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E P election stakes

May 24th, 2014

One liberal commentator claims that voting in this weekend’s European Parliament elections would be absolutely pointless. Other liberal and left-wing pundits, however, believe that European Socialists and Liberals could help to contain PM Orbán’s power. Conservative columnists, on the other hand, contend that neither further transnational integration, nor radical EU-scepticism are in-line with Hungary national interests.

For the first time in my life, I will not vote, Dóra Ónody-Molnár writes in Népszabadság. The liberal columnist finds it disappointing that the European Parliamentary election in Hungary has nothing to do with European politics. Instead of debating the future of the EU, Hungarian parties regard the election as a return match of the April Parliamentary elections, Ónody-Molnár maintains. She is also hesitant to support any of the left-wing parties because, in her view, they have not learned anything from their April defeat, and thus have not come up with any meaningful message or vision.

Those who stay away from the election play into the hands of the EU-sceptic right, including both Fidesz and Jobbik, Gábor Miklós suggests in the same daily. According to the left-wing columnist, the EP election should be seen as a referendum about European integration, including freedom of movement and the basic rights guaranteed by the EU. Those who do not vote ease the path for EU-sceptics, Miklós concludes.

Magyar Narancs in a front page editorial deems the EU election very important for Hungary, since the European Union can help to “counterbalance or control Viktor Orbán’s absolute rule in the country”. Thus, in order to weaken PM Orbán, one should vote for one of the left-wing parties which are integrated into the European Socialists, Greens or Liberals, Magyar Narancs recommends.

Magyar Hírlap’s Zsolt Bayer argues that it is very important for Hungary to send representatives to the EU who are determined to defend the national interest. The pro-government commentator believes that the left-wing parties which propose “more Europe” want to bow to foreign powers and serve their interests rather than Hungarian causes, while the far-right Jobbik conspires with Russia (see BudaPost May 20).

Péter Szentmihályi Szabó in the same daily notes that it is crucial for Hungarian interests to be championed in the EU by Fidesz. The conservative pundit likens the EU to empires in which the uneven development of member states create a permanent conflict of interest between imperial centres and less developed peripheries. In an aside, Szentmihályi Szabó accuses Jobbik of irresponsibility for suggesting that Hungary would be better off if it quit the EU.

“Hungary will suffer if doctrinaire human rights activists, gay rights activists, hyperliberals and supporters of North Atlantic integration win at the EP election,” András Bencsik ruminates in Magyar Demokrata. The pro-government editor-in-chief predicts that unless the right secures a majority in the EP, Hungary will come under attack from European liberals and socialists who will accuse the country of racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism. A landslide victory of Fidesz can tip the balance, and help the European People’s Party to victory, Bencsik speculates.

In Magyar Nemzet, Tibor Löffler reckons that Hungary’s interests lie in a less integrated EU, where nation states enjoy a wider scope of sovereignty. The conservative analyst criticizes both those “cosmopolitans and transnationalists” who want to weaken national sovereignty as well as radical right-wing critics including Jobbik who are willing to cooperate with non-Western powers including Russia and Iran in order to weaken the EU. This radical right-wing approach would subordinate Hungarian national interest to foreign interest as much as those who support the idea of a United States of Europe, Löffler suggests.

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