Orban is deploying his anti-Ukraine propaganda machine again

The Hungarian government is resuming and intensifying its campaign to vilify Ukraine. However, the Hungarian prime minister, Victor Orban, claims Budapest is fighting Brussels, and Kyiv is just collateral damage.

A propaganda pseudo-referendum in Hungary against EU enlargement and against aid to Ukraine is to become one of the tools of Orban’s campaign. Its “results” will become his information weapon against the EU and Ukraine in 2024.

Kyiv was granted the green light to start negotiations on joining the European Union, marking an essential diplomatic victory for Ukraine at the EU summit held in Brussels in mid-December.

At the summit in Brussels, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, under unprecedented pressure from his colleagues, agreed to start accession talks with Ukraine.

However, the fact that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had to give in on an issue that he himself had declared to be a key one could not have gone unnoticed.

Even the Hungarian government’s tame media outlets, such as Magyar Nemzet, have acknowledged that Orban broke his own promise and allowed negotiations on Ukraine’s accession to the EU to begin.

In the last week before Christmas, Orban filled the Hungarian media space with himself, explaining his move and assuring voters that everything was under control. This also allows him to more clearly formulate a vision for his updated policy on Ukraine.

Viktor Orban had live interviews with TV2 and Hir TV, the newspapers Magyar Nemzet and Mandiner, and appeared on the Mandiner podcast. And he also had a traditional interview on Radio Kossuth and a large press conference for local and foreign media in Budapest.

Viktor Orban acknowledged that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s role was key. Orban explained in an interview with Mandiner that Hungary and Germany reached an agreement, ensuring Hungary’s non-involvement in making this “bad decision”. Still, the specifics of the Hungarian-German “agreement” remain unknown.

But we can be sure that Orban hasn’t abandoned his anti-EU, anti-Ukraine, and pro-Russian stance. His next actions might harm Ukraine and the unity of the EU.

As we reported, Victor Orban initiated in Hungary so-called “national consultations.” The government conducts this subjective nationwide poll, accompanied by a large-scale information campaign. It tells Hungarians that only Orbán and his government care about their welfare and that someone else is preventing the government from succeeding.

The faces to blame are changing: Soros, Brussels, Ursula von der Leyen, Ukraine, the global anti-Hungarian conspiracy, Syrian migrants, etc.

In early November, Budapest criticized the EU, the European Commission, and the aid to Ukraine.

After being forced to abandon his veto on Ukraine’s EU accession talks, Orban had to revise his information strategy. Thus, a new wave of anti-Ukrainian rhetoric began in Hungary.

It seems that Orban has decided to make Ukraine a public enemy of the Hungarian nation, responsible for the economic problems of the country.

In mid-December, Hungarians began to receive letters from the government calling on them to participate in the so-called national consultations.

The Hungarian government communicates as if it were holding a “referendum” solely on Ukraine and its membership in the EU, while 4 out of 11 questions on the ballot are devoted to Ukraine.

Orban also emphasized internet voting in the “national consultations.” To make the non-compulsory vote massive, the government sent an “electronic ballot” to everyone in their databases.

The government also invited foreigners to vote on government-selected topics. For example, Ukrainians who were vaccinated against COVID-19 in Hungary shared their personal data with the government.

And even without an invitation letter, anyone can go to the government website, Nemzetikonzultacio, and vote. Moreover, the Hungarian government accepts multiple votes from one person.

Thanks to this Internet voting, which does not provide for control over the results, Orban will talk about hundreds of thousands and millions of Hungarian votes against EU enlargement and against aid to Ukraine.

In other words, it seems that the purpose of the vote is to collect votes as proof that not only Orban but also the rest of the Hungarians are against Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and generally against supporting Ukraine.

Orban’s national consultation functions as a nationwide “voting” mechanism where ballots are not recorded and votes are collected by mail, ensuring a predetermined outcome through the government’s manipulative formulation of questions. Therefore, every time Orban’s position is unanimously supported in the “consultations,”.

For example, in 2022, the government reported 97% of votes against Hungary’s participation in the EU’s anti-Russian sanctions.

Thus, Orban does not want to normalize relations with Ukraine and is interested in keeping them tense. The Hungarian prime minister, known for pro-Russian rhetoric during Moscow’s war against Ukraine, made threats to block the EU decision on financial aid to Ukraine worth 50 billion euros.

However, Viktor Orbán has emphasized in several interviews in recent weeks that his agreement with EU leaders in Brussels, especially Olaf Scholz, includes Hungary’s agreement to refrain from vetoing the entire political launch of the negotiations.

But Brussels and Kyiv must be ready for the situation when Orban saves his veto for a later stage because his stance remains anti-Ukrainian and anti-EU.

Orban has already outlined possible grounds for his vetoes in the future. For example, the argument that Ukraine’s membership would threaten Hungarian businesses or the Hungarian budget.

Another argument could be that the current EU agricultural policy is not aligned with Ukraine’s possible accession to the EU and needs to be revised. So, Brussels and Kyiv must be ready for a new fight with Budapest.

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