"Personally, Orbán is a coward, a sneaky bar fighter"
His party is preparing for governing rather than ruling Hungary, says Jobbik president Gábor Vona. He believes Fidesz and Jobbik have changed places in the political spectrum. Answering our questions, the president tells us about the outdoor media affair, why he wants a debate with Orbán and why the PM keeps calling him gay.
Zsúrpubi: Facebook has recently deleted the post of your most viewed speech in Parliament.
Gábor Vona: I think it's a simple story. Fidesz' troll squad must have reported the post in great numbers so it was deleted but since their complaint was based on a lie, the post will soon reappear on my page. By the way, let me thank them for the free publicity: the video already has 2.5 million views, which is a new record in Hungarian politics. The deterioration of the corrupt tyrant has probably reached the phase when his people try to protect him from the news of the outside world.
ZSPB.: After Christmas last year, Austria's conservative daily Die Presse published a full-page interview with you. Orbán used to be the only one featured like this. Exactly how much did Simicska pay for the Austrians for that?
GV: Christian Ultsch, who made the interview, is one of the most influential journalists in Austria. After our meeting, he rushed straight to the airport because he was flying to Brussels with newly-elected Austrian Chancellor Kurz. I don't think he's corruptible or has any financial difficulties. Also, if you take a look at what the Western media has said about Hungary in the past few months, you can see that a very important process has taken place. Jobbik and Fidesz have changed positions. Today Fidesz is an extremist and despotic party while Jobbik is a consolidated political force.
ZSPB.: So it wasn't Simicska but Soros who picked up the tab? Are the migrants coming as soon as Jobbik gets into government?
GV: Lucky that we still have a sense of humour. Jokes aside, your question reflects on something important. In all of our interviews, Jobbik leaders and I personally, we always clearly state that we reject the mandatory migrant allocation quotas. In fact, Jobbik has an even more firmly anti-migration stance than Fidesz. With all that in mind, the West still considers us a much more serious and democratic party than Fidesz. This leads us to the conclusion that what has made Orbán unacceptable abroad is not his position on migration, since Slovakia and the Czech Republic firmly oppose the quotas too, but the way he undermines democracy. That's where the red line is.
ZSPB.: Is Jobbik a democratic party?
GV: It's always been one. Democracy is a highly vulnerable political system with the occasional tendencies to malfunction, we've known that much since Ancient Greece. But we have no better option and we must appreciate what we've got. And that's something we've learnt since Viktor Orbán took over the government in 2010.
ZSPB.: Has it ever occurred to you that you might be defending democracy alongside András Schiffer, András Fekete-Győr and Péter Juhász in late 2017?
GV: No. Just like it never occurred to me that the State Audit Office might take on a firing-squad mode.
ZSPB.: Perhaps your outdoor media spendings should have been more transparent.
GV: Few parties have been more transparent with their spendings than us. We published both the costs and the number of billboards, too. Who else has done that?
ZSPB.: If you do the math, you can see that the ink was pretty light when the market price was written. The SAO was likely to take notice.
GV: Who determines the market price? The SAO or the market?
ZSPB.: The line between a low market price and illegal funding seems to be blurred.
GV: We never denied we paid a good price for the billboards but let's not pretend the other parties didn't do the same! Especially Fidesz, who paid nothing for certain billboards. How come nobody was bothered by that? Did the market price drop so low there? If you want to reform political campaigning, Jobbik is open to the idea but then we want no double standards any longer. That's not what the SAO's 660-million-HUF fine is about, it's about Viktor Orbán's fear. Orbán is afraid of me and Fidesz is afraid of Jobbik. What they want is not to defeat us but to wipe us out.
ZSPB.: We can't say too many nice things about Orbán either but fearful is not the first thing that comes to our mind.
GV: Because his marketing is good. Nobody can deny that he's a political talent but personally he is a coward, a sneaky bar fighter. He's like North Korean software running on Japanese hardware. The base is good but the end result is bad.
ZSPB.: You still challenged him for a debate. You can't seriously believe that he will agree to an Orbán-Vona debate before April, can you?
GV: I am not naive but it's my duty to challenge him. What else can I do as the Prime Minister Candidate of the most popular opposition party? This is a natural thing in all European countries. Should he agree to a debate, I will use our political programme on live TV to prove that Orbán is a fraud and if he doesn't, then he will prove himself to be one.
ZSPB.: Aren't you afraid that if the debate goes bad, he will ask the question: are you gay?
GV: The saddest thing about this is that such a question could be asked. It doesn't really matter what they accuse me of – if I were homosexual, I would come out. The real problem is that it's a lie and a man, who has been elected as Prime Minister three times, resorts to such means to fight his challenger.
ZSPB.: Former Jobbik politicians have turned against you in the past 6 months. For example, Krisztina Morvai. Don't you think you lose more than you gain by turning Jobbik into a people's party?
GV: Jobbik's progress into a people's party is not a tactical step but an intrinsic, fully internalized development process. Both Jobbik and I have realized what our historical responsibility was. Instead of the 20th-century divides that Fidesz and the left have built these unsuccessful 28 years on, we must focus on our common goals. For example, we cannot achieve the European wage union unless we join our forces. We shouldn't keep looking at the past all the time, we can find nothing but pain and conflicts there. Instead, we should look at the present and the future because that's where we may have some common challenges. I am very grateful to Jobbik members and supporters for setting out on this hard road together. It would have been much more convenient to stay in our usual war trenches.
ZSPB.: You dodged the Krisztina Morvai question.
GV: I know Krisztina. When I say that in the 21st century we must finally look at what binds us together instead of looking at what separates us and we should build our policies on the good that resides in people rather than on the bad, I know she agrees with that. In fact, she spoke several times on the wage union issue in the European Parliament.
ZSPB.: Still, Morvai speaks in Fidesz' media and amplifies the feelings against Vona and Jobbik's transition into a people's party.
GV: Well, that's a tactical step on Habony's (the PM's advisor – the editor's note) part. They obviously try to divide us and use people who were close to us, but I don't concern myself with that. Jobbik is a stable force, going forward on its way. Besides, we are not held together by the stolen money or clinging on power but by faith and hope for a safe, liveable, free and fair Hungary.
ZSPB.: Oh, here we go, you're on message...
GV: See? That's the problem. We can hardly believe in such honest and noble goals any longer.
ZSPB.: It's your fault, not ours, the citizens'.
GV: It's the fault of politics but not Jobbik's. The reason we got here is the Fidesz-MSZP rotation, since these two parties have alternately been in government for 24 years. Jobbik has not been given such an opportunity. Our certificates will be issued after we got the vote of the people and showed what kind of Hungary we can build.
ZSPB.: If you want that, you will have to improve your ratings quite much and in a very short time, too.
GV: Opinion polls have been wrong several times before, and I think the result of the 2018 elections will be a big surprise.
ZSPB.: This is what psychology calls wishful thinking.
GV: It's more than that. I have talked with pollsters who all said they had so many refusals to answer that the value of data is seriously undermined.
ZSPB.: The opposition always believes that before the elections. That they have a whole bunch of secret voters.
GV: The majority of the people want to replace the government. Jobbik is the only party able to do that. This is what everybody will have to consider when the election day comes. If you want to replace the government, you need to support Jobbik. Votes for any other opposition party will be lost and indirectly help Orbán stay in power.
ZSPB.: Gergely Karácsony and Bernadett Szél (the other opposition PM Candidates – the editor's note) beg to differ.
GV: Today, there is one Hungarian political force that is able and willing to replace the government – and that is Jobbik. The others can't and some of them don't even want to. LMP wants to replace Momentum and vice versa, while MSZP wants to replace DK. That's their priority instead of ousting the government. Just take a look: who is the target of Fidesz' attacks? It's us, not them.
ZSPB.: You've made quite a few pledges in your Vona18 press conference series. How receptive are people to these professional issues in this hysterical political discourse with name calling, migrants and gays?
GV: Fair enough. However, the credibility deficit of politics is related to moral issues rather than professional matters. That's why Jobbik has always made a point of having a credible and strong political programme. The Vona18 series is a bundle of personal solutions which is not identical with Jobbik's programme but completely based on it.
ZSPB.: What would be your first step if you win in April?
GV: The zeroth step is calling politicians to account.
ZSPB.: Well, then it will be pretty hard to get to Step 1.
GV: Indeed, it will be hard to call politicians to account but there is no way around it. Without that, we can't build the country successfully. There will be a huge resistance but we are fully determined and prepared, too.
ZSPB.: Allegedly, Fidesz takes particular care to make the dirty work look legal on paper.
GV: It's only partly true. Viktor Orbán has no idea how many leaks there are in his system. There are many insiders who will help us at the moment of the government change.
ZSPB.: Are you going to offer immunity deals?
GV: It's not even necessary. This is the psychology of dictatorships. When they collapse, some people don't want to get buried under the ruins.
ZSPB.: So then what will be Step 1?
GV: Let me identify the areas that are the top priority for the new government. There are seven areas which need to be addressed at the same time, as Step 1 on the very first day of the new government. The first is to preserve Hungary's security amongst the challenges of migration and terrorism. The second is to alleviate social divides by focusing on the future and identifying common national goals. The third is to restore democracy and the rule of law. The fourth is to wipe out corruption. The fifth is to increase our competitiveness by making a historical deal with Hungarian enterprises and by reinforcing our education, healthcare and social security systems. The sixth is to stop the emigration of our people with the help of the European Wage Union, housing reforms and pro-family policies. The seventh is to improve our international reputation by conducting a consistent and credible foreign policy.
ZSPB.: Will you set up a shadow government?
GV: The government's structure is ready.
ZSPB.: How many ministers?
GV: I will announce that when the time comes. All I want to say at this point that there will be more ministries but less red tape. More professionalism, less communication. Our programme is good, and so is the way we will carry it out. We've put together a very exciting and efficient structure. All it needs now is some finetuning.
ZSPB.: You're not planning for a technocratic government, are you?
GV: If this term had not become somewhat pejorative in Hungarian politics, I would say yes. So let me put it this way: ministers and secretaries of state will be selected based on their abilities, regardless if they are party politicians or independent experts. We are not going to rule Hungary but govern it for the people. With Hungarian hearts, common sense and clean hands.
Tamás R. Tóth / Zsúrpubi.hu
This inteview was published on January 4, 2018