Hungary

   
 

Key Challenges

Orbán regains powerful majority
Although the parliamentary elections of April 2018 fell outside the period under review, it is worth noting that Viktor Orbán’s victory in the election marked an unexpected landslide. With 134 seats in the 199-seat parliament, Fidesz has regained the two-thirds majority it had lost in February 2015, thereby demoralizing the opposition even further. The strong position of the fourth Orbán government means that democracy in Hungary will continue to erode, pervasive corruption will undermine both democracy and economic growth, societal polarization will continue, the rift between liberal Budapest and the more traditional countryside will grow, qualified young people will continue to emigrate in high numbers and that the conflicts within the EU, not only over the issue of migration, will increase.
Party success due to tough anti-refugee position
On the surface, Fidesz’ strong showing is largely based on the party’s tough position on refugees. When trying to explain the electoral success of Viktor Orbán and his party, however, one has to dig deeper and address broader fears in Hungarian society. In the World Happiness Report 2017, Hungary ranked only 75th out of 155 countries. This habitus is not new. Pessimism and a great extent of “dystopia,” a negative future image, have always between a formatting power of Hungarian political culture. Many citizens have been exhausted by the ups and downs of the last decades; others fear that any changes might put the recent increases in wages and wealth at risk; some have lost their general orientation in a quickly changing world. Add Fidesz’s media dominance and the lack of a convincing opposition candidate, and these fears have made it relatively easy for Fidesz to play the claviature of xenophobism.
Population still supports liberal democracy, EU
Still, a Globsec survey in late 2017 found that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians supports liberal democracy (79%) and favor staying in the EU (71%). The democratic opposition tried to capitalize on this sentiment by formulating the issue at stake in the parliamentary elections as “Europe vs. Orbán,” though without success. The key challenge of the future is to bring this support to the forefront and to diminish the influence of right-wing populism in the country. In this process, the government will not be of help, but rather the target.
Citations:
Helliwell, J., R. Layard, J. Sachs (2017): World Happiness Report 2017. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network (http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/03/HR17.pdf).

Milo, D., K. Klingová, D. Haydu (2017): Globsec Trends 2017: Mixed Messages and Signs of Hope from Central and Eastern Europe. Bratislava (https://www.globsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/globsec_trends_2017.pdf).
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