Orban victory draws cheers and warnings

Berlin – The leaders of Europe’s right-wing movements were jubilant on Monday over the election victory of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s conservative-nationalist bloc, while the European Union called on Budapest to defend EU values.

Preliminary results from Sunday’s parliamentary election put Orban’s Fidesz-KDNP coalition on track to win a two-thirds majority, enough to push through constitutional changes, following a campaign centred around anti-immigrant and eurosceptic rhetoric.

“Great and clear victory”

Right-wing leaders in France, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany congratulated Orban, who will be governing Hungary for a third consecutive term.

Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front referred to Sunday’s result as a “great and clear victory.”

“The topsy-turvy values and mass immigration that the EU preaches have once again been rejected. The nationalists can take a majority in Europe in the 2019 European elections!” Le Pen wrote on Twitter, referring to next year’s elections to the European Parliament.

International praise

“Hungary voted with heart and mind, ignoring Brussels’ threats and [billionaire philanthropist George] Soros’ billions. Good luck to President Orban, I hope to meet you soon as Italian prime minister,” tweeted Matteo Salvini, the head of Italy’s far-right League party.

Orban blames Hungarian-born Soros for the refugee wave which swept the Balkans in 2015-16, without offering direct evidence.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has also fiercely attacked Soros, congratulated Orban in a phone call.

The Hungarian prime minister has fielded accusations of anti-Semtism for attacking Soros, a Holocaust survivor.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu invited his Hungarian counterpart to visit Israel and thanked him for Hungary’s support for Israel in international forum,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Dutch right-wing populist Geert Wilders, head of the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, praised the “excellent” and “well-deserved” results.

Congratulations from Germany

Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, also a staunch anti-immigration campaigner, congratulated Orban on his election victory.

When it comes to gaining the trust of the people “nothing is a more important confirmation than victory at the ballot box,” Seehofer said ahead of a meeting of his CSU party, which is allied with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU.

Seehofer has been one of Merkel’s staunchest critics when it comes to migration, urging her to take a harder line on who to allow into the country.
Austria’s far-right Freedom Party leader, Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, did not react to the election result.

However, the party’s leader in the European Parliament was enthusiastic about Orban’s victory. “Great!!!! Heartfelt congratulations,” Harald Vilimsky wrote on Facebook.

“Union of democracy and values”

Meanwhile, the European Commission sounded a more cautionary note.

“The EU is a union of democracy and values,” said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas, adding that the commission and its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, believe that the defence of these values is a “common duty of all member states, without exception.”

Juncker is due to call him on Tuesday to discuss “issues of common interest,” Schinas added.

Merkel assured Orban that he could “continue to rely on Germany” to move forward their joint European and bilateral agenda.

British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson wrote on Twitter that he looked forward to “working with our Hungarian friends to further develop our close partnership.”