Liberal multiculturalism is not fit to respond to the issues Europe is faced with today, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said in his regular state of the nation speech last Friday. The PM called on his followers to once more start fighting for a civic Hungary, and instead of the usual “Let’s go Hungary! Let’s go Hungarians!” he concluded his speech with “Good morning, Hungary! Good morning, Hungarians!”
The questions to be asked include whether the spirit of the Cold War can be stopped from returning and whether Hungary can prevent Russia from becoming its enemy again, Orbán said. “Is it possible for Hungarians to stand by Ukraine’s independence and security for ethnic Hungarians in Transcarpathia and at the same time protect our country’s energy security and economic interests?” he asked.
Hungary’s elected leaders must answer these questions from the position of being committed members of the EU and NATO, while keeping Hungary a safe place in an uncertain world, he said.
Orbán argued that Hungarian people are “by nature” politically incorrect, which means “they have not yet lost their commonsense”. Hungarians are interested not in “empty talk but in facts; they want results not theories”, he said.
He cautiously refrained from using the word illiberal in his speech. According to the PM, since 2010 “we have been living in the future which many other countries are only just setting out towards or will attempt to reach sooner or later”. Europe today continued to huddle behind the moats of political correctness, and had built a wall of taboos and dogmas around itself.
“In contrast we took the view that the old pre-crisis world will not return. There are things from past periods which are worth keeping, such as democracy – as far as possible in a form which needs no modifying adjectives; but we must let go of everything that has failed and has broken down.”
He continued: “We let go of neo-liberal economic policy, and perhaps we did so as late as we possibly could have; we let go of the policy of austerity, just before we were about to share the fate of Greece; we let go of the delusion of the multicultural society before it turned Hungary into a refugee camp, and we let go of liberal social policy which does not acknowledge the common good and denies Christian culture as the natural foundation – and perhaps the only natural foundation – for the organisation of European societies. We decided to face the barrage of unfair attacks and accusations, and also let go of the dogma of political correctness.”
Orbán said that he wants a country in which everyone is successful but this is not yet the case today. “There are large numbers of people who are very far from this. They have been called all sorts of things: the losers from the fall of communism, wage-earners or simply workers. I would rather call them hard-working people. The next few years should be about them: everyday hard-working people and their families. We have already done a great deal for them but they need more. We must now help the people who not only love Hungary, but work for it and want to work for it.”
Regarding the issue of a surprising loss in a recent by-election (in a traditionally Fidesz-leaning constituency – note), the Prime Minister said this was something not experienced for quite some time. “We might also look at the positive side of this: if an independent candidate can score a victory over a governing party with a two-thirds parliamentary majority, this means that the electoral law is sound and functioning well, because it has also given a chance to the underdog.
“At the same time, if this sort of thing can happen there can be nothing seriously wrong with this democracy, not to mention the freedom of the press – without which an independent socialist candidate could surely not have won. What is more, we lost our two-thirds parliamentary majority, and Western comrades may finally feel reassured that we are good democrats; over there, a good democrat is one who loses – or if by chance they win, one that is weak.”
Orbán, however, warned his party and his supporters that if this would be all that they concluded from the defeat, they would not be truthful. “As far as I can see, some of our supporters – and let us take this seriously, a significant proportion of our supporters – did not stand by us. They are certainly unsatisfied with us.
“I myself have heard that the government did not find the right balance between argument, agreement, compromise and action. We shall probably need more consultation, more compromise and more agreement.”
Before anyone could have thought that Hungary is about to hit calmer waters, Orbán continued: “But there is perhaps something else as well. We are perhaps not fighting hard enough – or at least, not fighting well enough. This may have been understandable and excusable before. We all thought it would have been natural and desirable – and, let us admit it, comfortable – if our second overwhelming victory had been followed by a more peaceful period. Say three years focused on governance without ceaseless fighting, followed by an intense campaign year at the end. This is how we imagined it. Dreams, dreams, sweet dreams.
“Let us not forget that those who believe that there is ultimate victory in democracy are completely wrong. Only the communists believed that there can be a final struggle and an ultimate victory – and look where they ended up.”
According to him, in democracy, in the world of civic principles, one must fight for trust and recognition over and over again. “If you want a civic Hungary – and that is what we want – it is once more time to fight for it. But we can only fight together, and not against one another, because strength lies in unity, and because we stand together under one flag.
“A student once asked his teacher: Will it be long before things change for the better? The teacher said in reply: ‘If we sit around waiting, it will be’. Good morning, Hungary! Good morning, Hungarians!”
Opposition parties said the speech was “empty” and pointed to signs of a “weakening” ruling party. Roland Márton, the deputy leader of the Socialists, said it showed Fidesz was in crisis, as it had been deserted by one million supporters. Orbán’s speech included a long wish list, and the prime minister “made a great effort to speak louder than the facts, but in fact failed in that”, Márton said. Fidesz was today unable to either protect or represent the people.
Gábor Vona, the leader of radical nationalist Jobbik, said Orbán has been waging a political cold war instead of effective governing. He said the public had heard not a prime minister but a Fidesz leader who lost confidence, adding that it was no surprise Orbán had not addressed real issues such as education, healthcare, free-trade talks and the departure of Hungarians from the country.
András Schiffer, co-chair of green LMP, said Orbán and his government had turned Hungary into a country where working people were poor. He criticised Orbán’s remarks about record high employment, insisting that only 40,000 “crisis-proof” jobs had been created altogether with “development funds rolled out last year, an election year”.
The leftist Democratic Coalition said Orbán had delivered “an empty speech” in which he sought to back up his government’s performance with false data. “Hungarians could see a prime minister shaken in his intellectual capacity and scope of action in politics,” said Zsolt Gréczy, the party spokesman.
Viktor Szigetvári, the leader of the Együtt (Together) party, said the public saw “a tired and shattered” prime minister of a weakening Hungary. At the same time Orbán “forgot” to talk about corruption, poverty and the “hopelessness” that embraces the country, Szigetvári said.
Rebeka Szabó, board member of the Dialogue for Hungary (PM) party, said the success story Orbán talked about concerned only those “privileged” people who were close to him and to ruling Fidesz. But Hungarian people see through him and want no more “state of the nation speeches hinting at false dreams”, she said, adding that there would be an end to “Orbán’s lies” soon.
Liberal leader Gábor Fodor said that only a “weak prime minister” unable to face his own failure would point a finger at immigrants, at Europe and at the liberals.