“Polish pride”: a former ally of the disillusioned Hungarians

A liberal coalition government is expected to soon end years of populist rule in Poland, but few believe former ally Hungary could follow the same path.

“I was proud of the Poles for doing what we couldn’t do, but I don’t think the same thing will happen here in Hungary,” said Branka Nagy, a 23-year-old university student.

Nagy rose to fame five years ago as an unassuming high school student who gave fiery speeches at anti-government rallies in Hungary.

Now, following last year’s parliamentary elections, she wants nothing to do with politics.

The vote saw long-ruling Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party shatter an ideologically diverse opposition coalition.

In contrast, in Poland’s general election last month, the outgoing conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) fell short of a majority despite coming in first in the vote share.

Many analysts predict that PiS will not be able to form a coalition government and that a pro-European coalition led by former Prime Minister Donald Tusk will take power around mid-December.

Observers believe that Hungary differs from Poland in that Budapest’s ruling Fidesz party has exercised more control than PiS in Poland since Mr Orbán came to power in 2010. .

Fidesz holds a two-thirds majority in parliament, which allows it to amend the constitution.

Another difference between the two former allies, who have regularly clashed with the European Union over issues such as the rule of law and LGBTQ rights, is their size.

Poland’s population is 38 million, while Hungary’s population is less than 10 million.

~Solid grip~
“Poland became a flawed democracy, but it was still a constitutionally pluralist system,” said Andras, a political science professor at Central European University who left Budapest for Vienna after a bitter legal battle with Orbán.・Mr. Bozoki says.

“But Hungary has turned into an electoral dictatorship,” he continued.

Mr. Orbán has tightened his control over Hungary’s media, education and other key sectors, and some opposition politicians believe it will be difficult to oust his Fidesz party from power in upcoming elections. .

The country fell from 25th place in 2009 to 72nd place this year on the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF)’s Press Freedom Index.

“Mr. Orbán… has built a media empire in which the press follows the dictates of the party,” RSF said.

“Independent media maintains a leading position in the market, but is under increasing political, economic and regulatory pressure.”

After weeks of silence, Prime Minister Orban publicly addressed Poland’s election results at the Fidesz party convention on Saturday.

He claimed that the entire global political left was united behind the Polish opposition – just as it had been against the Hungarian left in 2022.

Orbán argued that the outcome was only different because Fidesz began preparing earlier and was more clearly aware of the enemy’s strength.

But some Hungarian opposition politicians warn against self-destructionism.

Katalin Cze, a member of the Hungarian European Parliament from the centre-right Momentum party, sees an “opportunity for change” in Poland’s elections.

“This is good proof for us Hungarians that no system lasts forever,” Cze told AFP.

– “Step Zero” –
But unlike Poland, Hungary’s opposition is divided.

The pro-EU force is made up of many small parties and lacks a central force like Mr. Tusk’s centre-right Civic Platform that can unite.

The most popular opposition party is the left-wing Democratic Alliance, which received about 15% of the vote.

The party is led by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gülcany, a veteran but controversial figure with high disapproval ratings.

“He is an inescapable person… who is always able to compromise with rival parties in his own interests,” Mraz said.

On the other hand, voter apathy is widespread.

“Surveys show that opposition supporters are less confident in their ability to influence the political process,” said Daniel Mikeci, a senior researcher at the Républicon think tank.

“The results of the last election further reinforced these ideas,” he added.

One of those disappointed was Nagy, who was fed up with the opposition’s infighting and said it was “not good enough” and needed a complete overhaul.

“We should start by removing people who have been in parliament for years and have not brought about change. This should be step zero,” a former activist told AFP.

“I see no reason to closely follow Hungarian national life anymore,” she said, adding that it was “better” for her mental health to focus on her studies rather than politics.

Source: guardian.ng

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