Hungary’s populist prime minister Orban faces tight electoral contest on April 3 

Hungary’s populist prime minister Orban faces tight electoral contest on April 3 

The Hungarian general election has been set for April 3 with semi-autocratic populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban facing his biggest electoral challenge since he took power in April 2010.

The 58-year-old Orban faces Peter Marki-Zay, a previously low-profile conservative provincial mayor and father of seven. He represents a loose “United for Hungary” opposition coalition of six parties. One of the parties is the far-right and previously antisemitic Jobbik.

Hungarian NGOs have called for international observers to monitor the April 3 election.

The open letter published by the Helsinki Committee in Budapest by 20 organizations said: “The Hungarian elections in 2022 will be one of the most important stress tests for democracy in Europe and in the EU.”

In a sign he fears defeat, Orban – the European Union’s longest-serving and most controversial head of government – has challenged the legitimacy of the general election.

Since the last election in 2018, Orban has tightened his grip, including boundary changes and increased his control over the media and advertising sectors.

The open letter said Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe observers “would significantly increase public confidence in the electoral process, deter irregularities during the final campaign days and thus safeguard the fairness of the democratic process”. 

Polling puts the two candidates evenly balanced. 

The 49-year-old this week launched his official campaign, saying the general election is a rare chance to unseat a “corrupt and greedy regime”. He pointed to oligarchs linked to Orban’s Fidesz party who have become billionaires, including Orban’s son-in-law Istvan Tiborcz, a former gas fitter. Orban also dominates Hungary’s media scene. 

Marki-Zay posted on Facebook: “Oligarchs close to the government have amassed incredible wealth while Fidesz politicians are writing the laws according to their taste. Meanwhile millions of Hungarians live on humiliating wages.”

Orban is holding a referendum alongside the general election on family values and the “promotion” of homosexuality, presumably designed to underline his populist political appeal.

The referendum asks for backing on bans on school sexual orientation classes without parental consent and the promotion of gender reassignment among children. The referendum will also ask if voters want children to have unrestricted access to gay content online or elsewhere. 

In response, Marki-Zay has tried to expose Fidesz’s hypocrisy while trying to politicise gay rights.

He visited a Brussels street where a Fidesz MEP was arrested fleeing a homosexual “orgy” that breached Belgium’s Covid lockdown restrictions. “I would like to see a country where even Fidesz politicians can openly embrace their homosexuality because there is no shame in that,” the devout Catholic said.



Peter Marki-Zay is hard to dismiss as a member of the liberal elite. Picture credit: 

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