This time it is not just victory. It is not just a huge victory. It is a triumph of historic dimensions.
For the haters and detractors of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, the fact that someone wins an absolute majority in nationwide elections for the fourth consecutive time is – of course – in itself sufficient proof that democracy isn’t functioning any more, that Hungary is being transformed into an “authoritarian” state where there are no free elections, no freedom of press, no “rule of law”. For those who manage to maintain a more objective perspective, however, it is fairly obvious that the outcome of Sunday’s election is the result of a democratic electoral process that meets the highest international standards of fairness and transparency. If the losers now try to explain their defeat by the fact that they had far less air-time on the state-owned television chain to explain their programme, they should take a close look at how, for example, the public TV broadcasters in Germany treat Alternative für Deutschland. If they whine about the fact that Orban was able to use state resources to promote his own policies, they might look at neighbouring Austria, where similar and far worse practices are rampant. If they bemoan the fact that the amount of parliamentary seats won by Orban’s FIDESZ (young democrats) Party is disproportionately greater than their share in votes, then they should take note that – yes – the electoral system in Hungary is majority-friendly, but far less so than in other European democracies such as the UK, France, Italy or Greece.
Orban’s electoral success must undoubtedly be recognised as democratic, and as such (i.e. if one restricts the comparison to democratic countries and excludes all those undoubtedly undemocratic countries where Presidents rule for lifetime and win 99%-majorities each time they deign to hold elections) it is probably a world record. It is highly unusual for a political leader in a democracy to win four elections in a row, yet for Orban this is in fact already the fifth electoral victory (he already headed the Hungarian government from 1998 to 2002). While two German chancellors, Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel, have both managed to stay in power for four full legislatures, i.e. 16 years, they were leading coalition governments with (oftentimes) narrow majorities. Merkel’s last electoral “victory” in 2017 was in fact a disastrous defeat in which her party went down from 41.5 (in 2013) to 32.9% of votes. What followed were four agonizing years of fin de règne, the resignation from party leadership, the announcement not to run for a fifth term in office, an endless series of nasty machinations to stifle all attempts at programmatic renewal and to ensure that her successor as a party leader and spitzenkandidat would be even less popular than herself, and, in autumn 2021 another resounding defeat for the Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) with this time just 24,1%. Orban, by contrast, has not only won, for the fourth time in a row, a parliamentary super-majority that would in theory allow him to change the constitution as he pleases (no need to do that though, as he seems quite comfortable with the Constitution he gave the country in 2011), but in fact has increased his share in votes from 49 to 54% – his biggest win yet. There is no doubt: Orban is in fact immensely popular in his own country, or at least more popular than any European politician is in his. If he makes no major mistakes and stays in good health, he might well win another election in 2026, or perhaps even a fifth one.
Orban’s victory is a humiliating defeat for his opponents inside and outside the country. It is a defeat not only for the opposition coalition consisting of six different parties that had nothing in common except their willingness to oust Orban from power – which, in the eyes of the Hungarian electorate was apparently insufficient as a political offer. It is also a resounding defeat for those outside Hungary (including EU Politicians like Donald Tusk, Frans Timmermans, Ursula von der Leyen, or Martin Weber, as well as financiers like the notorious billionaire-“philanthropist” George Soros) who, in helping to assemble and promote this coalition of former Communists, former Neo-Nazis, and contemporary “ecologists”, only demonstrated their willingness to embrace, and team up with, even the most unfrequentable political groups if only it might help them to overthrow the undoubtedly Christian-Democrat and centrist, yet EU-and-LGBT-sceptical Orban government. It is a defeat for opinion pollsters who predicted a narrow race when in fact Orban won with a margin of more than 15%.
But most of all, it is a terrible defeat for the EPP, which mobbed their most successful politician until he left their group. How many EU Member States still have a government headed by an EPP politician? As POLITICO wrote already commented some months ago, Europe’s westernmost capital with an EPP-led government currently is Ljubljana …. and the head of that government, the Slovene Janez Jansa, is probably closer with Orban than he is with the Brussels Establishment. The remaining “heavyweights” of the EPP are Austria’s Karl Nehammer and Romania’s Nicolae Ciuca, who, with all due respect, are probably not known by anyone outside their own countries.
If anyone honestly wants to know an explanation for Orban’s success and the EPP’s decline, it is as simple as this: Orban is everything that the EPP used to be. He is unapologetically Christian, unapologetically patriotic, and he cares for the “normal” people, those who work hard for their salaries and make a society function, in particular by contracting heterosexual marriages, building stable families, and thus creating the social fabric that alone will guarantee the continued existence of a nation. These positions may be unpopular with the political Left and their enablers and abetters in media and finance – but they remain popular by a solid majority in Hungary’s electorate, in particular in rural areas, but not only there. The truth is: feminism, gender theory, climate alarmism and similar contemporary ideologies may be popular in the feuilleton, but they have no appeal for the silent majority of normal and decent people. This is what Adenauer, Schuman, Degasperi still new perfectly well, but what the EPP of today has completely lost sight of.
It is probably already too late now for the EPP to recover. But if it looks for a better future, it should look to Hungary.