Hungary goes to the polls on Sunday, and it appears that the sitting Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will benefit from driving a strong message to the electorate about the war in Ukraine – that he’ll keep his country out of it.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently criticised Orbán for what he saw as a failure to give support to Ukraine after the Russian invasion. On a call with EU leaders, Zelensky seemed to take Hungary to task after it declined to supply its neighbour with weapons.
While some commentators thought Zelensky’s accusation might harm him in polls, Orbán seems to have turned around the accusation by claiming that his opponents would not keep Hungary out of the conflict.
His party’s message – Let’s preserve Hungary’s peace and security!” – seems to have made an impact with voters. Orbán argued that Hungary itself should not provide weapons to Ukraine and that he would oppose stricter energy sanctions that might harm Hungary’s economy.
Polls taken since the conflict began suggest the Fidesz populist party has opened up a decisive lead of five points or more before Sunday’s vote.
This week, Orbán said:
“Our moral responsibility is not for Ukraine. I don’t have to face the Lord for Ukrainians, but for Hungarians. I must consider the Hungarian interest.”
“We’re giving the Ukrainians everything we can, perhaps even beyond our capacity,” the prime minister said. “But we will not comply with any demands of theirs which would destroy our national community — either in a biological sense, with our sons dying in someone else’s war, or with the ruination of Hungary’s economy.”
Other key issues he has raised ahead of the vote include a sovereignty and a holding a referendum on the same day as the election to approve legislation outlawing the “promotion of gender non-conformity, gender reassignment, homosexuality”. Hungary has come under fire fom the EU who say the legislation amounts to discrimination.
Whatever the outcome of the vote on Sunday, the Hungarian leader – who is seeking his fourth consecutive term – will also face a possible fallout with one ally in the EU, Poland, which is deeply opposed to any expansionist moves from Moscow.
However, for now, Fidesz will be happy that their message on the issue that has overtaken all others seems to have hit home.
“The war has cast a shadow over the whole Hungarian campaign,” Orbán said in his radio interview.
“The question of peace and security is now also part of what’s at stake in the election. And our message is clear: Only Fidesz can create peace in Hungary, only we can guarantee the security of the Hungarian people,” the prime minister said.
The opposition say that Fidesz’s control over state media means their riposte – that they are not seeking to be entangled in war either – is not being heard.