Krisztián Simon: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán builds his politics on pre-existing fears of his society, but he doesn’t shy away from creating new dangers and enemies. Where do the origins of this kind of politics lie?
Zoltán Lakner: Orbán found his way to the long existing Hungarian conservative tradition (the so-called national tradition, which claims an exclusive right to this title) in the second half of the 1990s. This is partly due to ideological changes and partly to political calculations. At this time, Hungary was governed by a Liberal-Socialist coalition, and thus, Orbán realised that in order to gain political success, he had to turn his back on liberalism and transform his party into a nationalist, anti-liberal political force. This already explains some of the fears that he is building on in his rhetoric, as this tradition is suspicious of cosmopolitism, universal human rights, and everything it identifies as contrary to or opposing the national interest, which it traces back to some kind of foreign conspiracy.
Moreover, right-wing thinking is also heavily burdened by the Treaty of Trianon, signed after the end of World War I, which led to Hungary losing two-thirds of its old territory. In Hungary, this national trauma is seen as the most obvious sign that the country is constantly humiliated and the survival of the nation is in danger – and therefore it is usually foreign actors (or their alleged accomplices, the Liberals and the Socialists) who take the blame if something is not going right in Hungary.
By the time Orbán became prime minister in 2010, his rhetoric was built around threats.
In the early 2000s, there was a social-populist turn in Orbán’s politics: after he lost the national election in 2002, he realised that his old rhetoric, which addressed merely the well-off and the middle classes, didn’t reach enough people – there was a need to speak to the marginalised parts of society as well. Although this didn’t…