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'Surprises' That Central Europe Prepares For Kremlin

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'Surprises' That Central Europe Prepares For Kremlin
GRIGORIJ MESEŽNIKOV

Extremely important events are taking place in the region.

Central Europe is on the move. A pro-European candidate won the first round of the presidential election in Slovakia. Mass protests against "Putin's Friend" Viktor Orbán began in Hungary, and Czech President Petr Pavel created a "shell coalition" that can save Ukraine.

What other "surprises" are the countries of the region preparing for Putin? Charter97.org spoke about this with Grigorij Mesežnikov, a Slovak political scientist and the President of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO Bratislava), Grigorij Mesežnikov.

— The second round of the presidential election will be held in Slovakia. In the first [round - Ed.], the victory was for the pro-European Ivan Korčok. Fico's ally Peter Pellegrini gained fewer votes. Who has a better chance of becoming president?

— I believe Korčok still has more chances, so things happen that way. But it is clear that Pellegrini's victory is not excluded. Now both candidates are trying to enlist the support of different voter groups. Pellegrini is trying to win over those voters who voted for nationalist candidates who failed to qualify for the second round.

Ivan Korčok acts slightly differently, he is trying to win over those citizens who did not take part in the first round of voting, in those places, cities or villages where he showed good results. Korčok is guided by the fact that there are still people who could come and vote in his favor in the second round.

I do not want to go into any sociological calculations, but it seems to me that with an advantage of 125,000 votes compared to Pellegrini, Ivan Korčok's approach is more productive. Most likely, he will still be able to maintain his advantage and, perhaps, even expand it.

— In Hungary, there are protests against the government of Viktor Orbán. The People started protesting at a politically sensitive time for Orbán – on the eve of the European Parliament elections, which will be held in June this year. Do you think there are any chances for the opposition in this country?

— I would like to anticipate the answer to this question with a very interesting scope. The fact is that Viktor Orbán and his party, his government, in fact, entered the presidential elections here in Slovakia. They created special conditions for Petr Pellegrini, engaged in his promotion on their TV channels, so that part of the voters of the Hungarian nationality of Slovakia would be persuaded to his side.

Chairman of the Party of Hungarians of Slovakia Krisztián Forró participated in the presidential elections as a candidate, he scored somewhere around 3% of the vote. Forró is known for his positive attitude towards Viktor Orban, so he called on Hungarian voters to vote for Pellegrini on behalf of his party. But this immediately met with disagreement on the part of this party itself. This, by the way, is also important for Ivan Korčok, because, in all previous elections, Slovak Hungarians most often voted for a candidate who was close in one's profile to Korčok, for a civil, centre-right and democratic candidate.

Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government establishment had taken some part in the campaign on Pellegrini's side the previous couple of months. In the first round, it did not help, and now he, Orbán, has a problem in his own country. The fact that the person who tried to support his rival here in Slovakia now has problems can help Ivan Korčok. The problems are very important, they are severe.

These problems began after former Hungarian President Katalin Novák and former Justice Minister Judit Varga voluntarily resigned. They left their posts because of a scandal involving pedophilia by the people close to the Fidesz party. The whole development of these events has now begun to move towards the weakening of Viktor Orban, who is the main actor of the events.

Judit Varga's ex Péter Magyar is trying to mobilize people for mass protests on the wave of discontent with Viktor Orbán, on the wave of criticism of his rule. He was at least part of the Hungarian government, most likely — he held some administrative positions in the economic sphere, and now he is trying to use the fact that he has some insider information.

The protests have been going on for several weeks in Budapest, there were demonstrations of different numbers, but the day before yesterday there was a really massive rally. But still, I would not overestimate the power of these protests, although they are very important, of course.

Fidesz has a more modest position in Budapest compared to the rest of Hungary, it is a city that usually supported the liberals. So far, these demonstrations are not such a strong indicator of the attitude of Hungarian citizens to Viktor Orbán's government, but this, of course, is important.

There is a representative democracy, a parliamentary system, in Hungary at the moment. The overall development of the situation will be determined by the balance of power in the parliament. But on the other hand, let's see whether the electoral preferences of the population will change, whether the Fidesz party will weaken at the same time.

It seems to me that Viktor Orbán remains firmly in command, but his authority was shaken after the scandal that I mentioned, because of these demonstrations. I think the speed with which these two ladies resigned was an indication that Orbán was very concerned. Maybe he did not know directly what was happening, but in any case, he realized that this scam could undermine his personal authority. The developments caused a wave of disgust.

It is still difficult to predict how events will develop, until I registered such actions of the opposition forces that would indicate that some real alternative with strong electoral support is being formed. But that doesn't mean it can't appear. We need to keep a close eye on what's going on.

— The strong initiative was started by the President of the Czech Republic, Petr Pavel. Prague found money and shells for Ukraine, showing strong political will. What other surprises can the countries of Central Europe prepare for Putin?

— Yes, this is a very important initiative, Poland and other countries have joined it. Unfortunately, the Slovak government did not join it, although the civil society of Slovakia is definitely on the side of Ukraine. By the way, during this presidential election campaign, the current Slovak government is trying to present its candidate as a candidate for peace, who allegedly will not send anything to the territory of Ukraine, no weapons, no troops. Ivan Korčok, the opposition candidate, is trying to expose government officials as a candidate for war, as an alleged instigator of the armed conflict.

Unfortunately, Slovakia will not take part in this very important Czech initiative with this government. But, as far as I know, not only Poland but also other countries of the European Union and NATO have already joined this initiative. According to the latest information, we are no longer talking about 800 thousand shells – there were funds for 1.5 million, which is very important. Peter Pavel and the Czech Republic, helping Ukraine, behave in this regard in an ideal way.

What else can we expect? I think that this part of Europe should be expected to increase support for Ukraine, but from Hungary and, unfortunately, Slovakia, only purely moral support, from the opposition and civil society. In Hungary, too, some people are not satisfied with the position of the current government, who understand perfectly well what the hegemony of the Soviet Union meant in its time and of Russia. Hungary has had very complicated relations with Russia since the 19th century: in 1848, there was a suppression of the Hungarian Uprising, in 1956, the uprising against the pro-Soviet regime was also suppressed by Soviet troops.

So in Hungary, the part of the population that supports Ukraine can also declare itself in case of a change in the situation. We do not see it yet, but nothing can be ruled out.

We can also expect full support of Ukraine in joining European integration, support for the idea of Ukraine's membership in NATO. The problem of Ukrainian agricultural products is also especially important now, especially for Poland. This is less evident in the Czech Republic but the same problems also exist. I think these two states will try to quickly resolve this with Ukraine. By the way, both Poland and the Czech Republic indicate that it is necessary to limit the access of Russian agricultural producers to the European market. Because on the one hand, these agricultural barons seem to speak out against Ukrainian products, but at the same time, Russia imports its products and then uses these opportunities to increase its actions in Ukraine, to finance the war in fact. So I think Poland and the Czech Republic may take more actions of this nature against the penetration of Russian agricultural products into the European market.

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