Hungary Risks Putinization, Isolation After Orban Re-Election

Hungary Risks Putinization, Isolation After Orban Re-Election

The ruling Fidesz party of Hungary’s populist prime minister, Viktor Orban, won 45 percent of the vote in general elections on April 7, trouncing the left-liberal opposition in a poll that also saw the vote share of the far right top 20 percent. “The outcome of the elections is an obvious, unambiguous mandate for us to continue what we have begun,” said Orban after the results were announced.

What might this continuation entail? Over the past four years, Orban has followed a course that his critics at home and abroad say is authoritarian, centralizing and nationalist; they warn of a drift away from the European liberal-democratic mainstream and a tilt toward Russia that persists even in the wake of the Crimea crisis. But Orban’s victory also indicates his popularity among many Hungarians, particularly outside the capital, Budapest. Despite investor skepticism toward Hungary, economic growth has returned to the country, and the budget is on a sounder footing.

Fidesz, nominally a center-right party with roots in an anti-communist youth movement, may have enough votes for another parliamentary supermajority, with the power to change the constitution. A left-liberal coalition headed by the ex-communist socialists of MSZP came in second with 26 percent. Perhaps the biggest shock was the strong performance of the ultranationalist Jobbik, which took 20.5 percent of the vote, up from 16.7 percent in 2010.

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