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In Hungary Thousands Protest Election of Anti-Immigrant Leader, Viktor Orban, to Third Prime Minister Term

Viktor Orban declared a landslide victory in Hungary’s election on last Sunday. The incumbent will lead the country for three consecutive terms. Less than a week later tens of thousands took to the streets in Budapest to protest Orbin’s win.

According to a BBC report, Viktor Orban’s far-right, anti-immigrant Fidesz party gained almost 50 percent of the 93 percent votes counted. The victory means that the party, along with its coalition partner the Christian Democrats party (KDNP), will control two-thirds of the seats in the Hungarian parliament, which is composed of about 133 seats.

The far-right nationalist Jobbik Party came second with 26 seats, followed by the left-wing side with 20 seats.

The Jobbik Party was once a neo-Nazi party with a similar agenda to that of Fidesz. Jobbik, however, prefers being an opposition group and has transformed from a far-right group to a more centrist platform in order to gain more voters. Unfortunately for the Jobbik Party, this effort to attract voters with a softer image failed in Sunday’s ballot. Jobbik leader Gabor Vona has decided to resign following the election defeat.

Orban is widely known for his radical anti-immigrant policy. He claimed to have saved the country’s Christian culture from Muslim migrants entering Europe in 2015, with his anti-Muslim image being a proven effector in luring voters, especially those in rural areas.

In his speech to supporters, Orban described the election result as a decisive victory: “We created the opportunity to defend Hungary. A great battle is behind us. We have achieved a decisive victory.”

Orban headed a Fidesz-led coalition government from 1998 to 2002 before returning to office in 2010. Despite being criticized as an authoritarian leader, the 54-year-old managed to help the country recover from the 2008 global economic crisis.

The election was free but not 100 percent fair

Viktor Orban’s victory with his ruling party had been predicted long before the polls took place. According to international observers, the incumbent used intimidating, xenophobic campaigns on a vast scale to boost his chances of winning the ballot and restrict voters’ political options.

Douglas Wake, Chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said, “Voters had a wide range of political options, but intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing constricted the space for genuine political debate.”

Despite criticism, an official from Fidesz hailed the exceptionally higher-than-expected turnout in the election, saying it showed that “Hungarian democracy is strong.”

Election officials stated that by 6:30 p.m. local time, the turnout stood at 68.13 percent before the polls closed; this figure surpassed the 61.73 percent of the 2014 election.

Several polling stations remained open after the 7:00 p.m. deadline in order to account for long lines of people who were waiting to exercise their voting rights.

Crackdown on pro-migrant organizations

The now-governing Fidesz party vowed to pass anti-immigration regulations, including a requirement for groups that help immigrants to get approval from the interior minister, as well as a 25 percent tax on foreign donations to such organizations.

Hungary built a second fence on their border with Serbia in 2017, aiming to drive migrants out. Budapest praised the barriers for making the country stronger, with only 165 people crossing the border illegally early last year.

Orban’s anti-immigrant policy will put him at odds with the European Union (EU). Hungary, alongside Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, refuses to accommodate Syrian and Eritrean migrants, who are now being sheltered in crowded camps in Greece and Italy while waiting for relocation based on the EU scheme.

Anti-Soros campaign

Critics accused Orban of using an anti-Semitic term to attack Hungarian-born U.S. investor George Soros, who promotes open-border, liberal principles through his international grantmaking network Open Society Foundations.

Viktor Orban himself once received a grant from the Jewish philanthropist before turning against the billionaire and accusing him of controlling Hungary and bringing migrants to Europe.

According to Professor Andras Kovacs, a Hungary-based anti-Semitism expert, such language and verbiage may not appear to be overtly anti-Jewish, though they actually are in intent.

“Not everyone gets it, but some do,” the professor said in an interview with Haaretz.

Orban’s primary targets are still Muslims and migrants, and many experts believe he uses anti-Semitic terms to target foreigners.

“It’s part of the way Orban and Fidesz lash out at everything foreign,” explained Zselyke Csaky, a senior researcher at Freedom House.

People Respond With Protests of Viktor Orban

On Saturday thousands took to the street in Budapest to protest Viktor Orban’s win. Protestors argue it was an unfair election and Orban campaigned on a hate platform. Orban openly campaigned with an anti-immigrant stance.

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Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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