US Midterms: Blue Wave with a Red Splash

by András ROSTOVÁNYI, Journalist

The Democratic Party dealt a blow to US President Donald Trump in the midterm elections. The opposition party took control of the House of Representatives, gaining almost 40 seats in the process. Yet the Democrats' success wasn't the knockout they hoped for. The governing Republican Party was also able to claim victory, because they extended their majority in the Senate.

For months, experts forecasted the so-called „Blue Wave” - named after the colour typically associated with the Democratic Party. Opposition parties tend to do better in the midterms, because it’s usually easier for them to mobilise their base. The polling also clearly favoured the Democrats. Despite a roaring US economy and remarkably low unemployment, most Americans felt that their country is not moving to the right direction.

In a campaign spearheaded by the still-popular Former US President Barack Obama, Democratic candidates had a clear strategy. While occasionally taking jabs at the unpopular President Trump, they didn’t focus on him. Rather, they concentrated on bread and butter issues like health care. They emphasised to voters that the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as Obamacare) was under threat from Congressional Republicans. The reform extended health insurance to some 20 million Americans, but it was almost repealed last year, the efforts fell just one vote short in the Senate. Democrats argued that if Republicans keep their majority, they might succeed the next time.

Come Election Day, the party’s campaign seemed to pay off. There was an exceptionally high turnout – not seen in decades. Almost half of the voting-eligible population cast their ballots and according to exit polls, health care was the deciding factor for more than 40% of them. No wonder, that the predicted „Blue Wave” did come, thus handing the House to the Democrats.

The Senate, however was quite a different story, there the governing Republicans were able to make a splash. The Grand Old Party was always considered a strong favourite, because only third of the chamber were up for re-election, and the Election Map clearly favoured the GOP. Out of the 35 races, Republicans had to defend their seats only in nine, and they were able to compete for the rest.

The GOP at first campaigned with their economic success, saying that their tax cuts is the reason for the booming economy. However, they changed course in mid-September, turning instead to the divisive issue of immigration. Donald Trump fired up his supporters by ramping up his hostile rhetoric. The US President referred to groups of Central American asylum seekers as ’invaders’, while he also ordered soldiers to the border in anticipation of their arrival. He also announced plans to end birth right citizenship by executive order, which most law experts argue would be unconstitutional.

In the end fifth of the voters said that immigration was a deciding factor for them. Still, Republicans were able to add two seats to their existing Senate majority. Thus Donald Trump could claim a ’historic victory’, as there were only five other midterms in the last 100 years, where the President’s party made gains in the upper chamber of the Congress.

While both of the major parties say they triumphed, the fact that Democrats gained the control of the House will undoubtedly be more important in the next two-years. This gives them the ability to launch investigations into the Trump administration and veto power over his legislative plans. Although Democratic leaders vow to be constructive, it remains to be seen how the new balance of power will affect the United States. Will the deep polarisation of American politics widen or will the new Congress be able narrow divisions?


Building a Truly Unitary Eurasia

by Gábor TÓTH, President, Gateway to Europe V4-China Association

Shanghai got to the focus of attention for a week in November 2018 whereas the first China International Import Expo took place with the participation of over 2800 companies from 130 countries and regions of the world. Hungary was a guest of honour among many other “great” nations such as Great Britain, Russia and Germany. Hungarian companies promoted their products as politicians paved the way for smooth cooperation. 

This is an enormous achievement for Hungarian economic diplomacy that we were the only country from the CEE region to be invited as main guests. For several days the Hungarian press analyzed all the benefits of this landmark expo, praising Hungarian-Chinese relations which have never been so strong in the course of our 70 years of official cooperation.

However, an event of even greater significance was held right after Mr. Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary traveled back from Shanghai that the press did not deal with so much, perhaps because it wasn’t as spectacular as the one in China.

Leaders of the 16+1 central banks met in Budapest to strengthen their ties in the field of finance, opening a new chapter in CEE-China relations.

PM Orban gave a speech that had certain thoughts to be noted because they are visionary.

This was the first time that the central bankers of the sixteen Central European countries and China have held a joint conference. 

“The past ten years have proved that the rise of the Chinese economy is not a temporary phenomenon. China will be a fixed star in the period ahead, and will be a major player in the world economy for a very long time”- the PM said. 

He further noted that in addition to historical and geographical relations, economic relations will also come into being between the two rising power centres: China and Central Europe. The two regions will be increasingly connected to each other.

“This involves no less than China and Central Europe forming part of a single continuous geographical region” - continued Mr. Orban, adding that by rail it may be possible to travel and transport any goods between China and CEE in two weeks. If we are able to build a rapid rail link from the Greek ports to Europe, this journey will be even faster.

There’s one big issue, though, that makes building Eurasia harder than it should be. The emotional and ideological trap that some western European countries are in. However, eventually everyone will realise that we must adopt an approach to China that is free from ideology. We must accept that we are different, we organise our lives differently and we lead our countries in different ways.

When it comes to Hungary the trade volume between us and China amounts to more then 7 billion dollars, and its rate of growth is staggering, standing at an average of 10 per cent during the last years; and it grew by 18 per cent in the first three quarters of 2018.

Another very important point was made by the Prime Minister, stating that it seemed increasingly likely that we would need to prepare ourselves for the dollar losing its monopoly in world trade. This is a statement not to be taken lightly.

Well, Hungarians take it seriously, which is reflected in our monetary policy as well. Orban told his audience: “When we issue bonds abroad, we will do so in the direction of the East, and we shall work on creating the possibility for the yuan to be the currency in which bilateral trade is settled.” Can you see why I believe that this event with this speech is more important than the expo in Shanghai?

The shocking remarks kept coming: According to analyses - partly Hungarian and partly international - that land on the premier’s desk, there is a 70 per cent probability of another approaching crisis. They claim that we should expect an economic decline of unspecified nature: smaller than in 2008, but almost certain to take place. This makes it all the more essential for Hungary to stand on two feet and stick to her policy of opening to the East.

If we are serious about building Eurasia, we must implement major developments, primarily infrastructure developments, because we must link China, Central Europe and the Balkans to a single network: a network on a global scale.

Hungary is in the frontlines of history, yet again. We are at the door of a new era, and our Central European friends can trust us and look to us when it comes to building cooperation with China, after all we must be doing something right, being the only ones in the heart of Europe to enjoy the most special attention and strategic political partnership with the Asian giant. Building a truly unitary Eurasia will depend on how CEE countries finally find a common ground and work together to make the journey on the New Silk Road a future success.

Hundreds of Years of Independence, Hundreds of Years of Ambitions

by Sándor ACKERMANN, Analyst at the Institute for Foreign Affairs and Trade

The greatest national holiday in Poland, the Independence Day, took place on 11 November. During the hundredth anniversary, a quarter of a million people marched together in the streets of the capital.

The historical Polish-Hungarian friendships is mentioned quite often in both countries, frequently referring to the similarity and parallelism of the history of the two countries. However, the end of the First World War represented a huge tragedy for the Hungarian people, meanwhile the peace brought glory for Poland. On November 11, 1918, after 123 years, the Polish state has re-gained its independence. Therefore, the fact that the date is a red-letter (or we might say red-white with a slight confusion in the picture) holiday in Polish calendars is understandable.

Similar to the   previous years, large-scale events were held throughout the country. In fact, there was not a single settlement without commemoration ceremony for the anniversary of independence. Naturally, the central event took place in the capital city of Warsaw. According to the police communication, more than two hundred and fifty thousand people participated in the joint commemorative march.

At the same time, however, the organization of the parade was accompanied by both political and organizational difficulties. Last year, several extremist right-wing movements participated in the event. Therefore, the ruling party and several other political forces did not want to show any kind of common grounds with such movements. So it was questionable whether it was possible to have a common, non-political commemoration ceremony. Additionally, the march in the capital city was likely to grow behind the last year’s crowd of sixty thousand people. So it was a serious responsibility for the organizers from security point of view. As for the participation of extremist groups, the solution was ultimately the result of the request of Andrzej Duda, Polish President, namely only the red and white Polish national flag was welcomed at the event. Most participants respected the request. In addition to the President, the march was led by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and the leader of the ruling party (Law and Justice), Jarosław Kaczyński. It was a great success on the part of the organizers that a quarter of a million Polish citizens participated in the march, celebrating Poland's 100th anniversary of independence.

At the end of the eighteenth century, Poland was divided three times (1772, 1793 and 1795) by Prussia, Austria and Russia. These great powers were surrounding the weakened country. After the last split, the Polish people had to wait for more than a century to re-gain their independence. Then two decades later, during World War II, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union split Poland once again. After World War II, the country remained under the sphere of influence of Moscow until the democratic transformation in 1989-90, just like it happened in Hungary. Considering the aforementioned facts, it is by no means surprising that the mischievous geopolitical lessons of the past centuries have also left its marks on today's foreign policy in Warsaw. Regarding Russia, the Polish political leadership has been quite sceptical since the democratic transformation. This situation was only aggravated by the unexpected tragedy in 2010 by which Polish President Lech Kaczyński and many other leaders were killed in a plane crash. The plane would have delivered high-ranking politicians and their relatives to the commemoration ceremony of World War II in the iconic place of Katyn. In the case of Germany, the course of bilateral relations is also very vicissitudinous. Despite the fact that Berlin is considered an important economic partner, Poland sees its western neighbor as a potential source of danger. In Warsaw, the project of the Nord Stream pipeline that carries natural gas from Russia to Germany under the sea is considered as an anti-Polish endeavor by the two great powers.

In the past couple of years, Poland has started to act like a regional leading power. Many consider this as a consequence of the country’s size, population and the significant economic development achieved recently. The cooperation of the Visegrad Four would not be complete without Warsaw's serious support, but other solemn initiatives are on the agenda of the Polish political leadership. The Three Seas Initiative is a project of twelve Central and Eastern European countries, which is primarily organized on an economic basis, and plans to make Poland to be undoubtedly the leader of the initiative. It is not by accident, since after the independence in 1918 mentioned earlier, the leadership of Warsaw had a similar idea. Then the negotiations began with the leadership of Polish President Józef Piłsudski. However, the initiative could not bear fruits. One hundred years later, in 2018, Polish diplomacy is again trying to make Poland a dominant leader in the region, primarily economically.

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The GLOBS is the only magazine in Hungary that focuses on global affairs and trade. The topics cover the different aspects of social life, business and culture (especially business culture), research and development, investment opportunities, charity initiatives, and the everyday life of the diplomatic delegations.
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