SZEKESFEHERVAR, Hungary — Viktor Orbán on Friday urged Hungarians not to experiment with new leadership in times of crisis as he held his final campaign rally ahead of Sunday’s general election.
The longtime prime minister’s message resonated with a large crowd that filled a square in Székesfehérvár, a city in central Hungary where Orbán went to high school.
But while Orbán’s Fidesz party is ahead in the polls, the opposition says the electoral system is unfair and he has been criticized by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who slammed the Hungarian leader for not giving more support to his besieged country.
Orbán, who has been in power since 2010, told his supporters that only his government could ensure Hungary’s security – arguing that the opposition would drag the country into war.
“The war changed everything, it also changed our election campaign,” Orbán said. The question for Hungarian voters now is “war or peace,” he declared.
Orbán has maintained a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years, while maintaining a strained relationship with neighboring Ukraine. But when Russia invaded Ukraine weeks before Hungary’s elections, the prime minister turned around and sent a message to voters that Budapest’s best interest is to be neither pro-Ukrainian nor pro-Russian.
The Hungarian opposition, the prime minister claimed, has made a deal with the Ukrainian government – and will supply Kyiv with arms and support sanctions against Russian energy imports if it takes office. However, the opposition has dismissed these claims as “propaganda”.
“The Ukrainians cannot ask us for help in such a way that we ruin ourselves in the meantime,” said the prime minister, adding: “Our hearts are with them, but Hungary must stand by its interests and stay out of this war.”
In his campaign speech, Orbán presented himself as a safe pair of hands at a perilous time for the region.
“We have already experienced several crises,” Orbán said. “I suggest to Hungarians that we don’t experiment now,” he said, adding that people with “experience, predictability” and already tested representatives are better off.
Fidesz is on track to capture 50 percent of the vote, according to POLITICO polls, while the opposition — a sometimes shaky alliance of parties hoping to oust Orbán — is on 44 percent.
HUNGARY NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL
For more survey data from across Europe, see POLITICS poll of polls.
The prime minister also addressed a referendum to be held alongside the elections, which the government has promoted to protect children but which critics say is fanning the flames of homophobia in the country.
“We must also say clearly on Sunday: the mother is a woman, the father is a man – and leave our children alone,” Orbán said, adding that the “gender madness” should be stopped.
The Prime Minister’s message was enthusiastically received on the square in Székesfehérvár.
An 81-year-old woman in the crowd – who said she was known locally as Tante Teca – said: “It’s very important that there is no war – it’s very important, that’s why I came too.”
“I like that there is someone who doesn’t let the West dictate and others tell how Hungary should live, how it should be here,” she said.
While Zelenskyy has challenged the Hungarian leadership over their approach to the war, the Ukrainian leader’s message did not resonate with Orbán’s core supporters.
When asked about Zelenskyy’s criticism of Orbán, the elderly resident – who said she is from a small village but has lived in Székesfehérvár since the 1950s – said she was “very upset” with Zelenskyy.
‘We don’t want our sons to bleed to death over there – not to mention that they’ve always been quite hostile to the Hungarians and are now taking us to war? No thank you.”
Another local resident, who identified herself as Viktória, said it was “uplifting” to see Orbán in her hometown. “We were here four years ago and we will be here in four years,” she said.
“We are always with him,” she said, adding that she supports Fidesz because “they are authentic, they are trustworthy and I see that only they can secure the future for us.”
Standing next to her was another local, Róza, adding: “He is one of the greatest politicians in Europe – we can thank him very much.”
Meanwhile, politicians in the opposition camp on Friday urged their supporters not to give up hope despite what they describe as an uneven playing field.
In the run-up to the election, both sides have accused each other of cheating, with Orbán’s opponents raising concerns in particular about a report However, some ballot papers filled out by Hungarian speakers in Romania were found in a landfill.
Péter Márki-Zay, the opposition candidate for prime minister, described Friday’s race as a battle between David and Goliath, citing gerrymandering, “an army of paid trolls,” a “propaganda machine” and “unlimited financial resources.”
But he wrote in a Facebook post Office, “Let us not forget: In the battle between David and Goliath, David was victorious. Now, after 12 years, after 12 years of brainwashing, we have a real chance to replace Viktor Orbán and his system.”
https://www.politico.eu/article/prime-minister-viktor-orban-hungary-parliament-election-2022-campaign-rally/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Now is not the time for change, Orbán says in latest campaign event – POLITICO