For 11 years, Hungary has been run in autocratic style by Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister, whose main selling-point is virulent opposition to immigration.
Getting into election mode, Orban said in June that “migrant armies are banging on all the gates of Europe”; there should be "no immigration whatsoever for two years”; and people should remain wherever they happen to have been born “according to God’s will”.
All of this has tested the EU’s patience and last December the European Court of Justice ruled Hungary’s asylum provisions illegal because they barely exist. Yet if the EU starts throwing members out for breaking the rules, where does it end?
As often happens, it’s difficult to reconcile an otherwise attractive country and people with an undeniably dark underbelly. However, there is encouraging news from Orban’s opponents which is why the election is already being talked about with keen anticipation.
Six opposition parties, ranging from liberal left to centre-right, have come together on the grounds that it is more important to get rid of Orban than fight with each other. A small town mayor has been chosen to lead in an effort to break Orban’s rural grip. Currently, the coalition leads narrowly in the polls.
It’s an election I will follow with interest with a lot at stake not just for Hungary but the liberal values of Europe under pressures which are unlikely to recede.