Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine dominated the election campaign, putting Orban’s long association with Russian President Vladimir Putin under a microscope. In his victory speech, Orban described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as one of the “dissidents” they had to overcome during the election campaign.
Hungary is highly dependent on Russian energy and Orbán has avoided opportunities to condemn Putin’s attack on its neighboring country, complicating EU efforts to present a united front against him.
But despite polls predicting a tougher race, Orbán’s Fidesz party comfortably won most of the country. Opposition leader Peter Markie Zee failed even to win in his own district, serving as mayor.
“We have achieved such a victory and it can be seen from the moon, but it can certainly be seen from Brussels,” Orban said in his speech on Sunday night, highlighting longstanding tensions between his government and EU leaders.
“We will remember this victory until the end of our lives because we had to fight so many opponents,” Orbán said, citing a number of his political enemies including the Hungarian left, the “bureaucrats” in Brussels, and the international media. “And the Ukrainian president, too – we didn’t have many opponents at the same time.”
A thorny relationship with the European Union
Orbán closely controlled Hungary’s judiciary, media, and educational institutions during his 12-year tenure, which is now set to extend until 2026. He has pushed for legislation targeting immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community, and has spoken of his intent to do so. Building an “illiberal” state within the European Union.
Critics have long complained that he is tilting the political playing field against his opponents. Last month, Europe’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE) recommended a large-scale international monitoring process for the April 3 poll – a rare move for an EU country – after assessing allegations of a “general deterioration in conditions”. for democratic elections.
“The whole world can see this evening in Budapest that the policies of Christian Democrats, conservative politics and nationalist politics have won,” Orban said on Sunday evening. “Our message to Europe is that it is not the past but the future. This will be our common European future.”
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Orban has campaigned primarily on a platform to keep Hungarian forces and their weapons out of the conflict. He has supported most EU sanctions against Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, but has resisted going any further and positioning himself as a peacemaker for voters.
On Wednesday, his foreign minister accused the Ukrainian government of coordinating with opposition parties in Hungary, without citing evidence.
The opposition criticized him for his position. “Putin is rebuilding the Soviet empire and Orban is watching it with strategic calm,” Reuters quoted opposition leader Marky Zay as saying at a rally in March.
But Marke-Zay conceded defeat late Sunday, telling his supporters: “We are not discussing Fidesz’ victory, but we are discussing that this election was democratic and even.
“We will stay in this country, stand up for each other, hold each other’s hands and never let each other go. Hard times are coming, no matter what the election results. We know they will blame us, we will be the scapegoats, so it is more important than ever that we hold hands. each other and not leave her.”
Sunday’s referendum was also held on Urban’s controversial law banning educational materials and programs for children deemed to promote homosexuality and redefine sex.