Central Europe and the Arab world after Orban’s win

Hungary needs more constructive policies towards the Muslim world and Arab countries.
Sunday 15/04/2018
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after the announcement of the partial results of parliamentary election in Budapest, on April 8. (Reuters)
Landslide victory. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban after parliamentary elections in Budapest, on April 8. (Reuters)

As expected, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing Fidesz party scored a landslide victory in a third consecutive parliamentary election since 2010. The fact that it won on an anti-migrant, anti-Muslim platform does not augur well for the vital relationship between Europe and the Arab world. And it shouldn’t.

Even though Hungary is just one of the European Union’s 28 member-states, it is proving to be something of a role model and an inspiration for the European far-right.

Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party, Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany and Nigel Farage, who formerly led the UK Independence Party, were quick to congratulate Orban on his election victory. They see his success as a portent.

With support from some central European leaders, Orban plans to intensify his opposition to refugee resettlement across the European Union, while challenging the values set out in the EU Charter. At his final campaign rally, Orban warned: “If the dam bursts, if the borders are opened, if immigrants set foot in Hungary, there will be no going back.”

After his victory, human rights group Amnesty International cautioned against “attempts to stoke hostility towards refugees and migrants” but the Orban government has already tabled in parliament a tranche of laws that would crack down on migrants and the NGOs and liberal civic organisations that support them.

The picture conveyed by Hungary today is that of dangerous nativism. Fidesz has presented itself as a Christian bulwark against Muslim influence.

But the elections are over and Hungary needs more constructive policies towards the Muslim world and Arab countries. Stronger ties between central Europe and the Arab world would be mutually beneficial.

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