It’s a safe bet that few in Brussels are celebrating Viktor Orbán’s resounding win. Elected for a fourth term, Hungary’s anti-immigrant nationalist leader poses a profound challenge for the European Union. Since returning as prime minister in 2010, Orbán and his Fidesz party have chipped away at Hungary’s democratic checks and balances, curbed judicial independence and clamped down on the independent media. Hungary’s democratic backsliding has been accompanied by a drumbeat of xenophobic rhetoric, directed against refugees, Brussels and George Soros. The EU, used to grappling with Brexit, is now confronting a country at the heart of the continent making an exit from the club’s liberal values, but continuing to pick up the cheques.
The European commission, however, does not see a systemic problem. The current commission’s mandate ends in 2019 and many EU insiders think its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, is reluctant to pick a fight with Orbán.
Both politicians are members of the the European People’s Party, Europe’s dominant centre-right bloc, which has shielded Orbán from criticism. Before Sunday’s resounding win, some EPP members were hopeful Orbán would change. “He has been very outspoken, because he has been radicalised by the elections,” one EPP politician told the Guardian. “I think he will moderate and become more reasonable.”