Petr David Josek / AP
BUDAPEST, Hungary – A diverse coalition of opposition parties made their final appeal to Hungarian voters on Saturday ahead of the country’s hard-fought election, which will determine whether Nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues his autocratic rule for a fourth consecutive term.
Hundreds of supporters of the six-party coalition, United For Hungary, gathered in the rain in central Budapest a day before the vote on Sunday. The leader of the movement, Peter Marki-Zay, said that this national election was about bringing an end to “the most corrupt government in our 1,000-year history” and heralding a new era of inclusive democracy in the Central European and European nation.
“We welcome everyone, right or left, Christians, Jews or atheists, regardless of origin or sexual orientation. Because we believe that what is important is not what separates us, but what unites us,” he said. Marki-Zay.
A small-town mayor and self-proclaimed Conservative Christian, Marki-Zay, 49, became the galleon figure for the Six-Party Coalition after being elected by an opposition prime minister in October to challenge Orban for the post of prime minister.
The six parties, which include the Liberal Democratic Coalition, the centrist Momentum and the right-wing Jobbik, as well as smaller green parties and socialists, are for the first time running against Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party as a united bloc.
The hard-fought strategy for total unity, they say, is the only way to overcome structural barriers to defeating Orban, including what they call a media environment dominated by Fidesz allies and unfairly governed constituencies, giving Orban’s party significantly more parliamentary seats than its . part of the popular vote.
Recent polls suggest the race will be the closest in more than a decade, but give Fidesz a slight head start. Some analysts suggest that due to Hungary’s election card, the opposition bloc will have to defeat Fidesz by 3 to 4 points at national level to gain a majority in parliament.
United For Hungary has campaigned to restore Hungary’s alliances with EU and NATO partners, which they say have suffered over the last 12 years with Orban’s leadership.
At Saturday’s meeting, 18 opposition candidates running in the Budapest districts listed elements of their program, including ending what they call widespread corruption under Orban. They also want Hungary to secure billions in EU aid, which has been withheld from Orban’s government due to concerns about democratic backwardness and violations of the rule of law.
Marki-Zay also spoke at length about Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, a war that has changed both Fidesz’s and the opposition’s election campaigns.
Orban, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has refused to supply Ukraine with weapons or allow their transfer across the Hungarian-Ukrainian border. Orban has also insisted on maintaining economic ties with Moscow, including imports of Russian fossil fuels.
The ambiguous approach to the war in Ukraine, Marki-Zay said, has made Sunday’s choice as to whether Hungary will belong to the democratic West or among the autocracies of the East.
“This fight is now bigger than us. The war in Ukraine gave this fight a special meaning,” Marki-Zay said, adding that “Viktor Orban has been left alone” among European leaders.
Prior to the demonstration, Ukrainian mothers and their children, who fled Ukraine as refugees, marched in central Budapest to protest Russia’s war against their homeland. Some held up signs asking Orban to “stop supporting killers.”
One protester, Margaretha, left the Ukrainian capital Kiev for Budapest two weeks after the start of the war. The 25-year-old graphic designer said when she was unable to stay in Ukraine, “I at least have to contribute from the outside.”
“I feel it is also very important to capture the Hungarians’ attention to historical relations that they also had with Russia so that they can reconsider their position,” she said, pointing out that Hungary was under Soviet domination for more than 40 years.
Marki-Zay ended the demonstration, saying his coalition “stood by the winning sport”, urging Hungarian youth to convince their parents and grandparents to vote for change.
“Tomorrow we can win back our national pride together. Let us once again be proud to say that we are Hungarians,” he said.
Opposition vows end Orban’s autocratic rule in Hungary: NPR
Source link Opposition vows end Orban’s autocratic rule in Hungary: NPR