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That Winning Feeling: Elections and Awards

Analysis

Image by ChristianChan / Shutterstock.com

You would have to have been orbiting someway off from Planet Hungary not to realize there was a general election last week. Even international news outlets such as the BBC were paying close attention to this poll.

Not only was long-time resident East and Central Europe correspondent Nick Thorpe reporting, but so was Europe editor Katya Adler. On April 1, Justin Webb, one of the regular presenters of the BBC’s flagship morning radio news program, Today, was hosting from Budapest. Other news operations were equally engaged. Even the Budapest Business Journal played its own small part. While our rolling online live coverage was bringing much higher traffic than usual for a Sunday to our website, other eyes were also following us. A reader in America told us our coverage was being cited by Russia Today. We can’t confirm that, because although we were sent a link, RT’s web services in Europe are, of course, blocked under EU sanctions introduced in response to the war.

The international interest was partly down to this being the first election within the EU since the invasion of Ukraine. But I dare say there is also something of a fascination with the tightrope act Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has performed ever since. On the one hand, backing sanctions and extending a noticeably warmer welcome for refugees from the war in 2022 than was ever given to the great wave of migrants in 2015. On the other hand, the warm relations he has enjoyed since he was returned to power in 2010 with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Putin, by the way, was among the first to congratulate Orbán on his victory, albeit by the somewhat quaint method of telegram. Presumably, Magyar Posta is still able to receive these and pass them on, although it gave up its own telegram service almost a year ago at the end of April 2021.

The United for Hungary opposition tried to leverage that connection with Russia and Putin, but seemingly failed to land the telling blows it needed. Orbán’s campaign was based around the slogan “Peace and Security” (clearly visible in our photo on the lectern as he gives his victory speech on the pages inside this issue). Once again, he (or his advisers) displayed an uncommon knack for tuning into what most concerns Hungarians. The constant insistence that this election was a choice between peace or war, with only one side, his, able to keep Hungary out of the conflict, resonated hugely, especially in the countryside. And as I have written before, Orbán, and Fidesz, are very much of the countryside. So, it effectively became another single-issue campaign, built on a simple slogan. And it returned a fourth consecutive supermajority. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you have to acknowledge that Orbán has built an election-winning juggernaut. It is not by accident he is the longest-serving leader in the EU, a factoid that may well befuddle Brussels and delight the occupant of the former Carmelite Monastery up in the Castle District.

* * *

The Prime Minister is not the only winner we should be congratulating. On Friday, March 25, Giacomo Pedranzini, CEO of Kometa 99 Zrt., won the eighth Expat CEO of the Year title at our annual awards gala, held in the Grand Ballroom of the Corinthia Hotel Budapest. An indication of how diverse the expat CEO community has become is that Pedranzini is our first Italian winner. Others have been drawn from Britain, Finland, Germany (we also had one Brazilian-German), the Netherlands and Spain. You’ll find extensive coverage of what proved to be yet another enjoyable evening inside.

Robin Marshall

Editor-in-chief

This editorial was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of April 8, 2022.

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