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Putin Ally Viktor Orban Calls Zelenskyy His ‘Opponent’ After Declaring Victory in Hungarian Election

Putin Ally Viktor Orban Calls Zelenskyy His ‘Opponent’ After Declaring Victory in Hungarian Election

Despite opinion polls forecasting a tighter race, Hungary’s authoritarian leader and longtime Russian ally, Viktor Orban, has declared victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, clinching a fourth consecutive term in power.

Orban’s Fidesz party won comfortably across much of the country, winning by a commanding lead with 71% of the votes counted, Hungary’s national elections board said on Sunday evening. Opposition leader Peter Marki-Zay even failed to win in his own district, where he had served as mayor.

Hungary is heavily reliant on Russian energy, and Orban has dodged opportunities to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault on its neighboring state, further complicating the EU’s efforts to present a united front against him. The election campaign was dominated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban’s lengthy association with Putin under scrutiny. In his victory speech, Orban called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky one of the “opponents” he had to overcome during the campaign.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Orban campaigned primarily on a platform of keeping Hungary’s troops and weapons out of the conflict. He has supported most of the EU’s sanctions against Russia since it invaded Ukraine, but has resisted going further and pitched himself as a peacemaker to voters.

Orban has gained close control of Hungary’s judiciary, media and education institutions during his 12-year stint in power, which is now set to be extended until 2026. He has pushed legislation targeting migrants and the LGBTQ+ community, and has spoken of his intention to build an “illiberal” state within the EU.

Even before the invasion, Orban had a “thorny” relationship with the EU. His government has been lambasted by senior figures in the bloc over rule of law issues; earlier this year, Europe’s top court allowed the EU to block funding to Hungary and Poland for violating democratic rights. At his final campaign rally Friday, Orban claimed that supplying Ukraine with weapons — something that Hungary, alone among Ukraine’s EU neighbors, has refused to do — would make the country a military target, and that sanctioning Russian energy imports would cripple Hungary’s own economy. “This isn’t our war, we have to stay out of it,” Orban said.

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A referendum was also held on Sunday on Orban’s controversial law that bans educational materials and programs for children that are considered to promote homosexuality and gender reassignment.

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