From Budapest to Warsaw, the Silence and Embarrassment of Central European Populist Governments

From Budapest to Warsaw, the Silence and Embarrassment of Central European Populist Governments

Going to inaugurate the Hungarian vocational training fair in Budapest on Monday, April 25, Viktor Orban did not have time to comment on the results of the French elections, where his ally, Marine Le Pen, suffered a defeat at the polls, the day before. “The national forces won the legislative elections three weeks ago with unprecedented support”, only boasted about the nationalist prime minister, but that was about his own landslide re-election on April 3. Almost all European heads of state and government, including his Polish allies, nevertheless congratulated Mr. Macron on Sunday evening.

This silence is not a surprise. Mr. Macron used the Hungarian sovereigntist as a bogeyman throughout the campaign and he, too, has yet to congratulate Mr. Orban on his re-election. But, above all, the defeat of Marine Le Pen thwarts all the plans for an overhaul of the rights and the hopes of upheaval in the European Union that the Hungarian head of government shared with his ultra-conservative allies in power in Warsaw. “The sovereignist camp has become an unavoidable force in European politics and we too want to see a Europe of nation states”Mr. Orban had hoped during Le Pen in Budapest, in October. A Hungarian bank partly owned by her childhood friend, the MKB, subsequently financed the campaign of the far-right candidate.

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Bad political investments

Without Marine Le Pen at the Elysée, these hopes now seem in vain. Especially since this failure occurs in a complicated diplomatic context for Mr. Orban, increasingly isolated within this central Europe of which he nevertheless dreams of being the main leader. On Sunday, his Slovenian ally, the ultra-conservative Prime Minister Janez Jansa, also suffered a severe defeat in the legislative elections organized in this small Balkan country, after having nevertheless campaigned with the open financial support of Hungary. “Le Pen like Jansa were obviously not a good political investment”taunted the conservative headline on Monday morning Valasz Online.

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In October, Czech populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis suffered the same fate, after showing his closeness to Mr. Orban. And relations with Poland are at their lowest since the conflict in Ukraine, on which Hungary maintains an ambiguous and distant position with regard to kyiv. For several weeks, no meeting of the Visegrad group, this group which brings together Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, has taken place because of the deep differences on the question of arms deliveries to kyiv, categorically refused by Hungary. Result: since his re-election, Mr. Orban has so far made only one trip abroad. It was at the Vatican, where he met the pope, then the leader of the Italian far right Matteo Salvini, himself in the midst of a downward political slope.

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