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BBC: ‘Orbán thinks he can manipulate Putin’

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According to the polls, Fidesz and its president, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, are most likely to win Hungaryʼs parliamentary elections on Sunday. What will it mean for Europe if he wins again? The BBC presented a lengthy portrait of a politician who, it says, critics attack "as a racist and an authoritarian."

Not long after the terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán blamed immigrants for the violent acts in Europe, a narrative that was strengthened in the following years, says the BBC article, headlined: "The man who thinks Europe has been invaded." It was written by Nick Thorpe, the respected East and Central Europe Correspondent at BBC News, and a long-time Budapest-based correspondent.

Apart from the danger of terrorism, Orbán also warns against "a Europe with a mixed population and no sense of identity" if illegal migration is  permitted in the EU. This fear has been further deepened by a European Commission proposal in May 2015 to impose quotas to redistribute asylum seekers. "No one will tell us who we let into our own house," the BBC quotes Orbán as saying. 

Orbán has not always been a conservative politician, notes the article. He became so in the mid-1990s, having first followed a liberal line. The turn was successful, bringing Fidesz two consecutive victories in elections, which Orbán used to change the constitution, media law, and election law, and to purge critics from the civil service, state companies, schools and even hospitals, says Thorpe.

While many Hungarians feel better than four years ago and wages have risen, there is a growing labor shortage and allegations of corruption. An intense campaign against billionaire philanthropist and financier George Soros was launched, and critical NGOs have begun to be referred to as "Soros mercenaries" in government-controlled media.

As for the seeming close ties with Russia, "Orbán is not Putin’s puppet. In fact, Orbán thinks he can manipulate Putin," a close ally of the prime minister told Thorpe. Meanwhile, relations with Germany have significantly worsened, while Hungary is looking now at much closer cooperation with the Visegrád Group of countries, which also includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.

As for the future, the BBC analysis cites Sándor Csintalan, a friend of Orban’s former ally Lajos Simicska, who is now one of his chief foes. "If he wins again, the only way he can keep power is more autocracy. You cannot consolidate a system like this, because only fear and feudal relations hold it together," Csintalan was quoted as saying.

The full report is available here.

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