World Review by Tom Arms

In this weekend’s World Review, LDV foreign correspondent Tom Arms looks at the forthcoming elections in Hungary and the ongoing elections in India. France is quitting Mali. Trump is not the only American politician being threatened by legal action. The Trump campaign has Hilary Clinton in her sights again.

Hungary’s beleaguered far-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban looks to have a secret weapon up his sleeve for the Hungarian general election scheduled for 3 April—Donald Trump. Orban’s ruling Fidesz Party enjoys a two-thirds majority In the Hungarian Parliament and appeared set to win another sweeping victory in April. But then in October the country’s feuding opposition parties decided to unite under the leader of provincial mayor Peter Marki-Zay. To make matters worse, Mayor Marki-Zay is a conservative. That is, he is cut from the same right-wing cloth as Orban—just not as extreme.

In the 2017 elections Fidesz won 2.8 million votes and the combined vote of the opposition votes was 2.7 million. Orban’s increasingly strident speeches show that he is worried about the coalition. He has branded Marki-Zay as communist, fascist and everything in between. He has also called on a series of foreign right-wing figures to support him. From America have come visits and endorsements from Mike Pence, Jeff Sessions, Tucker Carlsson and Rudy Guiliani. This week Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro flew to Hungary. Orban was an early supporter of Trump in 2016 and stood by him after his 2020 defeat. His relations with Joe Biden are poor. He was the only Western leader not invited to Biden’s democratic support. Trump has repaid Orban’s loyalty with paeans of praise for Hungary’s anti-Biden, pro-Russian, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ and anti-anything smacking of liberalism Prime Minister. The Orban campaign is hopeful that the global conservative standard bearer will turn up to support Orban. Fear of covid has kept Trump inside America since 2020. But on 25-26 March the conservative pressure group CPAC will hold its annual meeting in Budapest.  Donald Trump always attends CPAC meetings.

France has quit. It is pulling its 2,500 troops out of Mali after nearly a decade of fighting Jihadist terrorists and the cost of many billions of Euros. The announcement from the Elysee Palace is a major blow to the war against Jihadism in West Africa and around the world. French troops were to West Africa what US troops were to Afghanistan. It will be difficult for other European countries who have been supporting the French effort to continue and will be as much blow to French prestige as the US withdrawal was to American. The French deployment in West Africa has been on shaky ground for the past two years, bedevilled by chronic instability and corruption. But the final straw came with the recent military coup in Mali and the refusal of the generals to hold elections before 2025 at the earliest. “We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share,” said President Emmanuel Macron. French withdrawal has opened the door to the Russians. “Private” Russian military contractors are being brought in to take over from the French. The Malian authorities have failed to explain the source of the money for the Russian mercenaries.

India is in the middle of a series of state elections. But the one that everyone is watching is Uttar Pradesh. It is the largest Indian state and the party that controls UP (as it is known) usually controls India. The ruling BJP of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds a whopping 312 out of the state assembly’s 403 seats. But the government’s handling of the pandemic, problems with farmers and raging inflation are hitting the BJP’s popularity ratings and causing some to rethink BJP Hindu nationalism. The BJP flag bearer in UP is saffron-robed monk turned politician Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister. But he has been criticised for spouting Hindu nationalist rhetoric more extreme than that of Narendra Modi. His main challenger is Akhilash Yadar, whom the BJP ousted as chief minister in the 2017 elections. Yadar’s threat has increased as he has successfully forged alliances with several smaller parties. His election promises of free electricity and higher pensions have also struck a chord with the voters. The final result will not be known until 10 March. Until then Prime Minister Modi will be a regular visitor to UP and the promises will keep coming from Yadar in what is being billed as a referendum on Modi and his policy of Hindu nationalism.

Who can you trust in American politics?  Trump’s mounting legal problem seem to be dragging him towards a spell in an open prison. But then there are also mounting questions for Hillary Clinton over something called the Durham Report which has concluded that the Clinton campaign probably spied on the Trump Campaign (shades of the Watergate plumbers). After Trump’s 2016 victory, Department of Justice lawyer John Durham was tasked with investigating claims of Clinton meddling in the election. When Trump’s re-election was looking iffy in October 2020, Attorney General William Barr promoted Durham to special prosecutor which meant that the investigation could continue after the Biden victory. Hillary Clinton has denied Durham’s charges which she has denounced as another Trump inspired conspiracy. The truth is probably hidden in thousands of legal documents which are enriching hundreds of lawyers and dragging the already muddied reputation of American politics through a deeper oozy slime.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and the author of “The Encyclopedia of the Cold War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain” that has sold out in the US after six weeks but is still available in the UK.

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  • Brad Barrows 20th Feb '22 - 11:15am

    Interesting that you describe the Hungarian leader as “beleaguered”. The latest opinion polls suggests his party has a lead over the united opposition so his re-election is very much a possibility.

  • It’s close. A lot of the polls show them neck and neck. In the last two elections Fidesz won huge majorities. This enabled Orban to take control of the media which is largely behind him in the current elections. He has also managed a bit of gerrymandering. So, if the opposition does win it will be against the odds.

  • I was recently in Budapest, a beautiful city. The local people I met there ( and a few Hungarians I encounter in England ) are open, Liberal minded. I sincerely hope for them that the United opposition is successful ( including our sister party )

  • Democracy is under threat globally just when we need more of it. For it to prosper the people need to be informed and empowered. Those countries that are not democratic need to be persuaded that in the long term it is the only way forward.

  • How interesting that there is no reference to Canada, a country this website lauded the leader of for so long.

    Yet the Durham filings which show what anyone who paid attention would have already known, Durham filing proof in a court as part of a prosecution of a peripheral person has all the hints of the Butler review about it. Yet the trend has been to avid wrong doing by those perceived buy many as being on their “side.”

    What is absent is often so much more telling than what is said. Perhaps in 5 to 10 years someone will write on LDV about the actions of the Canadian “Liberal” party.

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