That incumbent Viktor Orbán won a third term as Hungarian prime minister on April 8 came as a surprise to nobody: the Hungarian electoral system, one of the most disproportionate in Europe, made a victory for the prime minister’s Fidesz party all but a certainty, not at least as the opposition is as divided as ever.
However, the scale of the victory – Mr Orbán appears to have secured a so-called super-majority (more than two-thirds of seats in parliament) – did come as something as a shock. The last opinion polls before the vote took place had suggested a reduced majority for Fidesz. There were even suggestions that the party might fall short of the 100 seats it needed for a majority. In the end it took 133 of 199 seats.
Turnout was high: almost 70 per cent, suggesting that a large number of Hungarians (at least outside the capital Budapest, where Fidesz performed less well) are happy with Mr Orbán and his now monotone anti-foreigner, anti-migrant and anti-George Soros message.
The super-majority allows Mr Orbán to do whatever he likes, including making changes to Hungary’s constitution. His dream of creating what he has called ‘an illiberal democracy’ appears to be closer than ever.
First on the list will be a renewed attack against NGOs.
Fidesz parliamentary spokesman Janos Halasz confirmed as much the morning after the election when he said that the so-called ‘Stop Soros’ would be approved by May.
The bill would make it very hard for groups working with asylum-seekers to continue their activities in Hungary. It would force them to get government permits, their income received from abroad would be taxed at 25 per cent and they might even be banned from getting closer than eight kilometers from Hungary’s borders, where asylum-seekers file claims.
“Many of those organisations who camouflage themselves as human rights groups that are trying to help people to get rid of their misery are actually helping to foster illegal migration,” said Mr Orbán’s spokesperson, Zoltán Kovács, before the vote.
Civil society representatives have said the bill is fundamentally different from previous pieces of legislation aimed at the sector, which were stigmatising but could be sidestepped.
The Central European University (CEU), founded with a 250 million US dollar donation by Mr Soros in 1993 will be another target. More than 2100 Hungarians have attended the CEU with scholarship support from the Open Society Foundations. Last month CEU announced that it was in talks to establish a campus in Vienna – possibly fearing its eventual closure by the Hungarian authorities.
Many other independent organisations in Hungary – who have resisted the intimidation of the authorities up until now – will no doubt today be thinking about making similar arrangements. Hungary will be the poorer for their loss. Do the people who voted so overwhelmingly for Mr Orbán really understand what they have done?
We think not.