Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Fidesz in nationwide vote

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban speaks to the media after casting his vote in the general parliamentary elections April 3, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary.

Janos Kummer | News from Getty Images | Getty Images

Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared victory in the nationwide elections on Sunday, with partial results showing his Fidesz party leading the vote by a wide margin.

With Orban seeking a fourth consecutive term, preliminary results showed his party would control 135 seats in the 199-seat parliament. She was well ahead of the opposition alliance United for Hungary, which should win 57 seats after counting 80% of the votes.

The election had been predicted to be closer than in previous years, but Fidesz still held a 5-6 percentage point lead in the polls ahead of Sunday’s vote.

Orban, widely regarded as the most pro-Kremlin leader of the 27 European Union nations, has spent 12 years in power in Budapest. He is the country’s longest-serving leader since the fall of Communism in 1989, and has done so been a thorn in the side of the EU for a long time.

After Sunday night’s vote, Orban told his supporters: “We have achieved such a great victory that you can see it from the moon and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” reads a translation by The Associated Press. Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay conceded defeat shortly after Orban’s speech.

Kremlin links

Orban, 58, has often boasted about his close relationship with him Russian President Vladimir Putinand this connection became a major campaign challenge for his ruling Fidesz party.

There were trade and energy agreements between the two nations. Over the past decade, Hungary has increased its share of Russian natural gas imports from 9.070 million cubic meters in 2010 to a peak of 17.715 million cubic meters in 2019, according to Eurostat. Hungary now gets almost 85% of its gas from Russia and 64% of its oil.

Hungary was also the first EU country to buy a Russian-made Covid-19 vaccine – despite it not being approved by European regulators.

But Orban remained loyal to the European Union afterwards Russia’s baseless invasion of Ukraine, and has tried to downplay his ties to Putin. His message over the past few weeks was a “Hungary must stay out of this conflict” approach.

His government announced that Hungary would take in Ukrainian refugees and also backed Ukraine’s application for EU membership. In addition, tough sanctions against Russian oligarchs and the Russian economy have been decided together with the other EU member states.

Hungary is also a member of NATO and is ready to receive troops from the military alliance on its territory. However, it has rejected any energy sanctions against Moscow and banned the direct transit of deadly weapons to Ukraine via Hungary.

influence on courts

After joining the EU in 2004, Budapest was repeatedly at odds with Brussels. The former communist state has often been criticized for exercising its influence over the courts, media and other independent institutions.

His Fidesz party still maintains tight control over state media, and previous election campaigns have been based on an anti-immigration and protectionist message. In fact, the country built a fence on its southern border during the 2015 European migration crisis.

Andrius Tursa, consultant for Central and Eastern Europe at consultancy Teneo, believes whoever wins on Sunday will have to deal with a number of challenges, such as:

“Fidesz is already highlighting the increasing economic and humanitarian challenges posed by the war in Ukraine to put pressure on the European Commission to restrict the country’s access to €7.2bn in grants, citing the recovery fund the EU for the post-pandemic period.

“At the same time, the EC might be more reluctant to trigger the so-called rule of law mechanism against Hungary (and Poland) – at least until the war in Ukraine de-escalates/ends – thus allowing more time for compromises.” This rule of law mechanism is the EU’s new instrument that it enabling it to cut or withhold funding to EU countries when they are found not to uphold the rule of law.

– CNBC’s Silvia Amaro and Sam Meredith contributed to this article.

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