After a failed referendum, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has also suffered a setback in his plans to bar the resettlement of migrants. But his grasp on power hasn’t been loosened, says Barbara Wesel.
Every bad day for Viktor Orban is a good day for Europe. Every one of his setbacks is cause for a healthy dose of schadenfreude at the expense of this self-declared anti-democrat. Over the years, he's used all the means at his disposal to extend his political grasp on Hungary through his Fidesz Party; now lawmakers have delivered defeat to the Danube dictator, destroying his isolationist plans. That is a bright spot on this November day.
No relying on the far right
In this case, the irony is that it was the far-right Jobbik party that refused to cooperate with Orban. These extreme nationalists make the prime minister look like the man in the middle - yes, the political spectrum in Hungary is pretty crazy.
The reason for the quarrel lies in the fact that the Jobbiks are true to their principles. They want Orban to stop giving settlement rights to wealthy foreigners who buy special bonds, essentially paying for their entry into Hungary. Other EU countries also do this - some migrants are more welcome than others. Russian oligarchs, for example.
But the Hungarian far right doesn't want any foreigners from outside the EU in their country - not even rich ones. On which round of migrations in Europe's history do they want to justify their "nation?" And is that from before or after the Mongol invasion of the 13th century?
Orban wants Brussels to foot the bill
Viktor Orban didn't give in to Jobbik's demands, because he needs the money, even if it is to finance the corruption in his circle of family members and friends. That's also why he doesn't attack the European Union itself, just European democracy. After all, he values the distribution of European funds: The six billion euros he receives each year from Brussels are among his most significant sources of income. Too bad that we can't selectively refuse to pay the taxes that support this destructive populist. The same applies to Viktor Orban as Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski: With its rules, Europe has tied its own hands and finances even those who would undermine its foundations. That has to change, even if it's not clear at the moment how to do it.
No victory for the opposition
At October's anti-foreigner referendum, the Hungarian people delivered another blow to their prime minister. The majority of Hungarians simply didn't vote. And now with the planned constitutional changes, the alliance with the far right has also failed.
However, the defeats he's suffered haven't substantially changed the political stranglehold he has on his country. The opposition remains divided and weak. Only when civil society collectively finds the courage to stand up to Orban's populist vision will there be a change in Hungary. Until then, other European leaders should stop being so cowardly and forget the diplomatic niceties. They should openly expose the little dictator from the Danube for what he is.
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