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Viktor Orbán
Orbán in 2022
Prime Minister of Hungary
Assumed office
29 May 2010
Preceded byGordon Bajnai
In office
6 July 1998 – 27 May 2002
Preceded byGyula Horn
Succeeded byPéter Medgyessy
President of Fidesz
Assumed office
17 May 2003
Preceded byJános Áder
In office
18 April 1993 – 29 January 2000
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byLászló Kövér
Member of the National Assembly
Assumed office
2 May 1990
Personal details
Viktor Mihály Orbán

(1963-05-31) 31 May 1963 (age 61)
Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Political partyFidesz (since 1988)
Anikó Lévai
(m. 1986)
Children5, including Gáspár
  • Erzsébet Sípos
  • Győző Bálint Orbán
Residence(s)Carmelite Monastery of Buda
5. Cinege út, Budapest
Alma mater
  • Politician
  • lawyer
WebsiteViktor Orbán website

Viktor Mihály Orbán[1] (Hungarian: [ˈviktor ˈorbaːn] ; born 31 May 1963) is a Hungarian lawyer and politician who has been Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010, previously holding the office from 1998 to 2002. He has led the Fidesz political party since 1993, with a break between 2000 and 2003.

Orbán studied law at Eötvös Loránd University before entering politics in the wake of the Revolutions of 1989. Orbán already headed the Hungarian dissident student movement and became nationally known after a 1989 speech in which he openly demanded that Soviet armed forces leave the People's Republic of Hungary. After the end of communism in Hungary in 1989 followed by transition to a multiparty democracy the following year, Orbán was elected to the National Assembly and led Fidesz's parliamentary caucus until 1993.

During Orbán's first term as prime minister, from 1998 to 2002 with him as the head of a conservative coalition government, inflation and the fiscal deficit shrank and Hungary joined NATO. Orbán was the Leader of the Opposition from 2002 to 2010. In 2010, Orbán was again elected prime minister. Central issues during Orbán's second premiership include controversial constitutional and legislative reforms, in particular the 2013 amendments to the Constitution of Hungary, as well as the European migrant crisis, the lex CEU, and the COVID-19 pandemic in Hungary. He was reelected in 2014, 2018, and 2022. On 29 November 2020, he became the country's longest-serving prime minister.[2]

Starting with the Second Orbán Government in 2010, during his uninterrupted stay in power, Orbán has curtailed press freedom, weakened judicial independence, and undermined multiparty democracy, amounting to democratic backsliding during Orbán's tenure.[3][4][5] He frequently styles himself as a defender of Christian values in the face of the European Union, which he claims is anti-nationalist and anti-Christian. His portrayal of the EU as a political foe while accepting its money and funneling it to his allies and relatives has led to accusations that his government represents a kleptocracy.[6] It has also been characterized as a hybrid regime, dominant-party system, and mafia state.[7][8][9][10][11]

Orbán defends his policies as "illiberal Christian democracy".[12][13] As a result, Fidesz was suspended from the European People's Party from March 2019;[14] in March 2021, Fidesz left the EPP over a dispute over new rule-of-law language in the latter's bylaws.[15] In a July 2022 speech, Orbán criticized the miscegenation of European and non-European races, saying: "We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race and we do not want to become a mixed race."[16][17] Two days later in Vienna, he clarified that he was talking about cultures and not about race.[18] His tenure has seen Hungary's government shift towards what he has called "illiberal democracy", while simultaneously promoting Euroscepticism and opposition to liberal democracy and establishment of closer ties with China and Russia.[19][20][21]

Early life and background (1963–1988)

Orbán was born on 31 May 1963 in Székesfehérvár into a rural middle-class family as the eldest son of the agronomist, mechanical engineer and later construction businessman Győző Orbán (born 1940)[22] and the special educator and speech therapist, Erzsébet Sípos (born 1944).[23] He has two younger brothers, both businessmen, Győző Jr. (born 1965) and Áron (born 1977). His paternal grandfather, Mihály Orbán, a former dockworker and a war veteran, farmed and worked as a veterinary assistant in Alcsútdoboz in Fejér County, where Orbán first grew up. The family moved in 1973 to the neighbouring Felcsút, where Orbán's father was head of the machinery department at the local farm collective.[24] Orbán attended school there and in Vértesacsa.[25][26] His parents and his grandfather completed further education as adults and pursued their careers within the framework of economic liberalisation under the Kádár regime.[27] In 1977, the family moved to Székesfehérvár, where Orbán had secured a place at the prestigious Blanka Teleki grammar school.[28] In his first two years at the school, he served as local secretary of the Hungarian Young Communist League (KISZ), membership of which was mandatory in order to matriculate to a university,[29][30] and of which his father was a patron.[31]

During his high school years, Orbán developed an interest in football, and befriended his future political associate Lajos Simicska.[28] After graduating in 1981, he completed his military service alongside Simicska. He was jailed several times for indiscipline, which included a failure to appear for duty during the 1982 FIFA World Cup and striking a non-commissioned officer during a personal altercation.[32] His time in the army also coincided with the declaration of martial law in Poland in December 1981, which his friend Simicska criticised;[32] Orbán recalled expecting to be mobilised to invade Poland.[33] He would later state that military service had shifted his political views radically from the previous position of a "naive and devoted supporter" of the Communist regime.[30] However, a state security report from May 1982, when his father was working on an engineering contract in Libya, still described him as "loyal to our social system".[31][34]

Next, in 1983, Orbán went to study law at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. He joined an English-model residential college for law students from outside the capital, Jogász Társadalomtudományi Szakkollégium (Lawyers' Special College of Social Sciences), established in 1983 by the young lecturer István Stumpf under the protection of the latter's father-in-law, the minister of the interior István Horváth.[35][36] Members of this college, which would be named after István Bibó in May 1989,[36] were permitted to explore social sciences beyond the socialist canon and the "new" field of "bourgeois" political science in particular.[37][38][39] It was there that Orbán met Gábor Fodor and László Kövér.[37][40] He became chairman of the executive committee of the college's sixty students in 1984.[40] He went on a series of trips to Poland with his classmates and lecturer Tamás Fellegi in 1984–1985 and again in 1987, during the third pastoral visit of John Paul II. Their Polish contacts all along were Małgorzata Tarasiewicz and Adam Jagusiak, members-to-be of the anti-Communist student movement Freedom and Peace [pl] from 1985.[41] Orbán submitted his Master's thesis on the Polish Solidarity movement, based on interviews with its leaders, in 1986.[33][42] In August 1986, shortly before Orbán's wedding with Dr Anikó Lévai in Szolnok in September of that year, a police source reported him to belong to an organisation whose members were lecturing in the USA or West Germany as "the country's expected future leaders" and receiving Western support, while also being privy to top-level government decisions through minister Horváth and enjoying full protection of the Budapest police (BRFK [hu]). The minister was expected to personally intervene to clear Orbán in particular of any sedition charges.[31][34] After obtaining the higher degree of Juris Doctor[43] in 1987,[44][45] Orbán lived in Szolnok for two years, commuting to his job in Budapest as a sociologist at the Management Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.[46] In November 1987, Orbán welcomed a group of 150 delegates from 17 countries to a two-day seminar on the Perestroika, conscientious objection and the prospects for a pan-European democratic movement, held at the Lawyers' Special College of Social Sciences with the backing of the European Network for East–West Dialogue.[39]

In September 1989, Orbán took up a research fellowship at Pembroke College, Oxford, funded by the Soros Foundation which had employed him part-time since April 1988.[47] He began work on the concept of civil society in European political thought under the guidance of Zbigniew Pełczyński.[26][48] During this time, he unsuccessfully contested the Fidesz leadership elections in Budapest, which he lost to Fodor. In January 1990, he abandoned his project at Oxford and returned to Hungary with his family to run for a seat in Hungary's first post-communist parliament.[49]

Political ascent (1988–1998)

Orbán in 1997 as leader of the opposition

On 30 March 1988, at the Lawyers' Special College of Social Sciences, Orbán – alongside Stumpf, Fodor, Kövér and 32 other students and activists – founded the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége, FIDESZ), a liberal-nationalist youth movement conceived as an overt political challenge to the Hungarian Young Communist League, whose members were banned from participation.[50][51] The college journal Századvég (End of the Century), established with Orbán's help and funded by George Soros since 1985, now became the press organ of Fidesz.[52][42][53][40]

On 16 June 1989, Orbán gave a speech in Heroes' Square, Budapest, on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy and other national martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In his speech, he demanded free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The speech brought him to national prominence and announced the existence of Fidesz to the wider public.[54] In the summer of 1989, he took part in the opposition round table talks, representing Fidesz alongside László Kövér.[55] Fidesz became a political party in October 1989.[56]

On returning home from Oxford, he secured the first spot on the Fidesz candidate list ahead of Fodor and was elected Member of Parliament from Pest County at the April 1990 election.[57] He was appointed leader of the Fidesz's parliamentary group, in this capacity until May 1993.[58]

Orbán and Gábor Fodor at the Szárszó meeting of 1993

On 18 April 1993, Orbán became the first president of Fidesz, replacing the national board that had served as a collective leadership since its founding. Under his leadership, Fidesz gradually transformed from a radical liberal student organization to a center-right people's party.[59]

The conservative turn caused a severe split in the membership. Several members left the party, including Péter Molnár, Gábor Fodor and Zsuzsanna Szelényi. Fodor and others later joined the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats (SZDSZ), initially a strong ally of Fidesz, but later a political opponent.[60]

During the 1994 parliamentary election, Fidesz barely reached the 5% threshold.[61] Orbán became MP from his party's Fejér County Regional List.[58] He was chairman of the Committee on European Integration Affairs between 1994 and 1998.[58] He was also a member of the Immunity, Incompatibility and Credentials Committee for a short time in 1995.[58] Under his presidency, Fidesz adopted "Hungarian Civic Party" (Magyar Polgári Párt) to its shortened name in 1995. His party gradually became dominant in the right-wing of the political spectrum, while the former ruling conservative Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) had lost much of its support.[61] From April 1996, Orbán was chairman of the Hungarian National Committee of the New Atlantic Initiative (NAI).[62]

In September 1992, Orbán was elected vice chairman of the Liberal International.[63] In November 2000, however, Fidesz left the Liberal International and joined the European People's Party (EPP). During the time, Orbán worked hard to unite the center-right liberal conservative parties in Hungary. At the EPP's Congress in Estoril in October 2002, he was elected vice-president, an office he held until 2012.[64]

First premiership (1998–2002)

Orbán with Tamás Deutsch in 2000

In 1998, Orbán formed a coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP). The coalition won the 1998 parliamentary elections with 42% of the national vote.[64] Orbán became the second youngest prime minister of Hungary at the age of 35 (after András Hegedüs)[65] and the first post-Cold War head of government in both eastern and central Europe who had not previously been a member of a communist party during the Soviet-era.[66]

The new government immediately launched a radical reform of state administration, reorganizing ministries and creating a superministry for the economy. In addition, the boards of the social security funds and centralized social security payments were dismissed. Following the German model, Orbán strengthened the prime minister's office and named a new minister to oversee the work of his cabinet.[citation needed]

In February, the government decided that plenary sessions of the Hungarian Parliament would be held only every third week.[67] Opposition parties strongly opposed the change,[68][69][70] arguing that it would reduce parliament's legislative efficiency and ability to supervise the government.[71] In March, the government also tried to replace the National Assembly rule that requires a two-thirds majority vote with one of a simple majority, but the Constitutional Court ruled this unconstitutional.[72]

Two of Orbán's state secretaries in the prime minister's office had to resign in May, due to their implication in a bribery scandal involving the American military manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corporation. Before bids on a major jet-fighter contract, the two secretaries, along with 32 other deputies of Orbán's party, had sent a letter to two US senators to lobby for the appointment of a Budapest-based Lockheed manager to be the US ambassador to Hungary.[73] On 31 August, the head of the Tax Office also resigned after protracted criticism by the opposition on his earlier, allegedly suspicious, business dealings.[citation needed] The government was also involved in a lengthy dispute with Budapest City Council the national government's decision in late 1998 to cancel two major urban projects: the construction of a new national theatre[74] and of the fourth subway line.[citation needed]

Relations between the Fidesz-led coalition government and the opposition worsened in the National Assembly, where the two seemed to have abandoned all attempts at consensus-seeking politics. The government pushed to swiftly replace the heads of key institutions (such as the Hungarian National Bank chairman, the Budapest City Chief Prosecutor and the Hungarian Radio) with partisan figures. Although the opposition resisted, for example by delaying their appointing of members of the supervising boards, the government ran the institutions without the stipulated number of directors. In a similar vein, Orbán failed to show up for question time in parliament for periods of up to 10 months. His statements, such as "The parliament works without opposition too...", also contributed to the image of arrogant and aggressive governance.[75]

A later report in March by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists criticized the Hungarian government for improper political influence in the media, as the country's public service broadcaster teetered close to bankruptcy.[76] Numerous political scandals during 2001 led to a de facto, if not actual, breakup of the coalition that held power in Budapest. A bribery scandal in February triggered a wave of allegations and several prosecutions against the Independent Smallholders' Party. The affair resulted in the ousting of József Torgyán from both the FKGP presidency and the top post in the Ministry of Agriculture. The FKGP disintegrated and more than a dozen of its MPs joined the government faction.[77]


Mikuláš Dzurinda, Orbán and Günter Verheugen during the opening of the Mária Valéria Bridge across the Danube, connecting the Slovak town of Štúrovo with Esztergom, in Hungary, in November 2001

Orbán's economic policy was aimed at cutting taxes and social insurance contributions, while reducing inflation and unemployment. Among the new government's first measures was to abolish university tuition fees and reintroduce universal maternity benefits. The government announced its intention to continue the Socialist–Liberal stabilization program and pledged to narrow the budget deficit, which had grown to 4.5% of GDP.[78] The previous Socialist government had almost completed the privatization of government-run industries and had launched a comprehensive pension reform. However, the Socialists had avoided two major socioeconomic issues: reform of health care and agriculture; these remained to be tackled by Orbán's government.[citation needed]

Economic successes included a drop in inflation from 15% in 1998 to 7.8% in 2001. Annual GDP growth rates were fairly steady under Orbán's tenure, ranging from 3.8% to 5.2%. The fiscal deficit fell from 3.9% in 1999 to 3.4% in 2001 and the ratio of the national debt decreased to 54% of GDP.[78] Under the Orbán cabinet, there were realistic hopes that Hungary would be able to join the Eurozone by 2009. However, negotiations for entry into the European Union slowed in the fall of 1999, after the EU included six more countries (in addition to the original six) in the accession discussions. Orbán repeatedly criticized the EU for its delay.[citation needed]

Foreign policy

Orbán with George W. Bush at the White House in 2001

In March 1999, after Russian objections were overruled, Hungary joined NATO along with the Czech Republic and Poland.[79] The Hungarian membership to NATO demanded its involvement in Federal Republic of Yugoslavia's Kosovo crisis and modernization of its army. NATO membership also dealt a blow to the economy because of a trade embargo imposed on Yugoslavia.[80]

Hungary attracted international media attention in 1999 for passing the "status law" concerning estimated three-million ethnic Hungarian minorities in neighbouring Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The law aimed to provide education, health benefits and employment rights to members of those minorities, and was said to heal the negative effects of the disastrous 1920 Trianon Treaty.[81][82]

Governments in neighbouring states, particularly Romania, claimed to be insulted by the law, which they saw as interference in their domestic affairs. Proponents of the status law countered that several of the countries criticizing the law themselves had similar constructs to provide benefits for their own minorities. Romania acquiesced after amendments following a December 2001 agreement between Orbán and Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Năstase;[83] Slovakia accepted the law after further concessions made by the new government after the 2002 elections.[84]

Leader of the Opposition (2002–2010)

The level of public support for political parties generally stagnated, even with general elections coming in 2002. Fidesz and the main opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) ran neck and neck in the opinion polls for most of the year, both attracting about 26% of the electorate. According to a September 2001 poll by the Gallup organization, however, support for a joint Fidesz – Hungarian Democratic Forum party list would run up to 33% of the voters, with the Socialists drawing 28% and other opposition parties 3% each.[85]

Meanwhile, public support for the FKGP plunged from 14% in 1998 to 1% in 2001. As many as 40% of the voters remained undecided, however. Although the Socialists had picked their candidate for prime minister—former finance minister Péter Medgyessy—the opposition largely remained unable to increase its political support.[citation needed] The dark horse of the election was the radical nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), with its leader, István Csurka's radical rhetoric. MIÉP could not be ruled out as the key to a new term for Orbán and his party should they be forced into a coalition after the 2002 elections.[citation needed]

The elections of 2002 were the most heated Hungary had experienced in more than a decade, and an unprecedented cultural-political division formed in the country. In the event, Orbán's group lost the April parliamentary elections to the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party, which set up a coalition with its longtime ally, the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats. Turnout was a record-high 70.5%. Beyond these parties, only deputies of the Hungarian Democratic Forum made it into the National Assembly. The populist Independent Smallholders' Party and the right Hungarian Justice and Life Party lost all their seats. Thus, the number of political parties in the new assembly was reduced from six to four.[86]

MIÉP challenged the government's legitimacy, demanded a recount, complained of election fraud, and generally kept the country in election mode until the October municipal elections. The socialist-controlled Central Elections Committee ruled that a recount was unnecessary, a position supported by observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, whose only substantive criticism of the election conduct was that the state television carried a consistent bias in favour of Fidesz.[87]

Orbán received the Freedom Award of the American Enterprise Institute and the New Atlantic Initiative (2001), the Polak Award (2001), the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit (2001), the "Förderpreis Soziale Marktwirtschaft" (Price for the Social Market Economy, 2002) and the Mérite Européen prize (2004). In April 2004, he received the Papal Grand Cross of the Order of St. Gregory the Great.[citation needed]

In the 2004 European Parliament election, the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party was heavily defeated by the opposition conservative Fidesz. Fidesz gained 47.4% of the vote and 12 of Hungary's 24 seats.[88][89]

Orbán and Hans-Gert Pöttering in 2006
Orbán and Romanian President Traian Băsescu in 2008

Orbán was the Fidesz candidate for the parliamentary election in 2006. Fidesz and its new-old candidate failed again to gain a majority in this election, which initially put Orbán's future political career as the leader of Fidesz in question.[90] However, after fighting with the Socialist-Liberal coalition, Orbán's position resolidified, and he was elected president of Fidesz for yet another term in May 2007.[91]

On 17 September 2006, an audio recording surfaced from a closed-door Hungarian Socialist Party meeting, which was held on 26 May 2006, in which Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány gave an obscenity-laden speech. The leak ignited mass protests.[citation needed] On 1 November, Orbán and his party announced their plans to stage several large-scale demonstrations across Hungary on the anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the 1956 Revolution. The events were intended to serve as a memorial to the victims of the Soviet invasion and a protest against police brutality during the 23 October unrest in Budapest. Planned events included a candlelight vigil march across Budapest. However, the demonstrations were small and petered out by the end of the year.[92] A new round of demonstrations expected in the spring of 2007 did not materialize.[citation needed]

On 1 October 2006, Fidesz won the municipal elections, which counterbalanced the MSZP-led government's power to some extent. Fidesz won 15 of 23 mayoralties in Hungary's largest cities—although it narrowly lost Budapest to the Liberal Party—and majorities in 18 of 20 regional assemblies.[93][94]

On 9 March 2008, a national referendum took place on revoking government reforms which introduced doctor fees per visit and medical fees paid per number of days spent in hospital as well as tuition fees in higher education. Fidesz initiated the referendum against the ruling MSZP.[95][96] The procedure for the referendum started on 23 October 2006, when Orbán announced they would hand in seven questions to the National Electorate Office, three of which (on abolishing copayments, daily fees and college tuition fees) were officially approved on 17 December 2007 and called on 24 January 2008. The referendum passed, a significant victory for Fidesz.[97]

In the 2009 European Parliament election, Fidesz won by a large margin, garnering 56.36% of votes and 14 of Hungary's 22 seats.[98]

Second premiership (2010–present)

"Hungarians won't live according to the commands of foreign powers", Orbán told the crowd at Kossuth square on 15 March 2012
Orbán at a press conference following the meeting of leaders of the Visegrád Group, Germany and France on 6 March 2013

Second Orbán Government (2010–2014)

In the 2010 parliamentary elections, Orbán's party won 52.7% of the popular vote but received a 68% majority of parliamentary seats due to the design of the post-communist electoral system.[99]: 139 [100] A two-third parliamentary majority is enough to change the constitution and in 2011 Orbán's government drafted a new constitution behind closed doors, debated it for only nine days in the parliament and passed it on a party line.[101]: 52 [102][103][104][105] Orbán would go on to amend the constitution twelve times in his first year in office.[101]: 52  Among other changes, it includes support for traditional values, nationalism, references to Christianity, and a controversial electoral reform, which decreased the number of seats in the Parliament of Hungary from 386 to 199.[106][107] The new constitution entered into force on 1 January 2012 and was later amended further.

In 2012 Orbán's government implemented a flat tax on personal income set at 16%.[108] Orbán has called his government "pragmatic", citing restrictions on early retirement in the police force and military, making welfare more transparent, and a central banking law that "gives Hungary more independence from the European Central Bank".[109]

On 14 January 2014 Orban went to Moscow in order to sign with Putin an agreement on the Paks II nuclear power plant (NPP). The Russian state-owned enterprise Rosatom would develop the NPP, and Hungary was to finance the plant by borrowing from Russia. At the same time Orban reassured everyone that the South Stream pipeline would be completed soon.[110][111] The BBC complained that "there was no formal bidding process for the plant's expansion, and the terms of the loan agreement have not yet been made public," even after the Hungarian parliament approved the deal on 6 February.[112] It later came to light that the loan amounted to €8bn and was financed over a 30 year term.[110] Hungarian MFA Peter Szijjarto told reporters that the deal was "the business (transaction) of the century." Westinghouse and Areva, two Western prime contractors, had been lured since 2012 by the Hungarian civil service but eventually had been frozen out of competition by the Orban government, who chose to sole-source the deal.[113]

Third Orban government (2014–2018)

Poland's Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jarosław Kaczyński with Orbán on 22 September 2017

After the April 2014 parliamentary election, Fidesz won a majority, garnering 133 of the 199 seats in the National Assembly.[114] While he won a large majority, he garnered 44.5% of the national vote, down from 52.7% in 2010.[115]

Orbán held a now famous speech in July 2014 in Băile Tușnad, a remote village in Romania, at the Bálványos Free Summer University and Student Camp.[116] In his speech he articulated his vision of forging an illiberal democracy in Hungary and described the Western 2007–2008 financial crisis as a paradigm shift of the international order, comparable with the two world wars and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Orbán described his current mission: "while breaking with the [liberal] dogmas and ideologies that have been adopted by the West and keeping ourselves independent from them, we are trying to find the form of community organisation, the new Hungarian state, which is capable of making our community competitive in the great global race for decades to come."[116]

In November 2014 Orbán garnered controversy for proposing an "internet tax", and for his perceived corruption.[117] His second premiership saw numerous protests against his government, including one in Budapest in November 2014 against the proposed "internet tax".[118]

During the 2015 European migrant crisis, Orbán ordered the erection of the Hungary–Serbia barrier to block entry of illegal immigrants so that Hungary could register all the migrants arriving from Serbia, which is the country's responsibility under the Dublin Regulation, a European Union law.[119] Under Orbán, Hungary took numerous actions to combat illegal immigration and reduce refugee levels.[120] In May 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled against Hungary's policy of migrant transit zones, which Orbán subsequently abolished while also tightening the country's asylum rules.[121]

As other Visegrád Group leaders, Orbán opposes any compulsory EU long-term quota on redistribution of migrants.[122] According to him, Turkey should be considered a safe third country for unwanted immigrants or refugees.[123]

In 2015 Orban wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "Europe's response is madness. We must acknowledge that the European Union's misguided immigration policy is responsible for this situation."[124] He also demanded an official EU list of "safe countries" to which migrants can be returned.[125]

Fourth Orban government (2018–2022)

Orbán and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in December 2021

In the April 2018 Hungarian parliamentary election, the FideszKDNP alliance was victorious and preserved its two-thirds majority, with Orbán remaining prime minister. Orbán and Fidesz campaigned primarily on the issues of immigration and foreign meddling, and the election outcome was seen as a victory for right-wing populism in Europe.[126][127][128]

In his 2018 speech at the meeting of the Association of Cities with County Rights, Orbán said "We must state that we do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed: we do not want our own colour, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others. We do not want this. We do not want that at all. We do not want to be a diverse country."[129][130]

On 30 March 2020, the Hungarian parliament voted 137 to 53 in favor of passing legislation that would create a state of emergency without a time limit, grant the prime minister the ability to rule by decree, suspend by-elections, and introduce the possibility of prison sentences for spreading fake news and sanctions for leaving quarantine.[131][132][133] Two and a half months later, on 16 June 2020, the Hungarian parliament passed a bill that ended the state of emergency effective 19 June.[134] However, on the same day the parliament passed a new law removing the requirement of parliamentary approval for future "medical" states of emergencies, allowing the government to declare them by decree.[135][136]

In 2021, the parliament transferred control of 11 state universities to foundations led by allies of Orbán.[137][138] The Mathias Corvinus Collegium, a residential college, received an influx of government funds and assets equal to about 1% of Hungary's gross domestic product, reportedly as part of a mission to train future conservative intellectuals.[139]

Due to a combination of unfavourable conditions, which involved soaring demand of natural gas, its diminished supply from Russia and Norway to the European markets, and less power generation by renewable energy sources such as wind, water and solar energy, Europe faced steep increases in energy prices in 2021. In October 2021, Orbán blamed a record-breaking surge in energy prices on the European Commission's Green Deal plans.[140]

Russian President Vladimir Putin with Viktor Orbán in the Kremlin on 1 February 2022

Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric from Orbán, Hungary increased the immigration of foreign workers into the country as of 2019 to address a labor shortage.[141][142][143]

In February 2020, Orbán was interviewed by Christopher DeMuth at the National Conservatism Conference in Rome.[144]

In July 2020, Orbán expressed that he still expects arguments over linking of disbursement of funds of the European Union to rule-of-law criteria but remarked in a state radio interview that they "didn't win the war, we (they) won an important battle".[145] In August 2020, Orbán whilst speaking at an event to inaugurate a monument commemorating the Treaty of Trianon, said Central European nations should come together to preserve their Christian roots as western Europe experiments with same-sex families, immigration and atheism.[146]

In a 2021 speech, Orbán said "The challenge with Bosnia is how to integrate a country with 2 million Muslims." Bosnian leaders responded by calling for Orbán's visit to Sarajevo to be cancelled. The head of the country's Islamic Community, Husein Kavazović, characterized his statement as "xenophobic and racist".[147][148]

Fifth Orban government (2022–present)

In the April 2022 parliamentary election, Fidesz won a majority, garnering 135 of the 199 seats in the National Assembly. While Orbán's close ties with Moscow raised concerns, core Fidesz voters were persuaded that mending ties with the EU might also lead Hungary into war. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe dispatched a full-scale monitoring mission for the election.[149] Orbán declared victory on Sunday night, with partial results showing his Fidesz party leading the vote by a wide margin. Addressing his supporters after the partial results, Orbán said: "We won a victory so big that you can see it from the moon, and you can certainly see it from Brussels."[4] Opposition leader Péter Márki-Zay admitted defeat shortly after Orbán's speech.[150]

In May 2022, Orbán promoted the Great Replacement conspiracy theory in a speech.[151]

In July 2022, Orbán – repeating the thesis of Jean Raspail[152][153] – spoke in Romania against the "mixing" of European and non-European races, adding "We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race and we do not want to become a mixed race."[154][155][156][157] In Vienna two days later, he clarified that he was talking about cultures and not about race.[18]

Foreign policy

Orban with Viktor Zubkov on 29 January 2010

Orbán attended the inauguration ceremonies of re-elected Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara in 2018 and 2023.[158][159] In October 2018, Orbán said after talks with President Erdoğan in Budapest that "A stable Turkish government and a stable Turkey are a precondition for Hungary not to be endangered in any way due to overland migration."[160]

In June 2019, Orbán met Myanmar's State Counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. They discussed bilateral ties and illegal migration.[161][162]


Orbán has maintained close ties with China throughout his tenure, and his administration is generally seen as China's closest ally in the EU.[163] Hungary joined China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2015,[164] while in April 2019, Orbán attended a BRI forum in Beijing,[165] where he met the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.[166] He spearheaded plans to open a Fudan University campus in Budapest, which led to pushback in Hungary.[167] He met with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Politburo member and top diplomat Wang Yi in Budapest on 20 February 2023; he afterwards backed the peace plan released Wang Yi concerning Russia's invasion of Ukraine.[168]

Russia and Ukraine

Orbán with Vladimir Putin in February 2016
Orbán with Mike Pompeo in Budapest in February 2019

Orbán questioned Nord Stream II, a new Russia–Germany natural gas pipeline. He said he wants to hear a "reasonable argument why South Stream was bad and Nord Stream is not".[169] "South Stream" refers to the Balkan pipeline cancelled by Russia in December 2014 after obstacles from the EU.[170]

Since 2017, Hungary's relations with Ukraine rapidly deteriorated over the issue of the Hungarian minority in Ukraine.[171] Orbán and his cabinet ministers repeatedly criticized Ukraine's 2017 education law, which makes Ukrainian the only language of education in state schools,[172][173] and threatened to block further Ukraine's EU and NATO integration until it is modified or repealed.[174] (The language law was amended in December 2023 in favor of official languages of the European Union, including Hungarian.[175])

Orbán has displayed an ambivalent attitude towards Russia and Vladimir Putin, especially following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.[176][177] He has described the war as "clear aggression" by Russia, saying a sovereign Ukraine is needed "to stop Russia posing a threat to the security of Europe".[178][179][180] However, conversely, he has also criticised the European Union for "prolonging the war" in Ukraine by sanctioning Russia and sending weapons and money to Ukraine instead of encouraging a negotiated peace, and has been accused of blocking aid to Ukraine.[181][182][183]

Amidst the 2021-2022 Ukraine crisis, Orbán was the first EU leader to meet with Vladimir Putin in Moscow in a visit he called "a peacekeeping mission".[184] They also discussed Russian gas exports to Hungary.[150] On 2 March, as Russia had already launched an invasion of Ukraine, Orbán decided to welcome Ukrainian refugees to Hungary, and will support the Ukrainian membership to the European Union.[150] Initially, Orbán condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said Hungary would not veto EU sanctions against Russia.[185] However, Orbán rejected sanctions on Russian energy, due to Hungary's excessive dependency (85%) on Russian fossil fuels.[186] In late March 2022, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky singled out Orban for his lack of support for Ukraine.[187] In June, Zelensky thanked Orbán for supporting Ukraine's sovereignty and for giving asylum to Ukrainians.[188]

On 27 February 2023, Viktor Orbán said that Hungary supports the Chinese peace plan in the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, despite opposition by Western leaders. Beijing's 12-point statement that criticised unilateral sanctions, would reduce strategic risks associated with nuclear weapons in Central and Eastern Europe, according to the statement.[189]

Accession to the Organization of Turkic States

Viktor Orbán during the 7th Summit of Cooperation Council of Turkic-Speaking States in Baku, in 2019

Since 2014, Hungary has had observer status at the General Assembly of Turkic-speaking States, and in 2017 it submitted an application for accession to the International Turkic Academy. During the 6th Summit of Turkic Council, Orbán said that Hungary is seeking even closer cooperation with the Turkic Council.[190] In 2018, Hungary obtained observer status in the council.[191] In 2021, Orbán mentioned that the Hungarian and Turkic peoples share a historical and cultural heritage "reaching back many long centuries". He also pointed out that the Hungarian people are "proud of this heritage", and "were also proud when their opponents in Europe mocked them as barbarian Huns and Attila's people".[192] In 2023, during his visit to Kazakhstan, Orbán said that Hungarians come to Kazakhstan "with great pleasure" because the two nations are connected by "millennial common roots".[193]

Israel and Hamas

The Hungarian government expressed support for Israel in the 2023 Israel–Hamas war. On 13 October, Orbán stated "Israel has the right to defend itself" and "we will not allow sympathy rallies supporting terrorist organisations".[194] On 22 October, Fidesz parliamentary leader Máté Kocsis announced that the party will introduce a manifesto before the parliament condemning Hamas terrorism.[195]

Views, public image, international influence

Orbán with José Manuel Barroso and Stavros Lambrinidis in January 2011

Orbán's blend of soft Euroscepticism, populism,[196][197][198] and national conservatism has seen him compared to politicians and political parties as diverse as Jarosław Kaczyński's Law and Justice, Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia, Matteo Salvini's Lega (previously Lega Nord), Marine Le Pen's National Rally, Donald Trump,[199] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin.[200] Orbán has sought to make Hungary an "ideological center for ... an international conservative movement".[201]

According to Politico, Orbán's political philosophy "echoes the resentments of what were once the peasant and working classes" by promoting an "uncompromising defense of national sovereignty and a transparent distrust of Europe's ruling establishments".[199] Orbán frequently emphasizes the importance of Christianity, although he and the overwhelming majority of Hungarians do not attend church regularly.[202] His authoritarian appeal to "global conservatives" has been summarized by Lauren Stokes as: "I alone can save you from the ravages of Islamization and totalitarian progressivism – and in the face of all that, who has time for checks and balances and rules?".[202]

Orbán had a close relationship with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, having known him for decades. He is described as "one of Mr Netanyahu's closest allies in Europe".[203] Orbán received personal advice on economic reforms from Netanyahu, while the latter was Finance Minister of Israel (2003–2005).[204] In February 2019, Netanyahu thanked Orbán for "deciding to extend the embassy of Hungary in Israel to Jerusalem".[205]

Orbán is seen as having laid out his political views most concretely in a widely cited 2014 public address at Băile Tușnad (known in Hungary as the Tusnádfürdői beszéd, or "Tusnádfürdő speech"). In the address, Orbán repudiated the classical liberal theory of the state as a free association of atomistic individuals, arguing for the use of the state as the means of organizing, invigorating, or even constructing the national community. Although this kind of state respects traditionally liberal concepts like civic rights, it is properly called "illiberal" because it views the community, and not the individual, as the basic political unit.[116] In practice, Orbán claimed, such a state should promote national self-sufficiency, national sovereignty, familialism, full employment and the preservation of cultural heritage.[116]

Orbán and Angela Merkel, Congress of the European People's Party in Madrid on 21 October 2015

Orbán's second and third premierships have been the subject of significant international controversy, and reception of his political views is mixed. The 2011 constitutional changes enacted under his leadership were, in particular, accused of centralizing legislative and executive power, curbing civil liberties, restricting freedom of speech, and weakening the Constitutional Court and judiciary.[100] For these reasons, critics have described him as an "irredentist",[206] a "right-wing populist",[207] an "authoritarian",[208] "far-right",[209] a "fascist",[210] "autocratic",[211] a "Putinist",[212] a "strongman",[213] and a "dictator".[214]

Orbán and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in 13 December 2018

The European migrant crisis, coupled with continued Islamist terrorism in the European Union, have popularized Orbán's nationalist, protectionist policies among European conservative leaders. "Once ostracized" by Europe's political elite, writes Politico, Orbán "is now the talisman of Europe's mainstream right".[199]

As mentioned above, Orbán has promoted the Great Replacement conspiracy theory. In a 2018 speech, he stated: "I think there are many people who would like to see the end of Christian Europe, and they believe that if they replace its cultural subsoil, if they bring in millions of people from new ethnic groups which are not rooted in Christian culture, then they will transform Europe according to their conception."[215]

During a press conference in January 2019, Orbán praised Brazil's then president Jair Bolsonaro, saying that currently "the most apt definition of modern Christian democracy can be found in Brazil, not in Europe".[216]

In support of Orbán and his ideas, a think tank called the Danube Institute was established in 2013, funded by the Batthyány Foundation, which in turn is "funded entirely by the Hungarian government".[217] Batthyány "sponsors international conferences and three periodicals, all in English: European Conservative, Hungarian Review, and Hungarian Conservative". In 2020, the institute began hosting fellows.[217]

In the United States

Orbán often attacked the administrations of presidents Barack Obama and Joe Biden, particularly for their supposed pro-immigration policies. Some analysts argue that Orban's attacks on the US are largely political theater for his domestic voters.[20]

In January 2022, Donald Trump endorsed Orbán in the 2022 Hungarian parliamentary election, saying in a statement that he "truly loves his Country and wants safety for his people", and praising his hard-line immigration policies.[218][219] Donald Trump's former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once called Orbán "Trump before Trump".[130]

In August 2021, Tucker Carlson hosted some episodes of his show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, from Budapest, praising Orbán as the one elected leader "on the face of the earth, ... who publicly identifies as a Western-style conservative". He also conducted a fifteen-minute interview with Orbán, which was widely criticized for its fawning nature and lack of challenging questions.[217]

In May 2022 the Conservative Political Action Conference, the "flagship conference" of American conservatism,[202] held a satellite event in Budapest.[220] In Florida, a law regulating sex education in schools, sometimes called the "Don’t Say Gay" law, resembles a similar Hungarian law passed in 2021 and was, according to governor Ron DeSantis's press secretary, inspired by it.[217]

In August 2022, Orbán was the opening speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas.[221]

Domestic policy

Viktor Orbán's domestic policy agenda has placed emphasis on cultural conservatism, especially through pro-natalist policies designed to encourage family formation and reduce immigration. Female university graduates who have (or adopt) children within two years of graduation receive partial or full forgiveness on their student loans, including a full write-off of their student debt if they have three or more children.[222][223] Hungarian women who have four or more children are eligible for full income tax exemption for life.[224] Married couples are eligible for low fixed-rate mortgages on a house with additional financial support through family housing benefits, as well as subsidies for the purchase of seven-seat cars for families with three or more children and financial support for child care.[225] In support of these policies, Orbán stated in 2019 that "For the west, the answer is immigration. For every missing child there should be one coming in and then the numbers will be fine. But we do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children."[226] The government has also tightened legal regulations on access to abortion, including requiring pregnant women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus prior to an abortion being approved by a doctor.[227] The number of abortions procured in Hungary between 2010 and 2021 fell almost 50%, from 34 per hundred live births in 2010 to 23.7 per hundred in 2021.[228]

His government's economic approach has been referred to as "Orbánomics".[229] Despite early concerns that these reforms would undermine investor confidence, economic growth has been strong with unemployment "plummeting" between 2010 and 2021 and year-on-year GDP growth at 4 percent in 2021.[230] Progressive taxation on income was abolished in 2015 and replaced with a flat rate of 16% on gross income, and income taxes on those aged 25 years or younger was abolished entirely in 2021.[231] Hungary paid the last of its IMF loan ahead of schedule in 2013, with the fund closing its Budapest office later that year.[232] Due to the economic impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as well as the shocks of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, Orbán's government has imposed windfall taxes on banks, pharmaceutical companies, and energy companies in order to maintain a government-subsidized cap on utility bills (including gas, electricity, water, district heating, sewage, and garbage collection) which continues into 2023.[233]

Orbán's government has encouraged and provided financial support for the establishment of conservative think-tanks and cultural institutions. The Mathias Corvinus Collegium has purchased stakes in several European universities and has purchased the Modul University in Vienna.[234][235] The thinktank's Brussels branch opened in November 2022.[236] In 2021, Orbán's government passed a bill which privatized 11 Hungarian universities and subsequently were endowed billions of euros in assets from the state budget, as well as real estate and shares in large companies. The government has appointed conservatives to the supervisory boards of these universities.[237]

As part of a drive to "re-Christianize" the country, his government has privatised many previously state-run schools and enlisted Christian churches to provide education, introduced religion classes into the national education curriculum, and provided financial support to more Christian schools.[238] The country's kindergarten curriculum was amended to promote "national identity, Christian cultural values, patriotism, attachment to homeland and family".[230] Between 2010 and 2018, the number of Catholic schools increased from 9.4 percent to 18 percent.[239] The government also created the Center for Fundamental Rights (Hungarian: Alapjogokért Központ) in 2013 who describe their mission as "preserving national identity, sovereignty and Christian social traditions".[230] In 2019 the government passed a law taking control of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.[240]

Opposition to immigration, support for higher birth rates

As stated by The Guardian, the "Hungarian government doubled family spending between 2010 and 2019", intending to achieve "a lasting turn in demographic processes by 2030". Orbán has espoused an anti-immigration platform, and has also advocated for increased investment into "Family First". Orbán has disregarded the European Union's attempts to promote integration as a key solution to population distribution problems in Europe. He has also supported investments into countering the country's low birth rates. Orbán has tapped into the "great replacement theory" which emulates a nativist approach to rejecting foreign immigration out of fear of replacement by immigrants. He has stated that "If Europe is not going to be populated by Europeans in the future and we take this as given, then we are speaking about an exchange of populations, to replace the population of Europeans with others." The Guardian stated that "This year the Hungarian government introduced a 10 million forint (£27,000) interest-free loan for families, which does not have to be paid back if the couple has three children."[241]

Democratic backsliding and authoritarianism

Between 2010 and 2020, Hungary dropped 69 places in the Press Freedom Index,[242][243] lost 11 places in the Democracy Index,[244][245] and deteriorated 16 places in the Corruption Perceptions Index.[246][247] In 2019 Freedom House downgraded the country from "free" to "partly free".[248] The V-Dem Democracy indices rank Hungary in 2021 as 96th in its "electoral democracy index" that measures "whether elections were free and fair, as well as the prevalence of a free and independent media", sitting between Benin and Malaysia.[249] Additionally, Freedom House's Nations in Transit 2020 report reclassified Hungary from a democracy to a transitional or hybrid regime.[250] Furthermore, in 2022, the European Parliament stated that "Hungary can no longer be considered a full democracy" and that the country has become an "electoral autocracy".[251]

The late professor of economics at Harvard University, János Kornai, described the evolution of the Hungarian state during Orbán's second premiership as having taken a "u-turn" away from the aim of becoming a market economy based on the rule of law and private ownership and instead beginning the "systematic destruction of the fundamental institutions of democracy".[252]: 34–35  In her 2015 article on Orbán's illiberal democracy, dr. Abby Innes, associate professor of political economy at the London School of Economics simply states that "Hungary can no longer be ranked a democratic country".[253]: 95  Former minister of education, Bálint Magyar, has stated that elections in Hungary under Orbán are undemocratic and "free but not fair", due to gerrymandering, large-scale control over the media, and suspect funding for political campaigns.[254]

In the April 2022 election, Orbán's Fidesz party won 54% of the vote but 83% of the districts, due to gerrymandering, and "other tweaks" to Hungarian electoral rules.[217] According to American journalist and author Andrew Marantz, Orbán passed laws, amended the constitution and "patiently debilitated, delegitimatized, hollowed out" civic institutions such as courts, universities, and the apparatus necessary for free elections that are now controlled by Orbán loyalists.[217] Domination of the public media by Orbán prevents the public from hearing critics' point of view. In 2022, Orbán's opponent was given just five minutes on the national television "to make his case to the voters".[217] Private media outlets like the ATV and RTL, among others, offered playtime for opposition members. An example of the discreet, below-the-radar process of accumulating power by Orbán and his party was the creation of a special police force that started as a small anti-terror unit. The unit grew and became more powerful "bit by bit in disparate clauses buried in unrelated laws". Marantz cites Princeton professor of sociology Kim Lane Scheppele, who contends the unit now has enough power to function "essentially" as Orbán's "secret police".[217]

Hungarian political scientist András Körösényi [hu], using Max Weber's classification, argues that Orbán's rule cannot be described simply by the notions of authoritarianisation or illiberalism. He stresses out that the Orbán regime can be characterised as plebiscitary leadership democracy instead.[255][256][257] In addition, extensive research has been conducted to describe the idea of a "national, sovereign, bourgeois Hungary" stated as the goal of Orbán's rule, is in fact a "political product" of a post-communist mafia state serving to obscure massive corruption and transfers of wealth to those with the right connections.[11][258]

Anti-LGBT policies

Since his election as prime minister in 2010, Orbán has led initiatives and laws to hinder human rights of LGBT+ people, regarding such rights as "not compatible with Christian values".

In 2020, Orbán's government ended legal recognition of transgender people, receiving criticism both in Hungary and abroad.[259]

In 2021 his party proposed legislation to censor any "LGBT+ positive content" in movies, books or public advertisements and to severely restrict sex education in school forbidding any information thought to "encourage gender change or homosexuality". The law has been likened to Russia's restriction on "homosexual propaganda".[260] German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen harshly criticized the law,[261] while a letter from sixteen EU leaders including Pedro Sánchez and Mario Draghi warned against "threats against fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation".[262]

His anti-LGBT+ positions came under more scrutiny after the revelation that one of the European deputies of his party, József Szájer, had participated in a gay sex party in Brussels, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic quarantine restrictions.[263][264][265] Szájer was one of the major architects behind the 2011 Constitution of Hungary. This new constitution has been criticized by Human Rights Watch for being discriminatory towards the LGBT+ community.[266][267]

To coincide with the parliamentary election in the spring of 2022, Orbán announced a four-question referendum regarding LGBTQ issues in education. It did not pass.[268] It came after complaints from the European Union (EU) about anti-LGBTQ discriminatory laws.[269] Human rights groups condemned the referendum as anti-LGBT rhetoric that supported discrimination.[270][271]

On July 22, 2023, in a speech he gave in Romania, Orbán complained that the EU was conducting an "LGBTQ offensive".[272]

Criticism and political techniques

Orbán's critics have included domestic and foreign leaders (including former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,[273] German Chancellor Angela Merkel,[274] and the Presidents of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso,[275] and Jean-Claude Juncker),[276] intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. He has been accused of pursuing anti-democratic reforms; attacking the human rights of the LGBT community; reducing the independence of Hungary's press, judiciary and central bank; amending Hungary's constitution to prevent amendments to Fidesz-backed legislation; and of cronyism and nepotism.[277][278][279]

Orbán was accused of pork barrel politics for building Pancho Aréna, a 4,000-seat stadium in the village in which he grew up, Felcsút, at a distance of some 6 metres (20 ft) from his country house.[280]

Economic cronyism

In the book The Ark of Orbán, Attila Antal wrote that the Orbán system of governance is characterized by the transformation of public money into private money, a system that has built a neo-feudal world of national capitalists, centered on the prime minister and his own family business interests. The largest share of national capitalists is the oligarchy "produced" by the system, such as István Tiborcz, who is closest to Viktor Orbán, and Lőrinc Mészáros and his family.[281]

A 2016 opinion piece for The New York Times by Kenneth Krushel called Orbán's political system a kleptocracy that wipes some of the country's wealth partly into its own pockets and partly into the pockets of people close to it.[282]

A 2017 Financial Times article compared the Hungarian elite under Orbán's government to Russian oligarchs. The article noted that they differ in that Hungary's "Oligarchs" under Orbán largely benefit from EU subsidies, unlike the Russian oligarchs. The article also mentioned the sudden increase in the personal wealth of Orbán's childhood friend, Lőrinc Mészáros, thanks to winning state contracts.[283]

A 2019 New York Times investigation revealed how Orbán leased plots of farm land to politically connected individuals and supporters of his and his party, thereby channeling disproportionate amounts of the EU's agricultural subsidies Hungary receives every year into the pockets of cronies.[284]

Opposition to European integration

Some opposition parties and critics also consider Orbán an opponent of European integration. In 2000, opposition parties MSZP and SZDSZ and the left-wing press presented Orbán's comment that "there's life outside the EU" as proof of his anti-Europeanism and sympathies with the radical right.[285][286] In the same press conference, Orbán clarified that "It will not be a tragedy if we cannot join the EU in 2003. (...) But this is not what we are preparing for. We are trying to urge our integration [into the EU], because it may give a new push to the economy."[287]

Migrant crisis

Hungarian-American business magnate and political activist George Soros criticized Orbán's handling of the European migrant crisis in 2015, saying: "His plan treats the protection of national borders as the objective and the refugees as an obstacle. Our plan treats the protection of refugees as the objective and national borders as the obstacle."[288]

Orbán has been criticized for engineering the 2015 European migrant crisis for his own political gain. Specifically, he has been accused of mistreating migrants within Hungary and later sending many to Western Europe in an effort to stoke far-right sympathies in Western European countries.[289][290] During the crisis, Orbán ordered fences be put up across the Hungarian borders with Serbia and Croatia and refused to comply with the European Union's mandatory asylum quota.[291]

In 2015, The New York Times acknowledged that Orbán's stance on migration is slowly becoming mainstream in European politics. Andrew Higgins interviewed Orbán's ardent critic, György Konrád, who said that Orbán was right and Merkel was wrong concerning the handling of the migrant crisis.[292]

Anti-Soros theme

The Orbán government began to attack George Soros and his NGOs in early 2017, particularly for his support for more open immigration. In July 2017, the Israeli ambassador in Hungary joined Jewish groups and others in denouncing a billboard campaign backed by the government. Orbán's critics claimed it "evokes memories of the Nazi posters during the Second World War". The ambassador stated that the campaign "evokes sad memories but also sows hatred and fear", an apparent reference to the Holocaust. Hours later, Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a "clarification", denouncing Soros, stating that he "continuously undermines Israel's democratically elected governments" and funded organizations "that defame the Jewish state and seek to deny it the right to defend itself". The clarification came a few days before an official visit to Hungary by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.[293] The anti-Soros messages became key elements of the government's communication and campaign since then, which, among others, also targeted the Central European University (CEU).[294][295][296][297]

Journalist Andrew Marantz argues that whether or not Soros was doing any actual harm to Hungary or conservative values, it was important to have a face to attack in a political campaign rather than abstract ideas like "globalism, multiculturalism, bureaucracy in Brussels"; and that this was a strategy explained to Orbán by political consultant Arthur J. Finkelstein.[217]

Accusations of antisemitism

Orbán has been frequently accused of antisemitism, particularly for promoting conspiracy theories about the Jewish philanthropist George Soros.[298][299] In 2022 he was condemned by the International Auschwitz Committee for comments in which he criticised mixing "with non-Europeans". The Committee called on the EU to continue to distance itself from "Orbán's racist undertones and to make it clear to the world that a Mr. Orbán has no future in Europe".[300] Others have rejected the claim that he is antisemitic, arguing that his founding of the Holocaust Memorial Center and Memorial Day for the Hungarian Victims of the Holocaust are evidence of this.[301][302] He has also been accused of rehabilitating antisemitic Hungarian historical figures and of exploiting antisemitism.[303][304][305]

Irredentism and nativism

Orban's policy positions have been reported to lean towards irredentism and nativism.[306][307] He has overseen the transfer of hundreds of millions of Hungarian taxpayer money for the preservation of Hungarian language and monuments and institutions of the Hungarian diaspora, particularly in Romania, irking the Romanian government.[308]

Mixed-race statement

In a speech delivered to the 31st Bálványos Free Summer University and Student Camp in July 2022, Orbán expressed views that were later described as "a pure Nazi text" that was "worthy of Goebbels" by one of his senior advisers, Zsuzsa Hegedűs, in her letter of resignation.[17][309] In the speech, Orbán stated that "Migration has split Europe in two – or I could say that it has split the West in two. One half is a world where European and non-European peoples live together. These countries are no longer nations: they are nothing more than a conglomeration of peoples" and "we are willing to mix with one another, but we do not want to become peoples of mixed-race".[310] The speech drew condemnation from both the Romanian foreign ministry and other European leaders.[16] Two days later, in Wien, Orbán made it clear, he was talking about cultures and not about race. Zsuzsa Hegedüs later, in a letter to Orbán expressed that she is proud of him, and he can count on her like he could in the past 20 years.[311][18]

Later that month, he touched on this criticism in a speech at the CPAC opening in Dallas, saying that "a Christian politician cannot be racist" and calling his critics "simply idiots".[312][220][313] He also attacked billionaire George Soros, former United States President Barack Obama, "globalists", and the United States' Democratic Party.[312]

Personal life

Orbán and his wife, Anikó Lévai, in 2016

Orbán married jurist Anikó Lévai in 1986, they have five children.[314] Their eldest daughter, Ráhel, is married to entrepreneur István Tiborcz [hu], whose company, Elios, was accused of receiving unfair advantages when winning public tenders.[315] (see Elios case [hu]) Orbán's son, Gáspár, is a retired footballer, who played for Ferenc Puskás Football Academy in 2014.[316][better source needed] Gáspár is also one of the founders of a religious community called Felház.[317] Orbán has three younger daughters (Sára, Róza, Flóra) and three granddaughters (Ráhel's children Aliz and Anna Adél; Sára's daughter Johanna).[citation needed]

Orbán is a member of the Calvinist-oriented Hungarian Reformed Church, while his wife and their five children were raised Catholic.[318] His son Gáspár Orbán converted in 2014 to the Faith Church, a Pentecostal denomination, and is currently a minister. He has claimed to have heard from God and to have witnessed miraculous healings.[319]

Football interests

Orbán is very fond of sports, especially of football; he was a signed player of FC Felcsút, and as a result he also appears in Football Manager 2006.[320][321]

Orbán has played football from his early childhood. He was a professional player with FC Felcsút. After ending his football career, he became one of the main financiers of the Hungarian football and his hometown's club, Felcsút FC, later renamed the Ferenc Puskás Football Academy.[322] He had a prominent role in the foundation of Puskás Akadémia in Felcsút, creating one of the most modern training facilities for young Hungarian footballers.[323]

He played an important role in establishing the annually organised international youth cup, the Puskás Cup, at Pancho Aréna, which he also helped build,[324][283] in his hometown of Felcsút. His only son, Gáspár, learned and trained there.[325]

Orbán is said to watch as many as six games a day. His first trip abroad as prime minister in 1998 was to the World Cup final in Paris; according to inside sources, he has not missed a World Cup or Champions League final since.[321]

Then FIFA President Sepp Blatter visited the facilities at the Puskás Academy in 2009. Blatter, together with the widow of Ferenc Puskás, as well as Orbán, founder of the academy, announced the creation of the new FIFA Puskás Award during that visit.[326] He played the minor role of a footballer in the Hungarian family film Szegény Dzsoni és Árnika (1983).[327]

See also


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  2. ^ Dóra Annár (1 December 2020). "Viktor Orbán became the longest-serving prime minister of Hungary". DailyNewsHungary. Retrieved 24 December 2023.
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  7. ^ Autocratization Surges – Resistance Grows: Democracy Report 2020 Archived 30 March 2020 at the Wayback Machine, V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg (March 2020).
  8. ^ Krekó, Péter; Enyedi, Zsolt (2018). "Orbán's Laboratory of Illiberalism". Journal of Democracy. 29 (3): 39–51. doi:10.1353/jod.2018.0043. ISSN 1086-3214. S2CID 158956718. Archived from the original on 30 November 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
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  10. ^ "Hungary Becomes First 'Partly Free' EU Nation in Democracy Gauge". Bloomberg.com. 5 February 2019. Archived from the original on 25 November 2020. Retrieved 23 October 2020.
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  13. ^ "Hungarian PM sees shift to illiberal Christian democracy in 2019 European vote". Reuters. 28 July 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2020. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Saturday that European parliament elections next year could bring about a shift toward illiberal 'Christian democracy' in the European Union that would end the era of multiculturalism.
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  • Lendvai, Paul (2017). Orbán: Hungary's Strongman. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0190874865.
  • Martens, Wilfried (2009). Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome. Springer. ISBN 978-3540892885.
  • Metz, Rudolf, and Daniel Oross. "Strong Personalities’ Impact on Hungarian Party Politics: Viktor Orbán and Gábor Vona." in Party Leaders in Eastern Europe (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2020) pp. 145–170. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-32025-6_7
  • Rydliński, Bartosz. "Viktor Orbán–First among Illiberals? Hungarian and Polish Steps towards Populist Democracy." Online Journal Modelling the New Europe 26 (2018): 95–107. online
  • Szikra D. "Democracy and welfare in hard times: the social policy of the Orban Government in Hungary between 2010 and 2014" Journal of European Social Policy (2014) 24(5): 486–500.
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Further reading

  • Hollós, János – Kondor, Katalin: Szerda reggel – Rádiós beszélgetések Orbán Viktor miniszterelnökkel, 1998. szeptember – 2000. December; ISBN 963-9337-32-3
  • Hollós, János – Kondor, Katalin: Szerda reggel – Rádiós beszélgetések Orbán Viktor miniszterelnökkel, 2001–2002; ISBN 963-9337-61-7
  • A történelem főutcáján – Magyarország 1998–2002, Orbán Viktor miniszterelnök beszédei és beszédrészletei, Magyar Egyetemi Kiadó; ISBN 963-8638-31-1
  • 20 év – Beszédek, írások, interjúk, 1986–2006, Heti Válasz Kiadó, ISBN 963-9461-22-9
  • Egy az ország. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2007. (translated into Polish as Ojczyzna jest jedna in 2009).
  • Rengéshullámok. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2010.
  • Janke, Igor: Hajrá, magyarok! – Az Orbán Viktor-sztori egy lengyel újságíró szemével Rézbong Kiadó, 2013. (English: Igor Janke: Forward! – The Story of Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, German: Viktor Orbán: Ein Stürmer in der Politik).

External links

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by
Preceded by Prime Minister of Hungary
Party political offices
New title President of Fidesz
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Fidesz