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ABOUT TURN

Things have just got a little more complicated in central Europe with the repeat victory of Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party in the parliamentary elections in Hungary. Although the results are predictable, given Mr Orbanís popularity as a nationalist leader and prime minister, they confirm a piece of bad news for the European Union. Mr Orbanís presence at the helm indicates that Hungaryís defiance of the EU, which it joined in 2004 with several other former Soviet republics, is likely to continue. Also, Hungaryís new-found friendship with Russia, as evident in the nuclear contract it signed with the latter earlier this year, means that Mr Orban will be able to put the EU under sufficient pressure. After the debacle in Ukraine, the European powers will be extra cautious about rubbing Hungary the wrong way to stop its drift closer to Russia. This could not have been more pleasant for Mr Orban, whose marvellously calibrated anti-Sovietism and anti-EU posturing were responsible for his stupendous rise to power. Between a EU intent on not displeasing him and Russia equally intent on spreading its influence in Eurasia, Mr Orban now enjoys a truly enviable position.

Another stint in power gives Mr Orban the chance to complete the process of centralizing control that he had started as prime minister in 2010. His electoral reforms have almost quartered the political opposition, leaving only a rump of the once-famous Hungarian Left to jostle for space in a political arena dominated by the rightist parties. This election confirms Hungaryís swing to the right, the far-right Jobbik party having cornered a substantial portion of the vote. With a constitution that cut down basic rights and put the media and judiciary under government control, Hungary had raised fears in Europe about its chances of slipping into authoritarianism. The election results show those fears may not be misplaced.