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Weeklies on the lessons of the electoral campaign

June 10th, 2024

In their last opinion columns before Sunday’s municipal and European elections, commentators tried to make sense of the changes in the domestic political landscape and relations between Hungary and the European Union.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Árpád W. Tóta writes that by the end of the campaign, there remain only two sizeable forces on the opposition side, namely Péter Magyar’s TISZA party and the left-wing bloc led by the Democratic Coalition. His problem is that as for the former, no one knows too much about Péter Magyar’s candidates or the political course TISZA will follow, apart from the fact that it doesn’t want to be a left-wing party. Those who want a left wing to exist, are left with the single choice of the DK dominated alliance – which, Tóta writes, will never become a serious alternative to the government – at least ’not in our lifetime’.

In Demokrata, on the other hand, András Bencsik represents Péter Magyar, the new opposition star as an heir to 1919 communist leader Béla Kun who famously also spoke to his supporters from the back of trucks. He accuses Magyar of addressing despicable threats to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government. Magyar behaves like a cornered beast, Bencsik writes, because he knows that the opposition is doomed to failure.

In Élet és Irodalom, János Széky vituperates against the opposition leaders who played the game designed by the public media company during the televised debate with all the 11 top candidates in the European election. He believes they shouldn’t have accepted the topic frames prescribed by the organisers whom he considers unscrupulous pro-government propagandists. None of them, he complains, chose to speak about democracy as such, including free and fair elections and the division of powers. That means in his view that opposition politicians are not overly interested in democracy and that being so, there is not going to be any democracy in Hungary any time soon, he concludes.

In Hetek, Péter Cseh describes Fidesz’s electoral campaign as highly effective, as it helped the governing party gain back 6% of the electorate it lost since the paedophile pardon scandal early this year. The Peace March organised in support of the government, he writes, gave special impetus to its popularity in the final days of the electoral campaign.

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető suggests that government and opposition are divided by an ‘actual civilisational faultline’. The government side accuses the opposition of being the paid puppets of foreign powers, namely Hungary’s allies in NATO and the European Union. Meanwhile, as he sees it, the government rejects the western community of values and tries to endear to Eastern autocrats, including Russian President Putin who launched the war in Ukraine.

In Magyar Narancs, Péter Heil, the European policy expert of the Democratic Coalition criticises the European Commission for having unblocked some of the EU transfers to Hungary that were suspended on grounds of rule-of-law concerns. He believes EC President Ursula von der Leyen took that decision hoping to be supported by PM Orbán in her bid for re-election. That was a vain hope, Heil predicts.,

In Jelen, Gyula Krajczár dismisses the government’s argument that by confronting mainstream European leaders it is defending Hungary sovereignty. In actual terms, he writes, Hungary’s sovereignty can only be guaranteed if Europe is strong – and it can only be strong if it is united. In today’s multipolar world, Krajczár suggests, a disunited Europe will simply sink into insignificance, and its countries will be defenceless against the unforeseeable changes of world politics.

In a very different vein in Mandiner, political analyst Márton Ugrósdy who serves as deputy state secretary in the Prime Minister’s office warns against the prospect of a Europe where inhabitants end up dissolved in a faceless mass. Instead, he believes, they should preserve their diversity and the national heritage which makes each European nation special and unique. He admits that the latter choice is the more difficult one, nevertheless, he deems it worthwhile for Europeans to preserve their continent’s millennial Judaeo-Christian roots and be proud of their history. He urges his compatriots to remain Hungarians first and then Europeans.

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