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Uncommon Decency

Apr 13, 2022

In numerous ways, Hungary and France couldn’t be more different from one another. Hungary is a landlocked set of hills and plains in south Central Europe, flanked to the North and East by the Carpathian mountain range, and to the West and South by the Drava river. It is a meagre remnant of its former self, having lost two thirds of its territory in the 1920 Trianon Treaty upon losing the First World War. France is a hexagon almost seven times the size, bathed by the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea. The contrast is even starker in demography than in geography. France is a rapidly aging and growingly childless society, its replacement of successive generations increasingly assured by vast waves of immigration, primarily from south and eastern Europe in the interwar period, and then from former colonies in the the Maghreb and Subsaharan Africa after World War II. Hungarian nationhood, meanwhile, has often dovetailed with descending from the Magyar tribes that first settled into the former Roman province of Pannonia nearly a millennia ago. But for all of their substantial differences, the elections held in these two countries over the past ten days have imparted similar lessons about the challenge of incumbency, the appeal of populism, the impact of international wars and the temptation to shoehorn complex events into readily-baked, cliché narratives. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán campaigned on his sound economic record and on keeping his country out of the Russo-Ukraine war. He was re-elected to serve a fourth consecutive term, his Fidesz party gaining a two thirds supermajority in Parliament. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, seems similarly fated for re-election on April 24th after securing a larger gap between his share of the vote and Marine Le Pen’s than in the last first-round five years ago. This week, we sit down with our regular US-based co-host Julian Graham to unpack the takeaways from these two races.

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