Sat, 27 Nov 2021

With Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's close relationship with Beijing becoming a target for the country's opposition in a tightening election campaign, the government is now trying to distance itself from some of its more controversial China policies.

The new tack from Orban's government comes as Peter Marki-Zay -- a conservative small-town mayor who emerged as a unity candidate chosen by a coalition of opposition parties -- has come to represent what many say is the best chance to oust Orban in more than a decade.

In what is shaping up as a close race ahead of parliamentary elections in the spring, Budapest is adopting a new approach as Marki-Zay has pledged to shakeup the country's warm relationship with China and take aim at Chinese-funded projects in the country.

"The Hungarian government is now silent about such China-related controversial issues and is trying to emphasize the bright side of [China-Hungary] ties, like the amount of Chinese investment flowing into the country," Tamas Matura, an assistant professor at Corvinus University in Budapest, told RFE/RL.

Under Orban, who has held office since 2010, Hungary has built close ties with China.

Relations further expanded under the Hungarian leader's Eastern Opening policy meant to cultivate close ties with Beijing and Moscow to attract investment and economic opportunities for the country.

SEE ALSO: 'The Underhanded Sale Of Our Sovereignty': How China Became An Election Issue In Hungary

Since then, Orban has opened the door to a series of controversial Chinese initiatives in the country -- including a Chinese-funded university in Budapest, a railway to Belgrade, and the procurement of Chinese ventilators and vaccines during the pandemic -- that have found themselves in the crosshairs of the opposition over debt and corruption concerns.

With polls showing Marki-Zay neck and neck with Orban's Fidesz party, the opposition candidate has tried to push Orban's controversial China-ties into the spotlight and called for a review of Hungary's relationship with Beijing.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Washington DC 20036

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