Pro-Russian politicians win elections in Hungary and Serbia

How events in Ukraine helped win Viktor Orban and Aleksandar Vucic In Hungary and Serbia, pro-Russian politicians managed to win elections with record results. How the military operation in Ukraine helped Viktor Orban and Alexander Vučić in this – in the material of RBC 756490864183780.jpg” alt=”Pro-Russian politicians won elections in Hungary and Serbia” />

Orban's coalition won constitutional majority

The current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his FIDES party Hungarian Civil Union in partnership with the Christian Democratic People's Party, they once again achieved victory in the parliamentary elections. As a result of voting on April 3, their coalition received 68% of the vote. This provided them with a constitutional majority for the third time in a row— 135 out of 199 seats in parliament, and hence the opportunity to form a government. Formed by Orban's main rival, opposition politician Peter Markey-Zaj, the six-party coalition won 28% of the vote, which equates to 56 mandates.

The final turnout was approximately 70% of voters. A referendum on a law banning LGBT propaganda among minors, held simultaneously with the election, was declared invalid.

Photo: Janos Kummer/Getty Images

In January & February, before the start of the Russian military special operation in Ukraine, the victory of Orban's party did not seem obvious: 36 & ndash; 38% of voters were ready to vote for the ruling party, and 34 & ndash; 36% supported the opposition. Such a small gap was due to the serious dissatisfaction of the electorate with the domestic and foreign policy of the Hungarian leadership. In particular, the weak organization of the fight against the pandemic led Hungary to the second place in terms of the number of deaths from coronavirus in Europe— more than 5 thousand per 100 thousand population. Tensions with the EU over rule of law disputes (Brussels froze payments to Hungary and Poland until they bring their legislation in line with EU norms), failure to create a new coalition in the European Parliament and a controversial draft law to ban LGBT propaganda also contributed to the shift of preferences of the Hungarians towards the opposition, which, unlike FIDES, promised to strengthen the shattered ties with the EU.

But by the end of March, Orban's party managed to win back the lost positions: according to polls, about 40% of voters were ready to vote for it, and for the opposition coalition— only 32%. One of the reasons was that the events in Ukraine overshadowed the internal problems of the country.

Orban is known for meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin more often than other EU leaders. His last visit to Moscow took place a few weeks before the start of the military operation (Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjarto flew to Russia in November 2021 to receive the Russian Order of Friendship). Since the outbreak of hostilities in Ukraine, Orban has taken a position that ran counter to the official line of the EU: on the one hand, he joined the sanctions against Russia, on the other hand— declared his readiness to veto them if they affected the energy sector, and also repeatedly stated his refusal to supply weapons to Ukraine and transport them through Hungary. Orban also promised to block the decision to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine with the involvement of NATO forces.

Speaking via video link at the European Council summit on March 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky suggested that Orban decide which side he is on. “Hungary… I want to stop here and be frank. Once and for all. Listen, Viktor, do you know what's going on in Mariupol?»— he turned to the Hungarian prime minister. Orban later stated that “Hungary is on the side of Hungary.”

In his triumphant speech on the evening of April 3, Orban said his party would remember this victory “for the rest of its life” because it had to fight a large number of opponents. He attributed Zelensky to them. “We have won a great victory” a victory so great that it can perhaps be seen from the moon and certainly from Brussels, — Orban said.

Time predicts that, despite his victory, Orban will face a number of challenges during his fourth term in office. First of all, payments blocked by the EU (their volume is about 6-7% of the country's GDP) will not be transferred to Budapest, which brings the deterioration of the already unstable economic situation in the country closer. In addition, the policy of supporting Moscow, which has already led to the political isolation of Hungary within the EU, will further destabilize relations between Budapest and Brussels.

Vučić became president again

The presidential and parliamentary elections in Serbia on April 3, unlike in Hungary, were held without intrigue: Aleksandar Vučić was expectedly re-elected for a second presidential term with a score of 60%, and his Serbian Progressive Party received 43% of the vote. Vučić's closest rival, leader of the United Serbia opposition coalition Zdravko Ponosh, got only 17% of the votes, the coalition— 13%. At the same time, for Serbia, the victory of a presidential candidate in the first round, as well as the re-election of the incumbent president for a second term,— infrequent occurrence. The party in power is expected to once again form a coalition with friendly forces to win a majority in the 250-seat parliament.

Photo: Antonio Bronic/Reuters

Vucic, like Orban, with the start of the military operation in Ukraine, took a position that was contrary to the line of Brussels. Despite the fact that the country is not a member of the EU, in 2012 Serbia received the status of a candidate for accession, and therefore the association expected that Belgrade would adhere to a single course with the EU. However, Serbia remained the only European country that, although it advocated the preservation of Ukraine's sovereignty, did not join the anti-Russian sanctions of the West, and the national air carrier Air Serbia initially increased the number of flights to Moscow after European countries closed their airspace to Russian airlines.

Western countries have repeatedly called on Belgrade to join the sanctions against Russia, Vucic has repeatedly spoken about the pressure exerted on him. “What do you want from Serbia? Impose sanctions against Russia? And why didn't you introduce gas and oil?»— he asked, commenting on the EU's demand to join the sanctions. Vučić also stated that Serbia— an independent state that is not part of the European Union, and even admitted that he could impose sanctions already against Serbia. The re-election of Vučić will mean for Serbia closer attention from the EU in terms of the country's policy towards Russia, Politico notes.

When summing up the results of the elections, Vučić acknowledged the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on their outcome and said that he did not plan to change his course of balancing between the EU, Russia and China, and also announced the military neutrality of the country. “We will support policies that are important to Europeans, Russians and Americans, namely … military neutrality»,— he said. The Serbian leader also said that the country would try to maintain cooperation with Russia in various fields.

Editor-in-chief of the Balkanist project Oleg Bondarenko told RBC that he does not expect foreign policy shifts in Belgrade's policy. Serbia has a unique opportunity to develop relations with the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, the Arab world, so one should not expect a drift towards the EU, because over the past year no one in Brussels has named a specific date for the country's entry into the union, he explains.

“In the victory of Vucic and the party supporting him” combination of factors. Of course, these are the unconditional successes of the president, but also the crisis in which Europe has plunged. The issue of maintaining power in those countries where it is stable is natural, so we can draw a parallel between Vučić's victory and Orban's victory in Hungary, — Bondarenko believes.

The Serbian President himself on Sunday, speaking with reporters, noted that a direct consequence of the situation in Ukraine was the strengthening of right-wing forces in Serbia, Bondarenko added. Vučić, the expert notes, is in fact the only Serbian politician since the days of Slobodan Milosevic, who wins the first round for the second time— before him, the story was more characteristic when the winner was determined in the second round, bypassing the opponent by a few percent of the votes. At the last elections, the entry barrier for parties was lowered, which will make the composition of parliament more colorful, but the opposition is unlikely to be able to seriously oppose the plans of the government, the expert concluded.

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