Vona holds international press conference

October 28, 2017

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Gábor Vona speaking at Jobbik’s commemoration of the revolution of 1956 at Corvin-köz, Budapest on October 23, 2017. | Photo: Budapest Beacon/Balázs Pivarnyik

As Fidesz criticizes foreign correspondents working in Hungary, Jobbik chairman Gábor Vona takes the time to speak to them, offering insight into his party’s policy initiatives and its role in the upcoming election.

Addressing several dozen members of the international press Friday morning from behind a podium proclaiming Jobbik to be “on the side of freedom,” Vona shared his thoughts on Hungary’s election in 2018.

There is no alternative on the left

“As we all can see, the situation with the political left is one of perpetual crisis: a crisis of leadership, a crisis of substance, and an organizational crisis,” Vona said. “In my opinion, with László Botka’s resignation the left lost its last real candidate for prime minister.

“Aside from Botka, in the other political parties, they are no longer working toward a change in government but are struggling to stay alive. Ferenc Gyurcsány is incapable of nationally putting together a power that is capable of forcing a change in government. The other two candidates for prime minister from the left, Bernadett Szél and Gergely Karácsony, simply do not have the political [machine] behind them needed to make them suitable candidates for the job.

“The left, in my opinion, just six months before the elections, can be given the bronze medal. Regarding the ruling party’s situation, I must say that Fidesz’s chances for the gold medal seemed quite sure until now, but that position is less and less secure. This may not be reflected in the polls, but in the deep layers of society this process is under way.”

Fidesz is anti-democratic

“Fidesz has navigated itself into an anti-democratic spiral,” Vona said. “In recent months and years, we have seen several situations in which it has been demonstrated that the system of checks and balances and the independent institutions of a democracy mean nothing to Fidesz.”

To illustrate this assertion with recent examples, Vona cited:

  • Attempts by the opposition at referendums that have been thwarted by Fidesz (here, here, here, and several other examples of the National Election Committee invalidating referendum questions);
  • Lex CEU;
  • Attacks on NGOs;
  • The law placing limitations on political advertisements; and
  • The State Audit Office’s audit targeting Jobbik.

According to Vona, while Fidesz has become increasingly anti-democratic, Jobbik has become a people’s party by consolidating its base and becoming more appealing to the broader Hungarian community.

“Over the past seven years, Viktor Orbán has taught us, the new political generation, the importance of preserving and defending independent democratic institutions,” Vona said, adding that his own party’s transition to a people’s party was done in earnest.

Jobbik is a democratic people’s party

To prove this point, Vona said that earlier this year his entire party – the presidium, electoral steering committee, and the party congress – unanimously adopted a manifesto outlining the values that Jobbik believes reflect the essence of a people’s party.

“This transition was not tactical, it was one born of maturity,” he said.

When asked how sincere his party’s transition is (given the continued role of prominent radical personalities in Jobbik), Vona side-stepped the question by claiming these individuals speak for themselves and not for the party.

Asked whether his former self, before he transformed radical-right Jobbik into a people’s party , would have considered Orbán a good candidate for prime minister, Vona said: “It isn’t going to be my job to deal with Viktor Orbán…Someone else will have to deal with Viktor Orbán at that time, in light of the prime minister’s current condition. We are concentrating on building up the country.”

Fear in Hungary

Regarding the polls, Vona said Hungarians are less and less willing to take part in opinion polls. Citing conversations he has had with pollsters, Vona said he was informed that twice as many people have to be contacted to generate enough responses for a valid sample.

3+2 = Jobbik’s foreign policy

He dodged a question about reports that Jobbik had received support and funding from Eastern regimes, specifically Russia, Turkey, and Iran. He did, however, explain that Jobbik’s foreign policy is built on the fact that it exists within a “3+2 power area.”

According to Vona, because of its geographical location, there are three nations around which Hungary must formulate its foreign policy: Germany, Russia, and Turkey.

He said: “From a historical perspective, these countries are the great powers of which Central Eastern Europe is in the sphere of interest.”

Aside from these three nations, Hungary must also deal with two other large players: the United States and China, as the countries with the most political and economic power.

“For Hungary and its government, regardless of who is governing, this is the environment in which it must formulate a foreign policy that ensures the protection of Hungary’s national sovereignty,” he said.

Furthermore, Vona added, Jobbik’s foreign policy revolves around having a strong Visegrád Four within a single-speed European Union.

Orbán’s relationship with Russia

“Our problem with Viktor Orbán is not that he wants to have a closer relationship with Russia. I believe that every government should work towards this. The problem is that this process, its details, especially the Paks [nuclear plant] expansion agreement, is non-transparent for the Hungarian public. It’s also non-transparent for Hungarian opposition parties,” Vona said.

But when asked whether he believes that Hungary’s non-transparent Paks agreement with Russia, coupled with Hungary’s existing dependency on Russian energy, poses a risk to Hungary’s sovereignty and national security, Vona said no.

Vona did admit that Hungary is energy dependent, although he avoid pointing out which country Hungary depended on for energy.

“Our energy experts tell us that Hungary needs this nuclear plant medium term,” he said.

According to Vona, the debate surrounding Paks stems from the conflation of three issues that should otherwise be debated separately: the issue of atomic energy, the issue of corruption, and Hungary’s sentiments toward Russia.

On the Őcsény incident

“As a Roman Catholic, I was saddened by what I saw happen in Őcsény, unlike the prime minister who was happy about it. My answer has nothing to do with the prime minister belonging to the Reformed Church. I would have been saddened by this even if I belonged to the Reformed Church,” he said. “This comes back to what I said about migration: Fidesz is using the issue of migration as a tool for manipulation and generating hysteria….Where a government operates in this way, we should not be surprised that an event like this could take place.”