Hungarian opposition parties and the Western media’s liberal mainstream had been waiting for March the 20th as if it was a new national holiday. On that day, the European People’s Party’s political assembly had to make a decision about the future of Fidesz in the right-wing moderate party family. One of the root causes of the conflict is that certain members of the party family are not really right-wing. In fact, they are, citing Viktor Orban: “left-wing liberal”.
Thirteen member parties of the EPP wanted Fidesz to be expelled or at least suspended from the party family and all the political opponents of Viktor Orban’s government were rooting for their success. Normally, politicians should be aware that their opponents rarely want them to succeed, so being bullied by the liberals to expel Fidesz is unlikely to be the key to winning the elections.
Nevertheless, the presidency of the EPP came up with a proposal which stated that Fidesz’s membership will be suspended. It was clear from the very beginning of the meeting that this will not happen as it is written in the proposal, because Gergely Gulyas, the minister heading the prime minister’s office had said before that if Fidesz gets suspended, they will leave the family immediately. After three hours of heated debate the resolution was changed, an extra, important sentence made it clear that it’s Fidesz who suspends its membership.
This is of course not only about one sentence. The decision makers – also known as Germans – of the EPP didn’t want to expel Fidesz, they wanted to suspend them but Gulyas had ruled this option out. Orban and Fidesz didn’t want the humiliation of the party and the Hungarian voters (who would want that anyway?). The original proposal wouldn’t have received the support of those parties who are ideologically close to Fidesz. Not to mention the domino effect after, in case Fidesz would have been de facto forced to leave the party family. SDS had announced before that in case Fidesz is expelled, they will leave too. But even without Fidesz’s threat to leave the family the original proposal certainly wouldn’t have had such a broad consensus, as the final one.
We published an interview with SDS MEP Milan Zver on Friday, and Mr. Zver told me he was satisfied with the result, well, in the given circumstances of course. He reminded that SDS “had been opposing any weakening of the EPP, especially before the crucial European elections,” and this whole debate was doing precisely that: weakening the party, breaking the unity.
“I have to say that no political formation can receive a more welcome gift than its opponent setting about slicing itself up, two months before an election. While the stakes have been the nature of the European People’s Party’s future and what its spiritual and ideological character will be, there was also the question of whether the European People’s Party will be able to restore its unity and act as a single party in the election, in order for us to beat the Socialists, to defeat them, and for our European People’s Party to remain the strongest party family in the European Union,” Mr. Orban said after the meeting on Wednesday. Both the Prime Minister and Mr. Zver agreed that the resolution helped protecting the party’s unity.
At least, until the elections. It’s by far not sure yet whether Fidesz will continue in the EPP after the elections, Mr. Orban made it clear that Fidesz’s place is in a party family which is committed to stopping immigration, protecting Christianity and Europe’s security. Fidesz set up its own “group of wise people” to address this question, evaluate the situation after the elections. Magyar Hirlap was the first to interview Fidesz vice-chair Katalin Novak after the meeting, she will head the aforementioned committee. She told me that there’s still a chance that after the elections the status quo in the EPP will change in a positive way but if the party family continues to move to the left, Fidesz has no place in it anymore.
So, as Katalin Novak said, it’s like a marriage when it’s time to rethink our future and hold some distance, but it’s not a divorce yet. And the EPP can’t be sure that it will be them, who ultimately make the decision.