Viktor Orbán’s vision for Hungary

I have the sneaking suspicion that Viktor Orbán's weekend activities didn't help his cause. Surely, he meant to bolster his party's popularity but he seems to be repeating the same mistakes he committed in the past which twice contributed to his party's electoral defeat. Once in 2002 and again in 2006. These mistakes can be summarized in one phrase: an inordinate amount of self-confidence. For some time now Orbán has been telling the world that the election is already won. The socialist-liberal camp doesn't have a chance. This repeated reference to certain victory might not be the best strategy. If the election is already decided, the Fidesz voters might think that rushing to the polls is really not that important.

Viktor Orbán's other misstep in my opinon is putting too much emphasis on retribution. Fidesz politicians keep saying that as soon as they win the elections there will be a thorough cleansing of the whole administration. Rumor has it that 1,500 people will be sacked from the ministries, some people will be sent to jail for their alleged political mistakes, and thousands will be dragged to court because of alleged misappropriation of funds. Those people who have been taking part in running the country and its institutions are surely afraid. But even members of the ever shrinking liberal media are worried. It is quite clear that if Orbán becomes prime minister, the government will have total control over public television and radio. One telling sign is that for the last two years there has been no official head of Magyar Televízió (MTV) because right-wing so-called civic leaders in the service of Fidesz refuse to accept anyone. Four candidates, four failures. Surely, Fidesz wants to have its own director of MTV. This kind of promised witchhunt might inspire the currently apathetic voters on the left to become more active. Orbán should remember that his voting base is the same as it was four or eight years ago. His incredible lead in the polls is misleading due to the large group of undecided voters. If these people get scared enough, the situation might not be as rosy as Orbán currently imagines.

In addition to these problems Viktor Orbán added a few more over the weekend. One was his trip to Esztergom. Esztergom is a Fidesz town where the mayor, Tamás Meggyes, is wreaking havoc. Even the right-wing voters in town have had enough of Meggyes whose tenure has been marked by a series of scandals. The latest was his crude interference in the life of a local high school. Meggyes didn't like the principal whom he replaced with his own man whom both the teachers and the students hated. The result was a student strike followed by an "investigation" that found seven teachers guilty of neglect of their duties. They were sacked. By now it seems that the mayor is so unpopular that there is a joint effort of the left and the far-right to oust him. For the first time in his life a demonstration of about 300 people waited for Viktor Orbán. They were a polite lot: they simply asked "Viktor to help." Viktor wasn't going to help. In fact, he avoided setting eyes on the crowd. He entered the building through some back door and similarly exited. Later when he was asked about the situation in Esztergom, his surprise answer was that he can't do anything. The dissatisfied citizens should turn to the government because it is only the central government that can do anything in Esztergom. This answer of course is a laugh. The central government has no say over the local government led by Meggyes, a mayor who was Fidesz's candidate. If anyone could put pressure on Meggyes, it is Viktor Orbán. Some people within Fidesz, for example András Lányi, the "philosopher" who provides Orbán with his analyses of the current state of European politics, disagreed with Orbán. He felt that the party chief should put pressure on Meggyes to behave because his activities are injurious to the party, especially before the elections. The public display of these kinds of differences of opinion within Fidesz is almost unheard of, and therefore surely Orbán's handling of the situation in Esztergom was not the best. Another problem was his refusal to meet the very polite demonstrators. A man who wanted to have a dialogue with the whole nation refuses to listen to the complaints of 300! Doesn't look too good.

Another problem might be Orbán's speech at Kötcse at the "polgári' picnic. Kötcse is a picturesque village about nine kilometers from Lake Balaton. Only members of the "friendly" media were invited, but even through the right-wing media the future outlined by Orbán sounded absolutely horrific. The conclusion was that "in essence the chairman of Fidesz wants to have a one-party system." At least this is how Népszava summarized his speech. I don't think that this is an exaggeration because Orbán was talking about the undesirability of a "dual system" in which the opposition is doing nothing else but "counter-governing." He talked about "governing in the interest of the nation" when Magyarország will be "magyar ország." A rather frightening prospect. He emphasized that "political fights" are injurious to the country. The two sides argue about different "values" and surely only one political force and only one value system can exist. He envisaged that his party will be in power for fifteen or twenty years. "There will be only one big government party." A phony kind of democracy à la István Bethlen's strategy that there were some small parties and one big Egységes Párt (Party of Unity) that governed almost all through the Horthy period.

A few more speeches like this and the socialist-liberal side may just run to vote against Viktor Orbán and his fifteen-twenty years of rule to make Magyarország "magyar ország." Perhaps Tibor Navracsics also noticed the dangers that in the speech. Yesterday when asked whether Fidesz's victory is a foregone conclusion he said "no." There is another half a year and a lot can happen during that much time. Navracsics is right.

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“Orbán should remember that his voting base is the same as it was four or eight years ago. His incredible lead in the polls is misleading due to the large group of undecided voters.” Well, the first sentence is correct, and the second sentence is half correct. I don’t think these voters are undecided. The fact of the matter is that they are determined to punish the current governing parties for what they see as the political and economic disaster that has unfolded since the 2006 elections. And, I wouldn’t underestimate how angry they are. But on the other hand they are not prepared to endorse FIDESZ out of dislike and distrust of Orbán. The only way to mobilize this group is by offering them something that is not currently on offer. Other parties (MDF or Jobbik) might mobilize tiny parts of this block, but they are not going to do much with them. A new, credible left-wing party would do this in theory – but this isn’t on offer. I expect the current governing parties to get increasingly nervous about Orbán’s radical rhetoric, but I’m afraid they are not capable of stopping FIDESZ. Jobbik have more momentum, but they… Read more »

It’s also true to say that Bajnai, though dubiously connected and with unresolved questions about his business activities, is considerably less irritating than the majority of Hungarian politicians.
But he is adamant that he is not going to stand for PM, and other than him, the MSZP can only offer has-beens or never-will-bes for Prime Minister. The quality, depth of experience and moral integrity just isn’t there.