Orbán’s Party Wins EU Election but Suffers Worst Performance Since Joining Bloc

Despite Hungarian voters casting their ballots in the EU parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s government has declared a victory. However, the celebratory speeches notably omit the fact that this marks the party’s worst performance in an EU election since Hungary’s accession to the bloc two decades ago.

This underwhelming performance can be largely attributed to the emergence of a new political force in Hungary: Péter Magyar. A former insider within Orbán’s Fidesz-KDNP coalition, Magyar severed ties with the party and announced his intention to establish a popular movement dedicated to defeating Orbán and dismantling his autocratic system.

Eleven of Hungary’s 21 delegates to the EU legislature will represent Fidesz, surpassing all domestic competitors. Following a 44% voter turnout on Sunday, the government asserts that the results reflect overwhelming support for Orbán’s hard-right nationalist agenda.

“Never before have so many people, 2.015 million, voted for Fidesz-KDNP in an EP election,” stated spokesman Zoltán Kovács on Monday via the social media platform X. “The message is clear: Hungarians say no to migration and gender ideology.”

Despite this claim, Fidesz has never performed so poorly in a European Union election since joining in 2004. The party’s vote share has significantly dropped from its 52% support in the 2019 polls, resulting in the loss of two European Parliament seats.

András Bíró-Nagy, an analyst and director of the Budapest-based think tank Policy Solutions, contends that Orbán’s power, restored in 2010, has never been more vulnerable.

“We are in uncharted territory because it was previously inconceivable that a single political party could pose a serious challenge to Viktor Orbán,” Bíró-Nagy stated.

Magyar’s newly formed party, Respect and Freedom (TISZA), secured nearly 30% of the vote on Sunday, earning seven delegates in the EU legislature. He has proclaimed that this election will propel his movement into a stronger position to challenge and ultimately defeat Orbán in the next national election scheduled for 2026.

Late Sunday, thousands of Magyar’s supporters gathered along the Danube River to await the election results. Addressing the jubilant crowd, Magyar declared his party’s performance a “political landslide” that will usher in a new era of “useful, fair, and, most importantly, honest” governance.

“Today marks the end of an era,” Magyar asserted. “This is the Waterloo of Orbán’s power factory, the beginning of the end,” he declared, referencing the battle that marked the downfall of Napoleon.

Magyar’s campaign focused less on a specific party program and more on a structural critique of Orbán’s system, which he characterized as riddled with corruption, nepotism, intimidation, and propaganda.

He lambasted the state of Hungary’s education and healthcare systems, accused Fidesz of creating a class of oligarchs enriched through lucrative public contracts, and pledged to cultivate a more constructive relationship with the EU.

Hungary’s traditional opposition parties, burdened by pressure from Orbán’s government and their own internal divisions and infighting, have been unable to mount a serious challenge to Fidesz over the past 14 years.

“The Péter Magyar phenomenon is a symptom of a profound crisis within Hungarian politics,” stated Bíró-Nagy. “This reflects not only disillusionment with the Orbán regime but also a complete disillusionment with the established opposition.”

“Many people in Hungary are yearning for something new, are yearning for change, and are willing to support anyone who demonstrates potential strength against the Orbán regime,” he said.

Magyar’s rise follows a string of scandals that shook Orbán’s government, leading to the resignations of the president and justice minister. A severe economic crisis, compounded by the highest inflation among the 27 EU member states, has also contributed to a decline in popularity for the bloc’s longest-serving leader.

Meanwhile, the EU has frozen over 20 billion euros ($21.5 billion) in funding for Hungary due to its violations of rule-of-law and democracy standards. Furthermore, Orbán’s amicable relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has alienated him from his EU and NATO allies.

Prior to the elections, the five-time prime minister campaigned on an anti-EU platform, framing the ballot as a contest to determine whether Russia’s war in Ukraine would engulf Europe.

He heavily relied on culturally divisive issues like migration, LGBTQ+ rights, and fears that the war could escalate to directly involve Hungary if his political opponents prevailed.

However, Fidesz’s weakened position suggests that Orbán’s hopes of consolidating euroskeptic parties in the EU election and securing a more prominent role on Europe’s far-right have likely been dashed.

“Orbán has already taken the mantle of the radical right in Hungarian politics,” said Bíró-Nagy. “But the breakthrough that Viktor Orbán was hoping for did not materialize on the European stage.”