Hungary’s deluded, xenophobic prime minister has become the new József Torgyán

I was a teenager living in Budapest, when József Torgyán, the colourful chair of the right-wing populist Independent Smallholders’ Party (FKGP), bumbled his way through Hungarian party politics for over a decade, following the transition to democracy. He was, essentially, a self-important fuddy-duddy: the awkward uncle that both amuses, but at times causes embarrassment for the family.  Under Socialist Prime Minister Gyula Horn (1994-1998), Mr. Torgyán implied that the birth rate was in decline, because “Hungarian women didn’t want to produce kids for the prime minister.” His attempts to trade cherries with Chile and his decision to pump hundreds of millions of forints in state funds into the coffers of a struggling soccer team were seen as bizarre, erratic decisions. Today, Mr. Torgyán is 82 years old, has long been exiled from active politics and his once reasonably powerful party effectively ceased to exist over 12 years ago. (FKGP did run in the 2014 elections, but only garnered 0.16% of the vote.) He occasionally makes strange and desperate appearances in reality television shows, and clearly misses the limelight of national politics.

Mr. Torgyán (left) chatting  with a much younger Mr. Orbán (right), about 15 years ago.

Mr. Torgyán (left) chatting with a much younger Mr. Orbán (right), about 15 years ago.

Yet when I saw Mr. Orbán speak to the European Parliament and earlier heard what he had to say about homophobia (there isn’t any in Hungary, but the LGBT community had better not be too provocative), he sounded like the stereotypical middle-aged eastern European male: folksy, with a faux macho element,  who thrives on being perceived as stubbornly ‘old-fasioned’ (regressive is the more appropriate term here), and ready to battle the tides of change…especially if this change is proposed by “sensitive” and “weak-kneed” liberal-types.

Speaking in Strasbourg, Mr. Orbán held back no punches, when it came to his anti-immigration platform. “The proposal on the table from the European Commission is absurd, bordering on insanity (…) Member states have to protect their own borders. I think it’s insane to propose letting in all immigrants to Europe,” said Mr. Orbán to the European Parliament’s lawmakers on Tuesday.  He then raised his newly-found pet project, namely: talking up the entirely unlikely possibility of reinstating the death penalty. Mr. Orbán is now framing this as an issue of free speech, with westerners and liberals apparently curtailing these rights. “This is not about the death penalty… This is about freedom of expression and freedom of thought,” said Mr. Orbán.  Frans Timmermans of the European Commission rebuked Mr. Orbán by confirming that there is agreement at the helm of the EU on this issue. “Don’t make a caricature of the plans of this Commission, because we’re on the same page,” said Mr. Timmermans.

Prime Minister Orbán on Tuesday, in the European Parliament.

Prime Minister Orbán on Tuesday, in the European Parliament.

Mr. Orbán also spoke to his preferance for a culturally and ethnically homogeneous Hungary, and implied that Hungarians have no history of multiculturalism, like the former colonial powers of western Europe, who in his mind are driving the EU’s agenda. What’s fascinating about this statement and perception on the part of the prime minister is not that it is a complete misrepresentation of Hungarian history, starting from the times of St. Stephen all the way to the demise of Austria-Hungary after World War I, but that Mr. Orbán is doing what the right-wing often accuses the left-wing of engaging in: of only seeing the post-Trianon Hungarian nation and state, and of trying to build a national identity that is tied not to a greater, pre-1920 Hungary, but rather to the far smaller, and more homogeneous post-World War I state. János Kádár, Hungary’s former Soviet era dictator, was sometimes perceived as trying to construct a new, post-Trianon Hungarian identity. If Mr. Orbán believes that Hungarians have a heritage of homogeneity, and that multiculturalism, living side-by-side people of different faiths, languages and cultures, is unfamiliar to Hungarians, then he truly does have a deeply warped view of the country’s history.

12 Comments

  1. Dr. Habil. Andras Fodor says:

    I think I was mistaken when I cheerfully declared – after Christopher’s wonderful article about Szováta, that that was his “real face”. No it was not. It was just an accident. His “real face” is the present hungarophobic article. He will be an excellent follower of Georghe Lazar. They are both happy when Hungary makes a mistake or fall.

    • Christopher Adam says:

      Would you be good enough to explain what in this article is Hungarophobic? Where have I commented disparagingly about the Hungarian nation, as such?

      • I am afraid that people like Dr. Fodor cannot differentiate between the people of a country and its leader, growing up under communism he learned early to only identify himself with that of the leader and leading party. Many Hungarians are this way to a fault, it is a taught behaviour. You made no comment that could even slightly be taken as “Hungarophobic”. This article in my view is an observation of the hearing and Orban’s behaviour and his comments. Dr. Fodor will never be happy unless you lick the feet of Orban in your articles and lie about what is going on in Hungary to make the Fidesz government look good. Unfortunately, no matter what people like Dr. Fodor do to beautify the Fidesz government, the truth is there, that cannot be changed even if the news is full of the fairytales. Being a doctor, I would have thought he was intelligent enough to know this and see and speak the truth.

    • Habil daddy, your commenting history shows you have been very busy with your paternal education for Chris and HFP journalists for long time now. Ohh daddy please, please don’t spank him. Instead educate yourself and read this:

      https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/05/20/its-getting-ugly-in-hungary/

      and please be good and be a daddy of your own children.

  2. Dear Christopher! I wouldn’t bother engaging in a discourse with someone who is obviously equating Viktor Orbán with the Hungarian nation. Unfortunately he is not alone in this nonsense, but by doing so, he has certainly disqualified himself – at least in my eyes – from those whose opinion I would care about.

  3. Gyula Bognar, Jr. says:

    Everything the mentally ill viktor does now is what Hungarians call a “RUBBER BONE”. Fictional and outlandish, divisive issues, which makes everyone upset and fight against, but they take away the attention of the real issues, that the Government is systematically, centrally organized, robbing the people, as the Queastor and Buda Cash broker disasters and other prove it.

    Every member of the Maffia Government is a criminal, they all know it, most of them actively benefit from it. The huge losses, the moneys syphoned off to pay the Fidesz criminals from it are paid off by forcing honest brokerages to pay for and nobody can file a lawsuit, to put the politicians all behind bars for lifetime! Anyone who tries, runs into the brick wall of the most corrupt and nefarious criminal, Attorney General, Péter Polt.

    This is Hungary, a banana republic, where politicians and their browsing friends are completely void of responsibility and never get punished even for capital crimes, such as murder. Mr. Sándor Pintér, Minister of the Interior, could vouch for this, if he ever say a true word and stop lying.

    • There are also some indications that his “rubber bones” has recently been laced with potassium cyanide and are generously offered not only for domestic consummation but available for the international community too.

  4. “rubber bone”

  5. ” If Mr. Orbán believes that Hungarians have a heritage of homogeneity, and that multiculturalism, living side-by-side people of different faiths, languages and cultures, is unfamiliar to Hungarians, then he truly does have a deeply warped view of the country’s history.”
    —-
    The Hungarian nation is everything but homogenous, it is him who tries to isolate Hungary from the world further on and goes for a complete lockdown.

    Orban can read books and knows the country’s history very well, but just doesn’t understand it. He is acting, speaking, improvises, he is relying on his primitive instincts and is sniffing in the air like a hunting dog trying to foresee what is going to happen, in order to find a safe hideaway in due time to grab his bug out bag of loot and get out of there before his own mafia runs him down.

    Until then he is trying to buy time by stirring chaos, and like a pack leader dog he is going around pissing everywhere to mark his territory. How does it work? The system keeps him alive. His pack of dogs keeps him alive today, the same pack of dogs who will tear him apart tomorrow at the first sign of weakness. Therefore, he has to bark loud, and he does.The damage he has caused to Hungary is too big, however, to be fixed in short time. The stir he creates in the EU is dangerous and destructive enough to bring the EU to the breakpoint.

    He is against accepting even a limited humanitarian immigration quota while as an EU member generously opening the door of the EU for the strangers and the potential enemies and is busy redrawing the borders of the EU wherever he can. A political Neanderthal. A born demolition man.

  6. Would the author kindly explain how a refusal of taking in refugees, due to insane EU policy of which the people of our European nations have no say over, is ‘xenophobic’?

    • Liz Aucoin says:

      Please tell us George, preferably with a link to your proof as to which “insane EU policy”for taking in refugees you are talking about?

  7. Liladiadal says:

    If Mr. Orbán believes that Hungarians have a heritage of homogeneity, and that multiculturalism, living side-by-side people of different faiths, languages and cultures, is unfamiliar to Hungarians, then he truly does have a deeply warped view of the country’s history.

    What Hungary has historically experienced as the equivalent of multiculturalism in today’s sense is the Ottoman conquest, or the deluge of Serbs as they fled from their land, enforced by outside interference, whereas the state-directed settlement of non-Magyars in the medieval period (because of cultural links with peoples such as the Kipchaks/Kuns, Iassi/Jász for military necessities or religiously akin Germans [Saxons, Bavarians]) some uneducated fools may come up here with was completely different.

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