Border fence and anti-migrant rhetoric central to Orbán’s 2018 campaign

At a weekend picnic of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party and its propagandists within the media world and educational sector, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán warned: the most important question in the April 2018 national elections is whether the country will be able to defend its border fence against some 60 million migrants that he anticipates will leave Africa and try to arrive to Europe by 2020. Mr. Orbán will argue in the campaign that the “dangers” of mass migration to Europe are far from over.

The fear-mongering about an alleged sixty million Africans en route to Europe is deliberately misleading and false. Mr. Orbán attributed this projection to NATO. This is not correct. The United Nations did, in fact, publish such a prognosis, but this occurred back in 2004 and it was connected to fears of desertification in parts of the world, resulting in waves of migration, not only to Europe, but to northern Africa. Yet even this 13 year old prognosis is merely a rough estimate, not based on any scientific research. It appears that Mr. Orbán deliberately used a 13 year old report to make a completely unscientific projection about the arrival of sixty million migrants between 2017 and 2022. Only the opposition and János Széky of Élet és Irodalom reported on the misleading and false nature of the prime minister’s statements.

The Fidesz picnic in the village of Kötcse is not a public event, although journalists do show up at the entrance and snap photos of the many pro-Fidesz propagandists, including court historians, government-supported artists, publicists and media personalities, as they arrive with flowers, baked goods and gifts. Prime Minister Orbán’s Facebook page also has over a dozen photos from the event.

Viktor Orbán enjoys a pint of beer at the Kötcse picnic. Photo: Viktor Orbán’s Facebook page.

Only certain details of Mr. Orbán’s speech are shared by some of the attendees to the press. The prime minister’s press secretary, Bertalan Havasi, noted that Mr. Orbán spoke about the upcoming national election as being “do or die.” Mr. Havasi remarked that public safety and the migrant “threat” will be at the centre of the campaign. Apparently, Mr. Orbán warned participants that they must not go into the campaign overconfident that a Fidesz victory is secured. The prime minister referred to the 2002 elections, where polls showed a stable 5% Fidesz lead, yet Mr. Orbán’s party ended up losing the elections to a surprisingly resilient Hungarian Socialist Party.

“The election is only over when they announce the results,” said Mr. Orbán in Kötcse.

Political analyst Gábor Győri of Policy Solutions commented that it is no surprise that Mr. Orbán will build his re-election campaign on the fear of migration. He cannot allow the election campaign to be about the state of public education or public health care in Hungary, as these are weak spots for the government. But if the election is built on fear mongering around an influx of foreigners, the disorganised opposition has virtually no chance of scoring an upset victory of any proportions.

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