Viktor Orbán’s speech in parliament, May 10, 2014

Viktor Orbán had a very busy weekend. He was in Berlin on the 8th where he had a brief conversation with Chancellor Angela Merkel and delivered a lecture at a conference on the future of the European Union. Two days later, on the 10th, he was sworn in as prime minister of Hungary and delivered two speeches, one to the members of parliament and another to a sizable audience recruited by party activists.

I would like to concentrate here on the longest speech of the three, the one he delivered in parliament. In this speech he sought to portray himself as the prime minister of the whole nation. By contrast, the speech that followed, delivered only a few hours later, was entitled “We must go to war again!” It was an antagonistic campaign speech for the European parliamentary election. Such rapid switches in Orbán’s messages are by now expected.

Not that the first speech was devoid of military references. Orbán described Fidesz’s election campaign as a “military expedition” that produced fabulous results. Some people want to belittle this achievement, he said, by talking about the jarring difference between the number of votes cast for Fidesz and the number of seats the party received in parliament. But he considers the result a true expression of the popular will and a reaffirmation of his leadership. It reflects (perhaps in a fun house mirror) the Hungarian people’s centuries-long striving for freedom and independence.

After assuring his audience that he will be the prime minister of all Hungarians, even those who did not vote for Fidesz, he shared his views on the politics of the first twenty years of Hungarian democracy and outlined what he would consider a desirable state of affairs in Hungarian politics under his guidance. The upshot of it is that Hungarians had too much freedom between 1990 and 2010. After 40 years of silence, suddenly everybody wanted to discuss and argue and, as a result, “we didn’t get anywhere.” Hungarian politics didn’t find the right proportion between discussion, argument, compromise, and action. But now that the Hungarian people have overwhelmingly voted for his politics, “it is time to close the period of unproductive debates.” Since he won the election twice, “the Fundamental Law, a society built on human dignity, politics that couples freedom with responsibility, a work-based society and unification of nation are no longer the subjects of debate.” One can talk about details but “the basic questions have been decided. The electorate put an end to debate.”

Members of the democratic opposition are missing Source: MTI/ Lajos Soós

Members of the democratic opposition are absent
Source: MTI/ Lajos Soós

We know from his earlier utterances that Orbán values national unity above all, but here he admitted that the much coveted unity cannot be fully achieved. The culprit? Democracy. He recognizes that democratic principles preclude “complete national unity.” He quickly added, however, that “the forces that are striving for unity scored an overwhelming victory at the polls, meaning the central forces were victorious.”  He considers this huge mass of people the “European center, which rejects extremist politics.”

At the very beginning of the speech Orbán devoted a short paragraph to the importance of proper word usage. If the choice of words is wrong, the thoughts behind them are muddled. The implication was that his way of expressing himself is crystal clear with no room for misunderstanding. Unfortunately, his discourse on democracy versus national unity is anything but clear and logical. So, let’s try to unravel the tangle.

It seems to me that he is trying to show that democracy and national unity are compatible after all. Since Fidesz won a landslide victory and those who voted for him belong to the political center (a group that stands against both right and left extremism), they embody the notion of national unity. Extremists have no place in the nation because “they pose a danger to Hungarians.” A rather neat way of justifying a basically autocratic, non-democratic system within the framework of a supposedly democratic regime.

Who are these extremists? If you think that he was talking about Jobbik you would be wrong. He talked mostly about the liberals. People who defend the rights of the accused at the expense of victims’ rights are extremists. Extremists are those who “take money away from working people and give it to those who are capable of working but who don’t want to work.” Extremists are those who “want to support the unemployed instead of the employed.” An extremist is a person “who wants to sacrifice our one-thousand-year-old country on the altar of some kind of United States of Europe.” (A clear reference to Ferenc Gyurcsány.) For Orbán, it seems, the socialists and liberals are just as extreme as the politicians of Jobbik who “want to leave the European Union.”  In fact, he spends far more time on the sins of the liberals than on those of Jobbik, whose only offense seems to be their desire to turn their backs on the European Union. Of course, Orbán himself would be a great deal happier if he could get rid of the Brussels bureaucrats who poke their noses into his affairs, but he knows that without the EU Hungary would have been bankrupt a long time ago.

As for his “program,” we know that before the election Orbán did not offer a party program. Fidesz simply announced that they “will continue” what they did in the last four years. The guiding principles will remain the same: Christianity, family values, patriotism, and a work-based society. Orbán is against immigration from outside of Europe and instead wants to promote large Hungarian families. He makes no bones about what he thinks of same-sex marriages. We’ve heard these themes before; they’re not worth dwelling on here.

I would, however, like to point out one delicious “messaging shift”  in this speech. You may recall that Viktor Orbán time and again called the 1989 constitution, which was a thorough rewrite of the 1948 constitution, a Stalinist constitution. Fidesz politicians liked to say that Hungary was the only EU country that still had a “communist” constitution. So, what do I see in this speech? The following sentence: “The liberal constitution did not obligate the government to the service of national interests;  it did not oblige it to recognize and strengthen the community of Hungarians living all over the world; it did not defend the nation’s common property; it did not shelter the people from the indebtedness and the pillage of the country.”  Wow, so the problem was that it was a liberal constitution! Now we understand.


  1. No surprises here, just reinforces that Orban does not want a modern democracy, he either despises it or does not understand democracy.

  2. Agree with Phil. It also is about what people want (like) to hear.

    Jobbik-voters think exactly the same way about the EU, family, liberals, human rights, too much freedom etc. and those voters are Orban’s pool as well.

    Fidesz may have a competition with Jobbik for the same pool of voters, but that pool is just huge, 65-70% of all people. Not good for the – hopelessly divided – left.

    Orban has never been a democrat. He has always been a person on a mission to grab and wield power. Only hopeless foreign diplomats and observers could have mistaken him for a democrat, “a man of the future we like”. They wanted to delude themselves.

    How much Orban laughed on those diplomats he charmed when he got home after the dinner parties at the embassies, as those smart gentlemen had just zero clue about him and Fidesz and Hungary and Orban knew it. He played them exactly like he plays the Hungarians. Orban was always and remains an autocrat. Democracy was his theatre (or stadium) only, a means to power.

    Sacha Baron Cohen’s movie (he also made Borat) The Dictator is about an African dictator who is forced by the international community to introduce free elections. He does hold elections and the movie ends with him winning 99% of the votes, so he is now a democrat, great, so the democratic states can now do deals with him and of course must take him seriously and even praise him for being a democrat.

    Not surprisingly Orban likes Russia and China better, as at least they don’t pretend and are not impotent: when they want something they take it. He hates wussy Westerners and loves nothing more than taking advantage of them. Chances are he will continue to do so for long years to come.

  3. the intellectual rightwing hungarians can not wake up from this nice dream.
    they are enjoying the reincarnation of the anticommunist hungary, while the nation is drawn into a new catastrophe.

  4. Laszlou and Phil are right.
    I hope that the fidesz supporters refrain from diluting our opinions.
    As I read, the Swedish voters are charging Hungary with crimes plotted against the enlightened Europe.
    I hope that the Enlightened Europe will start fighting back, and liberate Hungary, Ukraine, Russia from the enemies of freedom.

  5. There is a new twist in the Holocaust Center story.

    Orban appointed Gy. Haraszti to be the acting director of the Center yesterday.

    Haraszti immediately cancelled the agreement he signed two weeks ago with the government’s new historical institute Veritas.

    The news is that his deputy, Janos Botos put the agreement on his desk, and Haraszti signed the agreement by accident. Botos now became an employee of Veritas.

  6. He left out something from his speech: BRING THE PUSSY BACK TO FASHION! (In the light of the Eurovision song contest. It was a good performance though!)

  7. Dear Eva,

    I think you made a serious translation error the speech is available online for example

    The original sentence in that link:
    “Veszélyesnek és szélsőségesnek tekintem ha valaki a BŰNÖZŐK jogait az áldozatok elé sorolja”

    Your summary “He talked mostly about the liberals. People who defend the rights of the ACCUSED at the expense of victims’ rights are extremists.”

    The critical difference is here: “bűnözők jogait az áldozatok elé sorolja”

    I looked up “bűnöző” in the dictionary and it gave the words “criminal, delinquent, offender, criminal offender”. So I think it means “criminal” and not accused. I think the difference is that a criminal was already convicted while an accused can be and often is innocent.

  8. @KN

    Since the Chief Prosecutor, the Chief of the Judiciary and the majority of the judges of the

    Constitutional Court are Orban’s appointees and personal friends,

    “criminal” is almost the same as “accused”.

  9. And even a convicted person can be innocent …

    A bit OT:

    There have been so many accusations of political figures, academics (Remember the case of Agnes Heller and others?) etc by Fidesz prosecution with a lot of fanfare where nothing came out of it, often the cases didn’t even go to court. As we say in German “alles im Sande verlaufen …”

    Does anyone have/care to produce a list of these cases?

  10. KN:

    I think you are wrong. If you wanted to have a mirror translation (tükörforditas) you may be right.


    Orban in a speech which was given to laypeople was not gonna make distinctions which are only relevant legally.

    He surely considers ‘accused’ as criminal.

    First, once somebody is accused (charged) in Hungary there is over 97% (!) chance that the person is convicted. This is the famous váderedményességi mutató or the rate of conviction which is the most important statistics by which prosecution is evaluated. Once the prosecutors decides to charge somebody he/she will be convicted and as such be a criminal almost without exception.

    But also Orban was talking, not so subtly, about gypsies and to an audience which is Jobbik-supporting and hates human rights activists. (Orban is competing politically for a pool of voters for whom Jobbik is increasingly a great alternative).

    We all know that “there are so many criminals among them, but the police will not do a thing, it is too much paperwork, and with the best lawyers they will be released soon anyway” is a common way of thinking.

    People assume that there are many criminals running around without being even charged, let alone convicted. It is not about their legal status, but about that fact that there are lurking criminals all around us, but of course certain liberal activists (from “downtown Budapest”) will defend “them” (ie. gipsies) rather than us, the victims (ie. the suffering majority white people). They (the liberal activists paid for by the Westerners) are working against us and for these “criminals”.

    In addition the “criminals” also mean the charged “communists” who “we all know are criminals of course” (ie. those of the trials initiated by Gyula Budai or Ferenc Papcsák) but of course “they have excellent lawyers and the courts are still full of lurking communists so they are acquitted”.

    I know you will proffer ignorance and indignation of course, but the message is clear to me just like to all people to whom this speech was intended.

    All in all, the “accused” is a good translation because it captures the intended meaning.

  11. “Fidesz may have a competition with Jobbik for the same pool of voters, but that pool is just huge, 65-70% of all people. Not good for the – hopelessly divided – left. ”

    Let’s not get carried away… turnout was 61.73%.

    Fidesz won 44.54% of this total. So they won about 28% of the electorate. Jobbik won 12.4% of the electorate.

    I suggest that the people most negatively affected by the Fidesz government didn’t vote. OK, they’re not in the pool of voters, but this matches the kind of disillusion amongst lower-income groups that has characterised post-Reagan America. There is scope for change, if there is anyone to offer it.

  12. @whoever

    Without the “mail-in” votes, mainly from Transylvania and e-Landia, Fidesz received the vote of 26.7% of the eligible voters on April 6.

    Semjén admitted on May 10, that there were an additional 80,000 ” külhoni” voters with 2 votes on April 6. They were probably given fictitious addresses inside Hungary in January 2014.

    “”A határon túli magyarok 95,5 százalékban szavaztak a Fidesz-KDNP-re – emlékeztetett, majd megjegyezte: sem a szocialistáknak, sem a Jobbiknak nem adtak egy-két százaléknál többet, “lehet még ez is sok volt”. Kiemelte: 130 ezer külhoni magyar levélben és 80 ezren – itteni lakcímmel – két szavazattal támogatták a szövetséget. ”

    Without the strategically placed 80,000 extra votes, Fidesz had a popularity of 25.97% on April 6.

  13. Hungarians haven’t got the faintest notion of Democracy. First off, Democracy requires compromise and that doesn’t exist in the Hungarian reality: either you are ‘on top’ and dictate; or you are the weaker and meekly accept. The twain never does meet. Extend that to the field of economics and while capitalism is about competition, Hungarians are used to the age-old reality of monopoly. The thinking is this: why should I accept a profit margin of 50% when, with the same work, I can make 300% if I minimalize, or eradicate, my competition? The logic of this to Hungarians is incontestable.

    So, it should be quite plain that ‘public service’ does not really exist–one serves oneself and one’s cronies essentially. An example: during privatization the district governments privatized
    storefronts in private building to their friends and family members. Great profits. Of course,
    the buildings themselves went begging for years to be able to afford basic refurbishments.

    Twenty years of Democracy–flawed as it was and riddled with corruption–was all that the Hungarian mentality could take. Much better now that Orban and the background ferreting
    Catholic Church have taken control–no need to tax one’s mind with conflicting arguments one would have to parse over.

    Hajra Magyarok.

    (And get rid of the Jews–they’re nothing but sophists who make us think; and that interferes with the pleasant buzz of the palinka.)

  14. Let me stretch the previous argument further. If we subtract the votes of the 230,000 fostered workers, Fidesz party list received only 1.832 million genuine domestic votes.

    In other words, the Fidesz-KDNP party list gained the support of only 23.76% of the eligible independent electorate on April 6.

  15. petofi: Well, do you know the Republican party as one that is open to compromises, like voting on the repeal of Obamacare over 50 times at least? Or accepting facts like global warming? ű

    Fidesz is, as it was said, just the best pupil of the Republicans, fideszniks will never give up any of their goals, they may wait, but will never compromise.

    (Sure enough, there exist compromise and bipartizanship in the US, when the decision is about spending more money on survaillance and drones).

    Orban and Putin and Erdogan have shown the compromise is not worth it politically. They never compromised and still won. Of course they are not democrats, but who cares? We need their oil and votes in the EU Parliament.

    Meanwhile the apologizing and divided left was open to compromise and look where it is now?

  16. “Let me stretch the previous argument further. If we subtract the votes of the 230,000 fostered workers, Fidesz party list received only 1.832 million genuine domestic votes.”

    You stretched it a bit too far. Fostered workers did not all go to vote (100%) and did not all vote for Fidesz(100%). So even if you don’t consider them “genuine” humans, the numbers are just not there. The debt question is interesting but your article claims, these were all papers which were due in August anyway. So while it costs to buy them now, the state does not have to buy these same ones back in August as well.

  17. Thanks @tappanch. all these numbers illustrate that the path to getting rid of Fidesz is by no means impossible, from a mathematical perspective.

  18. OT
    There is a new blog only in Hungarian (unfortunately) on the Internet. THe blog is run by historian, Andras Mink. ‘Menetrend’ (Timetable) is the title of the blog, and for 57 days it will feature the name of a village or town in Hungary where people were deported from to Germany (in wwii). They will also feature stories, the number of people deported and from where on the given day.
    The Gemans wanted daily 1-2 cattle cars, while the Hungarians involved were eager to send 4-5 (and even 6) a day.
    Today is Nyiregyhaza’s turn:
    Then the gendarme colonel shouted: – All aboard! The smaller batches added: – Get in the mother f***ers, can you hear me, Jews ” (Béla Zsolt: Nine suitcases (memories) (Magvető Kiadó, 1980, Bp. 243. l.)

    In each car thre were 75 people, one can of water, and one bucket for waste. From the Nagyvarad area between May 23 and June 27, 1944, nine transport were departed. 27,215 people were transported.

    p.s.: I hope our Rev. is JB is still around to read about he FACTS.

  19. I came back from Florida with a tremendous cold, and as a result my brain doesn’t work at its usual speed.

    Anyway, I would like to share with you the news about our troubles with WordPress. First of all, we all have to thank Mutt who managed to get in touch with the techs at WordPress (quite a feat!) and found out that the problem with “quote” and numbering of posts cannot be fixed. The “theme” I picked seven years ago is no longer supported. That means that I have to find another “theme.” What is a “theme” in WordPress’s vocabulary? The way the blog looks.

    I started looking for a new “theme” and I must say that there are not too many attractive ones. In any case, changing everything over is not going to be easy. I will try to make the switch over the weekend.

  20. @kommentelo

    You are right. I do not know how many “közmunkás” actually voted on April 6.

    But they are the most exposed voters to government pressure. The “chain voting” technique makes it possible for their overseers to make sure that they all vote for Fidesz.

    ratio of fostered workers and total Fidesz voters in various counties:

    Szabolcs: 35.5%
    Borsod: 32.2%

    Bekes: 27.7%
    Baranya: 23.1%
    Jasz-Szolnok: 22.0%

    Nograd: 18.9%
    Somogy: 16.5%
    Hajdu: 16.5%

    Fidesz would have lost its plurality without the fostered workers in

    Borsod (almost surely)
    Baranya and Szabolcs (possibly)

  21. @Ronaldino

    People have to stop referring to the US as a point of comparison with Hungary. They’re not poles (Poles?) apart: they inhabit different planets. Yes, the medical lobby is a monster in the US and they’re mightily irked by Obamacare so they’ve sent the ‘dogs of purchase’ (politicians)
    out rabidly. But, has any Republican suggested that the Supreme Court add another 8 members? Has the rule of law been completely sidelined in the country? Is the media an adjunct to the government and the mafia elite? etc. etc.

    It’s just ridiculous to draw a line of comparison. Not only different planets but different periods in History. Hungary is feudal; and the rabble are fed fresh anti-semitism on which they feast and ignore the ravages of Orban/Matolcsy economics. The pied piper will come soon enough

  22. A poor nation can not afford regimes like the ones which have been occupying Hungary.

    The given narrow layer of intelligent citizens can not defend the whole nation against the Orbans.

    The only hope is the EU, and the Tavares report was a good start.

    No Hungarian rep should be accepted into the European Parliament.

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