Hungary’s far-right prime minister wins reelection while anti-LGBTQ+ referendum fails

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s administration pushed the infamous anti-gay “propaganda” law enacted last year

Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ+ Prime Minister Viktor Orbán secured a fourth consecutive term in power after winning Sunday’s national elections by a wide margin. Despite earlier predictions of a tight race, Orbán’s ruling Fidesz party secured 135 seats of the 199-seat parliament. The victory gives the far-right PM a two-thirds majority in parliament, which could allow Orbán to make sweeping changes to Hungary’s constitution, as CNN reports.

“We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels,” Orbán said in a speech on Sunday night, referencing his tensions with the European Union (EU). “The whole world has seen tonight in Budapest that Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past, this is the future.” 

With 98 percent of votes counted, polls show that Orbán defeated his challenger, Péter Márki-Zay, by more than 19 points. Márki-Zay represented a united six-party opposition bloc that challenged the incumbent over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as fallout over the country’s infamous anti-gay “propaganda” ban. 

Last June, Hungarian lawmakers passed a law banning minors under the age of 18 from accessing any material discussing “homosexuality” or “gender change.” While the law applies most directly to schools, critics warned it could also affect how LGBTQ+ topics can be addressed in films, literature and television shows. The law reportedly could prevent Modern Family from being broadcast in primetime, while the government fined a Budapest bookstore for selling a children’s book with LGBTQ+ themes.

In July, the EU sued Hungary over the ban, saying it discriminates against LGBTQ+ people. Earlier this year, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that EU leaders have the right to deny funding to member nations that violate human rights standards, which means Hungary could lose out on billions in EU funding over the next several years. 

If elected, Márki-Zay vowed to repeal the “propaganda” law, calling the legislation “unconstitutional.”

But while Orbán defeated his opponent in a landslide victory, the win was hardly an unqualified one. In addition to the parliamentary election, Hungarians also cast their ballots regarding a referendum related to the “propaganda” ban. Mostly viewed as symbolic, the plebiscite reportedly asked voters if they agree with the “teaching of sexual orientation to underage children in public education institutions without parental consent” and “promotion of sex reassignment therapy for underage children.”

 

LGBTQ+ groups were extremely critical of the referendum vote. Katrin Hugendubel, ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, said the questions were posed in “bad faith” in an attempt to scapegoat queer and trans people. 

“The questions it poses are carefully designed to force voters into siding with Fidesz against the LGBTI community, thereby giving the false message that the values of the Hungarian people are contrary to the values of the European Union,” she said in a statement published before the election

But the referendum ultimately failed at the ballot box, not garnering enough votes to be valid. In order to be accepted by election officials, 50 percent of eligible voters were required to sound off in the plebiscite, and it failed to cross that threshold. According to the CBC, supporters of LGBTQ+ equality purposefully spoiled their ballots to tank the referendum’s chances.

Despite that result, the “propaganda” ban is likely to remain in place under Orbán, who is now set to remain in office until 2026. During his 12-year stint in office, he has overseen the passage of several anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including a pair passed in 2020 banning same-sex adoptions and barring trans people from correcting the legal gender listed in Hungary’s national registry. The latter measure was partially struck down by the country’s constitutional court.

Yvonne Marquez

Yvonne Marquez is an independent reporter based in Brooklyn. Her work has been featured in Texas Monthly, Texas ObserverAutostraddle, and Remezcla.

Read More About:
Power, Politics, News, Homophobia, Europe

Keep Reading

A teacher sitting on a desk in an otherwise empty classroom. Around her, in a border, is an image of a protester yelling into a megaphone under a blue filter.

Canadian teachers face harassment in wake of ‘parental rights’ policies

Less support and more targeting is taking a toll on educators’ mental health
The Justice Dept. building in D.C., with hands carrying trans flags above it.

Right-wing assaults on trans rights aren’t stopping. Title IX could be a weapon against them

ANALYSIS: Protection from discrimination on the basis of sex can and should be used to protect kids like Nex Benedict 
People attend a candlelight vigil for 16-year-old Nex Benedict on February 24, 2024, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

‘What if I’m next?’ Canadian trans youth see Nex Benedict’s death as a warning

Young people say adults, schools and politicians are failing them

What we owe trans youth when we grieve them

How do we mourn people we’ve never met, yet feel inextricably connected to? How do we honour the dead without appropriating their stories?