Viktor orbán

Viktor Orbán’s Texas rodeo

Say what you want about Viktor Orbán, but he gives a good speech. His address on Thursday in Dallas on the opening day of CPAC, the annual jamboree of the American right wing, was wide-ranging, hard-hitting and quite funny. One of his best jokes – paraphrasing Pope Francis – was ‘that Hungary was the official language of heaven because it takes an eternity to learn’. It also happens to be nonsense. Hungarian is recognised as considerably easier to learn than Arabic or Mandarin, but Orbán doesn’t do nuance. In fact, the entirety of his speech was about drawing an unbridgeable distinction between the ‘Judeao-Christian’ values of himself and his audience on one

Viktor Orbán won’t save conservatism

It’s always the ones you most expect. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, nationalist strongman and post-liberal poster-boy gave a speech over the weekend on the evils of race-mixing. He was speaking on Saturday to attendees at Tusványos summer university in Băile Tușnad, Transylvania, previously an annual forum for Hungarian-Romanian dialogue but now an intellectual pep rally for the ultranationalist Fidesz party. According to the Budapest Times, he told his co-ideologues the West was ‘split in two’ between European nations and those in which Europeans and non-Europeans lived together. He declared: ‘Those countries are no longer nations.’ This is also how the Daily News Hungary and Hungary Today characterised Orbán’s remarks.

Where does brave, stubborn Hungary stand today?

‘Deplorable,’ wrote the historian Denis Sinor in 1958 about the state of Hungarian historiography in English. ‘Not only are the interpretations out of date but the facts themselves are all too often erroneous, and a proper name which is not misspelt is received with a sigh of relief by the reader who knows Hungarian.’ That was only two years after the revolution of 1956, when Hungary was on the world’s lips. Today, when the government of Viktor Orbán and the country’s position on Russia and Ukraine makes it equally talked about, this book – from an author born in Budapest in 1956 – is well timed, and its subtitle ‘Between

Progressives vs populists: Macron, Orban and Europe’s faultline

As soon as Emmanuel Macron was sure that Joe Biden had won the American election, he tweeted: ‘We have a lot to do to overcome today’s challenges. Let’s work together!’ There was no effusive tweet this week from the Élysée when 54 per cent of Hungarian voters re-elected Viktor Orban as Prime Minister for a fourth term. The silence from Macron was deafening. Not so his principal rival in France’s impending election. On Sunday evening Marine Le Pen tweeted an old photo of the happy couple shaking hands with the declaration: ‘When the people vote, the people win!’ Le Pen will hope that Orban’s victory is a good omen ahead

Viktor Orbán is no friend of the West

Viktor Orbán‘s victory speech in Budapest on Sunday night took a curious turn. Speaking after a fourth landslide win, he opined: This victory is one to remember because we had the biggest [opponents] to overpower. The left at home, the international left, the bureaucrats in Brussels… the Soros empire… and even the Ukrainian President. Orbán skipped over the challenge to regional stability caused by the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. Having refused military aid to Kyiv, and having exchanged barbs with President Volodymyr Zelensky, he reassured ethnic Hungarians in West Ukraine: ‘Don’t be afraid, the motherland is with you’. Orbán’s party is raising the prospect of secession of Ukrainian lands,

Why Hungary’s opposition failed

Viktor Orbán has now spent a total of 16 years as Hungary’s Prime Minister but he has not lost his hunger for power. Energetically campaigning across the country, exploiting every advantage of incumbency, and excoriating the incompetent opposition, on Sunday he notched up his fourth landslide victory in a row. Crucially, he maintains the two-thirds majority in parliament that he has held since 2010, allowing him him to amend the constitution whenever he chooses. Predictably, the opposition challenged the legitimacy of the election process even before the votes had been counted. They note that the lion’s share of the media supports Orbán. But this is an excuse, not an explanation. It was not

Viktor Orbán has played a perfect game with Putin

On 3 April Hungarians will have their ninth set of free parliamentary elections since the collapse of the communist dictatorship in 1989. The winner is likely to be Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz-KDNP coalition, which is leading in five of the six major polls. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will not change that dynamic even though the opposition leader, Péter Márki-Zay has called Orbán a ‘traitor’ for his long-standing friendship with Vladimir Putin. Ever since Viktor Orbán began his second stint as Hungary’s prime minister in 2010, he has repeatedly played the provocateur within the EU, tweaking the eurocrats’ noses with his cultural conservatism and hostility to mass immigration. His alliance

Viktor Orbán or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Putin

Viktor Orbán first came to prominence when in 1989 he declared on live TV that Hungary must put an end to the ‘Russian occupation’. On the first day of February this year, he held his thirteenth meeting with Vladimir Putin. What’s changed? Like much of his generation, Orbán initially believed that the fall of communism would mean a ‘return to Europe’ — with not only western democracy but also a western standard of living. Yet after a brief and unpleasant stint studying in Oxford, the student politician discovered that Britain’s future elites were ignorant and decadent. Orbán eventually concluded that Hungary had to jettison its naïve faith in Western Europe

Why Viktor Orbán is fighting a war against ‘LGBT ideology’

‘Do you support the unrestricted presentation of sexual media content that influences the development of underage children?’ In a national referendum likely to be held in the spring, Hungarians will be asked this question and others about the ‘promotion of gender reassignment’ to children, the holding of sexual orientation classes without parental consent, and whether or not they ‘support the display of gender-sensitive media content’ to kids. Parliament approved the referendum on Tuesday; opposition MPs chose not to vote on what they see as an egregious waste of public money. But this has cleared the way for an attempt by Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party to cloak its controversial crackdown on

Out of nowhere: Viktor Orbán’s new challenger

Hungarian politics has a lot to offer: sex tapes, offshore bank accounts, police-dodging MEPs hanging off drainpipes, supposedly left-wing parties cheerfully backing anti-Semitic parliamentary candidates. Nevertheless, most observers would admit that there has been stagnation in the past few years. Hungary’s politics have become a stale exchange of insults between familiar faces. Thank goodness, then, for Péter Márki-Zay, who has opened a window and let in some fresh air. He has been chosen by the opposition to the government as their candidate for prime minister in next year’s general election. And that means practically all the opposition parties in the Hungarian parliament working together. It’s like the Labour party teaming

How to beat Orbán? Copy him

Opposing Viktor Orbán is a formidable task. Support for his coalition hovers at around the 40 per cent mark while the parliamentary system makes it harder for opposition parties to break through. By 2018, all of the opposition parties, most of which are firmly on the left, realised they were individually incapable of breaking through. They began fielding joint candidates and had some early success when Gergely Karácsony won the mayoralty of Budapest. So they agreed late last year to select a common candidate for the prime ministership at next spring’s elections. Last weekend, a political outsider, Péter Márki-Zay, became the candidate. Márki-Zay’s appeal comes from the idea that he

Hungary, Poland and the EU’s ‘diversity’ problem

It is quite something when the self-proclaimed ‘illiberal’ prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, reminds Brussels of its liberal principles. As part of the ongoing row over a Hungarian law which bans the ‘depiction or promotion’ of homosexuality and gender reassignment, Orbán has argued that: ‘If we want to keep the European Union together, liberals must respect the rights of non-liberals. Unity in diversity.’ ‘Unity in diversity’ has been the official motto of the European Union for over 20 years. The idea that the continent can unite in a common political and economic framework without losing the diversity of its constituent nations underpins the very idea of a democratic union

Why the Pegasus spying scandal probably won’t harm Viktor Orban

‘The EU has a dictatorship growing inside of it,’ proclaimed Guy Verhofstadt on Monday afternoon, while calling for an EU inquiry into the ‘Pegasus’ scandal, which has exposed the potential Hungarian misuse of state surveillance on anti-government journalists, media owners and businesspeople. The ‘Pegasus Project’, a multinational investigation led by the French non-profit organisation Forbidden Stories, suggests that investigative journalists critical of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s regime (along with independent media owners and government-critical businesspeople) were the subject of phone hacking in recent years. The Pegasus software, marketed to international governments by the NSO Group, an Israeli company, is capable of recording phone calls, accessing private messages, and switching

Letters: How to revive Britain’s orchestras

Good conductors Sir: Yes, it is sad to see talents like Sir Simon Rattle and Mirga Gražinyte-Tyla leaving our shores (‘Rattled’, 30 January) and yes, the Brexit complications faced by British musicians are ludicrous. But both might be bearable if there were sufficient investment in grass-roots music here. At least then we could hope that the gap left by departing maestri would be quickly filled by homegrown talent. Unfortunately, the government continues to turn a blind eye to musical education, despite the many studies evidencing its benefits. Even before Covid-19 restrictions drove a stake through the sector, a recent report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Music Education showed that

Orban and Macron, Europe’s new power couple

After Brexit, the general assumption was that France and Germany would take their place as the two rulers of Europe. But Angela Merkel’s influence has been waning and Germany is often an absent power — preoccupied as it is by redefining its own politics after 15 years of her rule. This suits Emmanuel Macron, who was never satisfied with sharing the stage with her. He has found himself another ally, one who is far more influential than people give him credit for — Viktor Orban. Macron and Orban have a monastic attitude to power: they both rule on the basis of there being a single orthodoxy that everyone must observe.

Where three empires met

Norman Stone has already written, with a brilliant blend of humour, understanding and scepticism, histories of the Eastern Front, Turkey, Europe between 1878 and 1919, both world wars and the Cold War. A history of Hungary is his latest book. He has one qualification increasingly rare in England. As polyglot as an educated archduke, he knows Hungarian in addition to German, French, Russian and Turkish. Moreover, he has been visiting Hungary for more than 50 years, since he first went as a student in the dark days of 1962. He has returned many times — his Hungarian improved in a communist prison and he reported the fall of the communist

The scrutiny of Scruton

‘Once identified as right-wing you are beyond the pale of argument,’ wrote Sir Roger Scruton. ‘Your views are irrelevant, your character discredited, your presence in the world a mistake. You are not an opponent to be argued with, but a disease to be shunned. This has been my experience.’ Unfortunately, that experience is due to intensify for the 74-year-old conservative philosopher. Last weekend, the government announced it had set up a commission to try and make new housing developments ‘beautiful’ and appointed Sir Roger as its chair. It’s one of the few sensible things the present government has done; so, of course, it’s caused a scandal. Within minutes of Sir

The wrong right

To the inhabitants of the British Isles, the nations of central Europe have always existed in a semi–mythical space, near enough to be recognised as somehow European, but too distant to be taken seriously. Neville Chamberlain dismissed them as ‘faraway countries of which we know little’; Shakespeare gave landlocked Bohemia a coastline. In British school textbooks, Poland appears for the first time in 1939 and then vanishes again, just as abruptly. In the feverish politics of the Brexit era, central Europe has once again returned — and, once again, it is in a semi-mythical form. This time, the region is playing the role of an imaginary alternative Europe, one perfectly

George Soros vs the nation state

Freedom House is a remarkable and largely admirable organisation. Over the years it has done some great work challenging governments with a tendency towards the authoritarian. Yet its attacks on the government of Hungary are increasingly off-kilter. Regular readers will recall that the Hungarian government differs from the German government in believing that it is not desirable to invite the entire developing world to come and live in your country. The Hungarian government – led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban – also differs from the views of Hungary’s wealthiest son, George Soros, who along with the numerous NGOs that he funds has spent recent years undermining the borders of Europe,

High life | 16 February 2017

Gstaad One’s unpopularity on account of calling it a night diminishes in direct proportion to the severity of the next morning’s hangover. I was literally booed by Geoffrey Moore and co. for asking the wife of a friend to drive me 200 yards to my chalet. Co., not Geoffrey, had other plans for the lady, and I will give you, the readers, two guesses what those plans were. It was 5.30 a.m., the friend’s wife did look awfully charming — desirable is closer to the truth — and co. was getting touchy-feely, so I opened my big mouth and asked her to drive me home. The next day, all sorts