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Viktor Orbán’s speech at Kötcse

September 9th, 2014

Left-wing commentators accuse the Prime Minister of intending to make it impossible for the Left to return to government by continuously tinkering with electoral rules. A right-wing columnist suggests that in order to make the defeat of the Left definitive, right-wing intellectuals must improve their performance.At Kötcse, on the southern shore of Lake Balaton, PM Viktor Orbán told a traditional yearly gathering of right-wing intellectuals on Saturday that his strategy of a “central power field” announced five years ago has been successful and Fidesz must prepare to inflict a final defeat on the left in the municipal elections, “denying it the chance of any future comeback”. His strategy, as he put it, is to ‘discard ideologies’ and ‘unite losers and winners, left-and right-wing electorates into an all-encompassing pragmatic alliance’, which would exclude only the ideologically minded far-right and the liberals. On Russia, he said he was a hawk when it came to defence but a dove in economic relations.

 In a front page editorial, Népszabadság expresses disbelief that Mr Orbán is in the least hawkish in his feelings towards Russia. The left-wing daily suggests that “rather than the winds blowing from Moscow” what actually gets up the nose of the prime minister is the  stinky “wind blowing from the West”. Commenting on his exhortation to defeat the left in October with “leaving it no chance in the future”, Népszabadság writes that such a sentence from such a man means that he hopes he has been successful in “dismantling the conditions for free electoral competition”, and if he hasn’t, he will “bring the electoral system even closer to perfection”.

In Népszava, editor Péter Németh argues very much along the same lines. In an illiberal state, he says, “there is no need for real competition”. Therefore leading politicians “use their knowledge as lawyers to rewrite the rules in order to deprive their challengers of any chance to win the elections.”

A rather different interpretation of Kötcse is offered by István Stefka, who was on the guest list at the event, and who retired as editor of Magyar Hírlap last week. (The press is traditionally not invited to the Kötcse meetings). He reports that Mr Orbán ascribed the meltdown of the left-wing electorate to the mistaken policies of left-liberal governments who consistently played opposing social groups off against each other, and bought their votes by increasing the public debt. Mr Orbán, on the contrary, has managed to unite social groups across ideological and class boundaries. It is that new majority around the centre, Stefka writes, that must now be perpetuated “for a long time to come”. Right-wing intellectuals have a role to play, by “defeating them (the liberals) with our words”. That will require better performances, he believes on the part of conservatives. “We have to speak a different language, in a different spirit and in a differently (more?) educated way,” Stefka concludes.


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