Viktor Orbán celebrates five years in power with message of “peace”

On Friday, a tight group of prominent Fidesz personalities, government advisers, intellectuals and policymakers met in an even tighter courtyard in Budapest to hear Prim Minister Viktor Orbán give a speech that represented a 180 degrees rhetorical turn from his last “State of the Nation” speech in February. He spoke of the dawn of an era of apolitical prosperity: the perpetual political and ideological battles of the last five years since he returned to power in 2010 are over. Hungary is a happy member of the European Union, and wants to remain a member, even if it will continue to speak up against “crazy ideas from Brussels” (ie: immigration and the acceptance of refugees). But Hungary also wants to maintain good ties with Russia, even though it will never forget “what the communists did to this country.” He said that the European Union and NATO were “family,” even if, like in every family, there are disagreements and disputes. Mr. Orbán was either listening to Hungary’s entry at the 2015 Eurovision song contest, “Wars for Nothing,” or had someone help him read the political tea leaves  following a string of defeats in by-elections this spring, to both the centre-left opposition, as well as to Jobbik on the far-right.

Either way, if one is inclined to think that Mr. Orbán is at all capable of seeing politics outside the prism of perpetual warfare, then this speech is meant to tell the population: we’re done with the purges, our enemies have been defeated, we are victorious, so now we’re prepared to offer you peace.

Viktor Orbán. Source: Koszticsák Szilárd / MTI

Viktor Orbán on May 29th, 2015. Source: Koszticsák Szilárd / MTI

In political science terms, Mr. Orbán is trying to go from being a transformational leader into a “transactional” one. Rather that sweeping revolutionary change, he is getting ready for a period of consolidation (he has promised this before), where bread and butter issues matter the most and where he will focus on basic, feel-good initiatives to improve the standard of living in the country. He has three years to do this before the 2018 elections. He noted in his speech that Hungary has some years to go before people can have a standard of living comparable to France or Germany, but that those who are employed and work hard, will enjoy new benefits. This fits within the leitmotif of there being hard working, Christian, pro-family Hungarians and then those who live off the state.  Mr. Orbán wants to help the former.

“Up until now, strength and power were key, but now we are going to focus  on paying attention to, and caring for the people,” said Mr. Orbán, as he suggested that the government was moving away from its voluntarism. The word used in Hungarian (“odafigyelés”) is quite paternalistic. It suggests a kindly guardian (or the Tsar) caring lovingly for his children.

Mr. Orbán said that the main dividing line between Fidesz and the far-right Jobbik was the fact that his government will oppose any talk of leaving the European Union. (Interestingly, Mr. Orbán never referred to Jobbik by name, but noted that the far-right is now the main opposition force, not the Socialists or the other centre-left parties.) But then continuing in his tradition of pandering to the far-right, he actually repeated a line that appeared in Jobbik television spots during the 2010 campaign, about “Hungary belonging to Hungarians.”

“Hungary will be a Hungarian country,” said Mr. Orbán. (Magyarország in Hungarian simply means “Hungarian land” or “Hungarian country.”) Here the prime minister was referring to his opposition to immigrants and refugees.

Mr. Orbán also took a jab at those in the opposition and media who have been focusing on corruption allegations in Mr. Orbán’s inner circle and the fact that some of his shady, key advisers and politicos have become surprisingly wealthy and are often flaunting their riches in public. “No one is above the law, but we can’t accept that people are being attacked simply because they are successful. Jealousy is a communist heritage,” quipped the prime minister.

The weekly magazine HVG reminded readers how drastic a political change Mr. Orbán appears to have undergone in three short months. While he now says that the EU and NATO are family, he had this to say in early April, during a visit to Kazakhstan:

“When it comes to our origins, we are strangers when we travel to Brussels. We have no relatives there. But when we come here, to Kazakhstan, we have family.”

Mr. Orbán is the king of dramatic political transformations and rebirths. And he can get his most avid supporters to go along with this, without a blink of an eye.


  1. Avatar Charlie London says:

    This is just him positing his current strategy at a moment when the music stops.

    Orban changes his mind more often than his underwear.

    As our Scots would say: Orban’s running ‘frit’ due to his latest by-election defeats.

    And he and his Mafia have run out of ideas.

    A lull before the storm.

    Things will get a lot nastier running up to the 2018 election.

    But hopefully by then an opposition will coalesce into a proper option that the electorate can vote for – that isn’t the ‘nasty’ party (Jobbik).

    Maybe a woman will take the helm and bring a whole new dimension to Hungarian politics?

    A decent democracy from the hell of ‘commocracy’ as Hungary truly discovers a fair, unifying liberal democracy.

    It must come one day?

    (I can almost hear Fodor grinding his teeth!)

  2. I think a female prime minister (or even leader of the opposition) could be a very healthy change in the male-dominated Hungarian political scene. Here’s hoping!

  3. “Mr. Orbán is the king of dramatic political transformations and rebirths. And he can get his most avid supporters to go along with this, without a blink of an eye.”

    A king????

    He has no brain, he has no plans he is buffoon. I don’t know whether his brain was overradiated in a mental clinic where he has been a regular patient – previously was treated by Dr. Veér András – or has already been replaced with a cheap synthetic clone. Considering his total mental and emotional emptiness it wouldn’t surprise me. Yes, his well admired magic eyebrows and trade mark puckered lips with his dangling lower lip and sticking out tongue talking vividly using his sharp unpleasant voice to charm his fans who have a psychic football fan mentality – well nothing more than a dancing fool with his audience that enjoys being engaged in listening newer and newer lies. Sometimes he’s telling jokes, maybe next time he will sing a song. Proudly performing in Strasbourg until his handler Mr.Juncker halts him with a slap in the face.
    Ladies and Gentlemen meet the Hungarian Prime Minister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *