Speeches inside and outside of the Hungarian Parliament

Yesterday was a great day for Fidesz and its chairman, by now prime minister, Viktor Orbán. The second Orbán government was sworn in. It was decided about a week ago that after the official celebrations inside the building, at four o'clock in the afternoon there would be a mass meeting in front of the parliament. On the same Kossuth Square where Fidesz and groups farther to the right, including Jobbik, had been organizing mass demonstrations against the government over the last eight years.

These mass demonstrations began immediately after Fidesz lost the elections in 2002, but they became more frequent and more aggressive after 2006 when parts of Ferenc Gyurcsány's speech at Balatonőszöd became public. It was from this square that the far-right mob moved on to attack the nearby headquarters of the Hungarian Public Television. It was on this square that Fidesz organized daily gatherings to try to force the Gyurcsány government to resign. Important Fidesz politicians made speeches here daily to advance their goal, but to no avail. Therefore, yesterday's gathering was a celebration of the fulfillment of the party's eight-year fight to return to power. Pál Schmitt, formerly one of the vice-chairmen of Fidesz and now speaker of the house, announced to the crowd that "we have reoccupied Kossuth Square forever" and that the time has arrived when "we can take into our own hands the future of the country and the nation." The "forever" sounds a bit ominous, but a lot of what Fidesz politicians say has ominous overtones.

Viktor Orbán's speeches inside the building and out on the square were very different in tone. Inside, right after his swearing in ceremony, he tried to act like the prime minister of the whole country although he didn't agree with the criticisms of the government program coming from the opposition. He especially didn't agree with those who objected to his claim that  a "revolution" had occurred in Hungary. Orbán claimed that revolutions can occur in democracies in the sense of deep, thorough, lasting change. He brought up the example of the British coalition government that has also been called a "revolution." He insisted on calling his victory a revolution: "the revolution of the two-thirds."

He also mentioned criticisms of the so-called "contract with the people." Most critics feel that the electorate wasn't voting for Fidesz because of any specific contract signed or even implied. The "contract" was thrust upon the country ex post facto. Orbán's answer to this particular criticism was very weak. According to him a contract was born as a result of the elections that gave Fidesz an overwhelming majority in parliament. And with that kind of majority he can do anything he wants. That doesn't sound like a contract to me.

Finally he expressed his satisfaction that the opposition is not united but on every issue there were people who voted with the government party's representatives. Indeed, from his point of view that sounds rather encouraging, but I have the feeling that this honeymoon will not last very long.

The speech outside was much harsher. It is worth taking the trouble to compare the summary of the speech as it appeared on Fidesz's website and as it was reported by the Hungarian News Agency (MTI). Parts of the speech that might show Orbán farther to the right than he wants to be seen were simply left out of the expurgated Fidesz version. While MTI reported such direct sentences as "Here, on Kossuth Square, in front of you, I am one of those who always believed that we, Hungarians, will be able to break with the communist past and its heritage." Thus, the implication is that the communist era ended only now. The following sentence was also left out: "I am one of those who is a Hungarian who wants not eastern, not western but a Hungarian country that stands on its own feet and travels on its own road, turns on its own axis." This is a loaded sentence. This is turning away from the centuries-old quest to belong to the west. It is a nationalistic, anti-integration stance that shows a certain Euro skepticism. Moreover, it echoes Jobbik's program: Hungary belongs to the Hungarians.

Without mentioning the cause of closing off parts of the square after the fall of 2006 he even made a reference to his and his fellow Fidesz politicians' illegal act of removing the cordon set up by the police in order to defend the parliament from the mob that was ready to attack it. At last "the cordon was dismantled first by hand, later by referendum, and finally in April by the revolution of the electorate." To my mind that draws a direct line from physical violence to electoral victory. As if Orbán accepted the helping hand of the extremists who camped out on the square and identified himself and his party with them.

What I found especially objectionable was laying blame for the harsh division of society between Right and Left squarely on the shoulders of the socialists and the liberals. The fact is that the ever worsening political discourse was mostly Fidesz's making. But now he "wants to punish people who are responsible for setting people against each other and who caused great harm to the country." Punishment figures high on the new government's agenda. Critics of Orbán are certain that there will be a witch hunt against leading politicians of the earlier governments. Such steps might divert attention from the fact that, after all, this right-wing government has no secret weapons against the economic and social ills of the country. The expectations are great and thus disappointments are unavoidable.

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You might have added that, while Semjen Zsolt attacked Gyurcsany to loud boos for not voting in favour of the citizenship law, he enterily forgot to mention that Gabor Vona had not even voted at all: http://jobbik.hu/rovatok/kozlemeny/vona_gabor_technikai_hiba_miatt_nem_voltam_jelen_a_szavazason_elnezest_kerek

Eva S. Balogh

Passing Stranger: “You might have added that, while Semjen Zsolt attacked Gyurcsany to loud boos for not voting in favour of the citizenship law”
I wanted to write about all the speeches but I was running out of space and time. I’m planning to continue tomorrow. But thanks for helping me along