Tribal Politics in a Pandemic

Democratic Security Monthly Foresight: March 2021

4 March 2021

The pandemic is scouring much of Central Europe and has given space for old ideological battles to be waged while the security situation online is diminishing due to attacks from the east. The stage is set in Bulgaria for a new party to win in parliamentary elections, and the effects of Brexit linger on. 

  • The upcoming Bulgarian elections will most likely be determined by turnout, which the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening.
  • Czechia is facing a dilemma between the current government’s incompetence and potentially more extreme politicians, loyal to President Zeman.
  • The EPP without Viktor Orbán offers possibilities for stricter adherence to the rule of law.
  • Brexit is souring Euroscepticism across the continent.

COVID-19 pandemic reinvigorates tribal politics  

This latest stage of the pandemic has brought together tired populaces eager to return to the previous ‘normality’, in need of scarce resources and amidst widespread government mismanagement from the EU down to the local levels. This pandemic has brought old, troubled alliances to the forefront, once again, and we expect this to continue and even be exacerbated with its deleterious effects on EU solidarity and adherence to rule of law. However, it will not lead to a rise in Euroscepticism (more below).

After the parliamentary group of the EPP changed their rules of how a party may be ejected and Viktor Orbán decided to jump ship rather than have his Fidesz Party forcibly excluded, previous promises of accountability are finally being realised. This will be very welcome news for the EPP parties that have campaigned – some for years – to have the party removed, and Orbán’s unilateral decision for Fidesz to leave the group does reflect the criticism of his autocratic leadership.

Yet, pushing the Hungarian party from the centre of European politics will not be smooth sailing. It does offer opportunities for the EU to reposition itself and take a firmer stance on violations to the rule of law; and while we expect more bombastic public displays, the tones from Budapest and Warsaw regarding the infringement proceedings may be more conciliatory behind closed doors.

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