Katalin Nagy: Hungary went to the polls on 8 April, and Fidesz-KDNP won a two-thirds majority. It seems that the result was a pleasant surprise for Fidesz, but it left the opposition in shock and paralysis. Welcome to Prime Minister Orbán Viktor, who is with me here in the studio. What is your assessment?
Viktor Orbán: Good morning. As I sit here I’m in a good mood, and I’m happy.
Even from your point of view, the two-thirds majority in the election was a surprise. Every opinion pollster predicted a Fidesz victory, but perhaps just one – two days before the vote – stated that two thirds was a possibility.
One’s view of elections is a philosophical question; I see an election as something mysterious. After all it is a mystery how millions of people sit up, collectively think about a particular question, and turn out to vote. There is also something biblical about it, with people shouting “Barabbas” or “Jesus”; but in a mysterious way a common will emerges from many millions of individual wills. Respect is due to those who take it upon themselves to predict this in advance, but that is more like a separate profession: the profession of those who deal in surveys. For politicians it is far more advisable to exercise humility: “what will be will be”, and we must recognise the people’s decision. I have vivid memories of the 1994 election, when we performed wretchedly, and only just enough people voted for us to take us over the parliamentary threshold. There were a lot of dejected Fidesz members at the party headquarters, and then along came Professor György Bence, who was an outstanding professor of philosophy and a member of the old underground samizdat opposition. He didn’t say “Good evening”, but instead “Let’s not criticise the people: the people are always right.” And that is true.
And everyone has to learn that lesson?
Well now, we’re in a comfortable position, as it’s easy for winners. I don’t think winners should give advice to losers, as that’s not sportsmanlike: losing is a bitter experience, and we should show understanding, rather than deliver lectures. But as far as we are concerned, we must establish some fundamental facts, because they will be the starting-point of our work over the next four years. The first fact is that far more people voted for us this year than did so four years ago: some 650,000 more, to be precise. Furthermore, if one combines all the votes for the opposition parties now entering Parliament, one sees that their combined total falls 336,000 votes short of our total. This is an enormous, strong mandate. At times like this all one can do is respectfully thank all those Hungarians who went to the polls, as the turnout was very high. They saw the election as a true cause for celebration: a celebration of democracy. We thank those who participated in the organisation of the election, and we express special thanks to those voters who put their trust in us. Furthermore, we proved to be by far the strongest party in all types of settlement – to varying degrees, but in all of them: in villages, small towns, county-ranked cities; and also in Budapest.
At times like this you say “We’ve done our job, the people working for Fidesz have done a good job, and voters have made their decision.” But all the same, the opposition did everything they could to win, accusing you of robbing the country blind, or of insufficient government spending on health care and education. So what explains the outcome?
I think it’s always worth taking account of the opposition’s standpoint, but we mustn’t adopt their standpoint; because if we both represented the same position, there would be no need for either of us. As regards the situation and future of Hungary – and of our wider homeland of Europe – we believe that the most important, most critical question of the next decade will be immigration. And if someone believes this, because this is how they see the future, then it is their moral duty to talk about it and advise voters that – although the decision is theirs alone – when making that decision this question should be their number one priority. The messages are these: immigration is the most important question; there is a danger, and the country must be defended; there is indeed a great battle under way in Europe between countries which reject immigration and those which support it; and if immigration becomes a reality, we will pay a very high price for it, and this mistake cannot be corrected later. So if we want these messages to reach every household – even the very last one in the smallest village – we have to repeat them a hundred times over – or a thousand times if need be. I am no idler, and if I believe that something is important for the country, I will say it a hundred times and I will say it a thousand times. This is how it must be done, although it requires a high boredom threshold – or constancy of purpose, as I suppose the poet Vörösmarty would more elegantly express it. An important part of our profession is to encourage people, to persuade them to treat this issue as an important one, and to think about the issue that we see as the most important. This is what happened, and therefore today Hungary’s leaders are on the same wavelength as the vast majority of Hungarian voters – a majority that is outstanding even in European comparison.
This result shocked and paralysed the opposition. After the election we had to wait for ten days for a sober analysis to emerge from the opposition side. In [the Hungarian political weekly] HVG, which of course can hardly be accused of supporting Fidesz…
What a pity!
…Gábor Filippov wrote that Fidesz understands the electorate better, and this is the reason, the explanation, for its victory. He also said that one can’t fraudulently amass 2.8 million votes. There was a demonstration last Saturday, and it has been reported that there will be another tomorrow and a further one next Saturday, with these demonstrations prompted by the claim that the Government’s opponents are in the majority, but are victims of a fraudulent election result.
Here, too, it makes sense to establish a few fundamental facts, or approaches. Indeed, our parliamentary seats mean that we can lay claim to a two-thirds majority for the third time in succession. Now – as earlier – I will seek to ensure that ours is not a government for two thirds, but for three thirds. I must also serve – and we must also serve – those compatriots of ours who didn’t vote for us: those who don’t like us, and who may even go out onto the streets and shout revolting, horrendous things. They too form part of the Hungarian nation, we must somehow represent their interests also, and I shall attempt to do so. Everyone is also free to state their opinions: they have freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. This is an essential part of democracy. All I ask is for the protesters to do this peacefully, without overstepping the bounds of public order. As regards recounting votes, looking at the proportions within the election result, someone who goes to football matches as I do would say it would be like us winning a match 4-0, only for our opponent to demand a recount of the goals. The final whistle has been blown: game over.
Yes, but there may always be people who have an interest in fuelling unrest, and we don’t need to try too hard to guess in whose interest that would be. Last week Antal Rogán also said that it seems very likely that these demonstrations are not being organised by the Hungarian opposition, but from outside.
Well, before we speak about that, I could perhaps just say that I can see opposition leaders leaving politics. This perhaps calls for a general observation. I have been in opposition for sixteen years, and in government for twelve. If, God willing, I’m able to complete this term of four years, I’ll have broken even – more or less. Losing is not pleasant, but in politics one loses more often than one wins, and this is something that politicians should take into consideration at the outset. We’re not businesspeople, who can fail one day and simply try something different the next. This is a duty, and in my view, a captain cannot abandon a sinking ship – especially before anyone else. So everyone must decide what they want to do with their lives. And this is a lesson for us, too – to decide whether or not we are politicians. Our profession is not often the subject of praise, but people can malign us all they like: they know that they still need leaders and politicians. But we must decide whether or not we’re politicians: whether we follow the logic of this, whether we live by it and work by it; or whether we seek a career as one does in business or elsewhere, zigzagging and always jumping to where more opportunities appear. This is a big difference between politics and all other professions. As I see it, not everyone decides in their youth or early enough in life who they are and what they want to do. If you are a politician, what you must do is serve your country: both in victory and defeat you must serve, and you must stand where the people put you – but you must serve all the same. Attempts are always being made to misrepresent it, but I stand by my opinion that one cannot make one’s homeland the opposition. You can be in opposition, but the homeland must never be in opposition. This means that you must serve the homeland even when you happen to be in opposition; because high above the heads of us all – both the governing party and the opposition – is a homeland. We can grapple with one another, but not at the expense of the homeland: we must serve the homeland. Those who don’t understand this are not cut out to be politicians, and they would do well to pack up and move on.
Yes, perhaps George Soros and his network are also aware of this. Isn’t this why they’re organising these demonstrations?
They are speculators, which means that they think about politics as if it were a career, a business opportunity, in the way a speculator thinks: he backs this person or that political party. If it doesn’t work out, he loses. Right now they’re on the losing side. Schadenfreude is not a noble sentiment, but forgive me my lack of distress over the fact that George Soros’s circles of financial speculators backed the wrong horse, and right now are on the losing side. The occupation of financial speculation also has its own rules. I know they won’t accept the election result, and that they’ll organise all manner of things. They have unlimited financial resources at their disposal: more than ten billion dollars. Once again they mobilised colossal amounts of money and energy to secure an opposition victory. They’re not pleased with the government that’s in office now: they’re not pleased with a national government; they’re not pleased with an anti-immigration government; they’re not pleased with a government which defends the country against financial speculators. After all, they want to make money, and I understand that. They want to make money, but we are Hungarians, who won’t accept them making money at our expense. My duty is to assert the interests of the Hungarian people – and I say this without anger, fist-shaking or emotional rhetoric. This is my duty, and for as long as I pursue my calling I shall defend Hungary: I shall defend Hungary against speculators.
Only last night we received news reports that the Open Society Foundations are relocating from Budapest. It seems that their office is moving to Vienna.
Perhaps our listeners will understand why I won’t be shedding any crocodile tears after that news.
The fact that the Open Society Foundations are leaving Budapest now doesn’t mean that the kind of pressure they’ve been exerting so far will come to an end. As we’ve just heard, for instance, the European Parliament has voted for a proposal which asserts that so-called NGOs must receive support from EU funds, because they’re fulfilling a very important task.
I’ve known financial speculators – and George Soros himself – for a very long time. This is the sort of occupation, the sort of world view, the sort of mentality which will never give up. It is good for us to realise this: one can win battles, but one can never expect to win total victory in the war. This is a kind of world, a world of profiteering, a mentality which continually reappears: it will find new methods and new paths. But there’s no reason to be downhearted at this, because those who devote themselves to politics cannot hope that the best of all worlds will simply emerge from nowhere, leaving us with no further tasks except management and fine-tuning from time to time. Politics is a combat sport. There will always be people and interest groups who aren’t supportive of the community that you represent – in this case the Hungarians. They want to profiteer, acquire influence, interfere in our decisions, and turn Hungary into an immigrant country. At present this is the most critical issue, and we must prevent it. If they think that in order to achieve their goals they need a strong presence in Budapest, then they will have a strong presence in Budapest; if they believe that it’s better to withdraw and to continue the fight from outside, then they will withdraw and fight from outside. But never think that they will give up. This is a combat sport.
Clearly one of the means of fighting from outside has been the call from the European Parliament for Member States to support the UN migration package and to come to a common European position.
Yes, but their efforts are in vain. We thank them for their opinion and encouragement, but Hungary will pursue its own interests. The UN is seeking to adopt the position – and seeking to force Member States to agree to that position – that we formally state that migration is a positive phenomenon which must therefore be organised and supported. The Hungarian people have a different opinion. Just now they have expressed this in the election. I also have a different opinion. Migration is damaging: a phenomenon in the modern world which must be contained rather than encouraged. People should not be helped to leave their homelands, but should be helped to stay there. Help must be taken there instead of bringing trouble here. So the UN and its member countries have a duty: to stop migration, to counter it, and to enable everyone to live in the countries which God designated for them through their birth, giving them the context for their lives and the potential for advancement. This is how people should be helped, rather than enticing them to, say, Europe and destroying the culture of Christian civilisation – on the bedrock of which we all stand. Regardless of whether one is a believer or not, the whole of Europe and all Europeans stand on the bedrock of Christian civilisation and Christian culture: freedom, freedom of religion, equality between men and women, economic growth, work. These are essentials, these are all matters of importance here, in Europe. Immigration destroys them. It is our duty – and this is also borne out by the decision of our electorate – to defend in Hungary our European civilisation based on Christian foundations. If possible, in Brussels we shall also defend it in a Europe-wide context. This is what I shall do: sincerely, directly and clearly. I see that there are debates over the exposure of the Soros network, over the list related to this. In my view, the essence of European politics lies in transparency, as European democracy rests on the people deciding in which direction a country should be heading. In order for them to be able to make informed decisions, they have to be aware of fundamental facts: they have to know who is who; who seeks to represent them or influence their thinking; who pays such people; and why they do what they do. If people are not aware of these things, they cannot make sound decisions. So transparency is a key issue. I expressly encourage those working in the press to help people find out the facts, to uncover as many networks and syndicates as possible, and to bring to light those things which otherwise be hidden in the depths. If someone is not slow or not ashamed to accept funding from foreigners, they shouldn’t be ashamed to declare that funding.
At its summit in June the European Union would like to finally bring some very important issues to a conclusion: for instance the issue of migration, in terms of ensuring acceptance of the mandatory quotas. Earlier you said that in order for Hungary to be able to resist this, in June it will need to have a government with a very strong mandate. You have received this mandate. What can you do?
We’re facing a major dilemma here. At the most recent summit of prime ministers, as I listened to my colleagues I was forced to conclude that we’re not all on the same page. There will be elections for the European Parliament in one year’s time. The migrant crisis began to reveal its true extent in 2015, but the last European Parliament elections were in 2014. So we’re facing a new phenomenon, which will determine Europe’s future. In my opinion it would be contrary to the principles of democracy to adopt immigration policy decisions in an accelerated process one year – or less than one year – before the European elections, thus creating a “fait accompli” for the leaders who will be elected next year. So I think that those who push for the final and definitive legislative regulation of the whole immigration issue one year before the European elections are depriving Europeans of the right to determine how the issue of immigration should be regulated. Therefore I do not support the adoption of such a decision in June – although very many others support it, because pro-immigration countries are afraid of the people and they would all like to bring this matter to a conclusion. I don’t support this because, in my view, they should democratically wait for the people to determine the direction for the main issue in the European elections, which can only be immigration – the most burning issue in Europe. This must be respected. The essence of democracy, according to the definition which came from the New World, but in which we may discover inspiration from Lajos Kossuth, is “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. And therefore one year before the elections it is not fair and not democratic to create a “fait accompli” situation on the issue of immigration, and I caution Europe’s leaders against it.
What progress is being made on talks to form a government? Did you manage to talk to everyone that you wanted to?
First of all, it’s important to establish that our goals remain unchanged. We must correctly interpret the voters’ decision. In my view, voters gave their affirmation of the fundamental goals. Those goals include economic growth, sound finances, and the continued pursuit of full employment – which is now well within reach, and which I think is achievable. Let us guarantee security, in Europe let us not yield on immigration policy, and let Hungary remain a Hungarian country; let us continue to support families and preserve the value of pensions – indeed, through the system of pension premiums we should try to help pensioners even more, as we did last year. I think that these are the goals: the goals that the new government must serve. It’s also true that a great many things have happened in the world since 2014. We were talking about immigration earlier, but there are also other economic developments in the world – one need only mention the US President’s new world trade policy. So there are new things, new developments, and technology hasn’t come to a halt, with digitalisation, robotisation, and the modern world economy transforming at an accelerating pace. We, too, are part of all this, and we must adapt. So the old, unchanged goals remain, but we need a new structure of government, largely with new people. Some old ones will remain, but there will also be new people. Therefore I would say that the people did not vote for the continuation of the work of the current government, but they do want continuity in the service of the goals. I sincerely hope they will accept my starting the next four years with a different government structure, and with a significant number of new people. I’m in the process of conducting these talks, because President of the Republic János Áder gave me this opportunity by asking me to form a government. These talks are well under way, I’m making good progress and our new government will be formed swiftly.
Will there be a new ministry, or new ministries?
I would caution against this. To be more precise, I’d say that there’s no point in “repairing” something that’s working well. It makes sense to retain the principle of large ministries led by highly qualified, respected and valued ministers with strong remits. I would far rather transform the centre, the Government’s “nerve centre” – which we immodestly call “the Prime Minister’s Office”. I would like to create a different structure of leadership here. I had important talks on this matter yesterday, which I will continue today and also over the weekend.
Can you give us a date for the formation of the new government?
I’d rather not, just in case I can’t keep to it. It’s only worth saying things that one can deliver on. Parliament will be convened on 8 May, and it is in my interest – and also, I believe, in that of the country – for the new government to be formed quickly. As has happened in the past few years, I would like to see the new Parliament adopt Hungary’s budget for 2019 before the summer recess. This creates calm, stability, plannability and predictability. Yesterday I had talks about this with Minister Mihály Varga, to find out how preparations for the budget are going, to let him know what I’m asking from him and what he should pay attention to. From this you’ll immediately realise that in the future he will remain the person working on the budget as the head of the Economic Cabinet.
Many of us would have bet on that.
Yes, and I’m counting on his work, because he is not only an extremely talented minister, but also a very experienced one who has seen everything: through thick and thin, he has been through everything, from crisis to success, and we’ve always been able to fight side by side. So I’ll continue to count on Mihály Varga as the head of the Economic Cabinet.
We haven’t much time left. Demography is an extremely important issue for Hungary. Will family support be further extended?
I would like to conclude a comprehensive agreement with the women of Hungary because, at the end of the day, demographic prospects stand or fall on the attitudes of Hungarian women – whose decisions are the determining factor. I think it’s important that they tell us what they want and that we have an accurate understanding of it, as the decision to raise children is the most personal of matters, but it is also important for the community. So it is a personal matter which is also important for the community: I could say that it’s the most personal of all public affairs. And only ladies can decide on it. I believe that my duty and the Government’s duty is to acknowledge their decision, and if they want to have children and can tell us how raising children and keeping families together could be made better and easier, then we should listen to them. We should understand what they have to say, and then we should conclude an agreement with them – not for four years, but for a timespan of fifteen, twenty or thirty years; because the essence of demographic policy lies in long-term planning. We should conclude an agreement. So I would like to conclude an agreement with the women of Hungary, the ladies of Hungary, on the future of Hungary, the role they wish to play in it, and the prospects that the Government is able to offer them and predict for them.
You have been listening to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.