Márton Gyöngyösi: The last 8 years of the Orbán government were neither Christian nor democratic
He and Jobbik’s newly-elected president Tamás Sneider are like two musicians who play in complementary harmony, says Jobbik’s new executive vice president and leader of the party’s parliamentary group. Márton Gyöngyösi promises tough battles with Viktor Orbán in Parliament, refutes Előd Novák and Fidesz’ propaganda on the migration issue and considers Jobbik’s campaign for a European Wage Union as a great success. Interview.
What is the role of an executive vice president?
Based on the amendment of the party’s statutes, the executive vice president is endowed with strong competencies; in fact, he develops the party’s policy and strategy together with the president. Gábor Vona’s resignation after the elections on 8th April created a new situation. It is not easy to substitute him yet we had to cope with his absence. We wanted to have a new position which complements the work of the president.
You are also the leader of the parliamentary group. Wouldn’t it have been easier if you had run for president, too?
Just like so far, I will continue managing foreign policy issues. Tamás Sneider is a grassroots politician with substantial insight into Jobbik’s local organizations but he needed another person familiar with the process of building international relations. Of course, it doesn’t mean that I, as the executive vice president would not contribute to reinforcing the party’s organizational structure.
Two many cooks may spoil the broth but Tamás Sneider and I are like two musicians who play in complementary harmony.
János Volner, who finished the previous term as parliamentary faction leader, suggested that the two roles should be assigned to the same person.
This is not carved in stone, you may as well consider it as János Volner’s personal opinion, since it was him who took over the faction leader’s seat from Gábor Vona at the half time of the previous term so that the president could focus more on party issues and the election campaign. There may be arguments for giving these two positions to the same person but there are at least as many considerations to suggest the opposite.
As faction leader, was it your decision that Jobbik’s faction attended Viktor Orbán’s inauguration speech in Parliament?
I obviously had an influence on the decision.
Why did you decide so?
We are a responsible party and the largest opposition force which cannot favour steps that would otherwise cause a better feeling of comfort. Our 1.3 million voters gave us the mandate to go to our workplace and be present when Viktor Orbán talks about his own political programme.
They also entrusted us, when we have a chance, to voice our opinion opposing his policy which has lost its touch with reality and, when there is a vote, to cast our ballots the way it’s expected from the largest opposition party. That’s why we attended the inauguration speech and pushed the “nay” button in protest.
However, you also shook hands with the prime minister, your act was caught on camera and you were harshly criticized for it.
Those who criticize this gesture are unaware of the traditions embedded in the European and Hungarian political culture. We have a lot of reservations regarding the fairness of the elections and we have our opinion on Viktor Orbán’s policies and we voice it, too.
But we have recognized the election results which entails that when the Hungarian Parliament elects Viktor Orbán as prime minister, the faction leaders congratulate him and shake his hand. We would have expected the same from Viktor Orbán and the leaders of the other parliamentary factions if Gábor Vona had been inaugurated as prime minister.
In his inauguration speech, Viktor Orbán said the era of liberal democracy had ended and they had built up the Christian democracy of the 21st century. What’s your opinion about that?
The prime minister talked about many nice ideas but the past eight years were an era characterized by neither Christian ideas nor democracy. So far, Viktor Orbán’s policies have been in stark contrast with all Christian values, even the ten commandments at times.
It’s enough to mention the rampant governmental corruption or the ignoble attacks launched in the election campaign. If you want to analyze the prime minister’s speech, you should consider it as just a piece of political communication because it has nothing to do with what you can expect from this government. Even Viktor Orbán himself stated earlier that his words and his actions did not necessarily overlap.
Where does Jobbik position itself along the fault lines of liberalism and Christian conservativism?
In recent years, Jobbik has talked a lot about how the political categories of the 20th century have lost their meaning in the 21st century.
On the whole, Jobbik defines itself as a Christian conservative party. It’s loyal to the Christian values and won’t give up its ties to conservativism and the Hungarian traditions.
Jobbik is a national party but it’s also characterized by a very strong social sensitivity.
Gábor Vona used to criticize Viktor Orbán quite harshly in Parliament. Can you be as combatant as him?
I’ve had my own duels with Viktor Orbán over the past years, perhaps I was second only to Gábor Vona in terms of battling with the prime minister in Parliament. Those who saw these interactions know that I had hard clashes with him. I want to continue taking on these fights. In fact, I will have to combat Viktor Orbán even harder on several issues.
Who will determine Jobbik’s parliamentary activity? The board or you as the leader of the faction?
We are the parliamentary faction of the party but since I am both the faction leader and the party’s executive vice president, I will have a considerable influence on the parliamentary work. However, it is important to clarify the relations of the faction and the party. In the past, we’ve had situations when this matter was not completely clear.
What issues and initiatives are you planning to put on the Parliament’s agenda?
We’ve just resubmitted our constitutional bill to stop migration, with the additional element of finally eliminating the residency bond system. Besides, we also want to carry on with our initiative for a European Wage Union. It is an important goal which we would like to rethink and go on with. The reason is that the wage issue is closely related to the brain and hand drain, the demographic disaster, the problems of foreign currency loan holders, the impoverishment and the ability to create a competitive economy through a reform in education and healthcare.
After the elections Jobbik was criticized, both inside and outside the party, for not laying a great enough emphasis on migration. Will Jobbik’s policy change in this matter?
We cannot be criticized for not focusing enough on the migration issue. We were the first to suggest the border fence, in spite of all contrary allegations...
Are you reacting to Előd Novák’s (former MP of Jobbik, expelled from the parliamentary group in 2016) Facebook post now, in which he claimed that Jobbik’s board did not actually want to erect a fence on the southern border? Is he claiming something that is not true?
I was reacting to both Előd Novák and Fidesz’ propaganda. Jobbik was the first to call attention to the risks of migration and the protection of our borders; we were the first to suggest erecting a border fence, too. As a foreign policy expert, I often talked about the importance of dealing with the migration pressure on our national borders but if you focus on nothing but that, you will just be scratching the surface. The solution to this problem lies in the management of the crises that broke out in Europe’s neighbourhood in the past decade. Jobbik has represented this position in several international forums.
The question is how we could present this solution to the general public in a much more pronounced way and find the communicational tools to help our society and our voters fully understand that Jobbik has been the most consistent party to reject migration.
In the previous term, you served as the vice chairman of the Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs. Now you will just be a member but you have been managing Jobbik’s foreign policy for years. Where do you think Hungary’s place is in the European Union?
If you look at the communication of the current Hungarian government, you might even ask if Hungary has a place inside or outside the European Union.
A couple of years ago, you were talking emphatically about leaving the EU, then you talked about the Europe of Nations, which has often been raised by Fidesz-Christian Democrats nowadays. So, is Jobbik Euro-sceptic or has it become a pro-EU party?
There was a period when the European Union was predominantly characterized by a very strong centralizing effort aiming to melt European national states together and federalize the EU’s structure. Jobbik was vehemently objecting to that. But even the more intense Euro-sceptic voices were talking about trying to take the EU towards the Europe of Nations concept rather than leaving the Union.
And are you still for that? Fidesz is talking about it now...
Yes. But there is an important difference between Fidesz and Jobbik. The Brexit has created a new situation and they seem to have reopened the issue whether the European Union should be a more centralized organization or an alliance based on the cooperation of national states. The all-European consultation on the future of the European Union was launched a few days ago. This initiative should not be responded by hysteria and knocking the table over the way Viktor Orbán and Fidesz do it. Instead, we should be using this opportunity to jointly lay out, together with our allies, what kind of future we envision for ourselves in the European Union. But Viktor Orbán just seems to be wired the opposite way. When the European Union laid on the table the Lisbon Treaty to centralize the EU, he and Fidesz voted for it without even reading it. And now, when the vision of the Europe of national states could actually be put forward, he leaves the negotiations. It’s the world’s greatest deception that Viktor Orbán attempts to pose as a freedom fighter. Jobbik was vehement when it was time to reject centralization but we consider this consultation as an opportunity to voice and represent Hungary’s interest in a new European political arena.
Is Jobbik’s friendship with Russia over?
It’s sad that Hungary’s political discourse knows only two extreme behavioural patterns in terms of Russia: unconditional friendship and visceral anti-Russian sentiment. Jobbik is an exception because we evaluate Russia the way it should be. We consider it as a great military, economic power with energy supplies nearby, with which we must aim to develop relations that are in line with Hungary’s interests, which cannot mean the kind of opportunistic policy followed by Viktor Orbán and Fidesz.
The EP elections will be held next year. Krisztina Morvai sided with Fidesz, Béla Kovács was zeroed out by the accusations raised against him. Who will you have running for the EP on Jobbik’s list?
It’s two early to talk about it since Jobbik’s new board has just been formed. For the time being, the most important thing to do is to evaluate the election results and then to prioritize the tasks ahead of us. Indeed, it’s important who will run for the EP on Jobbik’s list but it’s not a current issue for a few months yet.
But can the EP election affect your faction in the Hungarian Parliament?
It may as well affect the faction. We will find the best candidates to run for the EP on Jobbik’s list but we must develop our election programme first.
You finalized Jobbik’s initiative for a European Wage Union and led the campaign, too. You had one year to collect one million statements of support from seven countries. The numbers show that you failed to achieve that. Why?
We will have to evaluate the conclusions of the wage union campaign, too. However, it is still a vital national issue. Perhaps, the European Citizens’ Initiative was not the most suitable tool to raise this initiative. But it was still a good framework for creating an international alliance. Not only Hungary but the entire region is clearly affected by this matter and it’s a very important idea for the European Union as well. No wonder the consultation on the future of the EU features the question of equal pay for equal work.
How can the consultation still impact the future of the wage union?
You might as well ask the question how the wage union campaign impacted the consultation launched by the European Commission. It may sound big-headed but since the goal of the wage union initiative was to call the European Commission’s attention to the wage gap tearing the EU apart, I consider our campaign as a huge success, regardless of the number of signatures.
The European Commission did take notice of this issue and integrated it into its consultation, even using our slogan in it. I think this is too much of a coincidence. And it happened despite all the efforts of the Hungarian government, the trade unions and the entire media trying to smear and halt this initiative and discredit Jobbik, too.
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