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Economics

Putin’s Old Ally in the EU Faces Tough Vote as War Rages Next Door

If he wins, Hungary’s Viktor Orban will need to fix a deteriorating economy at home while facing greater political isolation abroad.

Orban (center) greets supporters in Budapest on March 15.

Orban (center) greets supporters in Budapest on March 15.

Photographer: Anna Szilagyi/AP Photo

As three of his fellow Eastern European leaders braved a train trip to Kyiv to show solidarity with Ukraine, Viktor Orban was at home rallying his political troops. Addressing tens of thousands of his supporters in Budapest to mark a national holiday on March 15, Hungary’s prime minister said he couldn’t think of another time before an important vote when the “stars were so aligned in our favor.”

Polls in the runup to the April 3 parliamentary election show Orban’s Fidesz party has increased its narrow lead since Russia invaded Ukraine, which borders Hungary. Opposition activists at a rival event across the Danube River the same day conceded the odds of forcing a change in leadership were tougher now that war is raging next door. But the race is still tighter than Orban’s rhetoric suggests, and should victory come, it’s already looking like a Pyrrhic one—on both the political and economic fronts.