The contrast between the words uttered by the Hungarian and Canadian prime ministers this Easter could not have been more stark. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic, spoke about how “the Easter story reminds us of the sacrifices made for us, and of the forgiving power of compassion,” as well as called on us to “put into practice what it truly means to love our neighbours as ourselves,” Hungary’s Viktor Orbán told radio listeners that the “hands of peaceful and upright Christian people are itching” to strike the tens of thousands who have been demonstrating in the streets of Budapest against his regime. He then quipped that protesters “filled Holy Week with hoopla.”
“We understand that Soros has a grand international network, and he funds hundreds or perhaps thousands of protesters. But precisely how many people he funds we will only discover after Parliament passes the new law about NGOs,” said Mr. Orbán in his Easter Sunday radio interview, whilst adding that he did not have a problem with Mr. Soros in the late eighties and early nineties, because he provided funding to anti-communist Hungarians–and, of course, Mr. Orbán was among the recipient of these funds.
“The flour spilled out of the jar because the Soros Empire decided to support the migrants,” explained Mr. Orbán. “I think that they believe we will mix with others, and from this a certain new quality will be created,” he added, noting that he believes George Soros is “angry” with Hungary, because the country stopped the flow of refugees and migrants.
The prime minister then also suggested that Hungarian academics who are supporting CEU do not care enough about their own universities and institutes. “We do not understand why academics, scholars and professors teaching at Hungarian universities do not take a stand to ensure that their institutions receive the same rights that CEU enjoys. Instead, they have decided to help ensure that George Soros can keep his privileges,” remarked Mr. Orbán.
All in all, the prime minister mentioned George Soros close to a dozen times in the interview. Traditionally, this repetition has been one of his methods when he plants ideas in the minds of Hungarians and reinforces them by repeating them ad nauseum.
Mr. Orbán, in his interview with Kossuth Radio, was speaking a day after an estimated 20,000 people protested in Budapest’s Liberty Square (Szabadság tér) and where recently jailed and convicted activists, Márton Gulyás and Gergő Varga, had given rousing speeches. The two were arrested for attempting to throw bottles of orange paint at the offices of the President of Hungary, who they see as a pawn of Mr. Orbán. The judge sentenced them to five hundred hours of community service. In this speech, the young Mr. Varga promised: “This government either resigns, or the proud people of Budapest will drag them out of parliament.”
These were the toughest words uttered in what was the sixth mass protest, drawing tens of thousands, in less than two weeks. And while legislation aimed at closing Central European University sparked the unrest, it is clear that the demonstrations are about much than the fate of this university or even the broader issue of academic freedom in Hungary. Mr. Gulyás, for instance, announced that he will aim to pressure the regime and parliament into adopting a fairer, more proportional voting system, to replace the one introduced by Fidesz some four years ago, which helps keep the ruling party in power.
While the tone on the streets of Budapest is a mix between joviality, irreverence and rage, the Orbán regime is at a loss in terms of how to handle this new situation. We are no longer talking about small groups of mainly older demonstrators, seen as staunch supporters of the establishment liberal and left-centre parties, protesting on the margins of society. Instead, we have a wide cross section of high school, college and university students, alongside people of all generations, partying, yelling, marching and waving humorously offensive and cheeky banners in the streets. At the most basic level, their message is that Mr. Orbán and Fidesz are out of touch and are deeply uncool.
HVG columnist Árpád W. Tóta summed this up best in his most recent opinion piece entitled “We Came to Bury and to Laugh“:
“In Liberty Square it became clear that defeating this government is not just a responsibility, it’s not just exhausting, it is not only hard work, but it is a party. We can stand up to them not only with long speeches, but by singing, whistling, with cymbals, standing in a long train of people, cheerfully hallooing: “mustachioed shit!” And this mustachioed shit is not even the target of hatred, he is not a feared enemy. He is simply a clown deserving of pity. And we’re not so much going to address him as János, but rather as Jancsi, once we get bored of calling him a mustachioed shit.”
Mustachioed shit is how the protesters call the President of Hungary, János Áder, who signed into law the anti-CEU bill. They chant it and they have even put it to song. Viktor Orbán’s Regime of National Cooperation is losing the Hungarian capital and it is losing young Hungarians.