Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - Photo: PMO

Orbán: ‘We are extremely strong and will win the election’

Hungary's ruling parties are "extremely strong and will win the election if they mobilise their forces", Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, leader of ruling Fidesz, said in an interview with the weekly Mandiner published on Wednesday.

The prime minister said that regardless of who sat in which European parliamentary group, the most important question was how many pro-war and pro-peace MEPs would be elected.

Orbán said everything possible needed to be done to prevent the expansion of the war between Russia and Ukraine. He said that from Ukraine’s “national perspective”, it was “logical” to try to escalate the war, arguing that the Ukrainians felt that the more countries they could involve in the war against Russia, the greater their chance of victory was. “Hungarians, however, know that they have to stay out of the war, because getting dragged into it goes against Hungarian national interests,” he added.

“The stakes of the election are clear: war or peace,” Orbán said. “Power relations are secondary right now, because we’re going to win this election”, he said, adding that the left’s “only hope” was that “the ruling parties won’t set a swim world record this time”.

“That’s why they’re talking about what share of the vote would be considered a failure for Fidesz,” the prime minister said. “We’re extremely strong and we’ll win this election — if we mobilise our forces.”

Orbán said the left-wing parties had attempted to win the 2022 general election by joining forces, but this time they appeared to be “going back to the recipe used in 2014 and 2018, and the opposition camp standing against the government is fragmented again”. The prime minister noted that the Fidesz-Christian Democrat alliance secured a two-thirds majority in all three of those elections.

He said that apart from the war, the ruling parties’ “biggest opponent” was routine, meaning that if their voters believed that victory would come automatically. Orbán said if the ruling parties did the necessary canvassing, the “social majority on the civic, national Christian side” would be reflected in the election results.

As regards the EP elections, he said that irrespective of who sat in which party group, the most important question was how many pro-war and pro-peace MEPs would be elected. The prime minister said he did not reject working with leftists provided that they were pro-peace.

Orbán said the most important task was to “resist efforts aimed at preparations for armed intervention outside NATO’s territory”. He underscored the need for institutions that were pro-peace and aimed to improve competitiveness, saying that positions in the EU should be filled by politicians who wanted to carry out these policies.

Meanwhile, Orbán said the reintroduction of mandatory military service was not on the agenda in Hungary, underlining that NATO guaranteed the collective defence of its members, so “Hungary can afford the luxury of only having a professional army”.

Commenting on European People’s Party leader Manfred Weber’s remarks on European military conscription, Orbán said Weber wanted a “European imperial army”. Rejecting the idea, Orbán said this would entail “conscripting our soldiers into the imperial army, and then we’d get the news from somewhere about what’s happening with the Hungarian boys on the front”.

He said Hungary needed a military of its own, arguing that “the responsibility of deciding on the blood of Hungarians can’t be transferred to any empire.”

The prime minister said Germany should exercise “more restraint”, arguing that Germany was “taking advantage of being the biggest in the European Union and going back to speaking from strength”.

Orbán said there was a “natural friendship” between Germans and Hungarians, adding, at the same time, that “some caution” on Germany’s part would be justified regarding the issues of the Holocaust, sending armoured vehicles to a former Soviet territory and migration.

“The Germans want to force migration onto us, they want to tell us whom we should live together with, but in the past they wanted to tell us whom we shouldn’t live together with, and they took the Jews away,” Orbán said.

The prime minister, however, said there was a need for cooperation in European military policy, which could involve coordinated European military industry development carried out “within a national framework”, the protection of the market for European military equipment so that Europeans buy arms from each other, the coordination of military strategies as well as a European defence alliance based on national contributions that would operate similarly to NATO.

Meanwhile, Orbán criticised the performance of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, saying she had found herself “stuck between being a politician and not being one, and that’s what has caused the trouble”.

“We need a Commission president who knows that we’re their employers,” Orbán said. “Ursula von der Leyen is an employee of the 27 prime ministers. What gives her the right to represent any kind of political opinion?”

Orbán said the European Council needed to take back control, the EC should be “pushed back into an executive role” and the European Parliament “should be wound up in its current form, and we should go back to national parliaments delegating MEPs”.

As regards outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s candidacy for the post of NATO Secretary General, Orbán said Hungary would back Romania’s candidate.

Explaining the Hungarian position, Orbán referred to Rutte suggesting earlier that Hungary should be excluded from the EU and should be brought to its knees. “The last time such steps were taken against Hungary were those by the German invaders and Stalin,” he said, adding that since it was Rutte asking for Hungary’s support for the post, “he’s the one who can be expected to say something about the matter”.

Orbán said another reason was the aim to conclude an agreement with the incoming NATO chief establishing that although a member of NATO, Hungary would not participate in any military operation mounted by the alliance against Russia in Ukraine.

Speaking about relations with China, the prime minister said “Hungary wants to be a friend of two players who are otherwise in conflict; we want to nurture good relations with the United States and China as well.”

He said China “is not taking Russia’s place”, adding that Hungary sought to boost cooperation with Russia in areas not covered by EU sanctions. Orbán said if a cooperation was based on national interests, such a cooperation could be endorsed.

In connection with last month’s attempt on the Slovak prime minister’s life, Orbán said such an attempt could also take place in Hungary. He said he had not spoken to Robert Fico yet. Orbán, however, said he maintained direct contact with Fico’s colleagues and family, and was seeking the opportunity of a personal visit “to pay my personal respect and camaraderie” as well as “to convey to him the well-wishes of the Hungarian nation”. Orbán said his relationship with Fico “is of a special nature”, describing him as an “anti-Hungarian-turned sovereigntist politician”.

Regarding the municipal elections which will coincide with the June 9 EP ballot, the prime minister said that “similarly to the majority of Budapest’s residents, I only have bad things to say about the mayor’s performance”. He likened Gergely Karacsony to a soccer player “who blames a missed penalty kick on their shoes or the grass”. Orbán said the allied ruling parties were also the strongest political force in the capital and in Alexandra Szentkiralyi, “Fidesz has found its long-term leader for Budapest”.

Speaking about the issue of demography, the prime minister noted that though the government had made achievements in terms of trends, developments had stalled. “Demography policy is however not the same as family policy,” Orbán said, arguing that successful family policy could not be “measured by demographic indices”.

The government, Orbán said, did not want “to pursue a demography policy based on migrants”. “We want to resolve this issue along the lines of principles set in national, Christian culture.”

“If there is war, we have to spend 3 percent of GDP on security measures, if there isn’t, then only 2 percent, and it could resolve a large part of the problems if the difference could be spent on families,” the prime minister said.

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