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Why Western Elites Are Doomed to Never Getting Hungary Right

Orbán - Hungary - Hungría - El American

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I spent the last 10 days in the beautiful city of Budapest covering the Parliamentary elections of Hungary. Although I’m a conservative and have some Hungarian friends, I still harbored some prejudices against Hungary and its political system. These last 10 days proved to me that Hungary is an extremely complex country and most of these prejudices were precisely just that. This country features some significant nuances I ignored.

“I’ve spent 30 years here and I can’t say I fully understand this country, but there are journalists that come 3 days to Hungary and believe they’re experts,” Tibor Fischer, head of the literature department of the Mathias Corvinus Collegium told me in my very first day in Hungary. And that was the motto I tried to live my trip by: come with an open mind, listen to anyone willing to talk, and do not commit the mortal sin of trying to understand Hungary with the same lenses one analyzes the U.S. or Venezuela.

And those three rules I established for myself are precisely why I believe Western media and the progressive establishment will never understand Hungary and will always be unable to form a significant, stable relationship with Hungary.

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Hungarians are stubborn’

“Hungarians are stubborn. If you push them, they push back,” Dr. Attila Demkó, writer and Head of MCC Centre for Geopolitics, told journalists during a lecture. I can’t think of an election in such a small country (and so far away from the U.S.) that had so many people invested in it. Most of the Hungarian opposition united, the EU, plenty of NGOs, and even Mark Ruffalo, Hillary Clinton, and Ronaldinho showed their support for the Hungarian opposition.

What was the result? Well, probably most Hungarians believed the narrative that there is a major conspiracy against Hungarian conservatism. And they showed it in the elections giving, Fidesz, the ruling party an even-greater majority.

What was the western response? Of course, to call the elections unfair. “Hungary’s parliamentary elections were well-run but the electoral process was marred by the absence of a level playing field,” the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said, and added that “that the observation mission’s findings were mainly positive and that it had witnessed few violations of the rules.”

Prominent political scientist Ian Bremmer criticized the outcome, tweeting “Orban wins re-election in Hungary. Easier to do when you control the media and districting process.” An editorial in The Guardian called the election “a dismal day for democracy.”

Western lies about Hungary

Most of these claims focus on two main issues: the districting process and the alleged control over the media. The districting process claim would matter if the opposition did not lose by 18 points and the supposed media control is simply a lie. RTL and ATV are the 1st and 3rd most-watched TV channels in the country and both are against the Orbán government. TV2 is a private pro-government channel and the 2nd most-watched in Hungary. Public TV is in a funny situation. To be honest, it is blatant propaganda and is not considered to be of good quality, even by journalists and analysts close to the government. However, adding up all public TV channels, it would only be in the 6th or 7th position of most-watched channels.

86% of Hungarians have access to internet and to a wide array of independent online media. Newspapers are largely outdated: the largest newspapers only sell about 15,000 copies per day in a 10-million people country.

And all this without even mentioning the pitiful role of the opposition in the elections. Péter Márki-Zay was elected in the primaries as the opposition candidate of a bizarre coalition ranging from the far left to the far right and including Greens, liberals and moderate conservatives united only by a shared hatred of Orbán. Although he presented himself as a fresh, young candidate, he ended up being a burden for the opposition itself because of his strange statements, such as blaming the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Orbán or saying that in his coalition there was room for everyone, “from the communist to the fascist.”

Márki-Zay was also closely related to Ferenc Gyurcsány, former Communist Party member and then Prime Minister from 2004 to 2009 and one of Hungary’s most detested political figures, who was quick to blame Márki-Zay for the defeat suffered. In fact, Márki-Zay accepted defeat without any of the leaders of the opposition coalition parties at his side.

And if the EU continues its crusade against Hungary, Hungarians are most likely to continue supporting Orbán. Their rule-of-law tirade has mutated the concept of European rule-of-law to “just do what the EU bureaucrats say” to the point they cannot simply build a constructive relationship to address some of the serious issues that are widespread in Hungary, such as mid-level corruption.

In fact, this political back-and-forth has led essential areas to be left out of the political agenda, such as healthcare and education. “Orbán invented the LGBT issue and a conspiracy of the international left, the opposition only says that Orbán is a dictator, but no one cares about hospitals and schools. Teachers are underpaid and some hospitals are still from the communist era,” Krisztián, a cab driver from Budapest told me.

Instead of accepting the outcome, the EU commissioner, Ursula von der Leyen, announced two days after the election that the EU would initiate the process to slash EU funds from Hungary over “rule of law concerns.” How can this be interpreted in any other way than punishment for winning the election? 

The West will never understand Hungary because they think they can bully it into submission. 12 years and they haven’t bent the knee. Heck, Orbán is probably as strong and as popular as he’s ever been with Magyars.

The EU is hardly acting in good faith because liberal progressivism is muddled with the idea that liberalism is a spontaneous response of human nature and, thus, everyone is a liberal at heart. And Hungarians once again, and four times in a row so far, reminded them that liberalism is as artificial as any other ideology.

Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_

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