Viktor Orbán, then and now, in 1980 and 2022. Source femina.hu.
On the occasion of the parliamentary elections in April 2022, important not only for Hungary, but also for Romania and the European Union, LARICS begins a large series, spread over several episodes, about the political realities in the neighboring country. We will try to understand the recent developments in Hungary, with a focus on the main characters and the team around them. I could only start with the main political figure, Prime Minister Orbán Viktor (LARICS).
Orbán Viktor was born on May 31, 1963, he is 59 years old, in Székesfehérvár, Fejér (somewhere in central Hungary). Of Calvinist religion, although lately he has turned to Catholicism, attracted by the grandeur and the nationalist / imperialist resonance of Catholicism in Hungary (St. Stephen’s Crown, etc.). His parents are Orbán Győző Bálint (entrepreneur, agronomist) and Erzsébet Sípos (special needs education teacher, speech therapist), and his younger siblings: Orbán Győző, Orbán Áron (both entrepreneurs). As a linguistic and psychological curiosity: Győző is the Hungarian equivalent of Victor / Viktor. So old Győző named two of his sons after him!
Orbán Viktor grew up in the rural areas of Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút. In 1986, he married Anikó Lévai (Roman Catholic), a lawyer by profession, and together they have 5 children: Ráhel, Gáspár, Sára, Róza, Flóra. Hobbies: sports, especially football (he played in the Felcsút football team).
In 1981, he graduated from Blanka Teleki High School in Székesfehérvár, where he studied English. From 1981 to 1982, he did his military service, after which he studied law at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, graduating in 1987.
In 1989 he received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation to study Political Science at Pembroke College, Oxford. He didn’t stay long, just a few months, that wasn’t his environment, after which he returned home urgently to deal with … politics.
In June 1989, the current pro-Russian Orbán Viktor gained widespread recognition when he gave a speech at the reburial of former Prime Minister Imre Nagy, leader of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, in which he called for free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Hungary: “If we keep in mind the idea of 1956, we will choose a government that will immediately take over the negotiations on the immediate start of the withdrawal of Russian troops.”(Soviet forces did indeed withdraw until mid-1991).
It would be funny if it weren’t sad. Basically, today, Orbán Viktor has become the opposite of who he was yesterday.
Political career. Three key moments in Hungary’s involution towards “illiberal democracy” under Orbán Viktor
Viktor Orban in 1988, when he founded the FIDESZ party.
On March 30, 1988, he founded the FIDESZ (right-wing) party, in 1990 he became a member of the Hungarian Parliament from that party, and in 1993 he became its leader.
He served as Prime Minister of Hungary for two terms: 1998-2002 and 2010 – present.
Experts in the field believe that in Hungary, the regime change that took place in 1989 and 1990 led to fundamental changes in the political system as well as in the social and economic structure of the country.
1989 – Viktor Orbán makeshis debut on an emerging political scene, when liberalism was in vogue.
Orban and his circle of friends from Fidesz, young, bold, impertinent, with their own style of dress and campaign clips, contrasted with the previous period, that of the Kádár regime. The radicalism of their position prevailed over the manifested liberalism, respectively the style prevailed over the substance. Their image was clearly exaggerated and had something false in it.
The new circumstances allowed him to evolve and gradually reinvent himself at the political level. On the one hand, he denounced the 1994 constitution of a coalition of socialists (former communists) and liberals (former dissidents) as politically and morally scandalous. On the other hand, the December 1993 death of József Antall, former Conservative Prime Minister and founder of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, left the Conservative wing without a leader.
Orbán then demonstrated a political instinct that has since been confirmed. There was an open space within the political spectrum, and as the Forum slowly disintegrated, Orbán and Fidesz sought to fill that gap and redesigned Fidesz as a national and conservative party.
What initially seemed like a small side step was in fact the beginning of a real political shift towards conservatism and nationalism. This twist was initially moderate, then became more and more radical, faithful to the character of Viktor Orbán.
2000 – the ideological reinvention of Viktor Orbán.
At the time, the attention was captured by Orbán’s statement that “unlike what has been circulating everywhere, in 1989 there was no revolution, no rupture, but rather a change of continuity. Everything had to change for everything to stay the same“, he said.
Since 2010, with the second Orbán government coming to power, in the midst of a crisis, Hungarian democracy has fundamentally changed and the standard of living has fallen.
2014 – The “illiberal” turn
Photo: Fareed Rafiq Zakaria, journalist and director at CNN, of Indian origin.
The term “illiberal democracy”, used by Orbán in 2014, has since been widely commented on or criticized. On July 26, 2014, Viktor Orban gives the famous Tusnad speech, where he launches the concept of “illiberalism” (about the Orbán Doctrine and the Tusnad speech, you can watch the series that can be accessed here). The Hungarian prime minister came to Romania after he had just won the Hungarian elections – and unleashed. He announced to the world a new vision for the world of tomorrow, which was changing before our eyes. He explained to us what this looked like and what the major change was. In addition, he showed us how to organize communities more effectively in the “new” world, one in which “former” organizations were not only obsolete and ineffective, but also losers. Viktor Orban wanted to be the prophet and actor of that new world.
Something else is ironical, however. Although he is the politician who contributed the most to the promotion of the notion of “illiberal democracy”- he is not the author of the concept, but Fareed Rafiq Zakaria (CNN journalist), an American of Indian origin. Namely, an immigrant. How ironic for the big Viktor Orban, the nationalist and the hard-fought fighter against immigration, to master the theses of an immigrant, to illustrate the thesis that made him famous….
Authoritarianism is gradually being installed. The authoritarian tendencies of the Orbán regime were highlighted by the way in which the separation of powers in the state was achieved, by the way in which the Constitutional Court was remodeled, the public administration was politicized and the control over the public audiovisual was taken over. In fact, Viktor Orbán’s men came to control the entire Hungarian state.
The “mafia state” and the Orbán regime
Since then, the “crony capitalism” manifested itself increasingly, in direct connection with the political power, defined as “mafia state” by the Hungarian expert Bálint Magyar, in his book “Magyar polyp – A posztkommunista maffiaállam” / Hungarian Octopus – The Post-Communist Mafia State (2013, republished in English in 2016).
”Orbán’s economic patriotism” proved to be similar to a clan system, in which loyalty to the chief predominates.
For example, Simicska Lajos, a Hungarian oligarch in Orban’s close circle, was deprived of preferential public money contracts after he expressed his disagreement with Orban. In 2015, Hungarian publications covered the height of the conflict between the two under the headline “G-Day”, when Simicska stated: “Orbán egy geci” / “Orbán is a scumbag”. “G-Day” comes from the day Simicska declared, “Orban egy geci” / Orban is a scumbag. It was an unprecedented serious public insult addressed to the prime minister from a faithful close associate. That’s what the Hungarian press called this day, as the culmination of their public conflict: “G-nap”.
While in Hungary the concept of “economic patriotism” was advocated in front of international predators installed by social-liberal networks, a system was established in parallel, system in which a dozen oligarchs associated with power circles controlled the companies that received public procurement (urban public lighting, billboard system, road construction materials, etc.). Economy and politics have been interconnected with the center of Viktor Orbán’s corrupt system.
According to sociologist Zoltan Fleck of the University of Budapest, “Orbán understood the dark side of the Hungarian soul well,” so migrant and anti-Soros campaigns were the basis for electoral victories and a constitutional majority, which ensured political hegemony, but, above all, led to the capture of the Hungarian state by entrepreneurs close to Viktor Orbán, who allowed him to perpetuate his rule.
Family or famiglia? Orbán’s network
Father and son
Immoral financial transactions (to say the least) and with the direct involvement of his family have been an integral part of Orbán’s entire career. In 1990, the new Democratic parties ran out of money, and they all received a lot of money to start and carry out their own business. The Fidesz part was half of a very valuable building in the center of the city, which the party sold. From this money, quite fraudulently, several million forints were given to Viktor Orbán’s father, Győző Orbán, who did not have the money he needed in order to buy a state-owned stone quarry, whose administrator was at that time.
As time went on, Orbán’s financial appetite increased. After becoming Prime Minister in 1998, he was in a perfect position to work to gain weight for himself, his friends and family through inside information. He was particularly interested in agricultural land because he knew that landowners would receive substantial EU subsidies in the future.
Prime Minister Orban’s father has become virtually the only supplier of gravel to state-owned companies involved in the construction of government-funded roads. Hungarian journalists have written countless reports showing gravel and concrete building materials from Győző being transported to government projects, most of which were funded by EU funds, such as sewerage and railway construction in Erd, Budapest, Jászberény and Püspökladány. Journalists noticed trucks with the name “Nehéz Kő” delivering large quantities of gravel and construction materials for government projects. The truck company belonged to Áron Orbán (later, it seems, Győző Orbán became the owner), and the journalists showed that the gravel that “Nehéz Kő” was transporting came from Dolomit Kft., Győző Orbán’s company. Dolomit has been active all over the country, but journalists have been particularly interested in a mega-project, the construction of a 53 km railway line between Szántód and Balatonszentgyörgy at an estimated cost of 72.4 billion forints (204 milion EUR).
Orbán family business on an upward trend
The Hungarian publication g7.hu announced on June 4, 2021 that in the last 7 years, the Orbán family has earned 15 billion forints, from extra-salary sources (42 milion EUR). In 2021, the companies of Viktor Orbán’s father, Győző Orbán, presented the economic reports for 2020, which showed that he had a corporate income of about 580 million forints (1 600 000 EUR).
The Orbán family, mainly Győző Orbán, earned tens of millions of forints in 2020 and about 100 million forints in dividends (300 000 EUR).
Although Orbán Viktor’s parents and siblings have owned shares in about a dozen companies over the years, only three of them have become significant sources of income: Dolomit Kőbányászati, Gánt Kő and Nehéz Kő Kft.
The Hungarian investigative journalism center Direkt36 has repeatedly revealed how these companies indirectly obtained public money, being involved, among other things, in the renovation of the South Lake Balaton railway, in the Vértesi Erőmű Ltd. power plant rehabilitation project and in the construction of several sewerage systems in Budapest and Pest County. The largest of the Orbán family companies is, as we have already seen, Dolomit Kft.
The profit of Dolomit Kft. is presented in the graph of companies carrying out quarrying, sand and clay mining activities (as a percentage of profit, as a percentage of sales, in millions of forints per employee).
In 2021, the move of Ráhel Orbán (Viktor Orbán’s daughter) and István Tiborcz (his son-in-law) to settle in Spain caused quite a stir in the Hungarian press and anti-Orbán circles on Facebook. It turned out that, as of the summer of 2020, Tiborcz’s company, BDPST Hotel Management Zrt., has been operating a four-star hotel in Los Alcázares, about 500 km from Marbella, where the family currently lives.
According to the company’s press release, there are plans to further expand in Spain.
Marbella is known as the center of international criminal organizations. In the 1960s, during Spain’s economic boom, the Costa del Sol and its capital, Marbella, became not only a tourist paradise, but also the “southern frontier of organized crime.”
According to a recent article in The Guardian, the Costa del Sol is home to more than 100 criminal organizations that have close ties to Dubai. Recently, the Hungarian press also learned that the hotel bought by Tiborcz in Los Alcázares once belonged to Juan Antonio Roca, a major figure in one of the largest corruption cases in Spain.
Juan Antonio Roca was one of 95 people, including two former mayors and 15 local councilors, accused of involvement in a bribery network. Sentenced to 50 years in prison, after spending nine years behind bars, he was released in February 2019. The hotel purchased by Tiborcz became the property of the Spanish state, which was eager to sell it but did not find a buyer until BDPST Hotel Management Zrt appeared in the landscape.
According to HVG.hu, Tiborcz bought the 84-room hotel for 9.3 million euros, which is considered to be a competitive price, largely due to the collapse of tourism throughout Europe and especially in southern countries, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the BDPST Group also bought the concession for the operation of the nearby underground garage, which was also originally won by Roca in 2002, for a period of 75 years. The price was 800,000 euros.
With money from the Elios business and extensive bank loans, Tiborcz began buying hotels of all kinds. His wife’s friends in the tourism industry have been a huge help, as has Prime Minister Orbán Viktor’s unlimited power.