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Viktor Orban’s reign, in danger? Tens of thousands of demonstrators called for his downfall in Budapest

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Viktor Orban’s reign, in danger? Tens of thousands of demonstrators called for his downfall in Budapest

Forumul Economic Regional Moldova 2024 – Vatra Dornei, 4–6 iulie

Viktor Orban has been in power in Hungary from 1998 to 2002 and again from 2010 to the present. During this period, he has exerted significant influence over Hungarian politics and, to a large extent, Hungarian society.

However, his leadership was recently challenged as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Budapest, calling for his removal. Demonstrations continued throughout the weekend. Despite assuming the premiership over a decade ago, the Hungarian opposition has been fragmented and generally ineffective. Therefore, the widespread opposition against his rule after such a long time is a remarkable event, regardless of whether it leads to his ousting.

As Hungary’s leader, Orban has developed an ideology that has had an impact beyond the country’s borders. This ideology revolves around two critical aspects. Firstly, it opposes migration into Hungary. A decade ago, millions of people from the Middle East sought refuge in Europe, with many governments allowing them entry despite domestic resistance. Orban’s stance contradicted European liberalism, arguing that Hungary’s culture and history were under threat from waves of immigrants. His position found support in Central Europe, where an anti-migration coalition formed in opposition to prevailing views in Brussels. Over time, Orban’s stance gained traction across Europe.

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Secondly, Orban opposed what some now refer to as “woke” culture, particularly its stance on homosexuality. His criticisms were partly rooted in a conservative interpretation of Christianity, but also in the belief that homosexuality would undermine Hungarian society. Once again, he stood against European liberalism, and his views gradually gained acceptance in other countries. For instance, in the most recent Dutch election, Geert Wilders’ party, an outspoken ally of Orban, ousted the liberal party whose former leader was a staunch critic of Orban.

Orban’s ideology has also made its mark in the United States. During a March visit, Orban had an extensive meeting with Donald Trump. While it’s uncertain whether he altered any of Trump’s opinions, they apparently reached a common understanding, with both men referencing the meeting in subsequent speeches.

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Upon returning from the trip, Orban seemed politically secure in Hungary. However, there was a potent anti-Orban sentiment brewing, fueled by a belief that his regime was corrupt and that various members were enriching themselves at the expense of the people. This has sparked a moral values battle between the “woke” and the allegedly corrupt, one that may spill over into other countries. Yet, this time, it has taken aim at Orban himself. The outcome of the uprising remains uncertain. While outrage over alleged corruption is widespread, there is also a sense that Orban embodies the essence of Hungary.

Another aspect of the Orban saga is his stance on the Ukraine war. Before the Russian invasion, while NATO was deliberating its strategy, Orban met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. During the meeting, Orban suggested that Russia’s demands were reasonable and voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of sanctions against the Kremlin. This put him at odds with Hungary’s NATO allies. After the war broke out, Orban refused to commit Hungarian forces or allow NATO to base or transport weapons through Hungarian territory, dealing a blow to NATO and EU efforts to support Ukraine. Orban’s positions appear to align more closely with Putin than with Europe.

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Orban’s decisions regarding Ukraine seemed to reflect the sentiments of the Hungarian public, which desired no involvement in the war or with immigrants. Orban has long been a skillful politician, which makes the events of last week even more puzzling. Orban appears to have lost his political touch, and if there’s a political shift in Budapest, it could potentially influence Hungary’s stance on NATO, Russia, and other matters.

Nevertheless, Orban’s political journey is far from over. Even if he is ousted, it remains unclear whether his opponents have a vision that extends beyond their disdain for corruption to bring about broader change in Hungary.


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