Western elites no doubt find Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s landslide victory on Sunday distasteful. To some extent, this is justified: Independent election observers faulted Orban’s party, Fidesz, for tilting the playing field in its favor.
But it’s also true that Orban was reelected because of his combination of market economics, nationalism and social conservatism. This is what a majority of Hungarians want.
The history of Hungarian politics since the fall of communism makes this clear. The country’s first free election, in 1990, was won by a nationalist Christian democratic party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum, with about 25 percent. Three other conservative parties, including Fidesz, combined for an additional 27 percent. The nationalist center-right, therefore, had roughly 52 percent support.
That pattern held for the next 20 years, even as the parties themselves evolved. With the exception of the 1994 election, the collection of center-right parties consistently received between 49 and 54 percent of the vote. Orban’s Fidesz party, once an urban-based party focused on market economics, grew into a nationalist, big-tent party with a variety of conservative views. By 2006, it was the dominant party among Hungarian conservatives.