Viktor Orban and his far-right, xenophobic, conspiratorial Fidesz party have led Hungary through a string of catastrophes, from its handling of Middle Eastern migrants to its ouster of the internationally famous Central European University to the passage of a slave labor bill that allowed employers to require hundreds of hours of mandatory overtime that needn't be paid for for years to the creation of a parallel system of partisan "administrative courts" to investigate government corruption and electoral fraud.
Despite widespread opposition to Orban and Fidesz's program, they continued to win supermajorities in national elections, allowing them to ram their agenda (proudly described as "illiberal" by the party itself) through (it didn't help that opposition politicians who spoke against Fidesz's legislation were dragged out of TV stations and administered savage beatings by goon-squads).
Finally, the dam is breaking: a "unity" coalition of both right- and left-wing parties backed a slate of candidates in Hungarian municipal elections, winning not just in Budapest, but in 10 of the 23 largest cities in Hungary. The electoral victory was enabled in part by a sex-scandal in Fidesz, but it also overcame promises by Orban to use his office to punish any precincts that voted against Fidesz.
There are real parallels between the urban-led repudiation of Orban and the recent, repeated humiliations for Turkey's fascist Recep Tayyip Erdogan suffered in Turkey's municipal elections. It maps to a global pattern (alive and well in the USA, of course) of dense urban centers swinging for progressive candidates, but being swamped by the dwindling cohort of rural, low-density voters whose votes count for much more than those of urbanites (see also: Toronto).
The elections were seen as a rare chance for the beleaguered opposition to roll back the power of Fidesz, which also hold a supermajority in parliament, and Orbán who has boasted about building an “illiberal state”.
Parties from left to right joined forces in an effort to wrest control of Fidesz-held municipalities and prevent an electoral rout for the first time in almost a decade. In many municipalities just one opposition challenger lined up against Fidesz.
Polls had still forecast only slight gains nationwide for the opposition outside the capital, but in another surprise it won 10 of 23 of Hungary’s main cities.
The vote was seen as a litmus test for its new strategy of cooperation, which could offer a route to mount a serious challenge to Orbán at the next general election in 2022.
Blow for Hungary PM Orbán as opposition wins Budapest mayoral race [AFP/The Guardian]