Gergely Gulyas – Photo: MTI

Gulyas: Conservative forces set to make gains in Europe

Gergely Gulyas, the head of the Prime Minister's Office, has expressed hope that anti-war conservative forces representing "traditional European values" could make gains in the upcoming European Parliament elections. Speaking on a podcast of news portal Mandiner, Gulyas said there was a chance for Hungary's ruling Fidesz party to see an "outstanding level of support" by Hungarian voters in a European comparison in June.

“My hope is that the conservative forces that speak out against the war and consider traditional European values . important can have a stronger showing on a European level,” Gulyas said.

Gulyas said he was optimistic, and though he did not think that European conservatives and sovereigntists would have a majority in the European Parliament, he considered it “very likely” that they will make gains.

He also said that after “five difficult years” and half-way through the government’s current term, there was a good chance that Fidesz could receive an “outstanding level of support” in a European comparison.

Meanwhile, Gulyas said the emergence of Peter Magyar, the ex-husband of the former justice minister, and his new party in Hungarian politics “might not even matter when it comes to the EP elections”, but should benefit the ruling parties in the parliamentary elections “just based on the rules of common sense”.

He said Magyar’s arrival on the political scene had “sent the left to an all-time moral low”, arguing that the left had been saying that entrepreneur Lorincz Meszaros was an “unacceptable economic player” and that there was a national consensus regarding respect for women. “Peter Magyar is a living refutation of both of those lines of reasoning,” he said, arguing that Meszaros had held public office, and that it was “hard to point to” Magyar as an example when it came to respecting women.

Asked about his personal acquaintance of Magyar, Gulyas said he had not imagined Magyar as someone who would make an audio recording of a private conversation with his wife.

He said the left was dissatisfied with how it had performed so far, so any new player was seen as “something of a messiah”, insisting that it had been the same way with former prime minister Gordon Bajnai and former PM candidates Gergely Karacsony and Peter Marki-Zay. But, he added, because he had known Magyar, he predicted that “those who are enthusiastically clapping for him today will want any of those other players back in just a few years’ time.”

Gulyas also said that Magyar and Democratic Coalition leader Ferenc Gyurcsany were similar in the sense that they were both bringing in votes for the left, and though they denied it now, they would eventually join forces.

“We shouldn’t underestimate our opponents, but if it’ll be them, then the Hungarian conservative world doesn’t really have reason to worry,” he said.

Asked about the disputes between the Hungarian government and Brussels, Gulyas said there were “few points” concerning which the government was the one at fault.

He said Hungary represented common sense in Europe today when it came to opposing the war, migration and the gender issue. He said that whereas the European political elite was irresponsible when it came to the war, European citizens were more rational because they wanted peace and disagreed with unlimited weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

Gulyas said the only realistic way out of the Russia-Ukraine war was a change in the United States administration after the November election. “June 9 will be an important step in this direction, but, of course, America is also needed,” he said.

Asked if Fidesz will have a group in the EP, Gulyas said: “That’s entirely up to us, just as it has always been.”

After its exit from the European People’s Party, Fidesz had the option of joining one of two party groups, he said, adding that his party would have had to leave the EPP at some point because the conservative grouping had allied with left-liberal parties.

Concerning the local council elections, he said he expected most incumbent mayors to win re-election, though the outcome was uncertain in Budapest. He said that based on incumbent mayor Gergely Karacsony’s track record, “it would be hard to argue in favour of giving him another five-year term.”

Gulyas said “it must be accepted” that Budapest was a less conservative city than smaller cities around Hungary but it was “still the most conservative European capital”, where the ruling parties managed to garner over 40 percent support.

One should never give up hope that the ruling parties could win a majority, as it was during the era of former mayor Istvan Tarlos, he added, and assured Alexandra Szentkiralyi, the ruling parties’ mayoral candidate, of his support.

Commenting on another mayoral candidate, David Vitezy, he said his expertise was beyond doubt but “we will have to see” if the decision to take on a political role would bring success.

Concerning the possible conclusions the national parties might be able to draw from the local elections as regards their popularity, he said the make-up the county assemblies would be the best indicator for what national results could be expected by parties if the parliamentary elections were to be held now.

At the same time, he noted that the 2019 elections had resulted in an opposition victory in Budapest both in terms of the metropolitan council and the individual districts, but the 2022 elections still brought an “unprecedented victory” for the Fidesz-Christian Democrats.

Commenting on the links between the local elections and the European Parliament elections, he said local councils would also be affected by the extent to which Hungary would be able to access EU funds. In the current term, some of the MEPs from Hungary had made every effort to prevent Hungary from accessing those monies, he added.

He said opposition Momentum’s MEPs were at the forefront in terms of “treason”, and the Democratic Coalition and Klara Dobrev “fell behind in fierce competition”.

Hungary is fully prepared to fulfil the upcoming EU presidency, he said. “We will be doing the EU a great favour” because the government that will be in control over the six months has the experience needed and can contribute to bringing progress to Europe, he added.

He also said that the outcome of the European Parliament elections would be decisive in terms of who the European Commission president will be, adding that current EC chief Ursula von der Leyen stood a good chance of being re-elected if the European People’s Party achieved a clear victory. “This cannot be ruled out but cannot be taken for granted, either,” he added. Gulyas said it would be much better to have a new president because over the past five years the EC had not made many decisions that would have stood the test of time and proven right for Europe.

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