As It Happens

Hungary's PM wants a 1-party nation state, opposition MP says

Hungarian independent MP Zsuzsanna Szeleny predicts Prime Minister Viktor Orban will use his supermajority re-election to continue his attacks on migrants.

Prime Minister Victor Orban's landslide re-election win puts Hungary at odds with the European Union

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a supermajority re-election on Sunday. (Sean Gallup/Getty Image)

At home, Hungary's Viktor Orban is more popular than ever.

His anti-immigration platform, in which he vowed to keep "Hungary for Hungarians" paid off, with a landslide victory in Sunday's elections.

Voters handed Orban a third consecutive term, and his right-wing Fidesz party regained two-thirds of parliament — super-majority that would allow Orban to change the country's constitution. 

But his widespread appeal does not extend to the European Parliament.

A draft report circulated this week calls for sanctions against Hungary, for failing to uphold the EU's core values.

Zsuzsanna Szelenyi, an independent MP in the Hungarian parliament, spoke with As it Happens host Carol Off about the situation in Hungary.

Here is part of their conversation.

Viktor Orban promised a white Christian Hungary, free from Muslim migrants. How is he going to deliver on that promise?

I think this is a very strong campaign message. It's very ideological. And actually it's not so complicated to deliver, because there are no migrants in Hungary. And there are no migrants who want to come to Hungary.

The Central European Zone of the [European Union] is traditionally not very multicultural. Because of the communist past there are not many immigrant communities in these countries, including Hungary. 

Zsuzsanna Szelenyi speaks during a protest against a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Balazs Mohai/MTI via Associated Press)

So why did he campaign on that? The economy is strong, there's good job numbers. Things are going well for people in Hungary.

It's important to understand that Viktor Orban doesn't make a usual campaign because his ambitions are not very usual. He wants to change the status quo in Hungary in order to remain in power as long as possible. 

And I think he also wants to change somehow the European Union, in order to accept an illiberal, non-pluralistic, one-party state within the European Union.

Therefore he needs to make extraordinary and very bizarre campaigns to mobilize people.

The immigration story is very symbolic. Viktor Orban speaks about a kind of existential threat , hich endangers our European Western culture. And that is what resonates in so many people. 

An anti-migration billboard from the Hungarian government with graffitti reading: 'Orban.' (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

Why does he seem to be pinning all of Hungary's problems on [U.S. financier] George Soros? 

George Soros is, first of all, a conspiracy theory [for Orban].

Through his personality and philanthropic activity and very strong ideology on open society, Orban could find an enemy who could be linked to the immigration issue.

Soros is also a very rich person, and an American — so very distant. Conspiracy theories usually deal with something or someone who is far away and people do not have much information about. 

Orban's problem with Soros also goes beyond this conspiracy theory. He is really regarding Soros and his concept of the world — and globalism — an enemy of his system [of] illiberalism. 

Orban addressing supporters in Budapest after his election victory. (Darko Vojinovic/The Associated Press)

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described Viktor Orban's campaign as "rife with xenophobia and media bias." What is the situation when it comes to the press in Hungary?

The press has been dominated by Viktor Orban as a prime minister for years.

The state media has a strong influence in eastern Europe still. But through his cronies, he also controls a significant part of the commercial media.

So outreach to people by the opposition has been very limited. And he used these media outlets for the xenophobic and hostile campaign. 

The European Union is moving toward a process that might put sanctions on Hungary for being anti-democratic. Is there going to be a clash between the European Union and Viktor Orban?

Viktor Orban represents a concept which he calls "sovereignist" — while the European Union is a process of integrated countries.

It would be very, very important for the European Union to further integrate, because all of the challenges we are seeing in the world today cannot be solved by any of the smaller European countries alone.

So the EU will struggle with Viktor Orban, because he will make a lot of effort to make his regime acknowledged on a nation-state basis. 

Our former prime minister, Stephen Harper, sent a message to congratulate Viktor Orban, and said he looks forward to working with him. What would you tell Stephen Harper he should be concerned about in Viktor Orban? 

Everyone in the world should understand who Viktor Orban is and his ambitions.

He wants to make Western countries approve his one-party system, which is not a democratic system. I think it's a dangerous process.

If he finds political alliances in Europe and elsewhere, that would make Europe's life much more complicated, and probably beyond Europe.

Written by Kevin Ball and Kate Swoger. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong and Kate Swoger. Q&A edited for length and clarity.


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