A six-party coalition in Hungary will hold a runoff election Sunday to choose a candidate who will lead their slate against conservative Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in national elections next April.
Orbán, 58, has drawn worldwide attention on the right for a robust agenda based on conservative principles: Market-based policies that have led Hungary to its present low (4.5%) unemployment; tough border security measures resulting in a drop in those trying to enter the country illegally from 400,000 in 2015 to 6,500 in 2018; and a pro-family policy (including lifelong exemption from federal taxes for mothers who have four children) that has led to a 24% rise in the birthrate since 2010.
But after 11 unbroken years as prime minister and winning three consecutive elections with "super-majorities" in the Hungarian parliament, Orbán and his Fidesz (Civic Alliance) Party now face possible defeat at the hands of a united opposition.
According to a just-completed Telekom Poll, the coalition holds a lead of 40% to 34% over Fidesz among likely voters nationwide.
What makes this contest so interesting to observers far outside Hungary is it is the latest example of a recent pattern in parliamentary democracies — namely, parties from one end of the political spectrum to the other joining forces for the sole purpose of unseating a controversial incumbent prime minister.
Earlier this year, such an unusual coalition managed to depose Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and replace him with a rotating premiership between Naftali Bennett (who is considered to the right of Netanyahu) and center-left Deputy Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Last weekend, voters in the Czech Republic apparently turned out populist-conservative Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in favor of a coalition between the center-right Spolu (Together) Alliance and the far-left PirStan coalition (which includes the pro-Internet freedom Pirate Party).
In Hungary's national elections next April, Orbán, a friend of both Babiš and Netanyahu, will face a similar coalition fueled by a common dislike of the longtime incumbent.
Included in the "Anybody but Orbán" group are the Jobbik Party, once described as a "neo-Nazi party" by the president of the European Jewish Congress, and the left-wing Democratic Alliance (led by Klára Dobrev, a vice president of the European Parliament and the favorite to be chosen as prime minister nominee of the coalition in its Sunday runoff).
Talking to voters in downtown Budapest last week, Newsmax found voters tired of Orbán after so many years in power, but also not exactly excited about the forces joined together to unseat him.
"I'm looking forward to him not being prime minister anymore," Budapest resident Aggie Zador told us. She specifically pointed to what she called Orbán's "dictatorial behavior" (Orbán was elected in fair elections three times and there is a strong opposition presence on TV and online media).
Zador also claimed, "Orbán's family has become rich since he's been in power."
"But," she added, "there is no other 'best option.'"
Zador freely admitted the left was in power before Orbán won in 2010, "they f***ed up. That's the problem. They couldn't work together."
The last leftist prime minister was Ferenc Gyurcsany, whose wife is front-running opposition candidate Klára Dobrev.
All things considered, Zador insisted, "Klára would be a good prime minister. I'm voting for her."
"I hate Orbán!" said Tomas, a waiter at Budapest's downtown restaurant Rueben's. "I just can't name all the reasons. I hate him for everything."
Pressed for specifics, Tomas cited what he considers "hatred for the LGBT community at every point." Hungary's Constitution does define marriage as the union between a man and a woman, but the law provides civil unions in which couples of the same sex are treated the same as a married man and woman.
Nimrod Major, an engineer who holds dual citizenship with Canada and Hungary, said he hopes voters "get rid of everyone. I've watched these guys for years and it's all the same people."
Major, who has lived in Hungary since 2004, said he would almost certainly draw a line through the ballot next year to say he supports "none of the above."
Savolta, who worked in marketing in Budapest, told us she "remembers worse times in Hungary. Orbán did get us through COVID and my husband, who is a car painter, is doing well." She added she would probably vote to return the prime minister's party to power.
Six months is a long way off in the politics of any country. At a time when the "anybody but" movement has worked in other recent elections, it will be interesting to see whether Hungary's Orbán will be a victim or emerge triumphant at the polls once more.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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