The “crucifixion” of Viktor Orbán

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán knows that his government is in trouble. There is open in-fighting between Fidesz and the Christian Democrats (KDNP) over prospective changes to the church laws, which Mr. Orbán’s party initiated without first consulting with KDNP (or any of the churches, for that matter). And then, the forced Sunday closures of stores, the scrapped Internet tax,  heavy-handed drug testing laws proposed by a Fidesz mayor, the row with the United States and Senator John McCain’s “neofascist” remark have all contributed to the image of a tired, angry governing party that is utterly “uncool” and out of touch with younger generations of Hungarians. Mr. Orbán, who is still a much better communicator than almost anyone in the left-centre opposition (with the possible exception of Ferenc Gyurcsány), went into damage control mode, by “subjecting” himself to the questions of readers of the daily tabloid paper Blikk and answering them in the form of a live Internet chat. He then also gave an interview to Blikk’s editors, who in turn produced a very jovial video of the prime minister chatting with journalists and answering “tough” questions from callers. Mr. Orbán came across as a kindly, middle-aged and ordinary “man of the people”…a type of average “soccer dad” from the suburbs.

The questions were, as to be expected, completely shallow and there was no opportunity for follow-ups. But the series of seemingly irreverent questions did the trick: it aimed to normalize Mr. Orbán and his government, as the prime minister did what all democratically-elected political leaders do: he took questions from critical, frustrated and angry citizens. And because the questions were shallow one-liners and as no follow-ups were permitted, Mr. Orbán was able to answer them without providing any valuable information or any meaningful rebuttals, whilst still coming across as an ordinary, everyday Hungarian bloke, who understands the anger and frustration of “the people,” and is basically just doing his best. Blikk played along perfectly.

When a man who is employed as part of the government’s workfare program called in and asked Mr. Orbán about how he would manage to make a living on just 65,000 forints per month, the prime minister responded that he would have just as much difficulty making ends meet as the caller did and confirmed that this is, indeed, very little money. He then noted that it was still better than nothing, before he turned to the next question.

One caller asked Mr. Orbán about rampant corruption in his government and about how the prime minister can work together with these corrupt ministers and politicians (clearly suggesting that the prime minister himself was not corrupt). Mr. Orbán responded by noting that sometimes people find it surprising when a young man (like Péter Szijjártó) can seem to be quite wealthy, but there are families who made small fortunes in the 25 years, since the return of free market capitalism and parliamentary democracy, and who helped their children. When speaking with the paper’s editors, he added that Fidesz Mayor Zoltán Pokorni misunderstood the situation when he criticized ministers like János Lázár for showing off personal wealth in public. Mr. Orbán noted that Fidesz has politicians from all economic backgrounds, including the wealthy, as well as those of modest means. When asked if he can ever salvage his friendship with Lajos Simicska, Orbán noted that “life will eventually solve it.” Mr. Orbán then denied that poverty was on the rise in Hungary, despite a flood of statistics confirming this. Blikk’s editors did not press him on the issue.

Photo: Balázs Nagy

Photo: Balázs Nagy

Mr. Orbán did answer one question from a caller quite appropriately. The caller asked Mr. Orbán how it felt to be Hungary’s first Roma prime minister. Some in the opposition have long speculated about Mr. Orbán’s ethnic background, demonstrating that small-town MSZP and DK supporters can be just as racist as those on the right.  “I wouldn’t know. Do you think that this was funny? Merry Christmas!”–responded Mr. Orbán, before turning to another question.

One caller phoned in to wish Mr. Orbán happy holidays. The prime minister smiled and commented that these types of interviews are usually “crucifixions” for politicians, so he wasn’t expecting any kind words.

Blikk’s editors may have thought that they really grilled the prime minister. But they simply helped normalize his image.

3 Comments

  1. I doubt, that the viktor is perceived by most Hungarians, as a jovial soccer father.
    After all, the Fidesz believers and fans see him as a freedom fighter battling the US and winning.
    Those, who are not Fidesz fans, most of them don’t want to see him to be, anything, but dead!

  2. Following up the recent political, financial and power changes in the world, I believe that in short time many National Governments will be overthrown i.e. Abe, Netanyahu, Obama, the British government, specifically those who are busy destroying democracy, the middle class, and are working on keeping the old fiat currency regime alive, going on with destruction, war mongering, trouble making and consolidating dictatorship and fascism.

    Obviously Orban and his private government together with his Hajdu controlled private army the TEC and his enormously big international internet hacking and troll commando will fall into this category.

    Well, nothing is 100% sure, this is just my hope, yet it is everything but baseless. Let’s hope for some positive changes.

  3. Orbán Victor-ra vonatkozva kérdésem: Hogyan lett a KISZ TITKÁRBOl. FIDESZ ÁLLAM TITKÁR ?

    Ezt a kérdés nem vizsgálták ki Magyarországon a választások elött. Valakinek van tudata és pontosan kikutatott válasza vagy tényállássa e fontos kérdésre ???

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