Péter Juhász on the "sensible middle way"

September 23, 2016

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“Viktor Orbán is not a homeroom teacher in this sense.  Viktor Orbàn has created a clique within the class that terrorizes the entire class, and Viktor Orbán is the gang leader of this clique.  He is not a good leader. He does not serve the country’s interests. This can be seen in the kind of politics they conduct. . . . We imagine that there will be a country and a homeland one day where people of different world views, the poor, the rich, conservatives, liberals, together with the socially vulnerable, can build a good country together.

Speech delivered by Together (Együtt) deputy chairman Péter Juhász at the opposition party’s conference on October 24th, 2016.

I prepared to lift your spirits because we are going through a lot these days because the Orbán regime is about nothing other  than lying, cheating and dishonesty.  Orbán’s regime is no longer about politics but violence.  Orbán today is no longer politicizing but abusing his people.  Orbán today is no longer a leader, at least not in any way a good leader who is taking his people in a good direction.  Rather he has become a gang leader who does nothing other than maintain and operate a mafia government whose activity is only about stealing as much public money for his disciples as possible.

It should be the task of a good leader to keep the country together, to keep the nation together, and to act in the interest of the homeland.  Instead, today Viktor Orbán does nothing other than try to keep his own people together, since thanks to changes they made to the electoral law, it is enough for a minority to stick together in order to retain a majority mandate.

So that the example and the description can be understood, I think everyone here went to school. At school there was a homeroom teacher whose task was to keep the class together, lead it, show it the way, and spend time with it, and to deal with the poorest students the same way it does with the most affluent ones, the same with the good students the same as the bad students, and to ensure opportunities for those leaving for school each morning from disadvantaged households as those who were taught at home that it is good to go to school.

Viktor Orbán is not a homeroom teacher in this sense.  Viktor Orbàn has created a clique within the class that terrorizes the entire class, and Viktor Orbán is the gang leader of this clique.  He is not a good leader. He does not serve the country’s interests. This can be seen in the kind of politics they conduct.  This can be seen in who they surround themselves with.  They think and they say that I’m talking about Antal Rogán, and that this is just a natural part of the fact that I started my campaign in Budapest district 5 and politicize there, but we can speak about György Matolcsy as well, who regards the national bank as his own house cash desk from which he finances his lover and her family.  Or we can speak about the oligarchs who also are stealing public money under Orbán’s supervision, right out from under us.

We are the people—not just here at Together (Együtt), but thoughout the country—who work eight, ten, twelve hours a day, pay our taxes so that education can be in order, so that with public health care we should not have to provide toilet paper and medicine, so that the economy can develop and prosper.  Orbán today does not even deal with such things.  Orbán today deals with how to steal the taxes that honest working citizens pay.  Such a person is not a leader but a gang leader and leader of thieves.  He has no goal other than to transfer wealth to his own people.

Such a person is not suitable to lead a country, neither from a moral or a political point of view. It is clear to me, as well as to you, thank God, and not just to people politicizing for Together but also to a growing part of society that Orbán must be removed from the road in order for Hungary to go on the right path.

The reason for this is that today it happens that (Árpad) Habony, (Antal) Rogán and I could list these cult figures who today are feeling very good at our expense and who go around with Gucci bags and spend our money in Ibiza.  But the point will come when their faces tanned by the Ibiza sun will turn red, because the anger of the Hungarian people will chase them.

Orbán’s power is limited.  His days are numbered.  There are really more and more—and I think you experience it with your own skins as well—who have already realized what he is doing.  It is not by chance that he never speaks about health care, that he never speaks about education, that he never speaks about the economy, but plays cliques off against one another.  He always finds an enemy.  Right now it happens to be the unfortunate refugees who are the enemy because it is very easy to incite rage against foreigners and to persuade people that they are bad people. Even as many fled Hungary over the centuries not once, twice, but never so many as Orbán.  Over the past five years half a million Hungarians have left the country because they had enough of what Orbán does.  I think it is not enough to stop this trend, but that we need to reverse it.

So more and more realize that Orbán’s power is limited.  Our task is to show them an alternative.  They have to see Orbán is clever and I could even say brilliant at knowing how many people to extort, corrupt, bribe in a given situation.  So we must say that among the opposition parties there are those who are playing from Orbán’s score, and there are his minions and there are those he pays.  We must never under any circumstances form a community with these people.  We must choose who we oppose, and who we want to cooperate with, because Together’s credo—which is also in the name—is cooperation.  We imagine that there will be a country and a homeland one day where people of different world views, the poor, the rich, conservatives, liberals, together with the socially vulnerable, can build a good country together.  But for this we need a leader with such a vision and who wants to bring this about.  Orbán is not that kind of leader.  That is why he needs to be replaced with our collective strength.

I think that we must acknowledge that other people are needed for this.  Not only for Together but for other parties as well.  I determinedly represent the point of view, and I hope the majority of us sitting here today do as well, that cooperation is indispensable to political change in Hungary.  I again say—and perhaps you’ll believe it coming from my mouth—today there is not a single person in our presidium who would in any way repeat the unprincipled collaboration of 2014.  We are going to be selective in who we work with.  And if some people are not able to acknowledge their errors of the past, we will not be willing to cooperate with them.  But we are extraordinarily open to those who would like to build a democratic Hungary, together with us, perhaps with different values or a different world view.

I’ll tell you examples without naming anyone, so as not to get too personal.  But when it is possible to hear from circles inside the largest opposition party that they sold the party in the 2014 elections, and that they are selling it now, even people in leading positions.  If we see that the old subordinates and ministerial colleagues of these people are still sitting in the ministries, then we have to think that they are serving the Orbán regime.  If someone cannot face the mistakes of 2006, then that person cannot force together a country, and we expect all opposition parties that have yet to do so to reflect now on the situation before 2010, and to exercise self-criticism with regard to their own exercise of power.  Otherwise, we are not going to coopeate with them in a manner that would take the country in a further divided political direction.

I am grateful to a friend of mind for writing that I myself in 2006 condemned the violations of law in the same way as 2010.  In 2006 extraordinarily honest, peaceful, sensible civil friends of mine ended up in jail in preventative detention because they went out to the streets to see what was happening in the streets as sociologists and became the victim of police abuse.  I would not forgive those who threw stones and set fires for anything in the world, but I say let’s walk the sensible middle way which has to be characteristic of Together politics in the future.  Neither this, nor that is acceptable.  Neither in 2006 nor in 2016 is it acceptable that those in power persecute people in the way I am personally experiencing these days.

I don’t want to go into personal matters, but I’m sure you saw and you heard that I am the target of character assassination.  With regard to that, you should laugh at it, just as I do, as it is without grounds.  I am sure that people and the nation understand what is going on because when they want to discredit Gábor Vona, Zoltán Spéder, Lajos Simicska and Péter Juhász at the same time, a rather wide cross-section of society, because there is not a single thing I agree on with these people.  The only thing that connects us is that we are in Orbán’s way.  From this it is clear that Orbán is abusing his power.  Today he cannot oppose us politically.  He couldn’t buy us.  He tried, with different positions in local government, not just me, but many of you as well.  They also tried to buy us with concrete offers.  Okay Mr. Juhász, how much do you ask to stop f___ing Rogán (fill in the blank), so how much to get off of his back?  We did not give in!  They then tried to threaten.  A Fidesz assemblyman came over to me with some friendly advice, that, look here, you’ve gone too far, these people are too tough, in your place I would restrain myself.  I told him why should I hunt for small fish?  The threats didn’t work!  We are not going to fear any threats, so what is left for them now?  Discrediting, character assassination, because nothing protects us like being in the public eye.  The strength of being in the public eye is the peaceful, quiet majority that does not tolerate violence.  And while the majority itself is not violent, and does not take to the streets to overturn garbage bins or to set fire to TV headquarters, neither are they willing to tolerate the persecution of innocent people.  The majority that takes the sensible middle way belongs to our camp.  We want nothing to do with the extremists, be it right-wing or left-wing, because we believe a prosperous country is not built from extremism, but from the sensible middle way.  This is the politics of Together.  Although the presidium argued a lot over this in the past, although it’s hard to call this a real argument, I think we reached a consensus in the question on which I previously spoke, that in any case, we seek to cooperate with a sober people capable of self-restraint and proclaims themselves to walk the sensible middle way.  That is our mission, to forge together that part of the opposition that undertakes to live in a democracy and to exercise self-criticism.

The most important thing is that we are people.  The vast majority of those of you sitting here did not enter politics by deciding to join one of the political training camps and buying a new suit and from that time on you are a politician, but we came—and this is the Together past—from three completely different civil organizations, from Solidarity, from Milla and from (Gordon Bajnai’s) Homeland and Progress (Haza és Haladás), and we tried to forge a value system that is a little leftist, a little liberal, a little conservative because this is how a country is built, and this is how a modern party has to be built, not through division and not by representing our own people with whom we agree on everything. Rather, we have to be the dough that keeps together people with divergent views in order for the county to be good.  I think this is our task.

I am aware what our situation is today.  We are not the leading opposition power today.  But here I would like to underline “today” twice.  We are going to be the leading power, because I am convinced that this message will reach an awful lot of people and I am convinced that only with peace and security and love we can take the country in a good direction and not with hatred, not with violence, and not by insulting others, and not by dispossessing or extorting people in the pursuit of our politics.

We are not expecting anyone to follow us.  We do not expect leaders.  We expect those kinds of politicians to come to us and start participating in public life who say they really want to represent the voters.  Those who are not coming to appear on election posters every four years in order to get votes, but those representing the people day by day.  I deliberately am not naming anyone, but all of you know and, thank God, more and more people from the countryside to Budapest know, how many cases we expose that is really about people’s lives.  This is our task as members of the opposition, too.  Our task is to collect those who can cooperate with us in these things and who believe in it, and are willing to cooperate.  This is how this country should be built, and this is the Together credo, and this is what the Together presidium is totally committed to.  For this we ask for the support of the delegates when we adopt our political declaration that this is what this country needs in our opinion.

This is what we are going to work for.  We will not give up and you can be sure—as I am sure it is the case with you—that we cannot be intimidated.  We are going to complete the work nicely and quietly in spite of the character assassination, threats, money bags, whoever, but we work from our beliefs and not for money.  Not for the sake of getting power for ourselves, but so that if the people empower us, then we can use that as a means to create a country like that.