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Péter Márki-Zay: “My hope would be for a technocrat government”

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Hungary – Péter Marki-Zay: “My hope would be for a technocrat government, a managing government, whose primary purpose would be to restore democracy, freedom of the press, the state of law, the market economy, and the commitment to European integration.

On 25 February, the independent candidate Péter Márki-Zay, cadre of the private sector who has lived in North America for several years, won the by-elections in Hódmezővásárhely, a Hungarian city of 44,000 inhabitants in the south of the country.

Supported by both Jobbik (a former nationalist party that has become a modern centrist one, although still regarded by some as unacceptable) and by liberal left parties and civil society, this newcomer in Hungarian politics created a surprise in Hungary by winning with 57.49% of the votes the election for the post of mayor in a hitherto impregnable stronghold of Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ruling party.

He impressed by his unexpected success as the figure of the anti-Orbán opposition, labeling himself as a conservative but calling to vote on April 8 for the candidates with the most chance to prevail against Fidesz. All this in co-operation with major figures of liberal-libertarian civil society like Márton Gulyás, whom a senior Fidesz official had described last September as a threat to national security, because of his networks of activists seeking to destabilize the country’s government.

Péter Márki-Zay has become the leading figure of the sacred union strategy against Fidesz, which does not really seem to take a few days ahead of elections. However, this 45-year-old man was able to seduce, out of nowhere, many senior cadres of opposition parties. To the point that more and more voices call to name him as Prime Minister in case of victory against Orbán, to form a coalition capable of governing.

The Visegrád Post had the opportunity to conduct a short interview with this rising and representative figure of the opposition to Viktor Orbán.

VPost: You are a new figure on the scene of Hungarian national politics. Could you tell us something about your life before politics?

Péter Marki-Zay: Yes. So I worked for EDF two times, for a combined period of twelve years. I also worked for Legrand two times, combined for almost five years. So in Hungary I was always working for French multinational companies. In the meantime, I spent five years in Canada and the United States, where I was also working in marketing in an automotive aftermarket company. So I was always working as an economist, marketing manager, customer service, logistics – in different positions.

I was contacted by local politicians of Jobbik several times, but previously, I always said no. I am not a Jobbik member or fan. I’m a disappointed Fidesz voter. As such, I cannot fully identify with any of the current opposition parties. But as a disillusioned Fidesz member, I’m very disappointed in . . .

VPost: Member?

Péter Marki-Zay: I was never a member, only a voter. But I was very disappointed with the performance of the Orbán government in the last few years. I would say that disappointment started many years ago, but became stronger during the last five to eight years. In the beginning, they were doing many good things. In the last five or six years, not so much. It’s really just about conserving their power. Corruption is bigger than ever before, and corruption is the root problem, but it really led to a limit on the freedom of the press. It also meant curtailing the state of law. So, of course those who are involved in corruption and who are leading the country, it’s not in their interest for the public to find out about these activities, so freedom of the press is very limited, and also they don’t want to go to jail. So of course they don’t want an independent Attorney General who would put them behind bars if any wrongdoing would be proven.

VPost: You’re mentioning the freedom of the press. I watch Hungarian TV every day, both sides, Echo TV and Hír TV. In my opinion, the media is very biased toward one side, but can we really say that they are limiting their freedom?

Péter Marki-Zay: Yes, you’re right, but unfortunately you also have to take into account how many people are being reached by each media. Hír TV has very wide coverage, which is fortunate, but you also have to take into account that Mr. Simicska will not be able to finance Hír TV for very long. So it’s really the annihilation of any independent source. Also, remember the attacks against RTL, putting an increasing burden on them. It’s kind of a blackmail situation. You are also aware of the local newspapers, regional newspapers, which were all purchased by people associated with Orbán and Fidesz. So there are a large number of people in Hungary who have no access to independent media sources.

Also, media sponsored by state money, loyal to Fidesz, is one problem. The second problem is that public media is not independent. Public media has not invited any opposition politicians for years. Jobbik said this out loud last week. You probably heard about it. So it’s just outrageous that they spread lies through official state-sponsored and state-owned channels, and they don’t even bother inviting opposition opinions on them. There’s a private local radio station here. They did not give me one minute of air time during my campaign. The local TV, sponsored by taxpayer money because it’s owned by the municipality, they didn’t invite me once during my campaign. Just imagine that there’s a mayoral election, and the media doesn’t even invite candidates – the leading, and eventually the winning, candidates. So that’s why I’m saying that there’s very limited freedom of the press. Technically, you’re right.

Also, look at what happens with the local radio stations. Every time when their frequency license expires, they award these licenses to companies loyal to Fidesz.

VPost: All right. You have been elected as Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, and now you’re suggesting that many people should make a tactical vote in their individual districts. So, for example, in this district you’re supporting Jobbik’s candidate, but if you were in Szeged . . .

Péter Marki-Zay: In Szeged, I would support the Socialists, yes.

Péter Márki-Zay and Socialist Mayor of Szeged László Botka on February 27, 2018, two days after the election of Mr. Márki-Zay as Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. Photo: László Botka’s facebook page

VPost: My question is that, according to the Website that you launched, it would be technically possible to prevent Fidesz from getting an absolute majority in the Parliament. But then who would rule the country?

Péter Marki-Zay: My hope would be for a technocrat government, a managing government, whose primary purpose would be to restore democracy, freedom of the press, the state of law, the market economy, and the commitment to European integration. If we can restore these values – the state of law is the most important. Stopping corruption. Actually taking back some of the wealth that was probably stolen from the state. This is the primary objective of a managing government, and after that, there could be an early election. This managing government wouldn’t have to ask for four years. Even before that, it would be possible to have another general election.

VPost: But could you see the MPs of Jobbik, DK, LMP, and MSZP supporting a technocratic government?

Péter Marki-Zay: Yes. That’s the only way.

VPost: Do you think they will?

Péter Marki-Zay: Well, it’s in their common interest. Otherwise, they will all be suppressed. They have no other option.

VPost: In case Fidesz wins, what role do you imagine yourself playing?

Péter Marki-Zay: First of all, I am the Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, so as long as I have a job here, which I do, of course I will be performing this job. And secondly, if in this case there is any national movement against dictatorship, against authoritarian rule, against hijacking this country away from Western values and the commitment to the European Union, etcetera, towards dictatorships like Russia or Turkey, I would be participating in any collaboration or cooperation on the opposition’s side. Just as I am doing today, I will always stand up for values against oppression and for the state of law, freedom of the press, and the market economy.

VPost: Do you define yourself as a conservative?

Péter Marki-Zay: Yes.

VPost: Then what’s your view of the trends in the leadership of the European Union regarding migration, gay marriage, and such things? Because you say you want to go back to European values, which in your opinion Fidesz is stepping away from. But then what’s your view of the values which are nowadays represented in Brussels?

Péter Marki-Zay: Well, first of all, let’s state that when I’m speaking about democracy, it means that everybody, including gay people, has democratic rights. So I don’t see the point of your question. I have my values as a conservative, as a Christian, etcetera, but I believe in democracy, I believe in the state of law, I believe in the market economy, and European integration, which means that everybody in this European Union has the right to represent their interests, views, laws, etcetera. In the end, I’m committed to the idea that five hundred million people should decide the future of Europe. Not twenty-eight people.

VPost: But that’s the way it’s organized now.

Péter Marki-Zay: And that’s wrong.