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  • Writer's picture Kester Eddy

Hungary: Peace - In our Time?

Seven Voices from the Hustings

Photo: A campaign poster with the Hungarian word Béke (= Peace) and the image of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on the first 'E'. Orbán's campaign portrays the opposition as 'warmongers' with the PM as the voice of reason, capable of saving not only Hungary, but Europe and the world from becoming enveloped in the Russian-Ukraine conflict.

The sub-text is: We have a greater need [of peace] now more than ever. Only Fidesz!

Seven quick quotes from Viktor Orbán, Klára Dobrev, Dávid Vitézy and others involved to give a taste of the rhetoric for forthcoming elections in Hungary – plus links to further stories and information

In preparation for the European Parliamentary and municipal elections in Hungary, I helped organise meetings between the Hungarian International Press Association with some of the leading players involved in the elections scheduled for Sunday, June 9.

I planned to write an election primer for the Budapest Business Journal, and include maybe 4-5 boxes with quotes from some of these individuals across the pages, but when it came down to it, there was no room for such luxuries – just covering the bare bones of this story took up two pages (much of it to explain Péter Magyar's explosive arrival onto the Hungarian political stage).

For an overview of what it's all about on Sunday and a broader explanation of the roles of the people featured, see:

That left me with a bunch of interviews half transcribed that I'd prepared to take the quotes from. Rather than waste these, I've selected short (or shortish) sections of what they said as a taster of who is saying what.

Actually, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán did not speak to us journalists (as indeed, is normal – he usually declines requests for interviews from the foreign press), but I've put in a quote from him from a recent state radio interview for balance.

Others reluctant to take up the invitation included the aforementioned Wunderkind Péter Magyar, Tamás Deutsch (Fidesz list leader for the EP elections), Alexandra Szentkirályi (Fidesz candidate for the Lord Mayor of Budapest) and Gergely Karácsony (the incumbent Lord Mayor). So, they are not included in the following voices. Too bad.

(Confession: In truth, my strapline is a wee bit misleading – three of these voices are analysts, so they will not appear on the hustings – but I needed a short, snappy sentence here. I hope you'll forgive me.)

Viktor Orbán: It's about either peace or war: only Fidesz and KDNP are pro-peace

Leaders must be forced to make pro-peace decisions, and in democracies the only way to force pro-peace decisions out of leaders is with elections: vote out the pro-war, vote for peace; remove the pro-war politicians and replace them with pro-peace politicians. Now, for example, it’s not pro-war MEPs – in Hungary, let’s say, not representatives of the Hungarian Left – who can and must be sent to the European Parliament, but pro-peace MEPs. In Hungary today only Fidesz and the KDNP are pro-peace, so if we want peace we should send them to the European Parliament.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was speaking on the Kossuth Radio programme “Good Morning Hungary” 31st May 2024.

Bulcsú Hunyadi: The advertising spend is not normal 

They [the Fidesz government and government-controlled media] have invested a huge amount of money, most probably public money, to discredit Péter Magyar and other opposition parties.

Photo left: Bulcsú Hunyadi

We have been monitoring facebook election ad spending since the beginning of the year, and we can see that Fidesz, with two other Gongos [Government non-government organisations], proxies for Fidesz, like Megafon which is a group that trains so-called social media influencers, who are not really influencers but are trained and paid by Fidesz-close circles, and the other is the Civic Union Forum.

These three organisations have spent HUF 1.2 billion [approx EUR 3.2 million] since the beginning of this year.

This is not normal, it's a huge amount of money.”

Bulcsú Hunyadi, Head of Programmes, Head of Radicalisation and Extremism Programme at Political Capital, a liberal-leaning Hungarian think-tank. Speaking on 27th May.

Dávid Vitézy: the City Council and government are playing to their own bubbles

The development of Budapest is almost halted. I feel that Budapest has become a battlefield of national party politics.

And it is an interesting discussion who is more responsible for this, the government or the mayor? They are all playing into this notion of not solving anything but playing to their own political bubbles.

I see that even when there is a situation when they could work together, both of them are interested in not to do so, but [the mayor is] playing to the opposition bubble in Budapest, and saying that the government stops everything, we cannot do anything, and the City Hall is just explaining themselves, even when there is a chance to do something,

Photo: Dávid Vitézy - beneath his Fidesz political competitor

And the government is very happy to play to their mostly rural voter bases, outside Budapest, and saying this mayor is incapable of anything and explain why they shift all the funds from Budapest to the other parts of Hungary.

And this works politically quite well for everyone, the problem is it doesn't work for the city of Budapest any more.

My offer is for the city, and for its voters is to provide a professional leadership for the city hall, a more capable leadership which is able to deliver on its promises on the one hand, and on the other to provide an opposition mayor who is not willing to co-operate against the interests of the city with the central government, but who is not using this as a stepping stone and not willing to be a prime ministerial candidate in 2026, and I won't be on any list of any parties or European Parliamentary list.”

Vitézy's 101 Plans for Budapest can be found here.


Dávid Vitézy is the LMP backed candidate for the Lord Mayor of Budapest. Speaking on 24th April.

And now, someone who's been at the coal face who would no doubt adamantly disagree with Vitézy:

Kata Tüttő: The government taxes Budapest's tax income, and even starved the city council of funding under the former Fidesz mayor

There is a so-called solidarity tax, which means the government is taxing the only tax money which is paid by the local businesses.

We don't get anything from the personal income tax or VAT or other taxes. We have this one tax, paid by local businesses, [and] even that is taxed by the government, they call it a solidarity tax, but it's not a solidarity tax [for the poorer municipalities], it goes to the big [state] budget, and they buy Vodafone and Budapest Airport from it.

Let's go back five years, with the last Fidesz mayor, Mr Tarlós. Did he get money from the Hungarian government? He did not.

What happened under the mayorship of Fidesz in Budapest?

They took away the hospitals, they took away the schools and the local taxes. [They] centralised waste management, and left nothing for the [water and sewage] pipelines or for the roads.

Tarlós was asking the government all the time for money for the roads and for the pipelines and he got nothing.

There are 5,500km of pipelines just in Budapest to supply the system, Budapest and the [communities] around the city.

I have now zero forints to keep the pipeline system alive.”

Kata Tüttő IS deputy mayor of Budapest (Socialist Party), responsible for city utilities. She is also on the DK-Socialist-Dialogue alliance list as a candidate for the European Parliament. Speaking on 19th April, 2024.

András Bíró-Nagy: Péter Magyar stands for Fidesz without Orban

What I see from Péter Magyar, and he doesn't hide this, is that on several issues, he doesn't really have problems with what Fidesz is doing.

For example, on the European Union, what we've heard from Péter Magyar so far is not very far from where Fidesz stands. He was clearly attacking those Hungarian MEPs who were criticising the Hungarian government for corruption and rule of law in Brussels, and which resulted in freezing the EU funds for Hungary.

Photo András Bíró-Nagy

And clearly Péter Magyar has the opinion that this is the kind of strategy that no Hungarian MEP should do.”

QN – “He thinks they're traitors to the nation?”

It's a kind of traitor of the nation, yes. He doesn't use these words any more, because he's trying to be an opposition politician nowadays, but if you listen to his speeches carefully, in terms of defending Hungarian sovereignty and in terms of what kind of approach to have with the EU, he's not very far from the original Judit Varga position, by the way.”

András Bíró-Nagy is the founder and director of Hungarian think-tank Policy Solutions. Speaking foreign journalists on 25 April 2024

Klára Dobrev: The DK-led alliance will be the only pro-EU party in the European Parliament

As I see now, with all this transformation and turbulence that is going on in Hungarian politics, at this moment, in the European Parliament, the only pro-European force [from Hungary] is going to be the alliance of Social Democrats and Greens, that's our alliance.

We are the party and alliance for a strong Europe; on the other hand, there are three parties, Our Homeland, Fidesz and Péter Magyar Tisza Party, who are [advocating] a weaker Europe or anti-European sentiment.

As I see it, the Hungarian 'conservative', right-wing parties in their main, core policies are more extreme right-wing parties, whether it's ECR [the European Conservatives and Reformists Party]or ID [the Identity and Democracy Party].”

Klára Dobrev, flanked by Gergely Karácsony (Mayor of Budapest) and Socialist leader Ágnes Kunhalmi.

<Editorial note: these two are seen as rival 'nationalist right' groupings within the European Parliament.>

You can see that all of them are anti-Ukrainian - loud or not so loud - pro-Putin or Putin-understanding, all of them are against European level rule-of-law politics and all of them are communicating a weaker Europe, anti-Brussels sentiment and [accusing the European Commission] of 'double standards' or whatever in their speeches.”

Klára Dobrev is an MEP for the Democratic Coalition (DK), list leader for the DK-led opposition alliance and wife of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány.

Ágoston Mráz: Fidesz will join a new conservative grouping in Brussels

If I understand well the hidden messages and movements in European politics, I would say that a new European conservative party will be formed to which not only Mr Orbán can enter, but even Ms Le Pen will join this new European conservative [grouping].

Ágoston Mráz, addressing a conference.

And evidence for my thesis is that last weekend, I think, the Spanish opposition party VOX organised a huge rally and, surprisingly - VOX belongs to the European conservative s [the European Conservatives and Reformists Party - ECR] currently - but surprisingly Le Pen [whose party is in the rival Identity and Democracy grouping] appeared at the event and delivered a speech.

Meloni and Mr Orbán sent video messages, and two days later Le Pen announced a split with the German AFD right-wing party.

So, it seems to be very clear that there is a movement in France from the very conservative Identity party to the moderate conservative European conservative party, and Mr Orbán is probably going in this direction.

And if you look at the EP election result predictions, you will find that this new European conservative party could reach 16% of the seats, which is a very strong power.

There is not a final picture about which parties will finally belong to this new European conservative party. There are rumours, for example, there are rumours that the Czech governing party ODS could leave the conservatives if Mr Orbán or Le Pen enter, so, it is not very clear how many and which parties, but 15-16-17% are manageable for the new European conservatives.

I would say very important because two prime ministers would belong to this [European Parliament grouping], Meloni and Orbán, and therefore it would be a European power which other parties cannot forget about.

A political community of this strength cannot only be in opposition.”

Ágoston Mráz, founder and CEO of Nézőpont Institute, a government-leaning think-tank. Speaking on 24th May.

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