Fresh from a landslide election win in April, Hungary’s combative premier Viktor Orbán was formally sworn in as prime minister Thursday (10 May), and hinted at designs on power until at least 2030.
“I feel that when we set large goals for ourselves,… we are on the same wavelength as the people,” Orbán told newly-elected deputies inside the ornate parliament in Budapest.
“This emboldens and entitles to make plans not just for four years, but that we must think in terms of 10, or 12 years,” he said.
Such a timeline is “rational” as the next multi-year European Union budget – currently under negotiation – lasts until then, according to Orbán.
“I have always seen the 20-year-period between 2010 and 2030 as a unified era,” he said.
On 8 April the 54-year-old’s right-wing Fidesz party won its third consecutive two-thirds majority, granting it further legislative carte blanche to amend the constitution and fast-track new laws.
Since 2010 Fidesz have used so-called “supermajorities” to write a new constitution and launch a legislative blitz that opponents say has weakened democratic institutions and handed Orbán too much power.
Critics including the Organisation for Security and Co-Operation in Europe said biased state media and some election rules brought in by Orbán tilted the ballot in his favour.
Several opposition parties protested the result by not attending Thursday’s ceremonies.
Orbán was formally reelected as premier in the 199-seat assembly by 134 votes to 28 against.
After taking the oath of office he told deputies that the April election result reinforced the changes implemented since 2010.
“(It) showed that the people also thought that we have had a good eight years,” he said.
Despite the two-thirds majority, Orbán, who served a first term as prime minister between 1998 and 2002, said his new government will always “represent three-thirds,… all Hungarian citizens”.
In a wide-ranging address, he said that he wanted Hungary to be among the top five places to live and work in the whole EU by 2030.
Some of Orbán’s opponents suspect rather that he wants to steer Hungary out of the EU, and criticise his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Orbán insisted Thursday that Hungary’s geographical location demands getting on with three powerful regional players: Germany, Russia and Turkey.
“Hungary must prioritise geopolitical considerations over ideological thinking. Hungary is and will remain a dedicated member of the Western alliance system. But that does not change the geographical constraints,” he said.
“To our west is the land of German iron chancellors, to our east is the world of Slavic soldier peoples, and to our south are massive crowds of Muslim people. Berlin, Moscow, Istanbul – Hungary exists in this space. We need to make calculations based on this.”
Urging the EU to respect the sovereignty of nation states he said multiculturalism and political correctness have led the bloc down a destructive path.
More migration into Europe would lead to further decay he warned, and offered that Hungary can lead “unavoidable” reforms.
“We need the EU and the EU needs us,” he said.
Give up federalist dreams
The EU should give up its “delusional” idea of a United States of Europe, Orbán said on Thursday in pledging to defend his nation’s Christian values.
“The Union must function as an alliance of free nations and give up on its delusional nightmares of a United States of Europe,” Orbán told parliament in his inaugural speech.
“The EU must return to the grounds of reality. As a first step, it must change its thinking about migration.”
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU executive, has jokingly referred to Orbán as a “dictator” over what critics say are the premier’s autocratic leanings.
Orbán has increased his control over the media and put allies in charge of once independent institutions. His hostility to accepting migrants – especially Muslims – into Hungary has put him in conflict with the Brussels-based EU, but proved popular in last month’s vote.
Orbán has also built a class of loyal businessmen whose control of key industries has grown rapidly to fulfil a government goal of keeping them in Hungarian hands.
He reiterated that his new government would build a “Christian democracy”. He promised to boost growth and competitiveness and reverse a decline in Hungary’s native population, while maintaining a tough line on immigration.
“We will oppose the mandatory migrant settlement quotas… and will fight for the protection of borders,” he said.
Orbán also pronounced the era of liberal democracy to be over. “We have replaced a shipwrecked liberal democracy with a 21st-century Christian democracy, which guarantees people’s freedom, security,” Orbán told parliament.
Marton Gyongyosi, co-chairman of the main opposition party Jobbik, said after Orbán’s speech: “Hungary today is a country built on corruption, ruled and managed by oligarchs, a country which Hungarian youth leave in throngs.”