Saturday

24th Jun 2017

Focus

Hungary's far-right party set to come second in EU vote

  • Orban's message to Brussels: Respect for Hungarians! (Photo: Klara Zalan)

With just two weeks to go until the EU vote, Budapest is marked by few EU election posters. The country is expecting to see an electoral repeat of April's general election, in which Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz scooped the lion's share of the vote.

On one of the few election posters to be found – featuring a recycled picture of Orban – Fidesz's EP election campaign theme is clear: "Our message to Brussels: Respect Hungarians!"

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The centre-right party is looking to be rewarded at the polls for what it sees as its successful attempt at defending Hungary and its government against attacks from Brussels over the past four years.

Both the European Commission and the European Parliament have taken Budapest to task over questions of rule of law and media freedom.

While Fidesz will undoubtedly win the EU elections, far-right party Jobbik is also set to do very well in the 25 May vote.

"The surprise would be if they didn't come in second," says Csaba Toth of the Republikon Institute. He notes that Jobbik is continuing its push for the political centre, a strategy that already paid off at the polls in April. "Its strategic goal is to become an alternating party to Fidesz," he adds.

Jobbik is now retreating from its previous calls for a referendum on EU membership.

Party leader Gabor Vona has said the party's aim is to bring Hungarian wages up to EU level, and to clean up corruption associated with EU funds.

He has started to label Jobbik as "EU-realist" – a party that supports a Europe of nations rather than a united states of Europe. "They realised that not even their own voters are necessarily in favour of exiting the EU," says Tamas Lanczi of the Szazadveg Foundation.

Opposition leftist parties that ran on a united list in the parliamentary elections in April are running separately this time.

The hope is that votes cast for them will reveal the real support behind each party, and decide the balance of power between them. But this tactic will almost certainly prevent any of them from surpassing Jobbik in the polls.

Parties are also gearing up for municipal elections in autumn. Leftist opposition parties are careful not to attack each other, as they might need to run again together at the local level.

Attila Mesterhazy, the socialist party's leader said less fighting, more honesty and common sense would help Hungary better defend its interest in the EU.

He reminded voters in a speech on 1 May that 97 percent of public investments in Hungary are made with EU money. But he also criticised the EU for being too bureaucratic, too slow and too expensive. The socialists may end up in third place, which will probably lead to a leadership crisis within the party.

Overall the European elections could be very similar to the general elections in April as the main topics remain domestic rather than EU.

The leftist parties, conscious that they may run again together at some point, say little about anything, while Fidesz promises more of the same.

Analyst Lanczi says the real issue for Fidesz is to strengthen its position with the European People's Party.

Ildiko Gall Pelczne, a Fidesz MEP who is now heading the party's EP list recently said she expects Fidesz to get 10-12 of Hungary's 21 seats in the new EP (down from the current 14).

Third on the list is Laszlo Tokes, a vocal representative of the Hungarian minority in Romania.

Representatives of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine and Serbia could also make it to the EP via the Fidesz list, where they occupy respectively ninth and tenth place.

Trusted Fidesz-insiders are high on the party's EP list. They include Jozsef Szajer, who rallied support for Fidesz within the EPP when Hungary was being criticised by the EU, and Andras Gyurk, the party's campaign manager.

Future Brussels-Budapest relations

It remains to be seen if Fidesz will hit a more conciliatory tone with Brussels over the coming years.

Toth argues that the government has already achieved the main constitutional changes it wanted, so conflicts related to Fidesz's overhaul of Hungary's laws might be a thing of the past.

But Brussels-Budapest relations could hinge on the Ukraine conflict, he notes. Budapest has been equivocal about Russia which could lead to tensions if anti-Russia sentiment grows in the EU.

Lanczi says the relationship will depend on how Europe evolves.

He says Brussels needs to listen more carefully to member states and take their interests into account, particularly as people still tend to think within a national context.

"The Fidesz government's approach is rooted in realpolitik. The conflicts have worked for them. They achieved results in Brussels by standing up to it," he says, adding that Viktor Orban enjoys growing respect in the EU.

"European leaders have accepted that Orban is a strong leader and it is better to seek agreement with him," Lanczi says.

Eszter Zalan is a journalist with Nepszabadsag, a Hungarian daily.

Hungary's Orban wins another term, Jobbik support jumps

Hungary's centre-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban was handed another four years in government after national elections on Sunday, early results show, while the far-right Jobbik scooped a fifth of the votes.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel and Macron hold symbolic joint press conference
  2. Juncker has 'no' clear idea of kind of Brexit UK wants
  3. Belgian PM calls May's proposal on EU citizens 'vague'
  4. UK lacks support of EU countries in UN vote
  5. Spain to command anti-smuggler Mediterranean force
  6. Estonia confirms opposition to Nord Stream 2 pipeline
  7. Ireland and Denmark outside EU military plan
  8. EU leaders renew vows to uphold Paris climate deal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUOn Public Services Day, Stop Austerity! Workers Need a Pay Rise!
  2. EGBAOnline Gambling: The EU Court Rejects Closed Licensing Regimes In Member States
  3. World VisionFaces of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow: Join the Debate on Violence Against Girls - 29 June
  4. ECR GroupThe EU Must Better Protect Industry from Unfair Competition
  5. Malta EU 2017Better Protection for Workers From Cancer-Causing Substances
  6. EPSUAfter 9 Years of Austerity Europe's Public Sector Workers Deserve a Pay Rise!
  7. Dialogue PlatformGlobalised Religions and the Dialogue Imperative. Join the Debate!
  8. UNICEFEU Trust Fund Contribution to UNICEF's Syria Crisis Response Reaches Nearly €200 Million
  9. EUSEW17Bringing Buildings Into the Circular Economy. Discuss at EU Sustainable Energy Week
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCan an Ideal Body Weight Lead to Premature Death?
  11. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Charges: What Does It Entail?
  12. World VisionWorld Refugee Day, a Dark Reminder of the Reality of Children on the Move

Latest News

  1. Macron’s investment screening idea watered down by leaders
  2. Leaders unimpressed by May’s offer to EU citizens
  3. New Irish PM praises unscripted nature of EU summits
  4. EU extends sanctions on Russia
  5. UK's universities set 'Brexit wish list'
  6. Decision on post-Brexit home for EU agencies postponed
  7. May's offer on citizens’ rights dismissed as ‘pathetic’
  8. 'Historic' defence plan gets launch date at EU summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Social Services ConferenceDriving Innovation in the Social Sector I 26-28 June
  2. Dialogue PlatformMuslims Have Unique Responsibility to Fight Terror: Opinon From Fethullah Gülen
  3. EUSEW17Check out This Useful Infographic on How to Stay Sustainable and Energy Efficient.
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Criticises the Juncker Plan's Implementation
  5. The Idealist QuarterlyDoes Europe Really Still Need Feminism? After-Work Chat on 22 June
  6. EUSEW17Create an Energy Day Event Before the End of June. Join the Call for Clean Energy
  7. UNICEF1 in 5 Children in Rich Countries Lives in Relative Income Poverty, 1 in 8 Faces Food Insecurity
  8. International Partnership for Human Rights26 NGOs Call on Interpol Not to Intervene Versus Azerbaijani Human Rights Defenders
  9. Malta EU 2017Significant Boost in Financing for SMEs and Entrepreneurs Under New Agreement
  10. World VisionYoung People Rise up as EU Signs Consensus for Development at EU Development Days
  11. ILGA-EuropeLGBTI Activists and Businesses Fighting Inequality Together
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Prime Ministers Respond to Trump on Paris Agreement