Viktor Orbán’s civilian weaklings versus assertive soldiers: El-Sisi and Horthy

Viktor Orbán, although he tries to act as if all were well, is in a political fix. He desperately wants to regain his lost voters but doesn’t know how. He is still casting about for a viable method.

A couple of months ago he indicated that from here on Fidesz will focus on the hard-working ordinary Joe (a keményen dolgozó kisember) only to change his tune when he decided that, after all, Fidesz wants to return to the original idea of a “bourgeois” Hungary.

Then came the immigrant issue, which looked like a sure-fire thing, but since most Hungarians don’t encounter immigrants from far-away places the initial hate campaign fell flat. But Fidesz strategists think that the issue of immigration still offers great benefits; it just needs re-enforcement. Soon enough huge billboards will be scattered around the country to make sure that Hungarians will be fired up against foreigners in general. As Magyar Narancs aptly put it: “Orbán’s message is ‘hate and be afraid, so I can defend you.'”

Two days ago Viktor Orbán gave an interview to Napi Gazdaság in which there were a few sentences that caught the eye of the Budapest reporters of Reuters, and because so many papers subscribe to this wire service the news appeared in almost all the larger foreign newspapers. Here I give my own translation of the passage.

Multiculturalism is finished, as German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first to announce. Multiculturalism is the intermingling of different civilizations. It is a different thing when a country is composed of different nationality groups and cultures. That is not multiculturalism. Multiculturalism means the coexistence of people of different cultural backgrounds: Islam, Asian religions, and Christianity. We will do everything for Hungary to avoid this. We welcome investors, artists, and scientists from non-Christian countries, but we don’t want to mix with them on a large scale.

Actually, Orbán’s rather primitive description of multiculturalism is misleading. The United States has taken in an incredible number of immigrants over the years, but by the second or third generation these people are assimilated without the government making any serious efforts in this direction. In fact, bilingual schools had very mixed results and since have been largely abandoned. Assimilation is inevitable unless the central government fosters separation. Orbán seems to be talking about the policies of Germany, which indeed turned out to be a disaster. But, surely, there is a happy medium. Hungary needs immigrants, and the “intermingling” of ethnic groups with different cultural backgrounds has enormous benefits in the long run. Hungary’s history is full of such examples.

This interview about the evils of multiculturalism took place two days ago. Today, at a press conference held after his meeting with visiting Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Orbán declared that his government believes in cultural diversity and that “the variegation of our cultures is a gift of God.” I guess it would have been impolite to repeat that we don’t want “your kind” in our country.

Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi and Viktor Orbán / Photo Zoltán Máthé ?MTI

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Viktor Orbán / Photo Zoltán Máthé / MTI

Unfortunately that was not the only thing he said. Since he obviously wants to please certain politicians, he praises them and their country lavishly, quite independently of whether such praise is in order or whether it is, diplomatically speaking, proper. To call el-Sisi “the extraordinary leader of an extraordinary country” is over the top. El-Sisi was, in turn, taken with Viktor Orbán and congratulated the Hungarian people who were so wise as to elect such a man to lead the country. A mutual admiration society.

It is apparent from Ahram-Online, an Egyptian paper, that Orbán succeeded in his courting of the visitor. The Egyptians were impressed. They were happy to hear that “Cairo does not have to follow the western version of democracy” despite international concerns over Egypt’s human rights record. El-Sisi, who visited Germany earlier, encountered demonstrations there, and Angela Merkel was critical of the large number of death sentences handed out in Egypt since 2013. “In contrast, Prime Minister Victor Orban, who caused a furor recently by saying the death penalty, banned in the EU, needed to be ‘kept on the agenda’ … said Western ideals were not necessarily suited for everyone.” He stressed that “we are not professors of democracy … [and] we are glad that the Egyptian people are travelling down their own path,” adding that he hoped for their success.

Well, this was bad enough, but Orbán had a little surprise for the Hungarians as well. For some strange reason he felt compelled to make an allusion to el-Sisi’s military past and the military coup that removed the democratically elected government of Mohamed Morsi. But what he had to say was strange in more than one way. Here is the passage in question: “We are not averse to military men turned political leaders” because, he said, he remembers those times when “assertive soldiers took over power from us, civilian weaklings, in order to save the country.” He expressed his hope that Egypt will have as good an experience with soldiers as Hungary did.

The soldier Orbán had in mind cannot be anyone else but Admiral Miklós Horthy, governor of the autocratic regime during the interwar period. This was his first public admission that he and his regime find Horthy the savior of Hungary. Until now it was only Jobbik that wanted to “rehabilitate” Horthy. Every November 16 Jobbik celebrates the anniversary of Horthy’s entrance into Budapest in 1919. Perhaps from here on it can be Viktor Orbán who leads the white horse, an animal closely associated with the governor, along Béla Bartók Road, which bore the name of Horthy before 1945.

Jobbik scored again. Orbán, it seems, accepted another demand of Jobbik: the rehabilitation of Admiral Horthy.

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June 5, 2015 9:04 pm

Well, about a decade ago Orban was accused to build the Sandor Palota for himself. Now I read in this rather low class story, that he might like to use a white horse a la Horthy.
Talking about Horthy he did save the disoriented, crushed country from the Communists. In 1993 his remains were reburied in Kenderes, and tens of thousands from all other the country attended the service. He does not need any additional rehabilitation.

June 6, 2015 7:57 am

Miklos, your history is wrong.
Horthy did not save the country from communists.
They were driven out by the Romanian army.
All Horthy did was to have his people execute communist leaders who had already been driven from power, and whose army had already been demolished.
You see, Horthy came to power after the communists had been crushed. He came to power with the permission of the Romanian Army, and he came to power with the assistance of the British and (particularly) of the French commander in Szeged, who also supplied him with weapons, incidentally.
The communists (whom I, too, despise) actually fought against Trianon. They lost, but at least they fought (and they beat the Czechs, too – the Romanians crushed them). Horthy, however, accepted the treaty.
If you doubt a single word I have written above, open any academic Hungarian history about what happened in 1919-1920.

June 6, 2015 10:13 am

Interesting that Miklos, clearly a Horthy symp, uses the name that Horthy had been given, minus the diacritic. Doubt that the poster is a real Miklós.

It is disturbing the hold that this wannabe king (who was ‘only’ a regent) has on many Hungarians. It plays to the ‘strongman’ desire in some of the population, someone to lead it out of the troubles Hungary finds itself.

Horthy’s hands are dirty. He played around with fascism. He has been linked to the murder of many jews. A wedge (in the form of ongoing public education) must be created between the icon of Hungary that Jobbik and others, including Viktor Orbán, want to fashion and the historical reality that is Miklós Horthy, the rightwinger who brought WW2 to Hungary.


June 6, 2015 3:29 pm

With reference to Horthy murdering Jews, the history in different. There were no deportation prior to March 19, 1944. In May or early June Horthy ordered General Koszorus to surrender the city, removed Laszlo Endre and Baky, and no Jews were deported from Budapest until Horthy was forced to resign in October.

June 6, 2015 3:37 pm

But of course the Gendarmarie had started mass murdering them in the countryside in 1942. This you fail to mention. Funny how you only mention the Budapest deportations. The sins of Horthy did NOT only begin in May 1944.

June 7, 2015 3:42 am

So “no Jews were deported from Budapest” but it was ok to deport almost half a million Jews from the countryside?
Btw already in 1940 many Jews were put into work camps – there is a moving story about an internationally famous young mathematician, Túran Pál, who could not get a job in the 30s and survived only because some guard recognised his name (I’ve written about this before). I’ll give the link in English because you probably can’t read Hungarian …:
And while being worked to death (almost …) he proved the famous “Túran’s theorem”in graph theory!

June 6, 2015 12:51 am

Many of these immigrants from “non-Christian countries” as Orbán says are actually better “Christians” than most Hungarians.

Those African people you see are almost all Catholic or Anglican. Many of them are devout. Many of them are also VERY conservative on moral issues. Abortion, homosexuality, the family, the role of the church in their lives.

I would think they would fit in well with Fidesz-KDNP’s worldview.

Those Chinese people who come are hardly followers of “Asian religions”. If anything, they are Buddhists only in name. Their real religion is dollars, euros, success. Like most modern Europeans’ religion.

Those Islamic people, well, many of them are Islamic only in name. Cultural Muslims, like Cultural Catholics or Cultural Jews. Lots of alcohol drinking and pork eating among them.

Some of those Islamic people however actually practice their religion. But let’s be honest, their worldview is very very similar to the worldview of Fidesz-KDNP. For example, on women’s issues. On marriage and the family and sexuality.

They are not from such a radically different culture after all.

June 6, 2015 2:23 pm

I like your response, very true what you are saying. However, we all know this isn’t really about “cultural” differences. It is about color of skin.

June 6, 2015 8:29 am

Shame on us we have elected such a noxious political Corleone. Shame on us we were/are so weak and divided to resist seeing his running amok in every fronts. We deserve the catastrophe toward of what he has been driving our country. Not all of us, but it cannot be helped.

June 6, 2015 9:31 am
PM Orban should be careful in his ideological support for the Egyptian military coup against the elected authoritarian government of the Islamic brotherhood. The danger here for him is that in Egypt we have a military officer corp funded, trained, and supported by my government here in the USA. Some of these key officers were also trained at Sandhurst in the UK. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attended both the British Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) and United States Army War College (USAWC) that my daughter and I both did some of graduate school studies at. In the midst of chaos the officer corp can indeed become a point of stability and PM Orban should contemplate that because as Ambassador Kounalakis’s book reveals the Hungarian TEK was provided training and support by the United States government. While János Hajdu, Orbán’s former personal bodyguard, was appointed directly by the prime minister to be the first head of the TEK even this elite entity is not without its outside influences. Many officers in the Hungarian military have studied at the United States Army War College (USAWC) and under gone joint training with US forces. Before our blogger Petofi accuses me yet again… Read more »
June 6, 2015 1:16 pm


You’re right to think me looking over you shoulder: I am.
Ok, you’re not a troll, but you are a relentless, self-promoter. Can you stop with the constant reference to your American army connections? You should be at Speaker’s Corner in London with that act.

TEK: be assured that Orban, Kover, Pinter have vetted this group. And they’ve been established largely to oversee and intimidate the Hungarian army/police/secret services.

Anyway, please quote me accurately: I may have accused you of being a Putin troll, but never of being ‘clever’.

(Peace, brother.)

June 7, 2015 6:45 am

That would be a neat trick for Putin to plant a mole in Minnesota in order to influence opinion in Hungary.

You are oversensitized WRT István, petofi. While the framing of his post is a bit different –using the first-person plural [eg: “we have a military …”] instead of the third person [eg: ‘there is’, ‘they have’, etcetera]– he does not strike me as a rahrah US booster. Actually, for an exmilitary man, István seems quite balanced WRT to the country he lives in.

This post is probably the best that I’ve seen from István. His US mentions are there (I believe) solely for establishing the credibility of his arguments.

And I’m not defending István just because he has the same name as my father. … \–: …


June 7, 2015 10:07 am

I also find Istvan’s comments very informative, especially showing the viewpoint of a “military person” – and I often have to agree with him, though not always!

June 6, 2015 4:06 pm

The elasticity of Orbán’s spine keeps me amazed, really!
It clearly surpasses my all time champion comrade Scmitt, hands down…

Just think about it, within mere hours he can deliver statements with totally contradicting messages, without even blinking! At the very same time when the most shameful political billboards produced in the last century in Hungary, wiping up religious- ethnic and nationalist sentiments against – among others – moslems, he performs a truly boot-licking speech – to a leader of a predominantly moslem country, iced by appraising the military take over!

Be honest, people, not everyone would have been able to pull this through, but Viktor!

But than again, most of the European leaders belongs to the ‘Vertebratae’, so, no wonder, really…

June 10, 2015 11:37 am

Al Sisi brought tha plans for the new monument that will be in the Heroes square’s… the Piramid of Viktator I 😉