Hungarian government popularity fades after CEU row

Polls show ebbing support for ruling Fidesz party after move against Central European University

May 9, 2017
Budapest skyline
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The Hungarian government appears to have dropped in popularity following its confrontation with the Central European University, according to recent polls.

Support for the ruling Fidesz party fell from 37 to 31 per cent since January, while satisfaction with the government has dropped from half to 40 per cent.

And only one in three of those polled believe that the CEU is in a privileged position compared to other Hungarian universities – one of the key government arguments for bringing in new legislation last month – according to analysis of the latest polling results by Hungarian Spectrum, a website about Hungary run by Eva Balogh, a former lecturer of Eastern European history at Yale University.

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The government insists it is only applying the same rules to CEU that are followed by other universities in the country.

But CEU says it has been deliberately targeted by the legislation, which it argues would force it out of the country. Observers see the government's move as the latest against pro-liberal and pro-refugee organisations, particularly those backed by the Hungarian-American billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

The legislation has sparked international criticism from governments and academics, prompted an investigation by the European Commission, and sparked street protests from Hungarians in favour of the university.

Eighty per cent of Hungarians had heard of these protests, according to polling, with half naming the potential closure of the CEU as the cause.

After looking at the latest polling figures, "one can safely say that Viktor Orbán's [Hungary's prime minister] decision to take on George Soros and CEU was politically unwise," says Hungarian Spectrum.

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