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Dark Christmas signals hard times for a prosperous city in Hungary

Dark Christmas signals hard times for a prosperous city in Hungary

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Skeptical that the reason for this was a Europe-wide energy crisis, he blamed Fidesz and the city’s mayor, Mr Dezsi, an eccentric, parrot-loving cardiologist who took over after former mayor, Zsolt Borkai, also of Fidesz, was embroiled in a sex scandal and resigned in 2019.

The scandal did little to diminish the city’s overwhelming support for Fidesz, in part because it was largely ignored by Hungarian media loyal to Orban. Bad economic news has been similarly shrouded, presented as “fake news” fabricated by political opponents, or blamed on European sanctions against Russia.

In a bid to win the public over to its narrative, which is not dissimilar to the Kremlin’s, Mr Orban’s government is now holding what it calls a “national consultation” — a vote on a set of key issues intended to show that “sanctions are destroying economies.” from Europe.”

The European Union has not imposed sanctions on Russian natural gas, and Russia’s energy giant Gazprom has pushed up the price itself by curbing supplies to many customers. Hungary, which sent its foreign minister to Moscow this summer to ask Russia to keep gas flowing, has not been hit by these cuts but still has to pay more as the price Gazprom charges is largely determined by market prices.

“The power and impact of propaganda is enormous,” said Bulcsu Hunyadi, a senior analyst at Political Capital, a Budapest-based research group that has often criticized Mr Orban. Hungary, he said, has created a system of “informational autocracy” that allows the government to “create an alternative reality.”

A recent Political Capital study found that a majority of Hungarians think sanctions on Ukraine have hurt Europe more than Russia, and half of Fidesz voters believe Hungary did not support them. In reality, Hungary has voted for each of the EU’s nine packages of sanctions since February, including a new round approved by Mr Orban and other leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

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