Prime Minister Viktor Orban has accused Brussels and Washington of trying to meddle in Hungarian politics in advance of a parliamentary election in April next year.
Orban told tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in central Budapest on Saturday that Washington and billionaire George Soros were trying to get the left-wing opposition elected using their money, media and networks.
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“What matters is not what they in Brussels, in Washington and in the media, which is directed from abroad, want. It will be Hungarians deciding about their own fate,” Orban said.
“Our strength is in our unity … we believe in the same values: family, nation, and a strong and independent Hungary.”
Unity, however, is also what his opponents are counting on to remove him after a decade in power. For the first time, Orban will face a united front of opposition parties, including the Socialists, liberals and the formerly far-right, now centre-right, Jobbik.
The six-party alliance is led by Peter Marki-Zay, a 49-year-old Catholic conservative, father of seven and small-town mayor who seems to embody the traditional values Orban publicly champions.
Opinion polls show Orban’s Fidesz party and the opposition alliance running neck-and-neck, with about one-quarter of voters undecided.
Saturday’s anniversary of the 1956 uprising against Soviet rule offered Orban a symbolic platform for his agenda as his Fidesz party scales up its pre-election campaign.
He has showered the electorate with handouts, including a $2bn income-tax rebate for families, and stepped up his strong anti-immigration rhetoric.
Hungary has sided with Poland against the EU over media freedoms, rule of law issues and LGBTQ rights, while maintaining that it harbours no plans to leave the bloc.
“Brussels speaks to us and treats us, along with the Poles, as if we were an enemy … Well, it is time for them in Brussels to understand that even the communists could not defeat us,” Orban told cheering supporters, who were waving the national flag and held banners with slogans such as “Brussels equals dictatorship.”
At a separate opposition rally, Marki-Zay said if elected, his government would draft a new constitution, clamp down on corruption, introduce the euro and guarantee freedom of the media.
“This regime has become morally untenable … the momentum we have now should take us to April 2022,” he said.