The Cold European civil war?

Orbán won again in Hungary. But contrary to what I (and pretty much everyone) had predicted, he once again won a two thirds majority. Orbán outdid his most favourable polls and yet both international observers and the opposition have acknowledged that there was very little actual fraud (though not radical leftists in the European parliament or even national parliaments).[1][2] It was however asserted the Fidesz had an unfair advantage due to its control over state-owned media and use of other state resources to its advantage. That is true. Hungary has developed and now further cemented, a dominant party system and leans in the direction of a hybrid regime. But to be fair, the united opposition enjoyed the backing from pretty much all Europhiles and was painted as pro-Putin.[3]

Orbán will enjoy super-majoritarian rule for at least 16 years in a row. He will get to further consolidate his constitutional system.

His notion of illiberal democracy has been vindicated again along with his conservative views, nationalism and neutralism. This can serve as an enormous boost for Eastern European nationalists and conservatives. Now a clash with the European federalists, who view the EU as a community united by (ever more progressive) shared values, seem increasingly unavoidable.

The EU is hoping to punish him by slashing EU-funds.[4] Doing this so shortly after the election might just cause a backlash and strengthen Euroscepticism in Hungary. It risks more disunity in the face of Russia and even countries more critical of Hungary might feel threatened if this attack on Hungary takes on an overtly anti-nationalist and anti-conservative tone. This has always been a risk but is now worsened by the fact that Orbán has such a strong democratic mandate and the polarising atmosphere caused by the war. The strong presence of populist parties in Czech, Slovenia, Slovakia and other Eastern European states and the fact that even anti-populist in pro-Europeanists tend to oppose gay marriage and sex education for young children, makes attacking Orbán on those topics seem particularly ill-advised.

The European constitution was rejected. The countries have varying constitutions and systems and the only values that united them was support for a very broadly defined democracy, trade agreements and a desire for peace and stability. The shared goal for peace and trade seems stronger than ever yet the values are only drifting further and further apart. In the 1990’s classical liberalism dominated. Now however extremes are on the rise. How to deal with Putin has become a divisive issue also.

Will the West back down and strive for a live and let live approach? Or will it double down on a confrontation? Slovenia will have elections soon and Janša might remain as prime minister. Orbán might have none, or several allies depending on how things develop.

Now that the united opposition in Hungary has crashed and burned, I wonder whether next time, they’ll threaten with unconstitutionally enacting a new constitution or accept working within Orbán’s system? The new Far Right party Our Homeland Movement will likely help normalise working within the system, since many of the conservative elements of the constitution and the courts favour their principles as well.

Cooperation between the opposition parties in Poland has become even more of a gamble.

Although the opposition in Poland was never going to include the Far-Right Confederation and the situations are therefore not identical. The other parties might still decide that the main problem in Hungary was the instable cooperation with former Far-Right party Jobbik and the independent Conservative candidate. and that if they can have a strong candidate and more defined platform, they can beat Law and Justice.

Yet Poland is far more religious and conservative than Hungary. Attacks on the Catholic Church with a focus on paedophile priests and short-lived abortion protests appeared to show an upcoming left-leaning trend, but the abortion protests fizzled out and the Catholic Church has had quite the chance to shine. It has played an extremely huge role in helping Ukrainian refugees, of which a significant portion are Ukrainian Catholics. The threat posed by Russia serves to bring back memories of the old conflicts with the Soviet Union and Tsarist Russia, in which Catholicism was crucial to Polish identity.

A united opposition platform based on progressivism and anti-clericalism might not be very appealing in times of turmoil where the majority of Poles favour unity.

A united platform based around economic policies seems even more ridiculous, considering the fact that Donal Tusk’s Civic Platform became rather disliked for its strong economic liberalism while the Left leans closer to Democratic Socialism. Law and Justice sits rather in the middle between the two,

Eastern Europe will remain a tense and unpredictable region and the hope for a spread of Western progressive liberalism in a war threatened region in a time of economic uncertainty appears further removed from reality than ever. And this is not even commenting on the possibility of Far-Right Eurosceptics like Vox in Spain the Freedom Party in Austria, entering Western European governments (again).

Sources:

  1. Hungary’s parliamentary elections well-run and offered distinct alternatives but undermined by absence of level playing field, international observers say”. Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. 4 April 2022. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  2. https://twitter.com/SophieintVeld/status/1510713996701229057
  3. https://notesfrompoland.com/2022/03/15/tusk-urges-hungarians-to-vote-out-most-pro-putin-government-in-europe-at-opposition-rally/
  4. https://www.politico.eu/article/eu-commission-to-trigger-rule-of-law-budget-tool-against-hungary/

Johan van Schaik

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