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What Will Happen to Fidesz in the EPP?

Dénes Sályi 2019.03.05.

One of the most exciting political questions of the year is how Fidesz’s relationship with the Europan People’s Party (EPP) will develop. Tension has been continually growing between the governing party of Hungary and the European conservative party group. Lately, however, the process has begun to accelerate.

In the past decade(s), the EPP, following mainstream trends, has gradually shifted towards the center, becoming more liberal and less conservative. It has left behind some classical conservative features such as relying on the Christian context as a foundation, supporting the traditional family model and placing an emphasis on patriotism. Instead, it has accepted gay marriage and appears to be more open to the demands of the ‘progressive gender warriors.’ Although divided, the EPP seems to collectively take a more lenient stance on migration.

German Political Right Slams Fidesz over New Govt Campaign

By contrast, Fidesz has gone against the mainstream. It continues to voice its worries about migration, the Islamization of Europe and calls for the nations of Europe to stand against federationalist efforts. (Some claim that Fidesz has become, barring anti-semitism, the real heir of the notable rightist ideologist and politician, István Csurka.) The centralization trend in Hungarian politics coupled with fast legislation has elicited criticism from several conservative politicians. As a result of the rapid changes occurring in the ’moderate right,’ Orbán has found himself increasingly in line with ‘populist’ right-wing parties, specifically in regards to the value placed on national sovereignty and the fight against movements towards federalism.

Orbán’s Role in the Illiberal Realm is Growing

Although it’s difficult to predict, the chances of Fidesz remaining in the EPP in the new European Parliament are slim. The conservative politicians critical of Orbán have threatened the withdrawal of their parties from the EPP if Fidesz remains. A large scale withdrawal would shock the EPP far more than the loss of 12 members of Fidesz. Scandinavian, Belgian and Portuguese EPP politicians are calling for the exclusion of the Hungarian party to be on the agenda prior to the European Parliamentary elections in May. However, it’s doubtful whether they can mobilize the support required to make this happen. It’s far more plausible that the break will occur in autumn when the new European Parliament convenes.

For Fidesz, it’s more advantageous to remain within the EPP than to belong to a Eurosceptic, anti-migration minority party group. On the other hand, this movement is gaining strength and will be more influential in the European Parliament and among the citizens in autumn. If it continues to build its influence and gain in strength, it will become a more attractive option in 2024 and 2029. From this perspective, a coalition with Salvini doesn’t look half bad.

Of course, the possibility of FIDESZ remaining in the EPP and molding it to its own tastes can’t be entirely ruled out. It would be a tedious undertaking, but it’s not entirely impossible.

On the featured photo: EPP leader Manfred Weber and Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán. Photo by Balázs Szecsődi/PM’s Press Office


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