Gábor Vona: Henrik Havas is writing a book about me
In case his party gets into power, Jobbik’s president promises to hold Viktor Orbán personally accountable but he did not reveal what crimes the PM would have to answer for. In an interview for daily Magyar Nemzet, Mr Vona said something might happen to upset the current regime before next year’s elections. The opposition leader also informed us that Henrik Havas (a well-known Hungarian liberal journalist) was writing a book about him.
In your speech on 23rd October you said you wanted to represent all citizens, regardless if they are conservative or liberal. With a vice president like László Toroczkai behind you, whose views on liberalism are well-known, how do you plan to reach out to people considering themselves liberal?
It’s not your ideological background that matters. What matters is if you can help build the country or not. If you apply the logic of the 20th century, the division you mentioned could indeed lead to absurd situations but I don’t think we cross over to the 21st century unless we are able to make this compromise.
Your answer does not reveal how you and your party would appeal to a liberal person who is aware of Jobbik’s past…
I would appeal to them by the fact that I’ve left this coordinate system behind. If you look at the statements of Politics Can Be Different Party or Momentum, that’s exactly what they say. The new parties feel that we must take this step; we can’t stay marred by the division of our parents and grandparents. I understand it’s very difficult to ask anyone mauled by Fascists or Communists to take a step forward but this is what I suggest to Hungary’s society: to try and look toward the future.
Do you expect gay people to vote for you?
Why shouldn’t I? I think Jobbik has always had homosexual voters.
Your fellow MP Dóra Dúró gave a similar answer recently, then she went on explaining how much she disagreed with the Pride which was “provocative and constituted public nuisance committed in a gang”.
I didn’t like many of the events that took place there, either. Besides, when I say I disagree with homosexual couples being allowed to adopt children, it’s not homophobia, it’s a conservative position in my opinion.
Earlier you wanted to ban the gay parade, do you still hold that position?
The seven years of the Orbán government has really taught us to value human rights, including the fundamental right of assembly. So I don’t want to forbid anyone to demonstrate legally as long as the event does not hurt the sensibilities of other people.
You claimed that your organization’s transition into a people’s party was complete yet we can’t see masses of new voters joining Jobbik.
I believe Jobbik’s transition into a people’s party is a success story that will be taught to political science students at universities. As to how successful it is in terms of numbers, we will see after the elections in 2018. You need to be careful with polls because, as many polling institute managers have already explained, the number of people refusing to answer is increasing; in other words, people are afraid to reveal their opinion. Unfortunately, it comes as no surprise: the governmental style that Viktor Orbán and his team allows themselves to exercise, does have such an effect.
Now that you so often emphasize you want to represent both left and right, have you considered appointing someone accepted on both sides to run your campaign or even to be your candidate for Prime Minister?
Jobbik’s Congress elected me as PM candidate, there was no other suggestion. I am focusing on this challenge now and I feel I am much more suitable to lead Hungary than Viktor Orbán.
Although Viktor Orbán does have more political experience, which is a fact since he started his career earlier, he has become an irresponsible, burnt-out, mentally unstable man by now. The Prime Minister’s job is to unite the country for good causes. In contrast, what Viktor Orbán does is just making policies to please Fidesz voters only. I will make policies for all Hungarian people.
Your debates in the National Assembly have not been free of personal remarks. Do you enjoy these situations? Is there any mutual respect left between you and the PM?
Although I have a very negative opinion about him, I always address him as Mr Prime Minister and never sink below a certain level. This kind of attitude is not always reciprocated by Viktor Orbán. As a matter of fact however, he always lets Antal Rogán and their media to do the dirty work, run the smear campaigns and harass my family. I respect the PM’s knowledge and persistence but I have no respect for his dishonesty and corruption. So I am not going to change what he did right just because we are opponents.
In your election campaign, are you planning to feature people who are respected on the left? Will you be able to reach out to pro-left voters?
I can see this process going on already. Perhaps the fact that Henrik Havas is writing a book about me this year is an indication of that. He’s hard to place on the political scale but he is certainly a media influencer within the intellectual groups that are so critical of the government. The fact that he chose me to be the subject of his latest book does have a political implication, I think. He could have chosen Bernadett Szél or Gergely Karácsony, too.
Henrik Havas has written books about Anna Kelemen and porn, too. Has it occurred to you that you would be in an interesting company?
I could answer that politics is not such a light-hearted topic, either. On the other hand, Henrik Havas has written books about many things and he has always taken on sensitive social issues. You can’t say he doesn’t feel what’s in demand. When he first contacted me with the idea of the book, I felt proud.
How many victories do you expect in the single-member constituencies?
Enough to win the elections. To be able to form a Jobbik-led government, we need to win forty single-member districts at least.
Do you think it’s realistic? Even though you have never won mandates like that, apart from a by-election?
Yes. Fidesz is in for a big surprise in April 2018. Remember how badly Viktor Orbán has misjudged the situation twice recently: first the unsuccessful anti-quota referendum, then Momentum’s anti-Olympic referendum. Just look at the dishonest means Fidesz uses against us. For example, I am informed that the people who vandalized our billboards were supplied with sprays from a central stock. This is so pathetic; it shows that Fidesz is afraid, and they have a good reason, too. If there’s any party to beat them, it’s us.
You stated many times that you would not cooperate with the left. Are you going to allocate just as much campaign resources to hardcore left-leaning districts, though?
Of course, we know where we have more and where we have less chance to win but we will put just as much energy in the campaign everywhere. Don’t forget that fragmentary votes count too, so we mustn’t give up any districts. I’ve said many times what matters is not the deals that the parties make with each other. It’s the people who will decide: they will vote for the candidate with the best chance.
Jobbik is not particularly strong in Budapest, and the capital has a major role in the elections.
I still expect to win in some single-member districts in Budapest, too. The capital is obviously not our stronghold but we do have a chance in the outer districts.
You already mentioned your outdoor media advertisements. Have you bought any new ones on top of the existing 1100?
So far we couldn’t. The government’s violent attack on us put the negotiations with media owners on hold.
Your posters promised to hold politicians accountable, something that all opposition parties promise in each campaign. Who do you want to hold accountable?
The past seven years have seen many things politicians must answer for, even after Fidesz’ parliamentary majority has legalized certain processes that used to constitute corruption. We want Viktor Orbán to answer for his acts, too. He is in the centre of this whole spider web.
What would you have him answer for?
I think that Viktor Orbán is behind Hungary’s corruption. By the way, it’s not the future government that must hold the former one accountable. It’s a job for the authorities. Our job is just to restore the independence of the authorities, that’s all. The reason why Hungarian politicians are not held accountable today is because the Office of the Prosecutor General, headed by Péter Polt, blocks the process.
Péter Polt has a mandate for a definite period. Besides, he cannot be replaced without a two-third majority in Parliament.
His term ends in 2019. I think he might not even stay until then.
Why wouldn’t he?
That’s my hunch. I can imagine a situation when Péter Polt would rather give up his seat to someone else.
What makes you think so?
That’s what I feel.
In addition to corruption, Hungary’s public discourse is dominated by the migration issue. Is there a Soros Plan?
In the form that Fidesz’ media presents it, there isn’t. George Soros himself does not really deny he supports immigration but the Soros Plan itself is just a communication product. There is indeed such a threat that the European Union may want to impose a mandatory and unlimited migrant allocation quota on Hungary, and we must fight against it. This is what Jobbik does in opposition, and we will also do everything in government to prevent it.
Following in Viktor Orbán’s footsteps, or some other way?
If we have to apply means that Viktor Orbán used already, I won’t stay away from it. I am pragmatic in this regard: I am interested in the end, not the means. Viktor Orbán is more interested in the means; the migration issue is just a tool for him to stay in power.
What would you do specifically?
For example, we would restore the independent border guard service. Besides, Hungary must find allies for this struggle. Viktor Orbán is losing the allies we have by letting the V4 Group be split up. The way to fight against immigration is to keep the topic on the agenda of various EU forums so that we can gather social support.
Even though there is no Soros Plan, you did talk about a Vona Plan. What does that mean?
If you interpret the Soros Plan as a synonym for immigration, then you can interpret the Orbán Plan as the synonym for emigration because young people are fleeing from Hungary. The Vona Plan is to stop both these processes and to raise Hungary. We must start solving our key economic, social and other problems, one of which is the wage issue in my opinion. That’s why we launched the initiative for a European wage union.
Besides wages, people’s daily lives are affected by our healthcare, too. What would you do in that area?
There are lots of things to do. We want a patient-centred and preventive healthcare that is worthy of the 21st-century. The zeroth step of this process is to set up a Ministry of Health, the first step is to increase the budget-proportionate expenditure to a European level, the second is to restore the destroyed social security system and the third is to put basic and outpatient care in order. This could greatly relieve hospitals of their burdens, too. In the meantime, the wage union could enable us to implement a European healthcare minimum wage. This would stop the emigration of healthcare workers.
Are there any components in the current government’s work that Jobbik would keep?
Let me answer in three segments. There are some things that we must eliminate at once, such as corruption and trampling on the freedom of the press. The other segment needs correction, such as healthcare and education. Finally, there are things that should be kept because they are good the way they are. This segment includes family policy and the support for ethnic Hungarian communities. I won’t feel ashamed at all to preserve certain policies and measures.
Will Jobbik set up a shadow government?
This issue was raised in the board meetings, too. I don’t think it’s a good idea to set up a shadow government at the moment because I don’t think we should prematurely put the potential future managers of certain areas into the crossfire. If Jobbik were to form a government right now, I could set up the Vona cabinet. I want the positions to be taken by professionals rather than politicians. We will set up an operationally efficient and, most especially, professionally-minded government.
Can anything happen before next April to shake the current regime?
I think so. If people see that the emperor has no clothes, it could trigger a significant snowball effect in the society. And the ember is there under the dry leaves.
Mariann Katona - Magyar Nemzet
The printed version of this article was published in daily Magyar Nemzet. Date of publication: November 11, 2017