US election and Hungary – Does it Matter?

US election and Europe

The presidential election of the United States is one of the most important political events in the world – almost all nations follow it despite the fact that in most cases the outcome affects them only in an indirect way. People all around the world have kept an eye on the campaigns and current developments – most of them joined squarely ‘Team Obama’ or ‘Team Romney’. Certainly not everyone has been of the same opinion and showed similar interest in this matter, but statistics say if the election was taking place in other countries instead of America, people could decide eventually. A 21-nation poll for BBC World Service indicated that citizens around the world strongly preferred to see Barack Obama re-elected as U.S. President to his Republican challenger Mitt Romney. It came as no surprise to Americans that Europeans unanimously supported Obama’s re-election and this is not because he has been good to Europe. As a matter of fact, Obama’s first election four years ago led to a major recovery of America’s image in the world and people started to see things differently. Additionally, Democrats have traditionally enjoyed an advantage on the old continent.

President Barack Obama (Photo licensed under Creative Commons.)

Obama’s charismatic figure became a symbol of change and hope not just because of the influence of his speeches. Although the expectations are now different, nobody can deny that Obama’s re-election has considerable influence – not only on the international but on the internal affairs of the countries.

Hungarian political parties and the election

A little before the US election, one of the members of the Hungarian government party declared their position on this issue: the Hungarian government’s economic policy is consonant with Mitt Romney’s standpoints, they said. Showing how even ideologically different parties can support the new president, after the election, a representative of Jobbik has stated that they are glad about the result, because they consider Obama’s program close to the party. The leftist oriented parties of Hungary, as can be expected, supported Obama.

Hungarian political parties and their “preferred” candidate

  Political orientation European political family Political position Support (implicit or explicit)
Fidesz (Hungarian Civic Party) Right wing populist-conservative European People’s Party government Romney
Jobbik far-right nationalist - opposition Obama
LMP (Politics Can Be Different green European Green Party opposition Obama
MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) social democratic Party of European Socialists opposition Obama

 

The issue of “Change” – in the US and Hungary

Obama’s re-election can be viewed as a question of devotion of Americans to change. Four years ago this devotion was the most elemental part of his election, but many Americans (and even other countries and people all around the world) were disappointed. In his campaign Obama was asking for four more years to make his promise come true. In this aspect, the question of change is also important in the current Hungarian political circumstances.

In fact, Hungary faces a lot of problems and this situation is caused not only by the global financial crisis but the government’s actions. Recent past occurrences proved that Hungarians have wanted change more than ever in the last 20 years. Viktor Orban’s government’s support is crumbling and citizens believe the country is on the wrong track. Changes are urgent and people are despairing. As Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time’. Hungary has two more years until the next election, and poverty is increasing, people are leaving the country in large numbers and some say pessimism is stronger than ever.

The message of Obama to minorities around the world

Nevertheless, is there any effect of Obama’s presidential position, which can be useful for such a little country as Hungary? Perhaps the message of the U.S. election means something specific to Hungarians. Maybe it already did four years ago – they just have not realized it yet. One of Obama’s most famous quotes is the following: “There is not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America — there is the United States of America”. In Hungary the issue of ethnicities is a topic we can’t ignore. Stereotypes about roma are stabilized and racism is growing to considerable proportions among Hungarians. Physical abuse, violence, negative discrimination is common in the country and solutions are unknown. Numerous analyses are written about the closed societies of Eastern-Europe, which means they are not tolerant towards immigrants and ethnicities. In Hungary the tendencies remain the same because the post-materialist values have not spread yet. Of course, there are a lot of historical, political, social obstacles behind these attitudes but eventually much depends on the general values of the society. That’s why many liberal Hungarians consider Obama an idol – if they want a change they have to modify their way of thinking about race, and accept that everybody who lives in Hungary has the same goal: live together in a relative welfare and in a less hostile environment.

 

Csaba Toth