The government is ready to “cooperate with all mayors and local councils that are themselves ready to cooperate,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in parliament’s opening autumn session on Monday.
Referring to the recent local elections, Orban said that “everybody, regardless of party affiliation, must work for Hungary and the Hungarian people.” “The nation cannot be in opposition,” he added.
Concerning the election results, Orban said it was “a great honour” for the ruling parties to have captured over 50 percent of votes nationwide. This equals an endorsement of the government’s major policies, he said, enumerating among them a work-based and pro-family economy, higher wages, help for young people to buy or renovate homes and national cohesion.
He said the government had “lived up to its responsibilities in terms of organising and conducting the election to the satisfaction of the public” and thanked voters who took part in the elections, thereby “contributing to the functioning of Hungarian democracy”. “Hungarians are still committed to democracy and believe in Hungary’s future,” he said.
Orban said the government’s family protection action plan was gaining momentum, with more than 65,000 people having joined the scheme. Altogether, 650 billion forints (EUR 1.96bn) of funding has been channelled towards families, he added. The economy has responded positively to this policy, he said, recording growth of 5.2 percent in the first half. “We switched to a job-based economy and the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.4 percent, while the number of jobs has increased by 808,000 since 2010,” he said, adding that 4.5 million people have jobs in the country. Orban said nevertheless the government “wants more and better”, and intends to catch up with the Czech Republic in this regard. The prime minister said that in the first seven months of the year average wages had increased by 10.6 percent, while the rise in the minimum wage was the fourth highest in the EU. Orban also noted big changes in government debt, which has fallen to 68 percent to GDP. And whereas in 2010 foreign currency loans accounted for 50 percent of the total, today they stand below 20 percent, he added.
Regarding the EU, Orban said the incoming president of the European Commission was someone who could remedy the mistakes of previous years. He said he had felt obliged to prevent the election of a commission head who spoke disrespectfully of Hungarians, and who wanted to implement plans contrary to the will of Hungarians on migration. “We have achieved our goal,” he said.
On the topic of Brexit, Orban said “a fair and just agreement” for the British had been made for their departure from the bloc. Also, an agreement had been struck that would protect the interests of Hungarians working in Britain. At the same time, speaking about the EU accession prospects of North Macedonia and Albania, he said the EU council of ministers had rejected starting negotiations with the two countries. “This is a bad decision, but I hope it is not a tragic one,” he said. It would be tragic for Serbia, he added, if its prospects were blocked. Serbia, he said, was a “key country in our region and in terms of our stability”. Stabilising the Balkans would be impossible without EU membership, he said, adding that Hungary continued to support the accession of all Balkan countries, especially Serbia and Montenegro, as rapidly as possible.
Meanwhile, Orban said Hungary’s economy could be made carbon neutral by 2050 by implementing radical schemes but “a significant contribution” from the European Union would be needed. A combined 150 billion euros will be needed to make Hungary’s energy production emissions free, to eliminate natural gas and to replace all traditional vehicles with electric ones, Orban said.
On another subject, Orban said that his European counterparts had started discussing the EU’s next seven-year budget. He added that “there is no consensus even on fundamental issues” and “the positions are wide apart in all important areas”.
During the prime minister’s address, independent MP Akos Hadhazy held up banners emblazoned with the slogans: “Stop propaganda”, “He has to live bacause he has stolen too much”, “Bullshit” and “Stop corruption”. Laszlo Kover, the house speaker, rebuked Hadhazy and called on all opposition deputies to drop their “aggressive” and “militant” attitude. He said deputies should observe house rules and “refrain from making a circus out of parliament”. Meanwhile, ruling party MPs curtained off protesting Hadhazy’s signs with the national flag, then snatched them from his hands.
Opposition leaders also addressed the session after Orban.
Peter Jakab, leader of the Jobbik parliamentary group, said “the reunification of the nation” had begun on the day of the local election, and voters had signalled their intention to change the government in the 2022 general election. Jakab said voters on Oct. 13 had not given into “threats, blackmail and intimidation” and instead had opted for the most credible opposition candidate. He added that around 4 million “compatriots” in 10 major cities and the capital, as well as “countless smaller towns”, had “bought a ticket for the change of government in 2022”.
Bertalan Toth, the Socialist Party’s group leader, pledged the opposition would continue its cooperation. “We’ll be working together up to 2022”. He said the opposition parties had got the message of voters and now the opposition would have to perform better in smaller cities. Localities run by opposition councils will have to work hard to reduce social inequalities, he added.
Parbeszed group leader Timea Szabo said the local council elections had marked the start of opposition cooperation. “We have now liberated Budapest and we will liberate the whole country in 2022,” she said. She said the elections had shown that Budapest residents and those of many big cities were now “fed up” with the ruling parties and “crave for freedom” after the “threats and extortion of millions of people”.
Leader of the Democratic Coalition (DK), Ferenc Gyurcsany, qualified the outcome of the local elections as an uprising against the ruling parties. Whereas he said he did not want to argue over who had won the elections, it was clear that the more politically significant localities had voted for the opposition, and this had sent “a clear message”. In localities with more than 10,000 residents, the opposition had performed better than the governing parties, he said. Gyurcsany said when “excellent” pro-government mayors had been “voted out”, it had been because of the government’s policies rather than their own. “This was not just a local vote; it was a rebellion against your policies,” he said after Orban’s speech.
Laszlo Lorant Keresztes, the leader of the LMP group, said the Oct. 13 election had marked a “massive defeat” for the governing parties, adding that now three million people lived in localities run by the opposition. He said it was now up to opposition leaders to prove “they can govern towns with efficiency and integrity”.
Fidesz group leader Mate Kocsis said in response that Gyurcsany should “get off his high horse”. Gyurcsany, he insisted, had headed “the most corrupt Hungarian government of all time”, and people would “never forget that protesters had their eyes shot at and were attacked by horse-mounted police” when Gyurcsany was in power. Commenting on MP Akos Hadhazy holding up banners during the prime minister’s address, Kocsis said a responsible politician would not act this way, only an “anarchist dimwit”.
Source: MTI, Hungary Journal