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Orbán: Combat Won in Hungary, Battle Lost in Europe, but What about The ‘War’?

Péter Cseresnyés 2019.05.27.

As evidenced by the conflict with the European People’s Party and the comments made by Fidesz politicians prior to the election, Orbán clearly hoped the European parliamentary election would strengthen anti-immigration political forces across Europe, eventually leading to changes in the politics of the European Commission. However, it’s still unclear how the tides will turn.

Fidesz won the election with 52 percent of the vote amid a record high turnout in the country. As a result, the party snagged 13 EP seats out of 21. It managed to hold onto the biggest percent of the votes in Europe, effectively cementing Orbán’s position as the strong man in Hungary. Nevertheless, the PM can’t help but aim higher. Ultimately, he aspires to shape European politics, and to this end, domestic success is a must, not a guarantee.

Aside from Hungary, anti-migration parties did well in many countries including France, Poland and especially Italy. Although some think of this as a European trend, we still have to account for the fact that there are rather diverse political climates across the EU. People voted, first and foremost, within a nation-state framework and according to local political dynamics. This means that in some countries, Orbán’s allies became stronger, while in others, socialist and liberal political forces took the lead (e.g. Spain).

PM Orbán with EPP’s lead candidate Manfred Weber. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi /PM’s Press Office

The European People’s Party, (according to the latest results) received 180 mandates, while its largest rival, the Social Democratic Group (S&D), amassed 146 seats. This is a total of 326 seats in the 751-member parliament, meaning they don’t have the absolute majority (to form the 376 seats needed). Both ALDE and the Greens have achieved great results and have announced their willingness to negotiate with the EPP if their demands are met. This means that following a possible agreement, there will no longer be a need for the 13 mandates Fidesz has to offer. On the other hand, the EP results and party mathematics seem to have dissolved Orbán’s desire for a center wing-radical wing cooperation.

Orbán’s option of working with the Visegrád Group countries (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary), where even the leftist parties hold an anti-migration stance, may no longer be viable given the results of the EP election. This is due in part to the fact that the mandates were fragmented in these countries. In addition, it seems party group ties trump shared views on migration.

The most probable scenario is Weber gathering the support of the central part of the EPP, working with the Socialists, Liberals and Greens.

The upcoming weeks and months will reveal where EU leadership and Fidesz are headed. It’s important to note that political actors rarely count on the most favorable outcome. Therefore, Orbán planning ahead for an EPP, socialist and liberal cooperation is highly probable.

Though one could argue that a rightist breakthrough in Europe was just not in the cards, the indisputable strengthening of the right wing could serve as the basis for a future political twist. Knowing Orbán and his penchant for long-term planning, he could be setting his sights on the 2024 EP elections. As he claims to have planned through to 2030, it would make sense that he sees 2019 as merely a stepping stone.

In the featured photo: PM Viktor Orbán(center). Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office