prime minister of hungary

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.

Viktor Orbán’s shameful speech on October 23

Viktor Orbán has delivered many distasteful and disgraceful speeches, but what he gave on October 23 as prime minister of Hungary, surrounded by members of the armed forces, was perhaps the most disgusting of all. He did that in front of “representatives of foreign countries, guests, and ambassadors.” I do hope that the government provided the opportunity for those who don’t understand the language to judge for themselves what kind of a man Viktor Orbán is. If not, here is a summary of the most upsetting parts of his speech.

Here I’m not going to recount all of the historical inaccuracies in the speech. Perhaps I will say a few words about them at a later time. Instead, I want to focus on the frightening message he sent to those who don’t support his government.

As far as the size of the crowd is concerned, people who have been following Fidesz mass rallies claim that this was perhaps the smallest crowd Fidesz activists managed to drum up. And one must take this phrase literally. Buses stood by in provincial towns while activists tried to entice people to board and go to Budapest to hear the great man. I hate to think how much this celebration of the greatness of Hungarians and the prime minister cost the taxpayers. Yet the crowd, despite claims to the contrary, was apparently not bigger than the rally of the democratic parties in Buda.

Both the military accoutrements and the choice of the location were deliberate. As for the trappings, although it is true that October 23 is a national holiday and a military parade is usually part of official programs, I don’t remember another occasion when a whole line of soldiers stood behind the prime minister while he delivered his speech. Given the content of the speech, one must postulate that giving a military flare to the occasion was deliberate. To demonstrate strength and make sure that everybody understands in whose hands lies the only power in the country.

Orban 2013 oktober 23

So what was Viktor Orbán’s message on this October 23? The prime minister, who allegedly represents the whole nation, sent the message that those who don’t share his vision don’t belong to the Hungarian nation. He transitioned easily from 1956 to 2013.

We know that the Hungarian freedom fight had not only heroes but also traitors. We know that all our wars of independence were defeated from abroad. We know that there were always people who helped the foreign enemies. Those who helped the Muscovites, men in Russian-type quilted jackets, red barons–depending what was in fashion. We know that in 2006, after sixteen years of democracy, on this day they were hunting us with guns. They led a cavalry charge against us, they beat peaceful celebrants with the flat of their swords. We know that this could only have happened because they had the government power in their hands which they used against their own people. We know, there is no question, that they would shoot at us today–hopefully only with rubber bullets–if they could…. The only reason they don’t is because at the last election the overwhelming majority of the people pushed them aside. We also know that the communists sold Hungary, the Hungarian people to speculators and the international financiers. We know that they were and always are ready to sell Hungary to the colonizers.”

Orbán continued his attack. They knew in 1989 that the people of the past were already organizing and getting ready to salvage their power. Just as they did in 1956 when it almost looked as if at last we were free. They were already organizing the recall of the Soviets and the retributions that followed. In brief, people of the democratic opposition and the newly formed MSZP that four years later, in 1994, received an overwhelming majority of the votes were no better than Ferenc Münnich, János Kádár, István Kossa, Antal Apró who on November 4, 1956 announced the formation of a new government under the protective umbrella of the Soviet troops.

But in the case that wasn’t enough, he added that they changed their quilted jackets to suits, and tovarish to Tavares. The quilted jacket (pufajka) was part of the Soviet military uniform and was used by the newly formed paramilitary force that was set up by Ferenc Münnich since neither the members of the military nor the police were considered reliable enough to be entrusted with keeping public order. Tovarish in English means “comrade” and the similarity of the word to the family name of Rui Tavares, the Portuguese member of the European Parliament who is critical of the Orbán government, gives the Hungarian right an excellent opportunity to equate the European Union with the Soviet Union as the enemy of the country.

I could quote more of Orbán’s accusations against the European Union and the Hungarian opposition, but it would be repetitious. Instead, let us see what Viktor Orbán has in mind for the future. Especially for the next few months leading up to the election that almost certainly will be held in April. I can assure you: nothing good.

We are not ostriches. We will not bury our heads in the sand. We see that they are organizing again, they are set against us, they again ally themselves with foreigners. We can see that they again sow the seeds of  hate, discord, and violence. Anyone who followed the events in Baja knows how ludicrous these claims are. It was the local Fidesz politicians who cheated twice and who before the repeated by-election frightened the locals by driving through the district day and night and taking videos of everyone who exchanged a word with the candidate of the democratic opposition.

As opposed to the hate mongering democrats are the peace-loving Fidesz forces. There are no coincidences. The Peace March was called by that name not by accident. Because we, all of us, want a gentle, serene, peaceful life. However, peacefulness is not the same as simple-mindedness and being half-witted. It is not the same as inactivity. Because there is no peace without truth. Never was. And for the truth one must do something. That’s why the Peace March did the right thing when it repelled the colonization attempt. Thanks for it!

Source: Népszabadság / Photo: Simon Móricz

Source: Népszabadság / Photo: Simon Móricz

So, what do they have in mind? First, we will not watch idly and will uncover all their lies, all their falsifications, and the hundreds of their new tricks. It will be a hard fight but in this land freedom has a high price. Here Orbán interjects and warns his followers that they cannot rely solely on their government. They shouldn’t believe that the government alone will be able to defend the accomplishments hitherto achieved. Instead everybody in his place and in his field must complete the necessary work. Start organizing, come forward, join forces with us! There is no reason to be in a panic, but slowly we will have to start our machinery, must set up our troops in battle array just, as we did in 2010. Get prepared! Now we will finish what we started in 1956. We need everyone. The teacher, the physician, the shopkeeper, the worker, the truck driver, the university professor, the butcher and the owner of the flower shop, the young and the old. We need everybody. The most important thing is that we should get started. So you would know, as we knew in 56, that there is no middle road. Either we free ourselves or we will not be free.

Let me share a couple of reactions to this speech, starting with an older woman who this afternoon phoned into Klubrádió’s talk show with György Bolgár. She was extremely upset. What caused her anger were Orbán’s references to the people like herself who don’t stand in the admiring crowd. But she watched Orbán’s performance on television and was horrified. She saw small children sitting on the shoulders of their fathers who heard the prime minister say that there are people in this country who would shoot at those present on that square. What will happen if these children the next day in kindergarten or in elementary school ask her grandchild whether his grandmother is planning to shoot him or his parents because she attended the opposition parties’ rally? This is criminal, what this man does not only to the adults but also to children. He sows the seeds of hatred against those who are not his followers.

The other reaction came from Gordon Bajnai, who objected to the fact that Orbán under the guise of an official state occasion with all the trappings of his office and financed by public money basically delivered a party and campaign speech.  Bajnai continued: The followers of the government party are not the same as the nation. Orbánország is not the same as Magyarország. Fidesz, for the time being, is not the only party as in socialist times. You may well be the perpetual chairman of Fidesz, but even the perpetual chairman of Fidesz cannot be the perpetual prime minister of Hungary…. Many people felt aversion, some fear when you in front of a row of soldiers delivered your speech. Don’t try to recall the heritage of inauspicious times and don’t try to explain it away by recalling the customs of other nations. In Hungary and on the day celebrating 1956 this was more than tasteless!…

But the greatest indignation was caused by the content of your speech. You excluded people from the nation who are increasingly dissatisfied with your politics…. You have no right and no basis to brand any of your political opponents as the descendants of murderers. And it is truly shameful to claim that any democratic political group would shoot into the crowd…. This speech that incites hatred is unacceptable, especially from the prime minister who is supposed to represent the nation. This is perhaps the greatest scandal of free Hungary. Shame on you and if you still have just a little left of your former democratic self, ask forgiveness from those voters not present at the rally and who are as full-fledged members of the Hungarian nation as your followers.

Two visits to Felcsút, the capital of Orbanistan

Let’s pay a virtual visit to Felcsút, which Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister of Hungary, a few months ago called “the capital of Orbanistan.” It is not a friendly place if the many security guards, cameramen, party secretaries, and Fidesz devotees suspect that you aren’t one of them. The reception is especially frosty if any of these people either recognize you or are alerted to your coming.

It was on July 18 that Gordon Bajnai and a couple of his fellow politicians, accompanied by members of the media, paid a visit to Felcsút to take a look at the work being done on the enormous, lavish football stadium erected indirectly on public  money. You must understand that this is the village where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán grew up and where he now has a home. Since Bajnai’s trip was announced in advance, the “welcoming committee” was already waiting for him. At the end Bajnai’s mini bus was practically forced out of the place. This “forcible removal” was described by Gabriella Selmeczi, one of Fidesz’s spokespersons, as a cowardly act on the part of the former prime minister. She said that “Bajnai slunk away.”

The other former prime minister who decided to pay a visit to the capital of Orbanistan was Ferenc Gyurcsány. Accompanied by Zsolt Gréczy, DK’s newly appointed spokesman, and a camera crew, he went to Felcsút yesterday to make a film about the recent “improvements” in the village of 1,000 inhabitants with a football stadium under construction for 3,500. The difference was that Felcsút was not prepared, so no screaming men and women waited for Gyurcsány as they did for Bajnai.


This is what Ferenc Gyurcsány said about their visit on Facebook. He described the village as “a nice place and very safe where one can never feel alone.” Here is the longer version of the story. “We stopped at the sign indicating that we had entered Felcsút. We had a few takes and were ready to drive on when a young man knocked on the window of the car.

–What can I do for you?– I asked.

–Hello, Mr. Prime Minister Candidate, what are you doing here. Is there perhaps some kind of event to be held here?

–No, there won’t be any event. In any case, it isn’t any of your business. Are you a policeman?

–No, I’m not a policeman, I’m the Fidesz secretary of the electoral district.

–Well, Mr. Secretary, you have no right to inquire about what I’m doing here, so goodbye.

But by that time there were at least two cameras, several people, and a car. We went ahead, but our new acquaintances followed us and thus we entered Felcsút as part of a convoy. How nice. “Surely, they worry about our security and that’s why they are following us,” I whispered to Gréczy. We stopped at the stadium under construction. So did our companions. We went about our business and they followed us everywhere while they kept taking pictures. Meanwhile the secretary wanted to have a conversation with me by all means. I guess he liked me.

–My dear Mr. Secretary, if you really want to talk to me, call the DK center and ask for an appointment and then I’ll see what I can do for you, but please not now, allow me to work.

I encourage everyone to go to Felcsút. Take a still camera and a video camera along. Show some interest in the place. You will find friends and companions. The program is not expensive but  amusing. After all, there are not too many occasions nowadays to be amused. So, let’s be merry in Felcsút.

That was Gyurcsány’s experience. Now let’s turn back to Bajnai’s visit and see in more detail what happened to him. Bajnai, accompanied by Gergely Karácsony and Tímea Szabó, tried to take a look at the “sights and developments” of the village. There were demonstrators waiting for the group already in Budapest with a banner that had appeared many times earlier: “The mafia left together,” said the sign, which was adorned with the pictures of Bajnai, Gyurcsány, Mesterházy, and Portik, a man of the underworld. Another group of demonstrators waited for them in Felcsút where the police decided that it was not safe for the visitors to leave the bus. It was only outside of the city limit that the politicians of Együtt-2014-PM managed to hold a press conference. The site was, according to Lőrinc Mészáros, mayor of Felcsút, director of the Puskás Academy, and a close friend of Orbán, “right next to the garbage dump.” Of course, Mészáros later emphasized that the town fathers are always happy to receive any visitors, but they must announce their visit ahead of time. Then they will proudly show them everything.

Here is a footnote to the Gyurcsány visit. This afternoon a young man who happens to be a member of the Puskás Academy phoned into György Bolgár’s talk show. Even before he began talking about the Felcsút visit there was no question about his devotion to Viktor Orbán and the cause. He claimed that he was about 10 meters from Gyurcsány’s car and that the former prime minister’s description of what happened was all wrong. According to him, he was sitting in the dining room of the Puskás Academy with the Academy’s full-time camera man whose job it is to record the matches. The camera man recognized Gyurcsány and decided to follow him around to document his presence in town. After all, said the young man, this is the instinct of a good camera man. He didn’t know whether this camera man was the Fidesz secretary of the electoral district or not.

The capital of Orbanistan is obviously determined to shield itself from the prying eyes of the lying “mafia.” And if it can’t completely shield itself, at least it can document what the “foreigners” are doing so as to counteract any lies they might concoct about the idyllic town.

Gordon Bajnai versus Attila Mesterházy: The latest opinion poll

It’s time to return to the current political situation, although admittedly the flood occupies center stage at the moment. The flood may be a terrible calamity for some and an expensive item in the national budget, but so far Viktor Orbán is the hands-down winner in this particular political game. Learning from the disaster of the late winter snowstorm when government performance was  abysmal, the prime minister made sure that all would go smoothly. Orbán considers the Danubian flood an opportunity to bolster his and his party’s popularity. While other prime ministers or presidents make brief appearances on the levees, assuring people of the government’s assistance, Viktor Orbán became the general manager of the operation, handing down orders and looking like the man who is actually running the show. Mind you, here and there the propaganda films made on the spot reveal that Orbán knows next to nothing about the waterways. One day perhaps I will share a couple of excerpts from his weighty conversations on the state of the levees and the rise of the water. They are pretty hilarious.

But let’s move on to non-crisis politics because there are some interesting developments. A couple of days ago a newspaperman asked Attila Mesterházy whether he would accept the nomination of his party to be the next prime minister of Hungary. He answered in the affirmative. Gordon Bajnai’s supporters were outraged and interpreted his answer as a sign that MSZP wants to go it alone at the next election. They took Mesterházy’s answer as a repudiation of his earlier insistence on common action by all the democratic parties and civic groups.

This reaction was somewhat hasty. Bajnai supporters seemed to have forgotten that Bajnai on March 2 announced that, if asked, he would say yes to running as a candidate to be the next prime minister of Hungary. Certainly both people are capable and at the moment the front runners for the job. In my opinion, the question is which candidate will be able to maximize the number of votes on the anti-Fidesz political side.

So, let’s see what the situation is at the moment. Here I will give some details from Medián’s latest public opinion poll that was released on June 5. Since we are getting closer to the national election people are becoming a bit more engaged in the political process. After two and a half years this was the first time that 50% of the eligible voters said they would definitely vote next year. At the same time the percentage of undecided voters decreased to 33%, another record after two and a half years. And while two or three years before an election the figures pertaining to active voters are pretty useless, as we get closer to the actual date of the election they become more reliable. Of those sampled who had an opinion, Fidesz garnered 45% of the votes to the democratic opposition’s 40%.  When asked their opinion on the performance of the Orbán government, only 31% responded in the affirmative; 56% would like to have a change of government.

public opinion polls

As things stand at the moment, the opposition’s favorite is Gordon Bajnai. It is especially significant that non-MSZP voters and those who are otherwise undecided prefer Bajnai by a large margin.

A couple of days ago I expressed my dissatisfaction with Együtt 2014-PM’s strategy, and my opinion has not changed after seeing these figures. I still think that Gordon Bajnai’s mad scramble for the non-existent moderate conservatives who would be ready to vote for the anti-Fidesz forces is worse than a waste of time. Any kind of compromise with an autocratic regime that is rapidly marching toward a sophisticated post-communist dictatorship would most likely be repugnant to those who would like a regime change.

The historian Zoltán Ripp mentioned in one of his articles that from the very first moment of the second Orbán government he considered Orbán’s new political regime “counterrevolutionary.” The new prime minister was talking about a “revolution in the voting booths,” but according to Nicolas de Condorcet (1743-1794) we can talk about a revolution only if its goal is the widening of freedom. This is certainly not the case in today’s Hungary. Thus any kind of compromise with Fidesz is out of the question for a democrat, concludes Ripp.

Finally, Medián also measured the popularity of Hungarian politicians. The most popular, János Áder, got a whopping 46 points on a scale of 0-100. Viktor Orbán was second with 35 points, and then came Mesterházy with 33 points and Bajnai with 32 points. The “most hated politician” Ferenc Gyurcsány received 22 points. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when there is only a 24-point difference between the most liked and the most hated politician in the country. Perhaps once the anti-Fidesz forces get together and start campaigning against Fidesz and not against each other their reputations will improve somewhat. Let’s hope so. Without parties and politicians there is no parliamentary system and no democracy.