THE INDEX — April 26, 2010

Hungary’s center-right Fidesz party won an unprecedented two-thirds parliamentary majority in the second round of national elections. "Today there was a revolution in the polling booths,” the prime minister elect, Viktor Orban, said of the landslide victory. “Hungarians have overthrown the system and created a new one. The old system of leaders misusing their power was replaced by one of national unity." The final election results marked a thorough repudiation of the nations’s Jobbik party, a far right group with a platform based on racism and anti-semitism, often condemning “Gypsy crimes,” referring to the large Roma population in the country. The overwelming electoral victory of Fidesz is an important step toward curbing extremist rule in Hungary, since Fidesz no longer needs to negotiate with Jobbik to pass legislation. The unprecedented mandate gives the new ruling party increased muscle to make difficult but much needed policy decisions. Most pressing is reform of the country’s finances. Fidesz plans to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund to allow it to run a higher budget deficit—making the country more competitive in global markets. Hungary was hit particularly hard in the economic recession and received a bank bailout from the IMF in 2008. In addition to financial reform, Fidesz has also vowed to cut taxes, battle corruption, and limit the size of parliament in order to make it more efficient. The prime minister-elect told supporters that Fidesz will rebuild a country "ruined by oligarchs abusing their power." Orban was prime minister from 1998 to 2002 and is a former liberal anti-communist dissident with a strong anti-globalization stance. Orban is part of the first non-coalition government in post-communist history. The rise of Fidesz means the end of an eight year rule of the Socialist party in Hungary.

A joint intelligence investigation by the United States and South Korea over last month’s sinking of the Korean warship, Cheonan, concluded that the explosion was an intentional act by the North Korean government. South Korea claims that the attack was in retaliation for a skirmish between the two navies that occurred last November. "North Korean submarines are all armed with heavy torpedoes with 200 kg (440 lb) warheads," said one military source. "It is the military intelligence's assessment that the North attacked with a heavy torpedo.” While examining the destroyed ship, experts concluded that the blast occurred outside the ship’s hull, eliminating the possibility that the explosion was an accident. “The submarines were maneuvered close to their target before being detonated, probably along with their crews, the London Telegraph reported. “Alternatively, the attackers may have used timed charges,” suggesting that the attack was carried out by suicide bombers. Although the findings put pressure on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to take action, analysts do not believe the country will make an aggressive retaliatory stance, avoiding escalation to an armed conflict, which could only end up hurting the nation’s already fragile economy. The South Korean warship, Cheonan, went down near a disputed sea border with North Korea on March 26, killing 46 sailors aboard. North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the warship. This was one of the deadliest incidents in the region since the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War.

Omer al-Bashir was declared winner of Sudan’s presidential elections, held two weeks ago amid widespread reports of electoral fraud and voter intimidation. Bashir, whose victory was scarcely in doubt, won 68.2 percent of the vote, trouncing the few presidential candidates who remained in the race when polls opened on April 11. In the weeks leading up to the elections, several of the country’s most prominent presidential challengers dropped out in protest over a host of irregularities that appeared to rig the race in favor of the incumbent and his ruling party. Yet, despite some suggestions of illegitimacy, Bashir appeared triumphant on Sudanese television on Monday, affirming that “the success of these elections is in essence a success for the Sudanese people.” He went on to say, “You gave us your trust. I reaffirm I will go ahead with the southern referendum on time and complete the peace process in Darfur.” The pledge to resolve the ongoing crisis in Sudan’s western region of Darfur was significant, given the International Criminal Court arrest warrant that continues to hang over Bashir’s head for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur. The elections were widely seen as Bashir’s ticket to international legitimacy in the face of this warrant. Bashir’s additional agreement to hold the referendum on southern independence came as a relief to Sudan’s international donors, who kept their criticism of voting irregularities to a minimum after Bashir threatened to cancel next year’s vote to split the country in two.

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