The Irish Times view on Hungary’s election: a veneer of legitimacy

The scale of Viktor Orban’s win is likely to encourage him to continue to defy EU attempts to enforce democratic norms

The comfortable victory of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party in Hungary's election will disappoint Europe's democrats and, no doubt, provide some political comfort to Vladimir Putin. The latter will also be pleased by the simultaneous return of Serbia's pro-Russian leader, Aleksandar Vucic.

The scale of Orban’s victory – 53 per cent in the national list, against 35 per cent for the combined opposition – and the return of his parliamentary supermajority is likely to see him continue to defy EU attempts to enforce democratic norms.

Despite concerns at his monopolisation of the media and rigging of constituency boundaries, the majority, on a high-turnout, will give him a veneer of legitimacy. And it is likely to provide a pseudo-mandate for "neutrality" over Ukraine. It is a fourth successive term for Orban.

He said the election was about "peace or war", claiming falsely that the opposition, united around Péter Márki-Zay, a conservative provincial mayor, wanted to drag Hungary into the Ukraine war. He has admitted over 500,000 refugees but blocked arms supplies to the Ukrainian government, insisting that the quarrel was none of Hungary's business.


Hungary’s election can be seen as another theatre in which Joe Biden’s big-picture battle between authoritarianism and democratic values is playing out. One small step forward – the Russian retreat from Kyiv – is matched by another small step backwards.

For the EU it poses existential questions. Can a union based on democratic values sustain them when it has at least one authoritarian member permanently in its midst? Not least when that member possesses the veto right to block key decisions. Will Orban feel sufficiently empowered to block further sanctions against Russia, and how does the union respond?

"We are sending Europe a message that this is not the past – this is the future," Orban told crowds in Budapest after his victory. European leaders will be watching with some alarm. Orban's main ally, Poland, votes next year.