The European Parliament’s vote to punish Hungary for flouting democratic standards works in Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s favor by letting him pose as a champion of national sovereignty against a remote Brussels elite as EU elections loom next year.

His typically feisty performance before EU lawmakers has boosted Orban’s standing among nationalists at home and also among anti-immigrant parties that are expected to increase their presence in the next European Parliament (EP).

And with Hungary’s regional allies Poland and the Czech Republic offering to shield it against any EU sanctions, Orban’s gamble is likely to pay off - although his Fidesz party may end up having to quit the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), currently the largest grouping in the Parliament.

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