Hungary’s general election race remains tight despite Orban’s close ties with Putin

Hungary’s general election race remains tight despite Orban’s close ties with Putin

Hungarian opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay still appears to trail in polling ahead of the April 3 general election, despite Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s long-running ties with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Protesters chanted “Russians go home!” in Budapest, in reference to a slogan used during the 1956 uprising that was crushed by a Soviet invasion.

But, despite the Ukraine invasion, Orban doubled his poll lead in a survey taken as Russia was invading Ukraine.

Orban’s Fidesz party purportedly had the support of 50 per cent of decided voters compared with 40 per cent for the six-party opposition coalition, pollster Median reported on HVG. The February 22 and 26 poll contrasted with Median’s December survey where Fidesz appeared to have a five-point lead.

Marki-Zay says voters have to choose between east and west on April 3.

“He’s a lapdog of Putin,” the centre-right provincial mayor said of Orban, who is often portrayed as a Trojan horse for Putin within the European Union.

“Only the EU and Nato can guarantee Hungary’s security, not Orban,” he told the protesters outside the International Investment Bank, which is majority-owned by the Russian government. Orban invited the bank to move its headquarters from Moscow to Budapest in 2019.

The bank is often castigated for expanding Russian influence abroad and even intelligence gathering.

Russia’s invasion of Hungary’s eastern neighbour has eclipsed the campaign.

“The opposition didn’t really have a flagship issue in their campaign,” said Andrea Virag of the Republikon Institute, a Hungarian thinktank. “Now there is this war and everyone is interested in it. Politicians are talking about it nonstop.”

It remains to be seen if Hungarians will continue to vote for Orban, who has a firm grip on the media.

“Many conservative Hungarians have traditionally been anti-Russian, so the invasion could be a red line for many Orban voters,” said Andras Bozoki, a political scientist at the Central European University in Vienna, told AFP.

Orban’s “eastern opening” policy was adopted soon after he took office in 2010, which involved financial orientation around Russia.

He condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine and eventually said it would comply with the EU’s tough sanctions on Russia which have meant cutting connections to Russian institutions.

Orban regularly meets Putin has signed long-term deals for Russian gas and with Russia’s state-run nuclear agency, Rosatom, to expand a nuclear power station.

The quasi-democratic premier has previously opposed anti-Russia sanctions and vetoed Ukraine’s applications for Nato membership over a dispute involving language rights for the ethnic-Hungarian community in western Ukraine.


Ethnic Hungarians are among those fleeing Ukraine. Picture credit: YouTube

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