Putin’s pre-war allies dominate Hungarian, Serbian elections

Published : 04 Apr 2022 10:04 PM | Updated : 04 Apr 2022 10:04 PM

The two European leaders most closely allied to Russian President Vladimir Putin before he launched his invasion of Ukraine won decisive election victories on pledges to stay out of the war.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has spent 12 years consolidating his grip on power and clashing with the European Union over democratic values, clinched a fourth consecutive term in a crushing victory over a broad opposition alliance.

In neighbouring Serbia, Mr Aleksandar Vucic won five more years as president and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party was in position to form a majority-backed government. Like Mr Orban, he has drawn criticism from his rivals and countries in the EU, which he wants Serbia to join, for suppressing political opposition.

Both had until recently defied warnings from western partners by cultivating ties with Moscow and Beijing.

Mr Putin was among the world's first leaders to congratulate Mr Orban and Mr Vucic on their victories.

The results expose one of the thorniest issues facing the EU: How to deal with current members or future aspirants who defy the bloc's rule-of-law standards and veer from peers on important geopolitical issues such as Ukraine.

At the same time, Mr Orban and Mr Vucic may face deeper international isolation, with Hungary at risk of losing billions of euros in EU funding and Serbia struggling to advance with talks to join the wealthy single market.