Viktor Orbán’s “state of the nation” speech

Although Viktor Orbán delivered his annual address (which allegedly assesses the achievements and shortfalls of the previous year) two days ago, I always like to wait to comment until the complete text is available. Since Orbán never strays from his written text, that occurs within a day or two.

In fact, neither Orbán’s nor Gyurcsány’s speech, delivered the day before, had anything to do with the past year. Instead, both signaled the beginning of the election campaign. Gyurcsány’s speech was delivered a day before Orbán’s. Sensing that Orbán’s message would be void of any vision for the future, Gyurcsány wittily compared the prime minister to Hungary’s first king. King Stephen, he said, had a vision: he wanted a Christian Hungary, he wanted his country to belong to the family of European nations, and he wanted to get a crown from the Pope. He didn’t lower the price of oats before the tribal election! Of course, Gyurcsány was alluding to the lowering of utility prices, which has a lot to do with Orbán’s allure.

For his “state of the nation” speech Orbán faced a suspiciously young crowd in the Millennial  Center. As for past achievements, he was careful not to be too specific, but the little he said was mostly the figment of his imagination. Tamás Mészáros of the popular Újságíróklub on TV said last night that he is still waiting for the day when Orbán’s claims have any truth to them. He couldn’t find any in Orbán’s latest. There’s a good summary of his claims (with refutations) by Péter Uj and Zsolt Kerner in 444!.hu

Zsófia Mihancsik of Galamus initially found Orbán’s speech boring, but she reversed herself the next day after reading the transcript. She was amused by Orbán’s compulsive efforts to collect witty sayings from all over the world. Anita Vorak of Origo also came out with an article on the same subject  in which she tried to find the origins of “Viktor Orbán’s recycled pieces of wisdom.”

Orban evertekeloBeing a stickler for historical truth, I wasn’t too taken with the old story about Franz Joseph who kept repeating everywhere he went in Hungary that “everything is very nice, everything is very good, I’m satisfied with everything”–allegedly because these were the only sentences he knew in Hungarian. The truth is that Franz Joseph knew Hungarian very well and so did all Habsburgs in line for the throne, including Otto von Habsburg. But I think this tale about the “Kaiser” served a purpose because it is fashionable nowadays to say nasty things about the Habsburgs, who were after all the link between Hungary and the West for four hundred years. And Orbán in the same speech talked about today’s “labancok,” the socialists and the liberals. The “kuruc/labanc” dichotomy goes back to the early 18th century when the “kurucok” fought on the side of Ferenc Rákóczi while the “labancok” were traitors in the service of the Habsburgs. I wrote about this topic some time ago. So, Orbán and his followers are the “kuruc” patriots while the socialists and liberals serve foreign interests. If I were Orbán, I wouldn’t emphasize this “kuruc/labanc” distinction. After all, the word “kuruc” has been pretty much usurped by the anti-Semitic Jobbik, as in “kuruc.info.hu.”

Among Orbán’s many claims, there is one that is definitely true: he admitted that his accession to power was not a simple change of government. It was a change of political system. And thanks to God’s blessing, Fidesz and the Christian Democrats were able to participate in two such changes. One in 1989-1990 and the second in 2010. The twenty-year period that followed the first he describes as “post-communism.” The real change is the one he and Fidesz introduced in 2010. So, those of us who think that the regime change in 1989-1990 signaled the beginnings of democratic transformation in Hungary are now being told by Orbán that period is over, replaced by Viktor Orbán’s new political system. But what is this new system all about? We get no answer except that it is based on national unity, which is necessary for “building the future,” a future that remains unspecified.

Naturally the speech had its share of Biblical quotations. Given the fact that the prime minister may be one of the richest men in Hungary (Ferenc Gyurcsány estimates that just the real estate holdings in his and his wife’s names are worth 310-330 million forints) the quotation from Ezekiel 34:2-3 was amusing: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock.'”

The second Biblical quotation is applicable to Orbán’s social policy. It is the famous parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. You may recall the story of a well-to-do man who, before setting out on a long journey, called together his servants. He gave five talents to the first, two to the second, and one to the last for safekeeping . The first two servants invested the money and eventually doubled the amount they received. The third hid his talent in the ground. The master tells the third servant: “You wicked and slothful servant!… you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Indeed, Orbán’s social policy favors those who are the best off at the expense of people of modest means. However, the story has one aspect that doesn’t jibe with Viktor Orbán’s worldview. He has been steadfastly attacking those who become well-off by “speculating.” Of course, what the rich man’s two servants did was exactly that. They did not “work” for the money in the sense in which Orbán understands work. In his eyes, work means physical work, and riches coming from speculation are illegitimate as far as he is concerned. Yet he compares himself to the good servants; he has been a good steward of the nation’s wealth. He was brutally honest here: “Those who used the money best will get new chances. There is no sham egalitarianism here.” Modern Europe’s ideal of solidarity? Not for Orbán’s Hungary. Those who for one reason or another cannot compete will find themselves in a situation where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. They cannot expect help from this government, despite its fondness for talking about love, charity, and Christian values.

So, it is not true that Orbán’s speech was merely a collection of meaningless clichés. He said a lot about himself and his wonderful new world. It is in many ways a frightening vision.

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114 comments

  1. The governmental ministry KIM will has reserved most places in Budapest for several periods, effectively banning opposition rallies on the March 15 holiday.

    Reserved periods.
    Before the election:

    February 23-27 (5 days)

    March 12-18 (7 days)

    After the election:

    April 15-17 (3 days)
    June 14-18 (5 days)
    July 20-24 (5 days)
    August 17-23 (7 days)

    October 20-26 (7 days) that includes October 23.
    November 2-5 (4 days)

    http://index.hu/documents/belfold/kim_kerelmei.pdf

  2. “We need our resident conspiracy theorists to get on this case, and get on it hard.”

    A very believable explanation is that below the very top echelons of the Fidesz Maffia exist, at the local level, a very substantial layer of extremely thick morons who just keep ploughing on despite whatever obstacles logic and reality might be thrown in their way.

  3. @Eva

    Orban will have the Nazi monument built.

    The new deadline is May 31 – it is in tonight’s Magyar Kozlony

    p. 2478, 2014/24
    magyarkozlony.hu

  4. And this is your explanation as to how can Népszabadság learned the details of an official government meeting? A government meeting where only senior Fidesz officials are present and noone else? Seems a bit disconnected. Is Népszabadság or Csuhaj the thick layer of morons?

  5. @Mr Paul,

    The new Orban decree is on p. 2478 in tonight’s official journal
    magyarkozlony.hu

    The new deadline in May 31.
    If Orban wins the election, he will have the Nazi eagle erected.

  6. …a frightening vision. Why, Eva. Look at this string of people in all sizes and shapes when they realized that their support for Gyurcsany and crew would lead to one, and only one, FORCING a Fidesz-Jobbik COALITION. THAT is called a vision of horror. http://iliketowastemytime.com/sites/default/files/scared-faces-house-of-horrors-funny11.jpg

    Yep, what is going on in the Hungarian Spectrum will dooo for a good “beletermelés”
    Please consider the lives of your web-footed friends still living in the Valley. Vote for FIDESZ. Even if today the cast of the Living Dead has been joined by Bokros.

  7. The speech is a gem – again.
    Let alone, that I’ve heard at least fifteen times that “esteemed ladies and gentlemen”, the whole ting is a shear lunacy. I been thinking for awhile, what substance he is on, or is it truly lead-free what he uses, then came the revelation, allegedly straight from the source:
    http://index.hu/belfold/2014/02/18/hol_volt_tegnap_ejjel_levai_aniko/

    According to the info, it’s red wine, one bottle at the time, admittedly that’s what he drank at the night prior to his meeting.
    At least one true proof, that the word “red” isn’t entirely absent from his vocabulary…

    I had a hard time to sleep as well, and decided to test the old method with a contemporary twist: – set myself to count CÖF (the Peace-March people) members as they jump over the fence one by one!
    But I failed, miserably. Actually none of them jumped, they remained dutifully within their boundaries, marching to save the Peace – and the Russian-Hungarfian Friendship, so I was forced to return to the other flock with more legs.

    Someone must correct the Brehms Tierleben any days now…

  8. “Vote for FIDESZ.”

    The campaign started here also, ok. I wonder whether you will make an impression on many people here on the blog, Mr. Paul and Kovach and will vote for Fidesz anyway, perhaps even multiple times. But I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your subsistence future in the Fidesz national paradise (funded by Putin).

  9. Mr. Paul :
    And this is your explanation as to how can Népszabadság learned the details of an official government meeting? A government meeting where only senior Fidesz officials are present and noone else? Seems a bit disconnected. Is Népszabadság or Csuhaj the thick layer of morons?

    Maybe the cosy friends of Orban are not so cosy any longer. Maybe, just maybe they feel that the country is more important then loyalty to Orban, and they want the people to know what s cooking. As we know most of his buddies are opportunists to begin with, so there is possibility of them playing double agents. Have your pick.

  10. Dear Dr. L. PETROVICS Ofner, did you ever considered the possibility, that this isn’t the only possibility?
    Imagine, that Orbán deliberately let the opposition win with marginal majority, then let them drown in the economical quicksand what they left behind, immobilise them with the legislative gauntlets in place, turn the people against them forcing a premature resignation of the government – which inevitably would lead to the disintegration of all the liberal parties and forces – and come back to power to stay forever after?

    Just think about it.

    Presently, without a major traumatic event they will be unable to manage the country much longer, without nearly everyone realising, that not only the emperor, but the whole Royal Court stark naked. With the above sketched scenario they will have a convenient scapegoat – the allied opposition forces – to take the blame, and Orbán will “save” the nation once and for all…

    You see, there is much more in it what’s meet the eye.

  11. spectator :

    Imagine, that Orbán deliberately let the opposition win with marginal majority, then let them drown in the economical quicksand what they left behind, immobilise them with the legislative gauntlets in place, turn the people against them forcing a premature resignation of the government – which inevitably would lead to the disintegration of all the liberal parties and forces – and come back to power to stay forever after?
    Presently, without a major traumatic event they will be unable to manage the country much longer, without nearly everyone realising, that not only the emperor, but the whole Royal Court stark naked. With the above sketched scenario they will have a convenient scapegoat – the allied opposition forces – to take the blame, and Orbán will “save” the nation once and for all…

    PLAN B

    You are right. One oscillates daily between preferring (1) resistance to defeatism, and doing everything possible to defeat Fidesz/Jobbik and (2) the worry that Fidesz have by now made such a catastrophic mess that all of its disastrous consequences would fall on a slim-majority Unity victory, leaving Fidesz to lay the blame on Unity and win again soon.

    Perhaps the best thing to do with a slim Unity victory would be to quickly reform the media law and the electoral laws, declare an election within 3 months, and this time conduct a proper, unimpeded electoral campaign in a free and fair election. The international democratic community could then show its moral (and perhaps also financial) support for a democratic Hungary, and the 2nd election may lead to the supermajority that Unity needs to restore constitutionality.

    (I am unsure, however, whether Unity can even fix the media and electoral laws with a simple majority: but maybe they can annul them with a speedy EU court verdict, if that’s possible…)

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