Suspending Fidesz Shows the EPP Is Grasping at Straws
Despite Fidesz’s suspension from the EPP, there have been no requests to exclude Hungary from the group. The future of Viktor Orban’s Fidesz will remain uncertain until the European elections in May when the party will find out whether it has any friends left in the EPP.
Following a joint proposal from Fidesz and the EPP Presidency, the European People’s Party voted to suspend Viktor Orban’s party from the group. According to Orban, the party decided to suspend exercising its rights as a member of the EPP “unilaterally.”
With 190 EPP delegates having voted in favor of the suspension and only three voting against it, Fidesz was effectively banned from attending party meetings and stripped of the rights to vote and propose candidates for posts within the group.
Joseph Daul, the president of the EPP, said that the decision “was not taken lightly,” but that the EPP must “remain a beacon of values and all our member parties must lead by example.” Daul emphasized that anti-EU rhetoric from any of the EPP’s members was “unacceptable” and that the divergences between Fidesz and the EPP must cease.
Prior to the vote, Gergely Gulyas, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, stated prior to the vot that Fidesz would immediately quit the EPP rather than see its membership suspended by the party group. However, Orban insisted that the party decided to stop exercising its voting rights as they “cannot be ejected or suspended.” He noted that Fidesz had garnered 47, 56, and 52 percent of the votes during the past three European parliamentary elections and that a “party like that” will leave the group on its own terms.
Fidesz’s suspension is meant to show voters that the EPP was serious about sanctioning Hungary for its anti-migration and anti-EU “propaganda.” While the EPP claims that its decision on suspending Fidesz was only partly made in reaction to the outrage to Hungary’s campaign against Jean-Claude Juncker, many believe the event was the last straw for the group.
Orban’s nationwide anti-EU campaign promoted a billboard that blamed the leadership of the European Union and its migrant-friendly policies for “destroying Europe.” Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, and Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros were also accused of sponsoring the influx of migrants to the EU.
Despite Daul’s assertions that failing to uphold the EPP’s values brought upon the suspension of Fidesz, the true reason behind the party’s moves against Orban lay in the European elections. The EPP wants to show a united front in order to hold on to the Presidencies of the European Commission and the European Council.
The heterogeneous state of many of the European Union member states poses a threat to EPP’s supremacy, both as the biggest Christian coalition and one of the most important political unions in Europe. This raises the question of whether to keep Fidesz under the EPP’s umbrella and make it easier to control Orban and his allies or expel it from the party, risking the creation of a new faction in the already divided European Parliament.
This has caused the traditionally uneventful and unimpactful European parliament elections to become one of the most debated topics of the year. With less than two months left before the elections and the situation surrounding Brexit becoming more and more unpredictable, one could see how the EPP was grasping at straws to create an illusion of a homogenous political body.
Meanwhile, the support for Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orban is close to its all-time high. According to the Hungarian polling company Závecz Research Institute, support for Fidesz is at 50 percent, only one percent lower than a month ago. The poll was conducted between March 8 and March 19, at the peak of the debates led between Fidesz and the EPP.
The poll also found that, among those who are eligible and willing to vote in the European parliamentary elections in May, only 14 percent support the conservative Jobbik party, while a coalition of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) and the green-leftist Dialogue Party (Párbeszéd) has the same level of support.