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Russia's invasion of Ukraine casts shadow over Hungary's parliamentary poll

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By Euronews
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Hungary Parliamentary Election
Hungary Parliamentary Election   -   Copyright  euronews

Russia's invasion of Ukraine shook Europe's political foundations, and the war’s outbreak was especially felt in Hungary in the run-up to its parliamentary poll. The official campaign had not even been underway for two weeks when Russia's attack forced Hungary's political parties into a new reality.

Suddenly, major domestic issues no longer had the same relevance. For the ruling Fidesz party, it was vital Hungary stayed out of the conflict.

At a campaign rally, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared: "We have nothing to gain in this war, but everything to lose. We must stay out of this war. No Hungarian should be caught between the Ukrainian anvil and the Russian sledgehammer."

Orbán has attempted to achieve this by voting in favour of EU sanctions, while at the same time refusing to condemn President Putin or allow arms shipments to pass through Hungary to Ukraine.

That caution has drawn criticism from many, including Poland's ruling party, normally considered a close ally.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy also called for Orbán to get off the fence, evoking Budapest's own experience during the holocaust.

"Hungary, I should stop here. I want to be honest. You must decide once and for all who you are with, as a sovereign country," Zelenskyy said.

Organising several rallies against the Russian invasion, Hungary's opposition has accused Orbán of being Vladimir Putin's closest EU ally and, as a result, unfit to lead the country.

In response, Fidesz campaign posters have appeared insisting only the current government is able to guarantee the country's security. Fidesz has also claimed the opposition wants to take Hungary into war. Prime ministerial candidate Péter Márki-Zay's declaration that he would fulfil Hungary's NATO obligations, by sending troops if necessary, came in for particularly heavy fire.

"Hungary has obviously already participated in similar missions from Afghanistan to the Middle East, Africa and so on. In fact, Orbán himself has offered NATO cooperation in various missions abroad. It cannot be ruled out that there will be such a thing at some point, with regard to Ukraine," Márki-Zay said.

Renowned for his populist and combative style, Orbán has tried to strike a peaceful tone when it comes to the war his bellicose rhetoric for Hungary's opposition, however, hasn't changed.

"We will fight them on the third of April. Let us go and win the most important battle of our lives. Let's give them their due and defend Hungary," said Orbán.

The big question now is how divided Orbán's camp is over the war launched by Russia - a country he has built strong ties with over the past decade - and how many votes it might cost him in this tightly fought electoral race.