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The PM’s acceptance speech

May 13th, 2014

A pro-government commentator suggests that Mr Orbán wants to serve the country as a whole, but the opposition will make national reconciliation impossible. A left-wing daily reads the speech as proof that the Prime Minister will continue to define people of different political views as enemies. A liberal paper thinks that the Prime Minister’s words about national unity hide an intent to suppress liberal and left-wing opinion and initiatives.
In his address after his inauguration as Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán said he would use his two thirds majority to serve three thirds of the country. He also said he would govern from the centre and will reject extremism, by which he meant “tendencies that represent a danger to Hungarians”. These include those who support criminals rather than their victims, or unemployment rather than work. He also branded as another form of extremist both those who favour a fully centralized Europe with no national sovereignty, and anti-European agitation. He pledged loyalty to Hungary’s membership in NATO and the EU but said he would promote a stronger, more competitive Europe with lower energy prices and full employment. He also said he would continue to seek economic cooperation with the East and create a strong Central Europe, while supporting beyond-border Hungarians and their claims for autonomy, specifically referring to Ukraine’s 200 thousand ethnic Hungarian citizens.
In her Magyar Nemzet editorial, Matild Torkos focuses on the Prime Minister’s promise to serve not only three thirds of the country’s citizens, but the ’nation’ as well (referring to beyond-border Hungarians). She condemns the Socialists’ decision to leave the hall before the speech and the fact that DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány did not even attend as uncivilized, although she finds some consolation in the fact that “it was the first time a PM took office in the absence of anyone related to the (Communist Party’s) successor party”. Nevertheless, Torkos believes that this gesture does not augur well for any future appeasement and reconciliation. She thinks the speech offered a clear vision of where Orbán wants to take the country – work, success, and national sovereignty. She notes however that the Prime Minister did not mention those “who will never be able to work, live in difficult circumstances and take care of children”, and expresses hope that the government will take a Christian approach to alleviate their plight. She concludes by wishing that Hungary will now indeed show “a more serene face to Europe and the world”.

In an angry op-ed piece in HVG online, Tamás Gomperz says the prima facie conciliatory tone of Orbán’s speech was a sham. Four years ago he emphasized humility and modesty but Gomperz thinks those words have been contradicted by “the stadiums and the wedding”(of the PM’s eldest daughter) and “the hunt for a mobile phone (after the wedding, police questioned every staff member because one mobile phone went missing)”, TEK (the special anti-terrorist force), the hunting lodge (used by KDNP leader Zsolt Semjén but owned by his wife)”. Orbán can say he intends to serve three thirds of Hungarians, Gomperz continues, “but he might as well call himself Humphrey Bogart”: he has always served the 2 million who vote for him and “then there is the rest of the country who cannot identify with the Basic Law, who do not like the monument (to the victims of the German occupation), whose businesses, jobs, and papers can be taken away if the ruling class so wishes”. He pinpoints the scandal around the so-called Norwegian Fund as the prime example of how PM Orbán plans to proceed. The very essence of the regime, he concludes, is embodied in the person and actions of János Lázár, he states, and this is the regime “that we are stuck with for the next four years”. (The Norwegian Fund is the contribution of non-EU European OECD countries in addition to EU Structural and Cohesion Funds. The NGO responsible for administering Norwegian Fund grants to NGOs, was branded by prominent Fidesz politician János Lázár as closely linked to the LMP, and the government has proposed that it take over the management of those grants. In response, the Norwegian Foreign Minister denied any involvement in Hungarian politics. In another move, the Norwegians suspended transfers to other projects, as their management has been taken over from a government agency by the office of the Prime Minister directly and the donors want to see guarantees of continued transparency. Commentators tend to interpret the suspension as a reaction to Mr Lázár’s letter, but in reality the NGO project is not being discontinued. On the other hand, Mr Lázár has suggested that the NGO programmes be suspended until the two sides find a “mutually satisfactory solution”.)

In Népszabadság, Ákos Tóth calls attention to a small detail of the speech: while Mr Orbán said he would serve three thirds of the nation, he added that he would “remember” the trust he was shown, by whom he meant Fidesz voters, Tóth thinks, and concludes that his will be a government “for the privileged”: He finds the Prime Minister’s warning worth mentioning that self-restraint is needed, but remarks that “Antal Rogán and János Lázár only smiled”. Quoting Orbán’s reference to “peace that is not just the absence of war” (a quotation from Ronald Reagan who said peace meant the capability to solve conflicts by peaceful means) as a warning to those who disagree with him. Anyone who opposes the system is considered an enemy, he concludes.

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