Reactions to Viktor Orbán’s speech

Let's start with the easiest and most obvious, though more than a tad depressing: "intellectuals," professors, academicians in the audience. Ferenc Mádl, law professor, former president of the republic, was simply swept off his feet. He loved it. It was most impressive. Orbán's alleged programs were heartening. Programs? What programs? Perhaps heard a different speech. Szilveszter Vizi, former president of the Hungarian Academy, was also impressed. Starting with the world economic crisis Orbán moved to the "Hungarian reality." And with such ease! Vizi also loved Orbán's metaphors which were simple and therefore easily understable. Miklós Kun, historian, grandson of Béla Kun who in spite of his family heritage is nowadays a fierce right-winger, was taken with the brilliant structure of the speech. Zsuzsa Hegedűs, a sociologist who lived in France for a long time, was a bit more sophisticated. She discovered the influence of Barack Obama and Nicholas Sarkozy but added, "we are in the forefront" in thinking about politics and economics.

Then came two economists' views. László Csaba, whom I call Don Quixote the Knight of the Sad Face because he looks the way I envisage Don Quixote, saw "a new economic policy" articulated by Viktor Orbán, adding that this time Hungarian society might be ready to embrace it. He didn't elaborate what he considered this new economic policy to be. László Békesi, one of those in the peculiar little group of reform economists, obviously had a different opinion. He rejected the notion of an entirely new economic model that breaks away from capitalism. Békesi criticized Orbán's ideas about the nation state's supervision of the country's money markets. Such an arrangement would create an economic situation that Hungary abandoned twenty years ago because it would limit the free flow of capital and savings. He added while the criticism of the current government is legitimate it would be nice to know at last how Fidesz would handle the crisis.

Then there were the political scientists (politológusok) who are not really political scientists but political commentators. Their reactions of course reflected their political loyalties. András Giró-Szász (Századvég) is very close to Fidesz. In fact, he was one of the lucky ones invited to listen to Orbán's speech. According to him: "Viktor Orbán drew a sharp line between past and future. He called attention to the fundamental problems and outlined a rethinking of the role of the state. He called attention to a new kind of understanding between politics and business. A speech assessing the current situation doesn't have to go into details beyond this vision." Maybe I'm slow but I didn't hear anything about a new understanding between politics and business. Zoltán Somogyi of Political Capital simply pointed out Orbán's reluctance to commit himself or to say anything specific. Instead he talked about the past at length, said a lot about the future, but avoided any reference to the present. Ágoston Sámuel Mráz (Nézőpont, close to Fidesz, also present at the speech) naturally liked it. According to him Orbán paid a lot of attention to all segments of Hungarian society. According to Mráz "it is hard to assail this speech. It was thoughful and uplifting." Zoltán Kiszelly, who appears a lot on television, discovered significant cross-generational references. True, he did mention in a sentence or two "our grandparents" who built this country after the war and after 1956 and he did ask the youngsters not to leave the country but to stay and help build his brave new world. Attila Juhász (also of Political Capital) missed these references; he just thought that Orbán spent a considerable amount of time on the analysis of the crisis but avoided offering any specific suggestions. Some of the political commentators found the speech a bit dull, not at all uplifting, not as good as some of his others. Others thought that it was a campaign speech that will mobilize the Fidesz voters. Take your pick!

Then there was a long discussion of the speech at József Orosz's Kontra (KlubRádió) among three political commentators. Two of these, Kornélia Magyar (Progressziv Intézet) and Zsolt Pétervári (Méltányosság), are old hands at Kontra. This time they were joined by Márk Szabó (Nézőpont). It was Kornélia Magyar who first called attention to the "change" and "hope" theme borrowed from the campaign of Barack Obama. However, Magyar noted that aside from the use of the same words there was practically nothing in Orbán's speech that reflected Obama's political mindset. Obama keeps trying, despite initial failures, to create a common ground with his political opponents. Orbán refuses to exchange a word with the current prime minister of Hungary. Zsolt Pétervári called attention to some borrowings from Tony Blair, especially from a famous speech of 1997. Márk Szabó believed that the speech was not good enough to recruit new supporters or to inspire the flock. But, he continued, it was good enough to show that Fidesz has some ideas concerning the role of the state.

And finally, let's look deeper into Orbán's borrowings. Here I am beholden to the research done by József Orosz, the anchorman of Kontra. According to him, Orbán's call to put an end to the past, to open a new chapter, to retake the country harks back to Obama's acceptance speech in Denver. See Orosz also discovered a striking resemblance between Orbán's words about punishing those who are responsible for the crisis– the bankers and the brokers–and Nicholas Sarkozy's speeches at the meeting of the G20 in Washington and before the United Nations. "We must rethink the financial system from scratch, as at Bretton Woods." Or "… to found the new world order of the twenty-first century on the basis of the potent idea that mankind's public good must be made the responsibility of the whole mankind." But at the same time Sarkozy defended the basic concepts of the free market economy: "… defended free-market principles in a speech in New York on Thursday and said further summits would be needed to overcome the crisis."

And then there was the "borrowing" from Tony Blair, excerpted from his first speech in parliament as prime minister in 1997. Were the speechwriters such thorough researchers, Orosz asked. Most unlikely; rather, they got the line from a 2006 film entitled The Queen. "To make privilege something for the many, not the few." In Blair's speech before parliament he was more expansive: "I want to set an ambitious course to modernise this country. To breathe new life into our institutions. To make privilege something for the many, not the few."

There is the old saw that imitation (or in some versions, plagiarism) is the sincerest form of flattery. Somehow I don't think that Orbán aligns himself with these politicians. But I do think that he imagines himself as an equal on the world stage–Obama, Sarkozy, Blair (or his successor), and Orbán. Now that would set Hungary on a new trajectory.

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“In Blair’s speech before parliament he was more expansive: “I want to set an ambitious course to modernise this country. To breathe new life into our institutions. To make privilege something for the many, not the few.””
Orbán’s use of the “many, not the few” line is hilarious. Blair used it to underline the committment to the values of his party – it comes straight out of Clause IV of the UK Labour Party constitution, paragraph 1:
“The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few; where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe and where we live together freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.”
Note the line in the middle of paragraph.
Now if Orbán signed up to the principles in there – he could leave the democratic socialist bit out – he’d go up in my estimation.

I listened to the Orban speech today, and it was pretty close to brilliant. I don’t know how much of the problems he will actually solve, but at least he’s got a clear view of what’s wrong with Hungary and the world in general. That’s a start, Gyurcsany never made it this far. I’m afraid at this point we have no other choice but to support Orban, which means supporting FIDESZ. I don’t like parties, and I’d much prefer to see only independent candidates for all public office. Parties for some reason always turn into mafia-like secret and self-serving organizations, but the country and the world is not ready for fair politics just yet, so we take any offer. We must get out of the Gyurcsany era of hopeless destruction and find a way out soon. Gyurcsany is only interested in staying in power, at least as long as the money runs out, then leaves a bankrupt country to the next government. He uses the ethnic tension to his advantage, anyone who doesn’t support him will be called far-right, extremist or worse. Blame goes everywhere except to the dysfunctional government. Every decent Hungarian with some level of brain activity, who… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
And it came to pass that the ‘All Highest’ of Fidesz did command, all of those of his followers who could write, to write for him a ‘Great Sermon’ so all the peoples in the world should know of his learning, greatness and wisdom. And in the fullness of time the ‘All Highest’ of Fidesz did speak words of the Great Sermon unto the disciples and the multitudes there assembled. And all the assembled multitudes did cry Hosanna!, Hallelujah!, and did praise the Great Sermon and the all highest unto the heavens. Watching from afar there were some children and an ‘Ancient of Days’. “Well” said the children unto the ‘Ancient One’, “verily there in lies new wisdom and new truth such as the world has not seen in years”. The Ancient One just refilled his loathsome tobacco pipe, which he lit and having puffed at it reflecting upon the ‘Great Sermon’, spake saying “piffle, horse feathers and bunkum!” “Why sayest thou that?” asked one who stood near, “for are these not the words of a truly Great One and are they not new and contain Great Truths?”. “Truly they be all ‘Blather and Hog-wash’ and are as full of… Read more »

Are you trying to say something? What is it?

Dear OP! Regret to say, that I have discovered a slight misjudgement from your side. You say: “..He sounds a lot more sincere and seems to have a clue…” He SOUNDS more sincere, but what this means? He – certainly – knows the way around, he knows just how to sound sincere. In my point of view: nothing more. As we all know, mr. Orban started up as a liberal democrat. If I may ask: where is he now? Do you – with all due respect – or anyone else for that matter -able today exactly define mr. Orban political status, stance? Do you really take this path as ” sincere”??? At present he sounds as “National Socialist” – because these are the cornerpoints of his agenda: nationalism and the social care of the “people”… (One can elaborate on the subject – on request I will – yes, I have the reasoning!) Where last time I/we heard such? Yes, indeed..! Do we really have to support this? I sincerely hope NO! Yes, I agree, the presen huingarian government inadequate. Particularly, because they have missed the opportunity to have an open conversation with the “people”, therefore they have no popular support,… Read more »
Odin's lost eye

Mr Op
Read Hans Christian Andersen the story of “The Emperors new clothes” and drawer a Parallel.
Mr Spectator Actually there is one set of equations where time can reverse that is it uses a square root of time – Unfortunately it only applies in Quantum Mechanics As you so correctly say the past is finished with and cannot be changed. As to “National Socialism” or anything like it 99% of Europe has had enough of that stuff, thank you.
The real problem for the world (and Hungary)is that the Credit Bubble has burst -as all bubbles do- so as the
US dollar bill says “In God we Trust” – ALL OTHERS PAY CASH! and that is the nub of the matter. Until Fidesz understand this point all the pronouncements of their ‘All Highest’ are bunkum or any other expression you choose. The Poles before things went badly wrong re-scheduled their debts – Good for the Poles!


I believe you guys either don’t understand Hungarian, and your information comes from a biased mis-translation of the speech, or you just didn’t get the message.
We have no time for Andersen fables and the usual daily Gyurcsany announcements of “reform” and other meaningless words.
We need straight talk followed by action, and our current government is incapable of that. MSZP, SZDSZ and MDF are morally bankrupt, they must go along with their outdated system of empty promises and insane borrowing to feed corruption.
It’s time for something completely new (and not old as you’re suggesting). Orban has the experience, the public support, and some sound ideas. He’s my candidate. Who’s yours? If you have any better suggestions, don’t keep them to yourself, let’s hear it.


Op: “they must go along with their outdated system of empty promises and insane borrowing to feed corruption.
It’s time for something completely new ….. Orban has the experience”
Now, obviously, you want something new – and I can see why, honestly I can. But let me get just this straight – this “completely new” person was Prime Minister between 1998 and 2002; leader of his party (effectively) since 1993 (sixteen years); in parliament since 1990 (nineteen years); in the political frontline since 1989 (twenty years). He’s also got quite a record on the empty promises – 1998: 7% economic growth per annum (not delivered); and then let’s just look at the 2006 ones: hugecuts in employer payroll taxes, caps on energy bills, and the fourteenth month pension (in the face of the evidence of every calendar that a year has twelve months). And his government wasn’t completely free of the stink of corruprion either.
Orbán as something “completely new”! I think I can see a squadron of flying pigs!