Letter: Hungary Defends Orbán’s Reelection

An official from the prime minister’s office responds to a critique of the country’s recent parliamentary elections.

Viktor Orbán stands at a lectern surrounded by clapping, smiling people.
Janos Kummer / Getty

The Other Threat to Democracy in Europe

Earlier this month, Viktor Orbán won his fourth consecutive term as Hungary’s prime minister. Orbán, Yasmeen Serhan wrote, “has overseen the steady destruction of his country’s democracy, transforming Hungary into what some scholars refer to as a ‘soft’ or ‘competitive’ autocracy, in which elections are held but the opposition’s ability to compete in them is severely undermined.” Outside election observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe  concluded that the election was “marred by the absence of a level playing field,” Serhan explains, due to issues including a lack of campaign finance transparency and media bias.

On April 3, with a nearly record-breaking turnout, Hungarian voters gave Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his ruling Fidesz-KDNP alliance a fourth consecutive, two-thirds supermajority in the Hungarian National Assembly. Assessing the possible implications of the elections in Hungary, Yasmeen Serhan quoted an analyst calling Orbán’s government a “kleptocracy” and the headline claimed that we are a “threat to democracy in Europe.”

I beg to differ.

Our critics in the international, mainstream media have been hard at work trying to undermine the credibility of our elections. Their claims proved groundless.

Election observers and expert groups have confirmed that Hungary’s parliamentary elections were free and fair. Even the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe—whose observation mission faced criticism for the apparent biased composition of its delegates and its information sources—acknowledged that our system “provides an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections.”

They were not the only ones. Ordo Iuris, a Polish legal research group, noted that “the parliamentary elections met every international standard,” and T. Russell Nobile, a representative of U.S.-based Judicial Watch’s observation mission to Hungary, said that the elections went “smoothly and efficiently, maybe even more efficiently than in some U.S. states.”

OSCE may very well have been looking for election irregularity in the wrong place. They barely noted a major incident of alleged misuse of personal data of some one million voters by Péter Márki-Zay’s campaign and the shady financing behind it.

There is, however, a more pressing question: With a war raging on the EU’s eastern borders and a severe economic crisis banging on Europe’s door, why are journalists still so determined to beat the anti-Orbán drum at a time when unity is so critical?

Unlike our critics in the international arena, the majority of Hungarian voters —over 54 percent—clearly understood that, in the current regional and global climate, this is not the time for unqualified, untested leadership. On election day, Hungarian voters turned out in vast numbers—nearly 70 percent—to affirm Orbán and his government’s steady hand in navigating the troubled waters of contemporary international politics.

Contrary to what you might believe if you, like Ms. Serhan, only spoke to representatives of Soros-funded NGOs and the left-liberal echo chamber, Hungarian voters are not fools.

They chose Orbán’s alliance for two reasons: Firstly, the government’s long record of achievements, including job creation, tax cuts, family support measures, and wage increases. Based on the last 12 years, voters deemed Orbán the most capable candidate to stand up for them and defend Hungary’s national interests.

Secondly, the united opposition, led by a PM candidate who offended practically every group in Hungarian society during his campaign, failed to put forward a desirable alternative.

The outcome of Hungary’s parliamentary elections does not pose a threat to Europe’s democracy. In fact, it celebrates it.

It’s about time European journalists and decision-makers finally understood that.

Zoltán Kovács
Secretary of State for International Communication at the Prime Minister’s Office