What else can one write about today except the totally unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election? Half of the United States might be in shock that the next president of the United States will be someone of questionable character and temperament who has absolutely no governing experience, but that will not change the fact that in less than three months Donald Trump will be moving into the White House.
Naturally Hungarian papers led with the story of Trump’s “revolution,” as a Hungarian commentator called his landslide victory in the electoral college, especially since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was one of the very few international politicians looking forward to a Trump presidency.
Before I get to Hungarian reactions to Trump’s victory, let me go back a week, to a poll conducted by the Závecz Research Institute released on October 2, according to which only 10% of Hungarians were rooting for a Trump victory. Reflecting their unfamiliarity with American politics, about a third of the respondents had no opinion. In Hungary there was no disparity between female and male voters in their attitudes toward the candidates. Because of Viktor Orbán’s announcement of his preference for Trump, among his followers support for Trump was the highest, at 23%, but 47% of Fidesz supporters still preferred Clinton. Among Jobbik voters it was even higher, 54%. The most enthusiastic Clinton fans could be found among DK voters, at 93%. Once these poll results were released, Index published this funny picture. So, you can imagine the shock today.
After the announcement of Trump’s victory, politicians all over the world began sending him congratulations. Viktor Orbán was perhaps the first European politician to congratulate Trump on his Facebook page. Whoever wrote the brief English congratulatory note got a bit confused about the grammatical rules of the English language, but what came afterward was really funny. Hungarian trolls passed themselves off as American nationals who in broken English sang the praises of the two great leaders and protectors of the world, Orbán and Trump. Magyar Idők fell for the ruse before the administrator of Orbán’s Facebook page removed the comments.
Later in the day Orbán had an opportunity to elaborate on his assessment of Trump’s victory, which he attributed to the fact that “democracy is still alive.” A few hours later, this time already in London on a brief visit to Prime Minister Theresa May, he told journalists that it was always beneficial to the world when it could free itself from the prison of prevailing ideological trends and could return to reality. Naturally, he was talking about liberalism and its value system.
The other Fidesz politician who commented on the presidential election and its possible consequences for Hungary was Zsolt Németh, Fidesz chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and the vice president of the Hungarian Atlantic Council. He is a man who supposedly would like to restore good relations with the United States. In an interview he gave to 888.hu, he told the reporter that with the victory of Trump he “expects a much more active U.S. policy relating to the security of the world.” He blamed the U.S. State Department for the lack of dialogue between the two countries. He also expressed his hope that in a Trump administration “the United States will give up its export of democracy and its interventionist policies. He reassured the readers of 888.hu that it was foolish to worry about the future of NATO under Trump. I have no idea on what basis Németh arrived at these pronouncements. So far Trump has shown scant interest in international security issues.
Index said that the democratic opposition’s leading lights were “benumbed,” that they still hadn’t recovered from their shock. Gyula Molnár of MSZP simply wrote: “The American people decided. They elected Trump as their future president. This decision must be respected.” LMP’s message was equally terse: “LMP respects the decision of the American people and congratulates Donald Trump on his electoral success.”
Ferenc Gyurcsány was much more expansive and friendly. “Congratulations to Donald Trump, the new president of the United States. He was the one who captured the imagination of the majority of Americans. There’s no reason to panic. The United States is still a country of freedom and democracy, and it is in the interest of the world that it remains so. I don’t think that the troubled relations between Obama and Orbán substantially weakened the Hungarian government or strengthened its opposition. And the opposite state of affairs will not happen under Trump. Orbán must be beaten at home. We can’t expect assistance from Washington. What we can learn from the U.S. elections is that one can overcome the lack of media and funding. Moreover, pollsters are not infallible. From tomorrow on, we will focus on the tasks ahead and the replacement of the Orbán government.”
Pro-Fidesz papers also weighed in on the U.S. election. According to one of 888.hu’s young journalists, László Bertha, “the victory of Trump may be the beginning of the end, not of democracy, but of the monopoly of liberal opinion.” On the pro-Fidesz but extreme right-wing site Demokrata, László Szentesi-Zöldi began: “Let’s take a deep breath and declare that Viktor Orbán is not lucky but is a genius who can look into the future. Regardless of what kind of president Trump will be, it is already engraved for posterity that only three heads of government in the whole world supported Trump in advance of the election. One of them was Viktor Orbán. This fact will have incalculably beneficial consequences for Hungarian-American relations.” Szentesi-Zöldi hopes that Trump will put an end to Obama’s “cold war” and will move closer to Russia. The prospects in Hungary are bright. “Bell will soon be packing and the new boss will dispense with the services of György Bolgár and his [liberal] ilk.”
Perhaps the most surprising editorial was written by Zsolt Jeszenszky, son of Géza Jeszenszky, foreign minister between 1990 and 1994 who also served as Hungarian ambassador in Washington during the first Orbán administration. As far as I can ascertain, Zsolt Jeszenszky engages in political analysis as a hobby. Otherwise, he is the music director of Lánchíd Rádió, part of Lajos Simicska’s formerly influential, pro-government media holdings. His article titled “America, I Love You!” appeared on the conservative news site mandiner.hu. He explains the reasons for Trump’s spectacular performance this way. “Many people had had enough of constantly being called stupid and racist and being lectured at because the liberal elite wants to prescribe what to think, believing liberalism to be the depository of unquestionable truth.” This stigmatized group went out and voted. Not because they are homophobes, racists, or xenophobic. But because the elite “tries to force its own opinions, affairs, slogans, and goals on ordinary people who are not interested in world peace, the blessings of multiculturalism, gay rights, or female and other kinds of quotas.”
The pro-government commentators found their man in Trump, who in many ways resembles their own idol, a man who tells it as it is. I’m not surprised at their genuine admiration of the man. What especially appeals to them is that he won against all odds. “If for nothing else, for this reason he deserves our trust.” I for one find the connection between trust and the difficulty of the road to victory more than tenuous.