Voters will also have to take a side on the controversial LGBTQ rights referendum

The future is at stake - an overview of Hungary’s messy election

The future is at stake - an overview of Hungary’s messy election

Both main candidates in the country's election have a bid on the future, with the United for Hungary coalition backing a pro-EU stance and Fidesz claiming to be the voice of stability in the waves of chaos

This Sunday, 3 April, Hungarians will go to the polls and vote on the future of their country in more ways than one. Both main candidates, the Victor Orbán-led ruling populist right-wing Fidesz party and the United for Hungary, led by Péter Márki-Zay, a relative outsider, have positioned their campaigns as a fight for Hungary’s future.

On the one side, Fidesz politicians claim their bid for the government will bring about stability during a chaotic time, arguing that the opposition parties would go as far as plunging Hungary into a war with Russia, following European dictates.

On the other side, the United for Hungary opposition party, combining both neo-liberal right-wingers and the Hungarian Socialist Party has tried to position itself as a pro-European and pro-Western candidate, aiming to bring Hungary back in line with the EU’s policy agenda. They have denounced the anti-LGBTQ laws and many of Fidesz’s controversial policies and have described the ruling party as the most corrupt government in Hungary’s history.

At the same time, the election comes with a controversial referendum on LGBTQ rights, raising the stakes even further. Despite criticism of Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ ‘propaganda’ law from the European Union and human rights groups, as well as innumerable global issues like the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, Fidesz politicians have been banging the LGBTQ issue like a drum to galvanise popular support.

The referendum itself stems from a controversial 2021 law, banning the depiction of homosexuality to minors, especially in schools. The law has been described as equating homosexuality with paedophilia. Here are the referendum’s questions:

  • Do you support the teaching of sexual orientation to minors in public education institutions without parental consent?
  • Do you support the promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children?
  • Do you support the unrestricted exposure of underage children to sexually explicit media content that may affect their development?
  • Do you support the showing of sex-change media content to minors?

Chaos vs. Order

Political discourse in Hungary has devolved into personal attacks, inflammatory statements, a populist game of chicken and a bizarre crossfire of claims and rebuttals. Trying to piece a coherent image of the situation on the ground requires sifting through all the down and dirty machinations of local politicians.  

For example, the ruling Fidesz party has repeatedly attempted to portray itself as the only candidate fighting for common sense and stability, amid a swirling vortex of political and humanitarian crises both on the east and west sides of Hungary. The way incumbent candidates describe contemporary Europe is by painting it as a mix of an energy crisis to the west and war to the east, stoking voters' fears.

According to a statement made yesterday by Fidesz group leader Máté Kocsis on national television, the election is a choice between war and peace. Kocsis said that opposition candidate Péter Márki-Zay would bring Hungary into the war between Ukraine and Russia, supplying weapons and soldiers.

On his part, Márki-Zay has denied the claim and has filed a criminal complaint against Fidesz representatives for alleging that he would send soldiers to Ukraine.

At the same time, on Wednesday, during a public appearance in the town of Egar, Orbán urged voters to stop what he called ‘gender insanity’. He went a step further, explaining that the father should be a man and the mother should be a woman and the children should be left alone.

Furthermore, on Monday, the Hungarian Islamic Community’s vice-president, Miklós Ahmed Kovács spoke out on social media, urging everyone to vote ‘no’ on the referendum, describing the LGBTQ movement as “satanic… that wants to poison the souls of our children.”

Virtue and corruption

In a similar vein of religious indignation, Péter Márki-Zay called on Cristian voters not to vote for Fidesz. The statement was made last Sunday in the Imre Kálmán Cultural Center in Siófok, where opposition leaders met with voters. Márki-Zay claimed that Victor Orbán’s party had violated several points in the Christian Ten Commandments in recent years, including the “do not kill”.

According to the opposition candidate, the government is responsible for the 45,000 domestic victims of the COVID-19 pandemic because instead of providing free testing, they provided free parking. He also made several claims about the ruling party’s involvement in corruption, describing them as the most corrupt government in Hungary’s long history.

The heavy hand of the government

According to several reports by Ungarn Heute, a news platform, the government has repeatedly used citizens’ e-mails collected during the vaccination campaign to push their political campaign. During a press conference on 22 March, DK (Demokratikus Koalíció) politician Balázs Csonka said the government has repeatedly misused personal information to spread propaganda against the opposition and the European Union.

The e-mails were originally collected by healthcare authorities to help spread information about the Covid-vaccine, however, people have been receiving dozens of messages saying the opposition and the EU would punish Russia at any cost, turn off the gas supply to Hungary. Other more recent propaganda-by-e-mail featured calls to vote ‘no’ on the referendum questions.

The situation escalated all the way to Hungary’s Supreme Court, the “Kúria,”, which condemned the action of the government, however, the Constitutional Court annulled the ruling, saying that it lacked sufficient weight.



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