In a one-two knockout punch for pro-Russia governments in Europe, on Sunday the government of Serbia's pro-Russia president Aleksandar Vučić was headed for an avalanche victory in the country's presidential election with nearly 60% of the vote, a big improvement to this 2017 election result...
Serbia (Presidential Election), CeSID/Ipsos parallel count:— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) April 3, 2022
Vučić (SNS+-EPP): 59% (+4)
Ponoš (US-S&D): 17%
Jovanović (NADA-*): 6%
+/- vs. 2017 election result
➤ https://t.co/eWnraQ39P8#Izbori2022 #Vučić #Ponoš #Srbija #Serbia #SerbiaElections pic.twitter.com/f7qFMB5SwT
.... while Hungary's Pro-Russia prime minister, Viktor Orban, was on track to clinch a fourth consecutive term, leveraging a message against being dragged into the war in neighboring Ukraine, to reassert himself as the European Union’s longest-serving premier.
With roughly half of the vote counted, Orban’s Fidesz party led United for Hungary, a six-member opposition alliance, 57% to 32% in the party list contest, according to the National Election Office, with 63% of the votes counted. That would be sufficient for Fidesz to keep its two-thirds parliamentary majority.
Despite opinion polls forecasting a tighter race, Orban's Fidesz party won comfortably across much of the country. Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay even failed to win in his own district, where he had served as mayor. The far-right extremist Mi Hazank party won 6.3%, and was set to enter parliament, further diluting the power of the anti-Orban alliance.
"We have such a victory it can be seen from the moon, but it's sure that it can be seen from Brussels," Orban said in his speech on Sunday night, making light of his government's long-running tensions with EU leaders.
Hungary, 48% counted (list votes):— Europe Elects (@EuropeElects) April 3, 2022
Fidesz/KDNP-NI|EPP: 56.7% (+7.4)
EM-S&D|RE|G/EFA|NI: 31.7% (-14.8)
MKKP-*: 2.8% (+1.1)
+/- vs. 2018 election
➤ https://t.co/nONdLs4JDG#Hungary #hungaryelections pic.twitter.com/0zF2x7XPbv
"We will remember this victory until the end of our lives because we had to fight against a huge amount of opponents," Orban said, citing a number of his political enemies including the Hungarian left, "bureaucrats" in Brussels, the international media, "and the Ukrainian president too -- we never had so many opponents at the same time."
The election campaign was dominated by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban's lengthy association with Russian President Vladimir Putin under scrutiny. In his victory speech, Orban called Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky one of the "opponents" he had to overcome during the campaign.
Orban's unexpectedly strong victory defied polls ahead of the vote that had predicted Orban would face the toughest challenge to re-election in his 12 years in power, according to a report from the anti-Orban Bloomberg News. It almost makes one wonder why anyone - besides liberals of course - still uses polling, which obviously can't forecast the future and also fails at mere propaganda and influencing election turnouts.
Until recently, a new term would have been a defining moment for the 58-year-old Orban, who over the past decade consolidated power and challenged the EU’s so-called "democratic foundations", raising questions about Hungary’s allegiance to so-called "western values."
As Bloomberg adds, "after forging closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin while needling his EU counterparts over everything from controlling courts to LGBTQ rights, Orban risks deeper isolation as Europe confronts Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine." Perhaps so, but the people have spoken and the people clearly want a person in charge who forges closer ties with Putin while needling EU counterparts. Or maybe it's time for
the deep state Biden to suggest some more regime change, this time in Hungary?
Amid the war in Hungary’s eastern neighbor, Orban refused to fold to western pressure and offered limited support for Ukraine, refusing to let weapons shipments cross Hungary and rejecting a ban of Russian oil and gas imports.
His message was that joining a rush by fellow EU and NATO members to aid Ukraine with weapons would drag Hungary into the war. That resonated with voters against an opposition campaign suggesting that Orban is Putin’s pawn and the ballot a choice between East and West.
In the end, being close to Putin served as a powerful force behind Orban's avalanche victory.
That said, Obran has an uphill battle in containing the fallout from the Ukraine war - record pre-election spending which prompted the government to cut the economic growth outlook, will require Orban to almost immediately address budget concerns. Phasing out price caps on basic food items and especially fuel, imposed in the run-up to the vote, will test his enduring popularity. Household energy subsidies, in place since 2013 and a reliable vote-getter, may also have to go.
The political challenges could be equally daunting. While the cost of financing Hungarian debt has soared as the central bank hiked interest rates to the highest in the EU, Hungary’s access to billions of euros of crucial EU funding has been delayed due to concerns over corruption in Hungary, a standard trick in Brussels which ruthlessly and anti-democratically determines who can and can not rule in Europe by limiting access to funds.
Meanwhile, Orban’s political narrative - centering on the decline of the West and the rise of authoritarian regimes - remains his strong suit. As a result of the Ukraine war, about half a million refugees have arrived in Hungary, and in one of the starkest U-turns, the anti-immigration Orban welcomed them and even posted pictures of himself hugging Ukrainians.
He will also need to navigate a new EU mechanism that links funding to adherence to rule of law. It was approved in 2020 after the Hungarian premier outmaneuvered the bloc’s concerns about the rollback of democratic norms for the better part of the decade. Should it be activated this year, it threatens to deprive Hungary of as much as $40 billion. Of course, should it be activated, many peripheral states may simply decide to seek a better fate in the orbit of other nations - such as China or Russia - which would be a catastrophic blow to the future of the EU.