‘Our time will come’ – Hungarian leader says youth will oust Orban in 2022

Andras Fekete-Gyor, chairman of the Hungarian opposition party Momentum Movement (C) speaks flanked by his campaign team at a press conference after the general elections in Budapest, Hungary, 8 April 2018. [EPA-EFE/Marton Monus]

‘Our generation’s time will come’. So says András Fekete-Győr, founder of the Momentum movement in Hungary. Less than two months after Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party won a decisive victory and a fourth term in office, that seems like a tall order, especially for a party that was founded less than three years ago.

But Fekete-Győr says Fidesz can be ousted and makes the case for a young, pro-European party modelled on Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche to emerge in Hungary.

András Fekete-Győr talked with EURACTIV’s Benjamin Fox.

Where do you go from the April election?

We got 175,000 votes and 3%. We didn’t get into Parliament, that was our goal, and to deny Fidesz a super majority, so both of these missions were not accomplished. But you have got around 10 opposition parties in Hungary and it is way too many. People are demanding that these parties co-operate with each other.

For us, we are in a very good position in Hungary because we are the only credible political party left.

How so?

People are very critical of them because they are part of the establishment. We have managed to stay clean as an anti-establishment party, and thousands of people wanted to join Momentum after the disastrous 8 April election.

How much has your membership gone up by since the election?

Around 5,000 new people wanted to join, but we’ve got quite a strict application process. This was a positive development. We didn’t have time to be sad and feel depressed, we immediately had to carry on.

Next year we are going to have the European elections and local and municipal elections. This is a very good field for Momentum to play on because we are the Erasmus generation and already last year we had actions around Europe. Putin came to visit Orban so we had guerilla actions against them, a march for Europe. So it’s a well-prepared image for us.

I saw that you personally decided not to run in the elections?

I ran but I withdrew.

Did you support another candidate?

I ordered a poll, because it was the typical situation in Hungary where there were three credible candidates against a FIdesz guy. In my electorate it was a success story, I promised that I would withdraw if I was not the most supported candidate. We had a political agreement and our candidate managed to win.

Aren’t you part of the problem of fragmentation in Hungarian politics?

It could seem like that but Momentum is maybe the only party that brought in new voters, these are mostly young people from the 18-24 year age group.

Apart from pro-Europeanism what else is part of your platform?

We are anti-establishment. We are a bit like En Marche. We are not particularly ideological, we are neither left nor right – a political scientist will do that for us. We are pragmatic and technocratic, and liberal.

Do you take the same position as the government on migration?

Not the same. We don’t have any argument against securing the border because we are in favour of controlled migration but are very much against the propaganda and fear-mongering against migrants.

Are you opposed to refugee quotas?

No. As long as they are not talking about 50,000 or 100,000 people because let’s be realistic, Hungarian society is not going to bear that.

Is your support base enough to get a seat next year?

For sure. At least one. The turnout rate tends to be lower at European elections, it was 30% in Hungary five years ago. 175,000 people is what we have, and it is realistic to think we could get 2 MEPs. Being very optimistic we could get 3.

Orbán looks impregnable. It’s a very tall order to try to challenge him.

Someone has to. And the clock is ticking for him as well. In 2022, he will have been in government for 12 years and people after such a long time will feel that they need some renewal. People will get tired of him and our generation’s time will come. We could choose to go abroad or we can stay, but if we stay at home then we have to do politics. This system of government does not allow any alternative opinions.

It’s not easy to be a lawyer or an entrepreneur in Hungary. That is why they are leaving.

Why start a new party rather than join an existing one?

Some of the parties bear a historical burden. If you establish a party, this is a very, very challenging task to do and I was there from day one, but to have your own political culture, you have to start from scratch.

Would you rule out co-operating with other parties at local level?

In local government, I think we will need as broad co-operation as possible.

Anybody but Fidesz?

Yes, this is just my opinion, but yes. Of the new parties, you have the Greens and Jobbik, which used to be very extremist, but they aren’t any more. Jobbik, the Greens and Momentum are the parties not tainted by government. This is the big question: do we co-operate with them?

And you would rather co-operate with Jobbik than the Socialists?

Speaking personally, yes. I think we should make this sacrifice next year.

What is the weakness to Fidesz’s support? It is effectively a one-party state at the moment.

I think the main weakness is voter fatigue. Also, Viktor Orbán has politically killed off any possible successor. The other factor is relations with Russia. So far the opposition parties haven’t been able to capitalise on that, to build up a strong narrative on this issue, where we have a prime minister who is talking about sovereignty but selling so many things to the Russians.

He is really seen as the puppet of Vladimir Putin, and for a nation which is quite nationalistic and has got very bad memories of Russians, this is a weakness. But other parties have not capitalised on that.

Why is that?

We tried but our mistake was that we talked about which university you would choose: the London School of Economics or Nizhny Novgorod?

But we could talk about Russians killing Hungarians in Ukraine. I’m sorry to say but if you would like to beat this government then we will have to talk about negative things as well.

The topic of corruption just doesn’t cut through.

I guess that as long as you have reasonably solid economic growth then you can see that we are all better off, even if there is corruption.

Exactly. A few months before the vote, foreign journalists asked me what would happen in the election and I told them that’s it’s impossible to beat Fidesz this time. This is one pillar to FIdesz, and the other is their communication about migration. The economy is in favour of them but it can, of course, turn around, and we don’t know when it will happen. Maybe after 2020, maybe over the next MFF [the EU’s seven-year budget] and the conditions around the rule of law that could come with it.

Momentum is in a positive curve. Our voters will come into the voting age in the next few years and Fidesz will lose ground.

So you think this is your moment?

In 2022, I think yes. The big question is whether the opposition parties can co-operate because unfortunately, the Socialist party is not going to cease to exist. Momentum alone will not be enough to form a government in 2022 for sure, but I can tell you that the best talent of our generation is in Momentum right now.

That is why people look at us as the future and say ‘please don’t give it up’. Even some Fidesz supporters say the same. So let’s wait and see.

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