Financial Times:”Vučić and Orban, political strongmen whose end is still not in sight”

In its article about Serbian and Hungarian presidents, Aleksandar Vučić and Viktor Orban, respectively, the Financial Times draws parallels between the two and asks what political destiny awaits them.

The renowned London-based newspaper writes: „More than three decades ago, the nations of central and eastern Europe proudly celebrated their self-liberation from one-party communist rule. Now, this achievement is under threat from two directions. On one hand, Russia’s pressure on Ukraine and demands for a redrawn European security order are making the region anxious about its hard-won independence. On the other, some countries are disfigured by democratic backsliding, degradation of the rule of law, deep-seated corruption, organised crime and a prickly variety of post-communist nationalism.”

“Elections on April 3 in Hungary and Serbia appear likely to underscore that, at least in these two countries, the malign internal trends will not fade away soon,” the article goes on to say and mentions the 2021 Freedom in the World report which categorizes Serbia and Hungary as “partially free”.

The FT also says that “the cultivation of warm ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia does not mean either Hungary or Serbia supports the Kremlin’s revisionism in Ukraine and eastern Europe in general. Each depends on Russian energy supplies, and Serbia values Moscow’s diplomatic backing in the Kosovo dispute,” and adds:

“On domestic matters, the similarities between Hungary and Serbia are striking. One, which may prove decisive in April’s elections, is that Orban and Vučić bend the media and judiciary to their will and deploy state resources on behalf of their ruling parties. Undoubtedly, both command considerable popular support, but just to be sure each tilts elections in his favour before even one Hungarian or Serb has cast a vote.”

As for the upcoming elections in Serbia, the Financial Times writes:” One imagines they will be busier than during the 2020 parliamentary campaign, which opposition parties boycotted in a futile protest that let Vučić’s party walk off with more than 60 per cent of the vote. Yet the opposition has no chance of victory in a contest defined by Vučić’s domination of the media, state administration and public sector patronage. Not everything is going smoothly for Vučić, who has concentrated power in his hands since 2014, first as prime minister and then as president.”

The FT’s article also mentions street protests, like the one held last month against Rio Tinto’s mining project as means to get Vučić off the power: “Such demonstrations forced the government last month to drop plans for a multibillion-euro lithium investment project with Rio Tinto, the mining company. If political change is to come to Serbia, a popular protest may be its main source.”

(N1, The Financial Times, 21.02.2022)

Photo credits: “ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP”

This post is also available in: Italiano

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