is making a big mistake,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Pszydac said on Monday.

In the bright sunshine after Sunday’s snowfall, some residents of Budapest, which remains a stronghold of the opposition and the alliance wins in 16 of the 18 constituencies, remained hopeful.

“We are not happy. I would like to stay in Europe, but I hope that we will also stay in Europe one way or another,” said Janos Varadi.

Others said Orbán’s position on Ukraine, accusing the opposition of risking dragging Hungary into the war in an effort to allow arms supplies through its territory, played into their choice.

“I did not expect such a great victory, but I was confident that the current government party would win,” said language teacher Veronica Nagy. “I think it has to do with how the parties reacted to the war, maybe … the opposition has made people insecure.”

Orbán, one of Europe’s longest-serving leaders, has become a clear supporter of anti-immigration policies and has been particularly popular with rural voters who support his traditional Christian values ​​and with families enjoying many tax breaks and fuel price restrictions. and some foods.

With an almost 15-year high of 8.3% in February, Orban will have a difficult task to undo some of his measures that helped curb rising prices ahead of the vote.

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Report by Christina Tan; Additional report by Gabriela Bachynska; Written by Christina Tan; Editor: Nick McPhee

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