Zsolt Bayer: I’m here in the studio with Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister of Hungary. Prime Minister, hello!
Hello, good to see you. Good evening!
Good to see you too. You’ve just made a speech to the celebrating crowd, in which you said that tonight is a night for the emotions and the heart. So, right at the beginning, allow me to step out of my role. On 30 March 1988, thirty-seven of us founded a youth organisation. If back then someone had told me that in thirty or forty years I’d be sitting here with you, the Prime Minister of Hungary, who would be about to form a government for the fifth time, I’d certainly laugh at them. Did you ever think of such a thing back then?
I didn’t think about it, but one doesn’t have to think about such things: one must do things, and then they’ll succeed.
Prime Minister, here we stand – I almost said on the threshold of a fifth great victory, but it’s not the threshold any more: we’ve crossed that. The headwinds have been incredible, and not just at home: they’re primarily from the West, from Brussels, from Washington, and everywhere. And in the middle of the campaign a war has broken out in one of our neighbouring countries. Has what’s just happened in Hungary finally and irrevocably put the seal of approval on the policy of the past twelve years?
Well, in our profession nothing’s irrevocable. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up, have a government meeting at noon, and then I’ll have to think about what to do next. But that’s for tomorrow morning; tonight we really should rejoice and give thanks to God, because we’ve won in a way in which no one thought we could win. And despite all the modern technology, surveys, focus groups and political analysis, at the very heart of the election six million people – in the case of Hungary – will mysteriously come together and go to make a collective decision. And out of these six million individual wills, in the end there’s the emergence of a great shared will. And no one – except God – can predict what will happen, or how it will happen. What I’ve learnt over the past thirty years is that you have to work just as hard for a majority of one as you do for a two-thirds majority. If you work only a little bit less, you don’t get the reward, and you don’t win the victory. And so I speak with only the greatest gratitude about the more than 100,000 volunteers who – out of passion, enthusiasm and commitment to their country – have worked through the past several weeks. They’ve knocked on millions of doors, made millions of calls, and spoken in person to God only knows how many people to tell them how important it is to turn out on Sunday – and that when we shout out the result it shouldn’t be “Barabbas”, but one which gives this country the chance it deserves. This is a great country. We’ve been here for more than one thousand years. Everyone here can and does theorise, giving us advice on what to do. But there are very few nations which have been able to sustain themselves for so long, to create, to always give the world more than they receive from it, to always add good things to the collective achievement of the European community. So we’re a country that – even though we were tortured by the 20th century and lost much that we shouldn’t have lost – has nevertheless good reason to be the nation we are, entitled to walk with our heads held high and looking anyone in the eye. We’re entitled to be unashamed of being Hungarian, and we should be proud of everything we’ve given the world over the past one thousand years. We want our grandchildren to be proud of what we’ve given the world, we want to raise grandchildren who will make their grandchildren proud, and for this to continue as long as there is a world. This is what today’s election was about, and this was the mystery within it. Hungary is alive, Hungary is strong, and Hungarians love their country.
Beyond the mystery and beyond the heart, the fact is that on one thing our opposition hasn’t concealed its intentions. During the campaign the real leaders of the Opposition have repeatedly said that they want a United States of Europe. The same is wanted by the Brussels bureaucracy and Washington, I think. Let’s put that aside, though. The point is that for a long time it’s been my firm conviction that, after all, the future lies in a national renaissance, rather than in an undefined empire. I ask again, does this result at least confirm that?
It does. From the Hungarian point of view, we can say that we have our own homeland – and Saint Stephen conceived that well. If we examine what our parents, grandparents and those who came before them thought and created, I don’t think we could find a more favourable framework for us than our own homeland – our own nation – than the framework that is Hungary. We don’t need to be attached to empires or be incorporated into them – for us nothing good will come of that. And even if something good were to come of it, we wouldn’t feel comfortable in our own skin, because we are freedom-loving Hungarians who are in love with an independent Hungary. We can live here, this is our homeland, and we can be happy here. There’s no doubt that in Europe today there’s a great debate about whether what I’ve just said is an idea from some outdated, obsolete old school, or just an echo. And in Europe there are many patriots who are concerned about their own country and look with hope to Central Europe – not only to Hungary and Poland, but also to Slovenia, the Croats and the Czechs. So Central Europe provides hope to the peoples of Europe that patriotism isn’t a thing of the past, but the future, that Christianity isn’t a thing of the past, but a foundation, and that only by standing on it can we build our lives well. Their hope is that a civic conservative politics that seeks to preserve values is not the past, but the future. What has happened here in Hungary today is a great message for the entire European community. Many people will hear it, and it will also give hope to many people outside Hungary.
To continue this line of thought, let me ask one last question. As I’ve read in many places, very many people today say that the horizon, the vision of Western politics in particular extends only as far as the next Guardian or Politico editorial. They say that politicians in general share this perspective, and this is why they work to succeed within it. By comparison, there’s Central Europe and there’s Hungary, with this fourth fantastic victory in a row. Can we say that it’s much more rewarding to really think on long time horizons?
Common sense tells us so, but we need to understand that the world of politics has changed a lot over the last ten years or so, and indeed there are many who struggle to survive. Those nations that haven’t realised – or don’t want to realise – that they need strong governments and strong leaders are in fact creating weak coalition governments which are floundering instead of being able to respond to the challenges of the modern age. But somehow – not just now, with us this has been happening for a long time – our people understand and accept that we’ll fall apart if we’re not strong and well organised, if we don’t have a spiritual connection binding our leaders to the people. This is something that may be a legacy from the time of the Hungarian Conquest: we’ll fall apart if we don’t possess the deep sense of spiritual community that binds Hungarians together, if we don’t unite with one another. This is because we’re foreigners surrounded by peoples of a different kind. And if we fall apart, our country will be taken from us. We have bitter historical experience of this. And so somehow, fortunately, the expectations placed upon Hungarian politicians are deeper and stronger than those placed upon our Western counterparts. What counts here isn’t popularity – although, of course, it’s better to be popular than unpopular. But, overall, the expectations that Hungarians have of our politicians exist within a historical horizon. Hungarians think in the context of long-term survival, and they expect their leaders to work towards that. And so perhaps they’re willing to forgive mistakes which inevitably accompany any endeavour. Of course they expect us to fix them, but they also tend not to confuse what’s important with what’s less important. And when the moment comes, they’ll produce such fantastic election results. No other nation in Europe has been able to place the kind of trust in a political community that’s been in government for so long as the trust that we’ve just received from Hungarians. In the coming years we’ll have to work very hard to repay them.
Prime Minister, let this evening be one of celebration and emotion. God bless Hungary, and thank you.
Go, Hungary, go Hungarians!
Go, Hungarians! Thank you very much.