This article was published online by the Magyar Nemzet on 3 April 2022.
A conversation with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán
Mr. Prime Minister, according to my calculations, this is the 27th national campaign you are participating in. Yet still, the current one stands out. It is rather unprecedented, the fact that we are holding elections under the wings of war.
No two campaigns are the same, because an election is never about the candidates or prime minister, but rather the nation. And the nation is continually transforming – so every campaign is exciting and different from the last. The state of the country is always clear during a campaign and I am actually surprised that despite the harsh conditions and the intense campaign, Hungary is in good shape and the Hungarian people are capable of understanding even the most complex international connections. They perfectly see that the election is a choice between war and peace, getting involved and staying out; meanwhile, they are helping the Ukrainian people wherever they can. In short, we see the image of a mature nation in front of us.
Your opponent, Péter Márki-Zay, said in Pécs on Wednesday that the youth value blood over oil and that Ukraine is fighting our war. The candidate on the left has not spared his words with alarming statements thus far, but this is a whole new level. What is the purpose of this incitement?
Hungary has a pandemic behind it, a war ahead, as well as a European economy in need of reorganization – it is times like these when a leader must carefully consider what they say. Confusing and dangerous statements put safety and reliability at risk. The left cannot really be accused of clean, straightforward statements this past campaign. I do not believe the Ukrainians are fighting our war. This is absurd to Hungarian ears: two large nations, two Slavic peoples are at war with each other. War is not a comic book that, while you are flipping through in your teenage years, picture yourself on one side or the other. This political approach is life-threatening. We must affirm that this is not our war, but the war impacts us as it is being waged in our neighborhood; not only misfired projectiles can land a stone’s throw away from our border, but planned military strikes. For example, if we were to transport weapons to Ukraine, we could expect military strikes at any moment trying to destroy the shipment. We are close to those warring, we know them. We cannot be fooled – we remember how the Ukrainians treated the Hungarians; we know that those Western dreams that frame Ukraine as a model democracy stem from a lack of knowledge of the country. At the same time, Ukraine has come under threat as Russia is waging war against it. There is no doubt that the Russians bear the responsibility of the war on their shoulders, no matter what led up to this decision. In such a situation, those in need must be helped. This is why we are aiding Ukraine – and not because they are waging our war. There are certain western countries that want to arrange the post-war world with a complete divide between East and West. This would be terrible for us Hungarians and for Central Europe as a whole. It is our historical experience that if there is conflict and isolation between the great powers of the world, we get the worst of it.
Why do you think Péter Márki-Zay is speaking increasingly harshly about Hungary’s stance on the war?
Because the left wants to push / drag Hungary into the war. If somebody says that Ukraine is fighting our war, that means we must achieve victory by any means. We should send soldiers as well as send and transport weapons. Not should, in fact, must. I am certain that the Hungarian left-wing and Ukrainian leadership came to an agreement that if the left wins, Hungary will send weapons to Ukraine and we will shut off Russian gas and oil – all with support from a good few Western countries. This in itself is getting involved in the war.
Are you not afraid that we will be left in the minority in Europe or even alone?
Our view is the majority position. NATO literally represents the same view that we have. It was NATO’s decision to stay out of this war, we will not engage in any armed conflict beyond NATO’s borders. If Poland or one of the Baltic countries were attacked, then things would be different. But Ukraine is not a NATO member and does not have NATO guarantees – thus we are not obliged to go to war for them. The situation is a bit more complicated in the EU, but the big countries, like Germany and France, hold similar opinions.
The Visegrád alliance has cracked however – the four countries are divided on this issue. Can this be resolved?
Eastern policy has always posed a challenge for the V4, as each country approaches this differently. But the V4 is not a geopolitical organization. It was established so that we could represent Central European interests together, on economic or moral issues. The V4 will continue to pursue this original mission and there are no differences in opinion in this area.
We have gone from a pandemic to a war, and we have an economic crisis at our heels as well. Is there time to deal with these issues during the campaign?
There are storms on the horizon, that is for sure. If the weather was pleasant and sunny, the left-wing would have much better chances of victory because the Hungarian people know that if there is trouble around the corner, then it is better for the patriotic, national party to have control of the steering wheel. Well, there will be a need for us now. That is also why I encourage everyone to vote for Fidesz-KDNP because our government needs experienced, calm, patriotic leadership now. Concerning the economy, it is most alarming that German inflation has surpassed seven percent, and could even reach ten percent. After all, Germany is a key country for the EU, and the Hungarian economy is tied to it in a thousand different ways. The second big problem is that the multiple crises are convening now: inflation, war, the indebted southern EU states, and Brussels’ energy policy which aims to continuously, on a pre-planned basis for climate protection purposes, raise the price of conventional energy. This strategy during war is suicide. We must convince Brussels to suspend this practice.
Everyone can already sense the rising prices. Can we do anything to prevent this?
Inflation in Hungary would be at least three percent higher if there were no measures in place by the state to keep the prices of certain products low. So, we have already acted to prevent price hikes and we will continue to protect families, but Hungary alone will not be enough. We are in need of strong, European anti-inflation policy that focuses on cutting energy prices. In the meantime, we must pay attention to Berlin and how Germany is coping with their own inflation – because if they fail it will be difficult for us too.
The left-wing claims that if they do not win, we will not receive funds from Brussels. Is this true?
EU money is arriving today, just as every day. The joint budget we agreed on is arriving in full. We are receiving all funds due to us, this is hundreds of billions of forints. In fact, we launched an initiative which would allow us to utilize these funds more flexibly. The next seven-year budget begins in December; that is when we can expect an agreement between Hungary and the EU. The third item is the pandemic recovery funds which four out of the 27 countries did not yet receive – us included. Negotiations are ongoing. The way I see it, Brussels is trying to wait it out in the hopes of a left-wing government in Hungary with which they can accept certain conditions that a patriotic, national government would reject. But have no doubts: if we win this election, we will resolve this debate as well.
The left rejected measures that are crisis management fundamentals for your government. On the other hand, they have brought back a nearly forgotten term, austerity measures. They believe Fidesz is preparing these – is this true?
Not only did they not vote for those measures, but they are continually attacking them. The best example is the utility price cuts. If they are preparing to cut off Russian gas and oil, how will they protect utility cuts? It is impossible. They did not vote for it and they also attacked the family support system as well as the housing support measures – and everything that provides the stable foundations of today’s Hungarian economy. It is clear that they would rip out these foundations just as they did in 2002. Everyone knows what the results would be – complete collapse and risk of bankruptcy within a few years. And regarding austerity measures, those are the left’s favorite crisis management measures and shining star. We handle crises differently, by providing workplaces and creating tax cuts.
The left-wing often says that they have not changed at all. Yet they have. Is it not curious how they have become so accepting of antisemitic slurs and Nazi gestures?
This causes quite a headache for their Western supporters – the fact that the Hungarian left has allied themselves with the far-right. This is unprecedented. I would list this as one of the historic sins of the left. Because Hungary is living through a peaceful and successful era, our common affairs are going well, but we cannot be sure this will continue this way. And when a crisis strikes, and extremist views have been accepted into mainstream politics, certain ideas can emerge that have already caused many tragedies in this country. The left has allowed this, and if the flood comes then it will be too late to rebuild the dams.
After three losses, the Hungarian left-wing has formed an alliance that will go against Fidesz. Is this worrying?
No. They risked everything and they will lose everything on Sunday. Incompatible programs, incompatible values, mutually exclusive intellectual content, parties that previously considered each other enemies have gathered themselves in one camp, sacrificing their morals. There is no bigger loss for a political community than if they lose their identity. One thing that would make this political gamble acceptable would be victory. But if we are all there on Sunday, victory will be ours!
Do you think that the child protection referendum topic has become irrelevant because of the war?
I try to remind my audience at every campaign event just how important this is. It has become a strange trend in the West, but it has now become a political expectation that we accept and even support family models different from ours. Essentially, we are at the point that if you do not support families that are different from the traditional Christian family model, they will be stigmatized. In the West, you cannot say out loud what we stand for: mothers are women, fathers are men, and our children should be left alone. And if you do express this, you could even lose your job. Yet when this all started it seemed innocent enough: we should be tolerant of those who live differently from us. And this is right because an adult can do whatever they want with their lives as long as it is within the law. But this referendum is not about them, it is about the children. They must be protected from these insane trends and it must be prevented that children, in such a sensitive stage of life, be exposed to things that their parents do not approve of. Raising children is first and foremost the responsibility of the parent; thus, their rights and the rights of children must be protected in this referendum. This is much more significant than many may think because this political and ideological pressure, masquerading behind the word gender, is unceasingly moving from West to East. A referendum, however, can create a dam against this.
What is at stake in Sunday’s election?
War or peace. If you want peace, then vote for the patriotic national side and if you want war, support the left-wing.