After sweeping win, Hungary’s Orban sets sights on Soros

PM’s Fidesz party campaigned on demonizing refugees, blaming Jewish philanthropist for conspiring to turn nation into ‘immigrant country’

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban greets his supporters in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban greets his supporters in Budapest, Hungary, April 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Capitalizing on its sweeping election victory, Hungary’s governing Fidesz party said Monday it could push through the so-called “Stop Soros” laws targeting civic groups and people aiding refugees as soon as May.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, elected Sunday to his third consecutive term, based his campaign on demonizing migrants, saying that wealthy Jewish philanthropist George Soros, the European Union and the United Nations are conspiring to turn Hungary into an “immigrant country.”

Fidesz parliamentary spokesman Janos Halasz said Monday that the “Stop Soros” package could be among the first legislative measures approved by the new Fidesz super-majority in parliament.

Orban has repeatedly described civic groups supported by Soros, and in general any non-governmental group he disagrees with, as foreign agents working against Hungarian interests.

People stand on a street by a billboard from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party reads “Let’s stop Soros’ candidates!” showing American financier George Soros, center, and, from left, Bernadett Szel of Politics Can Be Different party, Ferenc Gyurcsany from Democratic Coalition, Gergely Karacsony of the Dialogue party and Gabor Vona of the Jobbik party, in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, April 7, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

The new laws could make it very hard for groups working with asylum-seekers to continue their activities in Hungary. It would force them to get government permits, their income received from abroad would be taxed and they could be banned from going nearer than eight kilometers (five miles) from Hungary’s borders, where asylum-seekers file claims.

The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union also expects to become a target of government “legislative and communications attacks.”

Fidesz and its small ally, the Christian Democrat party, won a two-thirds majority, which is enough to make changes to the constitution.

Orban late Sunday celebrated what he called a “decisive victory.”

The far-right Jobbik party placed second with 26 seats, while a Socialist-led, left-wing coalition came in third with 20 seats.

A man hugs a woman by an anti-migration billboard from the Hungarian government vandalized with paint reading: “Orban”, in Budapest, Hungary, April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Germany’s conservative interior minister welcomed Orban’s “very clear election victory” and warned the European Union against showing arrogance.

Horst Seehofer said he would congratulate Orban on behalf of his Christian Social Union party. As Bavaria’s governor until last month, Seehofer sparred with Chancellor Angela Merkel over her migration policy and invited Orban to gatherings of his party.

German news agency dpa reported that Seehofer warned the EU against a “policy of arrogance and paternalism” and said bilateral ties with EU countries are always important even when there are differences.

A billboard with a poster of Hungarian-American billionaire and philanthropist George Soros with the words “National consultation about the Soros plan – Don’t let it pass without any words” is seen in Budapest on October 16, 2017. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP)

However, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn slammed Orban’s anti-migrant stance and called on other European nations to reject it.

He was quoted Monday as telling German daily Die Welt: “Today it is Hungary and Poland, tomorrow others in eastern and central Europe, even a big founding country of the EU, could develop a taste for undermining values and scaremongering.”

He added that after the Hungarian election “it is up to Germany and France, along with all member states that aren’t counting on indifference, to weigh in unambiguously on the basis of the European treaties to neutralize this tumor of values.”

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