On Sunday 8 April 2018, Viktor Orbán’s FIDESZ party (Hungarian Civic Alliance) and his partners, the Christian Democratic Party, won 134 seats out of the 199 in the Hungarian Parliament.
This is Orbán’s third victory. He has the two-thirds majority he needs to run roughshod over the Constitution.
The campaign was in effect run on a single issue – immigration, although Hungary has the third lowest level of immigration in the whole of the EU. Xenophobic rhetoric of the worst kind spewed out from the Orbán camp. If you believed him, Hungary was about to be overrun by Jihadists, terrorists, suicide bombers and a tide of Muslim refugees.
Just as nasty were Orbán’s thinly veiled antisemitic attacks on George Soros, the Hungarian born financier. The very same man who, in its early days, helped to finance FIDESZ!
There is a song “Things can only get better”, said to be a favourite of the Blairites. I don’t know if there is a song entitled “Things can only get worse”, but this could be the anthem for Hungary in the wake of this election. Hungary looks set to continue its backward trajectory to the Christian Nationalism of the 1930s — what the historian Emilio Gentile calls “political religion” where a rigid and traditional social order is maintained by an oligarchy whose elite is hand-picked by a “Caesar” (i.e. Orbán). Paternalism when it works, repression when necessary and a mystical, nationalistic elevation of the “Magyar spirit” to the exclusion of non-Magyars, refugees and Jews.
Orbán, like most Caesars, doesn’t like to get his hands dirty and will leave most of the “heavy duty” Jew-baiting to the far right supporters of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party. Jobbik is second in the poll with 19.2% of the vote.
Of course, no election is ever won in a vacuum. For FIDESZ to have won such a thumping majority also requires an opposition that is weak and ineffective. The Hungarian opposition parties could not agree on even a minimal programme with which to oppose FIDESZ.
In the previous election in 2014 there was an electoral alliance — Unity — which won 38 seats, not much to shout about but at least it gave opponents of FIDESZ a focus. Since 2014 Unity has basically collapsed. In Sunday’s election the opposition’s results were poor. The Socialist Party came third with just 12% of the vote and its leading figure has resigned.
The other opposition parties: DK (Democratic Coalition), LMP (“Green Liberals”) and Egyutt (Together) have so far managed a total of 18 seats between them.
The opposition’s lack of political will, their lack of understanding of what was needed in this election, their failure to co-operate at any level, is the hallmark of utter political bankruptcy. A left-oriented coalition, based on a minimal programme of democratic reform and opposition to FIDESZ, seems the only forward.
This programme would need to include: freedom of the media; an end to cronyism; academic freedom, freedom of movement and absolute opposition to anti-semitism. Building this coalition must start now before Caesar turns into Napoleon.