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Hungarian Press Roundup: Weeklies on EP Elections

Hungary Today 2019.05.13.

Two weeks before the elections for the European Parliament, weeklies assess the possible outcomes and ponder whether Fidesz will remain a member of the European People’s Party or choose a more radical right-wing group after the election.

Hungarian press roundup by budapost.eu

In Magyar Hang, Szabolcs Szerető complains that just a fortnight before the election, people don’t seem to be aware of the stakes. Based on recent polls, he believes the only question is whether Fidesz’s score will be nearer to 50 or 60% of the ballots. Opposition demonstrations against recent labour legislation died down months ago without resulting in any increase in the number of anti-government voters. Szerető believes that the election will be free but not fair because the opposition finds it much more difficult than the government to reach the public. Nevertheless, he pours scorn on opposition parties for failing to make use of what elbow room remains to them. They should have been able to unite behind a few simple messages, he believes, like supporting the European Union, but instead there are competing with each other for opposition votes. It looks as though the opposition has given up on this election, in the hope of better results at the local council and mayoral elections later this year, he suggests. Yet, anti-government voters may still take the European Parliament election seriously, because although Fidesz’s victory seems assured, the scale of that victory will matter a lot. A crushing government victory could result in even deeper apathy among opposition voters and thus deprive their parties of any hope of electoral success later on.

In an interview with Figyelő, Justice Minister László Trócsányi, the top Fidesz candidate in the EP election, says he is running on a programme to create a strong Europe based on strong member countries, where decisions are not imposed from above but result from careful deliberations. He admits that he cannot tell whether Fidesz will continue to be part of the centre-right alliance within the European Parliament, but believes that would be preferable. He explains that Hungary’s governing party is the largest representative of Central Europe within the EPP, and without it, an important voice would disappear from that party alliance. But the departure of Fidesz is a genuine possibility if the current debates within the EPP cannot be overcome through consensus, he says.

In Demokrata, Péter Bándy agrees with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán that the European People’s Party is preparing a ‘suicidal’ move by tying its destiny to that of the Left. It was sad to watch the European People’s Party, he writes, in its failure to follow its own elementary values, by attempting to meet the expectations of left-liberal forces instead. On that path, the pro-government commentator continues, the EPP will irreversibly become a prisoner of ‘pro-immigration forces’. The election for the European Parliament, he argues, is the last opportunity to correct that course. His conclusion is that it is not Fidesz that has to return to the People’s Party, but it is rather the latter that should opt for right-wing policies, keeping in mind the interests of the people.

In its weekly editorial, Magyar Narancs writes that by receiving Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, the Prime Minister made it clear that he intends to leave the People’s Party. “The die is cast!” the authors exclaim. They deem it very difficult to decode that gesture as anything other than the expression of Orbán’s will to choose other allies – especially after he withdrew his support for Manfred Weber, the top EPP candidate. Meanwhile, Magyar Narancs thinks it will prove difficult to keep Orbán’s new potential allies together because while some of them are pro-Russian, Poland’s governing right-wing party is permeated by what the liberal weekly calls Russophobia. Another problem for a future right-wing alliance will be that its Western members intend to reduce EU funding to East European countries, Magyar Narancs speculates.