Anti-immigration PM wins big in Hungary elections

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party says it will push on quickly with legislation to crack down on organisations promoting migrant rights.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban's party says it will push on quickly with legislation to crack down on organisations promoting migrant rights.

BUDAPEST • Hungary's anti-immigration Prime Minister, Mr Viktor Orban, basked in the glory of a bulldozer election triumph yesterday that delighted other nationalists but sent a chill through civil society groups and portended fresh battles with Brussels.

Near-complete results showed that his right-wing Fidesz party romped home with almost half of the votes, or 48.8 per cent, very likely giving it a two-thirds majority and a legislative carte blanche.

Addressing ecstatic, flag-waving supporters in Budapest late on Sunday, Mr Orban said the "destiny-deciding victory" gave Hungarians "the opportunity to defend themselves and to defend Hungary".

His win decimated a cautiously optimistic opposition and was even more crushing than expected. It followed strong election performances from other anti-establishment parties in recent European elections in Italy last month and in Austria and Germany last year.

Congratulations from allies poured in for Mr Orban, long a thorn in the European Union's side, who styles himself as the defender of Christian Europe against the "poison" of immigration and the "globalist elite".

In Poland, whose government has also clashed with Brussels over worries about the rule of law, right-wing Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki wished Mr Orban success "for Hungary and for Europe".

French National Front head Marine Le Pen said the "EU's reversal of values and mass immigration were rejected again", while Brexiteer Nigel Farage called Mr Orban the EU's "biggest nightmare".

The 54-year-old father of five learnt from a rocky first term as prime minister from 1998-2002. He bounced back in 2010 with a two-thirds majority, a feat he repeated four years later.

Mr Orban took a hard-line approach during Europe's 2015 migrant crisis, building razor-wire anti-migrant fences on Hungary's borders with Serbia and Croatia.

Yesterday, his party signalled it could push on quickly with legislation to crack down on organisations promoting migrant rights as soon as Parliament reconvenes.

The victory could also embolden Mr Orban to put more muscle into a Central European alliance against EU migration policies, working with other right-wing nationalists in Poland and Austria, further exposing cracks in the 28-nation bloc.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker will write to Mr Orban to congratulate him on his "clear victory", a spokesman told reporters in Brussels yesterday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Mr Orban and called for cooperation, her spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Anti-immigration PM wins big in Hungary elections'. Print Edition | Subscribe