It’s 4.15am, Otra Vida is at anchor off the small town of Tarrafal, Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde Islands, and I can’t sleep.  The cabin temperature is a warm 23C, there’s no appreciable wind as the town is on the leeward side of this mountainous island, we’re rocking gently with the swell, and there is one mosquito in our cabin, buzzing around menacingly, which I have so far been unable to find.   I can already feel a few bites on my body, presumably delivered while I was sleeping earlier.

Aside from the mosquito, the other thing that stops me from sleeping Is the news from Hungary – the results of the general election held yesterday.  Once again the right-wing populist Fidesz party won by a significant margin, and looks like retaining it’s 2/3rds majority in parliament and with it the ability to abuse the Hungarian constitution with impunity for another 4 years.  As if that wasn’t bad enough the second largest party in Hungary now, with a little over 20% of the vote, is the ultra-right Jobbik party, its image carefully softened by one of its candidates posing with kittens (really).  The left was a disaster, unable to find a single credible leader to coalesce around, beset by internal squabbles, and offering a melange of generally unimpressive politicians that one struggles to imagine running a small town, let alone a country.

There will be whining from the left about gerrymandering and maybe some electoral irregularities, all quite possibly true in the psuedo-democracy that Hungary has become, but nowhere near enough to change the outcome of the election.  The far right and the right combined polled about 65% of the vote. The Hungarian people have spoken, and what they have said is not pleasant.  They have voted for four more years of Hungarian exceptionalism, a short-term feel good nationalist tonic that papers over a plethora of issues with operating in the modern world.  Four more years of looking inwards first, then outwards towards the strongmen of the east rather than the democracies of the west, blaming improbable foreign enemies for all woes.  Four more years of revelling in a largely imaginary past glory rather than addressing the present and the future.  Four more years of intolerance of minorities – Roma, Jews, gays, foreigners in general.  Four more years of Putinization. 

I feel terribly sad about my semi-adopted country and the good people I have the honour of knowing there.  At the fall of the Wall Hungary was perhaps the newly-liberated country with the greatest potential.  25 years later and it seems to be heading back to what it tried so hard to escape in 1989 and in 1956.

Yes, Hungary is a small country, and some will say it is small enough to not matter in the bigger picture of the west.  There’s an old saying that if you think something is too small to make a difference try spending the night with a mosquito.  I’m doing that right now.

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