June 25, 2022

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Two European Strongmen Bid to Keep Power in the Shadow of War

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(Bloomberg) — Two of Europe’s most dominant leaders are bidding to keep their grip on power in elections that have put a spotlight on their close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after his invasion of Ukraine.

Polls show Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is on track to win a fourth straight term in Sunday’s vote, a race that’s been unusually tight after the opposition formed a six-party alliance. Next door in Serbia, President Aleksandar Vucic is expected to have an easier path to victory, though is unlikely to repeat a landslide of two years ago.

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The war in Ukraine has overshadowed the votes and both leaders have depicted themselves as the defenders of the nation. Opponents have sought to frame the elections as a choice between fostering integration with Western Europe or risking political and economic isolation.

Should they prevail, Orban and Vucic both face similar balancing acts as Europe contends with Russia. Hungary has cozied up to Putin and China while aggravating fellow European Union members over everything from control of the media and immigration to  LGBTQ rights and cronyism. Vucic has struggled to reconcile Serbia’s traditionally close allegiance with Russia with the country’s ambition to join the EU.

With the incumbents reinforced by state media, both campaigns have pivoted toward the war as the countries feel the economic impact of energy security and inflation and the political fallout from Putin’s invasion.

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Bloomberg News

2022-04-02 01:01:04

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