With the acceptance of the Sargentini report, it was doubtful whether Orbán and his party would support the Bavarian Christian Democratic politician’s candidacy for the top position of the European Commission. In an interesting development, it now appears that FIDESZ will throw its support behind Weber. One would be justified in wondering what could have spurred such a drastic change.
Earlier, Viktor Orbán predicted a breakthrough of right-wing radical parties in next year’s European Parliamentary elections. Certain events like Macron’s victory, the growing likelihood that Merkel will preserve her position as Chancellor and the lack of far-right advancement in Swedish elections may suggest that the changes won’t be as significant as presumed. If things move in that direction, it would be in FIDESZ’s best interest to have a strong People’s Party in the EP to prevent the liberals, greens and socialists from gaining ground. Although Weber voted for the Sargentini report himself, the other CSU MP-s didn’t, and in Western Europe, besides the Italians, the Bavarians nurture the most intensive connections with Hungarian ruling parties.
Another element which might reveal the reason behind Orbán’s shifting position is the decision of the former Finnish Prime Minister to run for the post of the European Parliament, challenging Weber. Alexander Stubb belongs to the liberal wing of the European People’s Party and is known to criticize Hungarian politics more sharply than Weber. Stubb even suggested excluding FIDESZ from the conservative political group unless constitutional norms improve in Hungary. Not long after Stubb’s announcement, FIDESZ declared their support for Weber.
The European People’s Party will decide on its candidate in Helsinki in November, and in all likelihood, it will be Manfred Weber. The exciting question that so many observers are curious about is whether FIDESZ will remain in the People’s Party or form a new fraction with European radicals. This most likely can only be answered after the European Parliamentary elections. It can’t be said how long the liberal Benelux and Scandinavian PP members will tolerate FIDESZ, or, of course, vice versa.
If Manfred Weber becomes the head of the EP, he will have to find a delicate balance in a somewhat new equilibrium. The progressive, green and Marconist forces may preserve their strength while the socialists weaken and the radicals grow, leaving the moderate right to worry about losing ground.
By Dénes Sályi