Karácsony: The fence stays, Orbán goes

March 28, 2018

Karácsony: Even a left-wing-Jobbik coalition would be better than this
Gergely Karácsony delivering his speech at the left-wing parties’ joint commemoration of the revolution of 1848 on March 15, 2018 | Photo: Facebook/MSZP

Hungarian news site index.hu published a lengthy interview with Gergely Karácsony, prime ministerial candidate of the Hungarian Socialist Party – Dialogue (MSZP-P) electoral alliance. Here are the highlights:

On forming a government

“[On April 9] I will get on my bike and ride to my new workplace, the Prime Minister’s Office.”

“If I encourage people that there’s a chance for change, I, too, must believe in it. And I do believe in it.”

Even if MSZP-P manages to acquire an absolute majority, Karácsony would prefer to form a coalition government with Democratic Coalition (DK) and Politics Can Be Different (LMP):

“Even if mathematically it wouldn’t be necessary, I am a fan of coalition government. One shouldn’t fear diversity and democratic debate.”

“Those who held a ministerial office prior to 2010 cannot be a part of my government.”

According to Karácsony, this pertains to former prime minister and current DK president Ferenc Gyurcsány as well.

On leading the opposition if Fidesz wins the election

Karácsony indicated that if Fidesz wins the April 8 general election, he will decline to serve as a Member of Parliament, saying that “my primary ambition is to finish my ongoing mayoral work (…)” and that “I’m not preparing to become an opposition MP but to govern.”

On rumors that in 2019 he would run for Budapest mayor

“I tell you, changing the government is my main interest, not some kind of plan B. I’m interested in establishing an alternative on the opposition side that is capable of governing. Apart from us, nobody is capable of this.”

On a possible coalition with Fidesz 

“Out of the question. And I’m saying this not only on my behalf but also on MSZP’s.”

On the alleged political mafia within MSZP and the party’s history of infights and power games

“I have not experienced any indication of that.”

“I had arguments with MSZP’s board on certain tactical questions, but these were not disagreements of a strategic nature. (…) They stand behind me, and not just to sack me in the right moment. They are supportive.”

On Jobbik and a possible cooperation with them

“Let’s start with the fact that Jobbik did not win a single individual electoral mandate in 2014. The left won 10. Currently, the left has a much better chance of winning individual electoral districts than Jobbik. Changing the government is possible from the left.”

“On the other hand, I don’t see how much Jobbik would be an alternative to Fidesz. Jobbik [politicans] themselves complained that Fidesz implemented a frightfully high number of elements from Jobbik’s 2010 election program. We’ve seen where this leads. (…) I believe that Fidesz became a far-right party during its race with Jobbik. (…) To this problem, Jobbik is not a solution.”

“Years back, I was the first to suggest that [the left] should cooperate with Jobbik in order to achieve constitutional correction. Even if I don’t fall for Jobbik’s cute campaign.”

“To modify the constitution we ask for authorization from the people. However, we can change discriminative measures in the election law together with Jobbik.”

On the possibility of a leftwing-Jobbik government

“I can hardly imagine [conducting coalition talks with Jobbik]. If the electorate decides so, then a national crisis-managing government must be established that cannot be led either by me or [Jobbik president Gábor] Vona.”

“It is only a theoretical option, whose requirements are not met. However, even this would be better than leaving the current system in power.”

On withdrawing candidates 

Will there be further candidate withdrawals?

“I hope so.”

How many withdrawals will there be?

“I don’t know, but more than zero.”

“I will be open until the last minute to make a good decision in order to achieve a change of government. Making an agreement at the last minute is way better than making an agreement after the last minute.

“If a [MSZP-P] candidate wants to withdraw from running in favor of another candidate who has a better chance of changing the government, I surely won’t veto.”

On supporting the strongest candidate in every electoral district

“[Voters] should vote for the candidate that has the best chance of beating Fidesz, and our candidates stand a chance in every electoral district.”

“There’s a strong leftwing candidate in every district. My job is to gather voters for my party, for my electoral alliance.”

On exacting vengeance

“Far be it from me to threaten other politicians with jail. In my opinion, we must find an institutional solution for what happened in the past eight years in Hungary (…) A special investigative authority must be established, following Romania’s example, an anti-corruption prosecutor’s service.”

“This is my opinion, yes [some politicians should go to jail]. But it isn’t going to be me who sends them there, but the justice of the rule of law. I would establish an institution capable of investigating accusations professionally and justly. This only constitutes a threat to those who have committed a crime, who have stolen from the common weal. I understand if they are nervous.”

On the anti-migrant border fence and immigration

Would you remove the fence?

“No, the fence stays. Orbán goes.”

Would you have built it?

“I did not say that. I would have built it if I hadn’t had a more effective solution for the problem.”

“If I had been the prime minister in 2015, I wouldn’t have turned [the migration crisis] into political hype, nobody would have realized that there were refugees in the country. It is obvious that this was a political show because that was in the interest of the Orbán government. If you recall, that year Fidesz was in such a deep dive that you couldn’t see the bottom. There was the Quaestor case, the demonstrations against the internet tax (…) Then came the refugees and they turned them into politics.”

“The borders must be defended so that we can tell refugees from economic immigrants. However, I would change Fidesz’s hate-mongering and manipulation for sincerity and humanity (…) ”

“It is bullshit that Europe is in decline. However, there is truth in that Europe must find a way to handle the migration crisis.”

What makes Orbán a better prime minister and how would Karácsony be better? 

“Orbán’s biggest asset is his biggest disadvantage: he is infinitely ruthless. When it comes to exercising power it is good if one has an ability to test the boundaries, but if this degrades into ruthlessness by becoming self-serving, it becomes destructive. I’m not like that. I lack this kind of domineering one-upmanship. But I know that I have to become a stronger-handed leader than I would be by my nature. I managed to learn that in the past few weeks.”