Viktor Orbán’s authoritarian far right Fidesz-led coalition stormed back to power in Hungary’s elections, with 53.10% of the vote, while the hardcore fascist Our Homeland Movement entered parliament for the first time. This result was worse than anyone predicted.
Here, we report on the results of the elections in which Fidesz secured the “supermajority” that allows it to push trhough any policy it likes, winning 135 seats out of a possible 199.
Our election preview, setting out the wider consequences of Orbán’s win, is below this piece.
Against Fidesz’s 53.10%, the United for Hungary Alliance, a coalition of six of the main opposition parties, only gained 35.04%, winning just 56 seats.
This coalition represented a wide range of political outlooks from social democrats, greens, liberals and the “reformed” fascist party Jobbik.
As our analysis below notes, this was a very fragile alliance, with no ideological coherence and – apart from its opposition to Orbán – it went into the election with no clear manifesto.
The coalition is now a busted flush, its leader Márki-Zay lost his seat in Hódmezövásárhely to the Fidesz candidate.
Within minutes of the results being announced both the leader of Jobbik, Péter Jakab, and the social democrat leader Ferenc Gyurcsány denounced Márki-Zay, putting the blame for the defeat clearly on his shoulders.
Orbán’s electoral victory will boost the far right across Europe. Marine Le Pen the leader of the fascist Rassemblement National (previously the Front National) in France and Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Lega Nord were quick to send messages of congratulations to Orbán.
Russian president Vladimir Putin was also quick to congratulate the Fidesz leader. Over the past decade Orbán has moved away from Europe and developed closer political and economic ties with Putin.
The war in Ukraine has put pressure on that alliance and forced Orbán tto distance himself from Putin. Orbán has so far not decisively broke with Putin and is making statements that try to keep both sides happy in the conflict. However it clear that Putin believes that with Orbán he has an ally inside the European camp.
The other shock of the night was the fact that the openly fascist party, Our Homeland Movement (Mi Hazánk Mogzalom), won a total of 317,780 votes clearing the 5% threshold and now has seven seats in Hungary’s National Assembly for the first time.
OHM is a Jobbik breakaway group, founded in 2018 in opposition to Jobbik’s modernisation strategy.
This hardcore fascist group has led anti-Roma marches, is heavily involved in Hungary’s football hooligan culture and just before the pandemic struck it launched its paramilitary wing, the National Legion (see photo, top). This is based on Jobbik’s now disbanded Magyar Gárda paramilitary group.
Attack on LGBT+ rights
Orbán held a referendum at the same time as the general election aimed at whipping up homophobia under the guise of “protecting children”.
At his final election rally on Friday, Orbán spelt out that the referendum was very much part of his opposition to what he calls “LGBT ideology”. At the rally he said:
We also have to say clearly on Sunday: the mother is a woman, the father is a man — and leave our children alone.
Orbán added that “gender madness” should be stopped. There were four referendum questions and there was an overwhelming vote in support of Orbán’s postion (on average 95% in favour of Orbán’s proposals to 5% against).
But the 50% threshold required to make the referendum votes valid was not reached. Some in the British media have claimed that this is a defeat for Orbán.
This is not the case, however. Of the seven national referendums held in Hungary since 1989, only two have ever reached the 50% threshold.
Like all populists, Orbán uses referendum and consultation exercises to promote his agenda and harden his support. Sadly, with his super majority Orbán will just steamroller any legislation he wants passed through the Hungarian parliament.
With the first round of the French elections less than a week away and with Le Pen rising in the polls the victory of the far right in Hungary is a massive boost for the far right internationally.
Even more depressing is the fact that Orbán remains in the ascendancy in Hungarian politics.
This preview was first published on 30 March 2022
Hungary will hold its parliamentary elections on 3 April 2022. Much is at stake, and no one should underestimate the importance of this vote, which will take place just before the first round of the French presidential elections on 10 April.
Since winning a landslide election in 2010, Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his rightwing populist party Fidesz have pursued an authoritarian agenda, one that has transformed Hungary into a self-styled “illiberal democracy”.
Orbán’s almost total control of the country’s media outlets, judiciary and civil society has significantly weakened the opposition. The pretence of democracy is so undermined that the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) will be sending a team to monitor the elections.
Orbán has implemented some of the most extreme policies against minorities seen in Europe. He has used antisemitism and anti-Roma racism to bolster his popularity. Orbán also spearheaded the campaign against refugees and migrants in 2015, building a wall on Hungary’s southern borders and he has endorsed violent actions of the police and military against those fleeing war and poverty.
In 2017, he sent a bill to the EU claiming it should repay Hungary for “protecting all the citizens of Europe from the flood of illegal immigrants”.
Another major element of Orbán’s social agenda has been his “defence of the family” and opposition to so-called “LGBT ideology”. Over the past year the Fidesz government passed legislation that redefined Hungary’s constitution to include a statement that marriage is only a “union between a man and a woman”. The government has also banned the promotion of LGBT+ rights in schools, limited adoption rights for LGBT+ couples and refused to recognise transgender people.
The United Opposition
After 12 years in power Orbán is facing his most serious electoral challenge from an alliance of six opposition parties – United for Hungary (see table below).
|Hungarian Socialist Party
|Movement for a Better Hungary
|Hungary’s Green Party
|Dialogue for Hungary
If the pre-election opinion polls are correct, it is going to be a close race. The coalition represents all the major opposition parties from the social democratic left to the far right.
There are two key reasons why this coalition developed. The first was the coordination between the parties during the anti-government protests in 2018-19, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets as part of the OG1 (“Orbán the number one wanker”) campaign.
The second and the biggest factor has been the inability of any single party to offer a creadible electoral challenge to Fidesz.
There are two elements to the parliamentary elections. Of the 199 deputies elected to Hungary’s National Assembly, 106 represent geographical constituencies while the remaining 93 seats are elected on a proportional list system with a minimum threshold of 5%. The prime minister is then elected by the Assembly.
The coalition parties
The United for Hungary coalition is led by an independent conservative, Peter Marki-Zay. He has no party to back him and no social weight in the coalition. Political commentators believe he will be replaced if the coalition wins the election.
The six parties have not merged. Their stated goal is “to create a lasting liveable Hungary where differences can be discussed and managed”. Apart from this declaration the six parties have still not agreed on a minimal electoral manifesto. The DK and Jobbik are the main benefactors of the coalition, obtaining the most constituency candidates.
Many readers of this blog may be surprised to see Jobbik included in the United for Hungary coalition. Until recently Jobbik was a nazi-type party with its own paramilitary formation, the Magyar Gárda (Hungarian Guard).
Ahead of the elections, Jobbik was the second biggest party in the Hungarian parliament. Since 2014 it has undergone a modernisation process, watering down its more extreme policies, and it has disbanded the Magyar Gárda. Only time will tell if this is genuine transformation or just temporary political expediency.
But its roots in fascism are deep and the modernisation programme has not convinced sections of the party, which continue to work alongside neo-nazi groups. We looked in detail at the recent tensions within Jobbik here.
The Jobbik breakaway party, Our Homeland Movement (Mi Hazánk Mozgalom, OHM), is contesting the election in its own right. Its vote is based on the most extreme neo-nazi groups and disaffected Jobbik supporters. Polls show it on 3% of the projected vote, and it could gain a seat or two.
The strength of United for Hungary is obvious: a joint electoral campaign could maximise the potential anti-Fidesz vote. But the reality is somewhat different, as apart from its opposition to Orbán, the coalition does not share a common political programme and it is very unstable.
The Ukraine factor
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through Europe, and nowhere more than in the countries formerly dominated by the old Soviet Union. The invasion has ignited a wave of revulsion against Russian president Vladimir Putin.
In recent years, inspired by Putin’s authoritarian leadership and conservative social policies, a significant number of far right parties and individuals across Europe and beyond have dropped their historic hostility to the Russian state and have developed closer ties with Putin.
Orbán can be included in this list. He has developed close ties with Putin, partly in order to undercut Hungary’s economic reliance on Europe.
The invasion of Ukraine has created major problems for leading far right figures with ties to Putin, such as former US president Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen, leader of the French fascist party Rassemblement National, which have seen its poll ratings drop in the immediate aftermath of the invasion just as Le Pen gears up for the presidential election in France.
The invasion of Ukraine has had a severe impact on the Hungarian economy. The Financial Times noted, “The forint and the stock market fell sharply on the first day of the invasion.”
The Ukraine crisis and Orbán’s ties to Putin have the potential to sink the Fidesz leader. To minimise the political damage, Orbán has moved fast to distance himself from Putin, while at the same time maintaining links with the Russian leader. He is trying to ride both horses at the same time.
Before the invasion, Orbán visited Putin to persuade him not to invade the Ukraine, presenting himself both as an opponent of the invasion and a serious statesman. Since the invasion he has supported the West’s call for sanctions against Russia.
Orbán is a shrewd political operator and weill be hoping to have done just enough to manoeuvre himself and Fidesz out of the political danger caused by his relationship with Putin.
The war in Ukraine has also highlighted other contradictions As stated above, the Fidesz government has relentlessly attacked refugees and migrants fleeing war and economic hardship in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. But, as of 5 March 2022 over 104,000 Ukrainian refugees have found sanctuary in Hungary.
Without belittling the generous efforts of ordinary Hungarians to help Ukrainian refugees, the situation has shown how the hypocrisy of the Hungarian government knows no bounds.
While it greets refugees from Ukraine with compassion, the government has used truncheons and water canon – and even built walls – to deny entry to non-white or Muslim refugees.
Orbán – Europe’s far-right talisman
The outcome of the Hungarian election is also of great importance to the far right internationally.
Since Trump lost the US presidential elections in 2020, Orbán has become a talisman for the far right across the globe. Nobody should underestimate that his policies on migrants, the EU, race and “LGBT ideology” have shaped the political strategies adopted by other far right parties such as the Poland’s Law and Justice Party (the PiS).
Perhaps more significant has been Orbán’s attempt to create a new Europe-wide far right alliance. He is currently involved in negotiations with the PiS, Matteo Salvini’s Italian Lega party and Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.
This potentially powerful bloc is hammering out a political platform that includes coordinated campaigning, protecting Europe’s roots against “soulless multiculturalism”, stemming migration and defending “family values”.
If this alliance was to come into fruition and was joined by parties like Germany’s AfD, it could become the second biggest bloc in the European Parliament.
Hungary is also a regular port of call of far right leaders across the globe. Le Pen met Orbán in January 2022. A few weeks later Fidesz minister Gergely Gulyas encouraged Hungarian banks to lend her 10.7m Euros to finance her presidential election campaign.
Orbán also met with Putin to discuss “areas of joint cooperation” and the situation in Ukraine in February 2022.
This was followed by what the Fidesz-owned press described as a “historic diplomatic event”, the visit of far right populist Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro to Budapest.
There he met Orbán for bilateral talks. In a joint statement they announced they shared a “conservative approach on issues such as migration, Christianity and family values”.
After the visit Bolsonaro travelled to Russia to meet Putin.
In the same month, Fidesz formally invited Trump to meet Orbán.
All this recent activity demonstrates that Orbán and Fidesz are at the heart of a spider’s web that connects the various and nefarious far right and populist groups across Europe and the wider world.
Hungary is at a crossroads. Despite all the problems with United for Hungary – and there are many – the most serious of which is that it would see a ‘reformed” openly fascist party at the heart of the Hungarian government.
However a defeat for Orbán at the polls on 3 April would be a defeat of earthquake proportions for the far right in Hungary and it would equally be a major setback for the international far right.
However, if the opinion polls are correct, Orbán is going to win the election with a much-reduced majority. At his election rallies, Orbán is asking for eight more years to accomplish his agenda.
That agenda means further undermining democracy, trampling on human rights and civil liberties and rebuilding the far right international in his image. That is truly a terrifying prospect.
This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in the antifascist magazine Searchlight.