What conclusions have you drawn from the riots last autumn and on 15 March this year?
I see the exhaustion of Hungarian democracy in these sorry events. It has come to this step by step. Firstly, voters were tricked before the 2006 parliamentary elections, as a result of which Hungary has an illegitimate government today. Next, a registered, peaceful mass rally was broken up by the police with unprecedented brutality at the behest of the government. What we have in Hungary today is a multi-party system without democracy. It may appear healthy on the outside, but beneath the government is….
Are you trying to say that the Socialist-liberal governing coalition is undemocratic?
Yes, the government has destroyed important democratic institutions such as the central bank, the office of the President and the opposition. Moreover, it is pursuing what can only be described as a deliberate policy of lies.
Hungary has been labelled a “banana republic” in connection with the riots. How do you see it?
A post-Communist elite is in power in Hungary which combines the old reflexes and methods from the Communist era. The power elite has no beliefs: it is cynical and power-hungry. On the surface power today is represented by the government and the Socialist party (MSZP). In the background, however, is a sphere of far-reaching business, economic and intellectual networks pervading all levels of society. They are the real power in the country.
For a while it seemed as though Fidesz wanted to force early elections. Are new elections still a goal of Fidesz?
The earlier elections are held, the better for Fidesz. But in fact what we want as a party is a secondary issue. It’s much more important what the people want. And the majority of Hungarians want the elections to be brought forward. The government has fully discredited itself both democratically and morally. In addition, it has proven that it is quite simply unfit to govern the country. That is also reflected in the opinion polls. Fidesz is currently leading the Socialists by a mile, and they have now shrunk to a medium-sized party. We are prepared to take over the helm from today and to bring about the necessary political change.
Does Fidesz actually have an alternative programme? The critics of your party think not.
Yes, we have a clear alternative programme, but it is a thorn in the eye of the government, which misses no opportunity to say that Fidesz doesn’t have a programme, and is therefore incapable of governing. That isn’t the case. The fact is that we have totally different socio-political ideas from the government. That means the political discourse is not only limited to questions of detail. It is a contest between opposing principles. The government is pursuing narrow-minded neo-liberalism and determines its policies exclusively on the basis of business logic. The belief in the all-powerfulness of the market overrides everything. However, in our opinion there are areas where the market has lost nothing, for example in healthcare.
And what are Fidesz’s concepts?
Reciprocal/collective responsibility and greater social solidarity.
That sounds fairly left-wing, doesn’t it?
The political categories of “left-wing” and “right-wing” cannot be well applied to Hungary. On the one hand, we see the left pursuing a classic neo-liberal policy. On the other hand the civic-conservative right often demonstrates greater solidarity in its politics than the left.
Fidesz has initiated several referendums. What does the party hope to achieve?
We want to give people back the right to determine their own future. The government today is doing the opposite of what it promised in the election campaign. For that reason too, it wants to block the referendums at any price. We, however, are determined to fight for the referendums to be held. The questions, which we want to put to the Hungarian people will be based primarily on healthcare and education, as well as agriculture.
What economic policy would Fidesz pursue if it were in power?
The government today is pursuing a provincial and dogmatic economic policy. However, a different wind is now blowing in Europe, which means that the time of neo-liberalism has passed. The examples of Germany and France show that curbing unemployment and creating jobs take top priority. Fidesz would follow an economic policy conducive to growth. For that, three steps are necessary. Firstly, state expenditure needs to be frozen. Secondly, taxes need to be lowered.
Are tax cuts not unrealistic given the high budget deficit?
No. The right degree of tax cuts merely needs to be found. Consider that as a result of the enormous tax burdens, the extent of the shadow economy in Hungary is between 25 and 30 per cent. Tax cuts would roughly halve the grey economy. In addition to freezing expenditure and lower taxes, finally, as a third step, the obstacles need to be removed which today are impeding the economy. That includes bureaucracy and corruption. The reduction of the budget deficit could be achieved through high economic growth, as a result of our economic policy.
Was the austerity package of the government necessary?
Only the freezing of state expenditure was needed, nothing more.
The government likes to see itself as a reform government. Are reforms necessary in Hungary?
Yes. Reforms are needed in numerous areas. Here I just want to mention healthcare, public administration and the tax system. Unfortunately, however, the government is not implementing any reforms. Instead in its destructiveness it has struck a blow to systems which are in need of reform.
Will you lead your party into the next parliamentary elections?
As party chairman I will definitely lead Fidesz to the river. Admittedly, it is also usually the leader who crosses the river. I can say only one thing: within my party I am the only politician who has experience as head of government.
You are frequently accused of cooperating with the far right. How do you see it?
The radical right has barely any political weight in Hungary, and is also not represented in Parliament. Trying to force right-wing conservative parties into a radical corner is an only too-well known weapon of the left. The new French President Nicolas Sarkozy or Bavaria’s Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber have been confronted with this again and again. But as you can see, the left has found both Sarkozy and Stoiber hard nuts to crack.
And how do you react to criticisms that you are a populist?
Edmund Stoiber once said that those who accuse others of populism are condescending and arrogant, and in reality cannot stand the people. Fidesz at any rate regards itself as a European people’s party.
Which foreign policy priorities does Fidesz pursue?
We want a strong Europe. We are striving not only for a common energy policy, but also a common immigration policy. We also take the view that the immigration policy needs to be stricter.
And how do you then intend to solve the demographic problem, i.e. the growing disparity between an increasing number of pensioners and falling number of those of working age?
Through an active family policy. Immigration is not a solution for us.
Which gas pipeline does Fidesz favour, Nabucco or Blue Stream?
We advocate a diversification of gas deliveries. The more sources, the better. On the question of energy policy, last but not least we also actively support renewable energy forms, which need to reach 20% of energy consumption.
What’s your view of the latest police scandal?
Under a civic government such a thing could never happen. There is chaos in the police apparatus. Just like the government, the police is also caught up in a moral crisis.