Hungary’s Controversial Prime Minister

OrbanViktor_2011-01-07On April 6 2014 Orbán Viktor, a right-leaning politician who is part of the national conservative party called Fidesz, was elected prime minister of Hungary for the second time. While there is a lot of controversy around this man, Orbán’s Fidesz party won 44.6 percent of the vote.

Since I am Hungarian, I have family living in Hungary, who is very much against Orbán. It seems that many with whom I talk to have the same opinion. Why is that so? Why is the prime ministers so controversial?

It all boils down to the fact that he is an incredibly conservative nationalist. Many view him as a Putin-like figure, who instills anti-liberal policy models that are similar to the Russian leader’s ideal of governance. State television is full of propaganda. Companies run by Orban’s friends control large parts of the media and the broader economy. Furthermore, party allies or former Fidesz members have been appointed to run various institutions like the judicial administration and the state prosecutor’s office.

christo-orbanThe EU is well aware of Hungary’s shift in politics and is worried. On January 18th, 2010, Orbán spoke to the European Parliament to defend his constitutional reforms and reject accusations of an authoritarian drift. In response, the European Commission launched three legal procedures against a number of these reforms.

  1. Permitting a cabinet minister to participate in meetings of the central bank’s monetary council
  2. Requiring the council to send the government the agenda of its meetings in advance
  3. Forcing the central bank governor and council members to take an oath of loyalty to the country.

Another issue in Hungary is racism. The Jobbik Party, which one in five voters supported during this election, is racist against minority groups in Hungary, specifically Romani people . While the prime minister knows about this, he is refusing to do anything to speak up against racist comments from civilians and politicians.  A study conducted in Hungary asked if parents would allow their children to be friends with a person of another race. Hungarians said that they would not allow their children to be friends with Jews (46%), Africans (58%), and Roma (68%). This clearly shows that there is a racism issue in this country. Orbán Viktor is further intensifying this divided country by allowing such behavior in Hungary. For instance, Orbán’s close friend and one of the founders of the Fidesz party regularly makes racist comments. One article published through the Magyar Hírlap especially roused Hungarian’s.

“Most Gypsies are not suitable for cohabitation. They are not suitable for being among people. Most are animals, and behave like animals. They shouldn’t be tolerated or understood, but stamped out. Animals should not exist. In no way.”- Ki ne legyen, Zsolt Bayer, Magyar Hírlap, 5 January 2013
These Hungarian Gypsies live in a poor neighborhood in minimal conditions.
These Hungarian Gypsies live in a poor neighborhood in minimal conditions.

At the 14th Plenary Assembly of the World Jewish Congress in the summer of 2013, the prime minister attempted to downplay anti-semitism. “There are places where anti-semitism claims the lives of schoolchildren and where there’s not even any consensus in these places on holding a minute of silences to honor the victims,” he stated. “Nothing of this nature has occurred in Hungary. How can he know about this issue while denying the true racism problem in front of the world?

During Hungary’s election the party has pledged to create jobs, be tough on crime, renegotiate state debt and hold a referendum on EU membership. However, such changes seem unlikely under Orbán Viktor, since he already had four years to change Hungary and still did not manage to relieve the country of its problems. Unemployment rates for people under 25 have reached 23 percent and poverty in Hungary is increasing. According to the EU, almost one third of Hungarians, 31%, are at risk of poverty or social exclusion. 

The Economist stated on April 2nd, 2014 that Orbán Viktor “will probably use the next four years to continue centralising power, attacking the country’s imagined enemies—and further polarising an already deeply divided society.” The re-election of this man is the wrong way to get back on the right foot. Hungary will not be able to boost its image if a Putin-like figure is representing it. In order for the country to develop and do better, its people need a leader, who is sensible and will put forth positive reform.



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