The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath have certainly altered the geopolitical equations with China increasingly finding itself isolated. Countries like the US, Japan and Australia swiftly made punitive moves against China for its role in unleashing the China made pandemic on the world. While some countries especially the European countries led by Germany, continued to stand by and defend China but were forced to adopt anti-China measures as the leaders saw a massive dip in their popularity and hence, were forced do to a U-turn on China. However, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has remained steadfast in his unflinching support to China and unsurprisingly, is fast losing face in Hungary.
Viktor Orban has ruled Hungary for a decade and has often been slammed for his authoritarian leadership most notably by the European Union. Orban, who has won three successive terms is arguably facing the toughest challenge of his political career as the China loving Prime Minister is fast losing his popularity, anti-incumbency aside.
It is ironic that despite being a lackey of China, it will be the latter which will result in the downfall of Orban. A strong economy has been one of the major planks for his successive reelections, however that will not be the case when Orban faces the voters in the first half of 2022.
Hungary’s economy has taken a severe beating due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic with Hungarian car dealer Realszisztema shelving its plans to build a $1.7 million service facility and warehouse. Additionally, auto supplier AGC Glass Hungary has scuppered its plans of expansion.
In the second quarter of the current fiscal year, Hungary witnessed the deepest contraction in Central Europe as its economy shrank by 13.6% with 200,000 people having lost their jobs. Worryingly for Orban, the economy is not expected to bounce back at least till 2022 – the year when Orban faces the voters, especially given the fact that the backbone of the Hungarian economy – the car sector is down by 24% in the first seven months of 2020.
“We cannot afford the virus crippling the country again,” said Orban, ruling out any further lockdowns.
Earlier this year in April, the Viktor Orban government secured Chinese financing for a new high-speed railway between Budapest and Belgrade, the documents of which, the Orban government wants to keep as a state secret for 10 years.
Hungary had signed an “advantageous and secure” loan agreement with China for the project which is estimated to be in upwards of 2 billion euros. The fact that Viktor Orban wants the documents of the agreement as a state secret for a period 10 years, points to a dirty deal which can threaten his position.
Troubles continue to mount for Viktor Orban, as in August, Hungary’s six largest opposition parties came together to form an unprecedented grand alliance to challenge him in the next general election in 2022.
The wide ranging alliance includes leftist, liberal and right-wing parties who have pledged to field single candidates against Orban’s powerful Fidesz party in all 106 electoral districts.
As has been the case in the past, sitting in China’s lap might result rich rewards in terms of personal bank balance, but it would also result in an almost certain political obituary, something which Viktor Orban is soon going to learn the hard way.