As he appealed to voters at a rally in a rural stronghold, Hungary’s nationalist prime Minister described Friday’s election as an existential turning moment and a choice between peace and war.
Viktor Orban is running for a fourth term as head of Hungary’s government. He has promised that, if reelected in Hungary’s Parliamentary Election Sunday, he would protect the country’s security and keep Russia’s energy imports flowing while war rages in Ukraine.
Orban’s right-wing Fidesz Party is expected to face what polls indicate will be the closest election for more than a decade.
Orban told hundreds of supporters in Szekesfehervar, central Hungary, that this is not our war and they must stay out. We can keep out by refusing to send soldiers or weapons and by not allowing arms shipments through Hungary’s territory. Otherwise, we will immediately be a military target.”
Hungary is the only country in the European Union that has refused to supply Ukraine weapons. It has also forbid the passage of weapons across the Hungarian–Ukrainian border. This was done because it would encourage the country to enter the conflict.
Orban condemned Russia’s war on Ukraine but he was careful not to assign blame for the conflict to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin and Orban have had close relations since he took office in 2010. Orban has also been adamant against the sanctioning of Russian fossil fuels, which are very important to Hungary. Orban stated last week that more than 85% of Hungary’s gas and 60% of its oil come from Russia.
Orban claimed at the Szekesfehervar rally that the six-party coalition formed to oppose him Sunday had made a secret deal with Ukraine’s government and that his opponents would cut off Russian oil if elected. This claim has been denied by the coalition.
United For Hungary, the opposition coalition, coordinated candidates in each of Hungary’s 106 electoral districts and nominated Peter Marki-Zay, an independent conservative, to be Orban’s candidate for prime minister.
Opposition parties, who previously campaigned on the promise to end widespread corruption and democratic backsliding in Ukraine under Orban, are asking voters to punish Putin’s autocratic prime minster. Many of the thousands fleeing war in Ukraine have fled to safety in Hungary.
Sunday’s election was portrayed by the opposition as a referendum about whether Hungary will join a group of Western democracies, or return to its historic past as a repressive and Russian-dominated autocracy.
Orban, for his part, painted a grim picture Friday of the potential economic disasters that could result if Hungary’s relations with Russia were severed.
He stated that if we sanction energy imports and the pipelines are shut down, Hungary will not be colder. The temperature will not drop one or two degrees but the country would shut down. We’ll have to shut down the factories, and many people will lose their jobs — including you.