Hungary Elections 2022: European Union Credentials at Stake

The European Union has seen a paradigm shift since the withdrawal of the United Kingdom. This year marks another significant challenge for the Union, as Hungary goes into elections that pose a threat to the rule of law in the region.

Autocratic rules in Hungary have created tensions for the image of the EU, and its credentials have been at stake, as many values which the EU never supports are being practiced in Hungary.

Now is the time for Hungary to get rid of the rulers who have transformed democracy into a hybrid regime.

The government of Prime Minister Orban is the longest-serving liberal government in the EU and has all the tactics assembled to rig the next election.

The most worrisome part for political pundits is not the voters' sentiments but the ability of the government to play around the system and steal the election to come into power once again.

Hungary Elections 2022: European Union Credentials at Stake

A Decade of Disquiet: Hungary is Facing Political Authoritarianism

Since the incumbent Prime Minister came to power in 2010, the debate about the rule of law in the EU, the academic debates regarding the media freedom in the EU, and those of misuse of EU's funds in Hungary have been prevalent.

These developments have mobilized the EU as well, which has made many infringement rulings, coupled with European Parliament resolutions and the invoking of the Article 7 procedure, on which the Europeans tried to bring Hungary to accountability on disciplinary charges.

Even the UN special rapporteur has indicted that press freedom is declining in Hungary. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has been staunch enough to say that the country will ignore EU court rulings on some matters.

Even though the EU has tried somewhat to create awareness about Hungary's authoritarian rule on two fronts, it is also silent, more or less.

Included in them are the gerrymandered electoral system of the country and the partial media environment that are perpetuating Orban's narrative among the masses.

Hungary Elections 2022: European Union Credentials at Stake

Hungary Craving for Free Elections

Hungary had its last free and fair elections in 2010, and since then, it has been one of the most undemocratic countries in Europe.

Many organizations, including the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), have called the 2014 and 2018 elections of the country "free but not fair."

The candidates of the united opposition led by the Prime Ministerial candidate Peter Marki-Zay are in a neck-to-neck competition with the Fidesz political party.

Voters have demonstrated discontent with the ruling elite, and they have been showing it in the polls. However, as the elections are being contested on gerrymandered maps, the opposition would need almost five percent more votes than the incumbents to control the Hungary parliament and the executive branch.

But Hungary voter suppression is not limited to the gerrymandered maps. In fact, the elections day irregularities are worrying European and international stakeholders equally.

Even in the 2018 parliamentary elections, forged protocols, voters and poll workers' intimidation, vote-buying, and electoral clientelism, were prevalent, and the same is likely to be the case this time as well.

In fact, in this year's elections, these irregularities are likely to grow significantly as irregularities have been growing since 2019 in Hungary.

Bringing voters out of the country en masse and letting them cast their votes was a well-known tactic of the incumbent prime minister in the 2018 elections.

And this time, he has already passed a bill of "voter tourism," in which Hungarians from neighboring countries are brought in near elections, to help the status quo wins.

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Final Thoughts

Elections in Hungary are likely to be decided by foul play, which the parties will execute near the polls.

Election day irregularities would matter much more this time since the difference between the rulers and opposition is shrinking in many districts despite the government's attempt to curb opposition voices.