Orbán feisty in first U.S. interview

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán is taking a feisty tone in his first interview with a U.S. journalist.

In a remarkably sassy back-and-forth with Lally Weymouth, Orbán makes no apologies for his party Fidesz or his conduct since Fidesz has taken power in Hungary.  Fidesz holds 263 of the 286 seats in the Hungarian parliament after a landslide win in the 2010 parliamentary elections.

For example, here’s Orbán on revising the Hungarian constitution last year:

Since your party, Fidesz, won a two-thirds majority, you have basically obliterated all checks and balances. Do you agree?
No. The constitution is based on checks and balances. That is a very unfair domestic opinion.

Your critics say you rushed the constitution through without consulting the opposition.
That is factually false. There was a commission created by the parliament. It invited all the parties represented in the parliament——even the opposition—to be part of that process.

Isn’t it fair to say the outcome of the legislation has been to concentrate all power in your hands?
The constitution by itself does not make it possible to concentrate any kind of power.

Here he is on freedom of the press:

Why did you decide there should be a board to control the media? You appoint the head of the media board, and parliament appoints every member of the board. And members stay in power for nine years and cannot be replaced unless there is a two-thirds vote in the parliament.
Everybody agreed that the previous media regulation system collapsed. It was the responsibility for the new parliament to create a system that works. Until the last election, international observers like you admired the Hungarian system because two-thirds majority means consensus. Now that we have a two-thirds majority, it is an accusation….

But is the government acting in an even-handed fashion toward those in the print media that oppose the government? The government gives out advertising to the print media.
The government owns some companies—like an electric company or an oil company—and they run advertising. Try to imagine Hungary as at least as democratic a country as the United States.

More, on the Jacksonian attempts to circumvent the central bank:

You have given [central bank] Gov. Andras Simor a really hard time. He seems like a distinguished civil servant. What’s wrong with him?
“Distinguished” depends on your taste, but he is a good servant. He stays. Nobody would like to push him out. It’s impossible.It sends quite a signal when you cut someone’s salary by 75 percent.
Hungary is a poor country. We decided that regardless what kind of office you have if you are a public servant, you have a salary cap for everybody of 2 million forints, which is 6,000 euro [about $7,800] per month.

There’s much, much more — about gay rights, about abortion, about the perceived crackdown on religion, about other examples of executive overreach, none of which will provide much comfort to onlookers among Hungary’s peers in the European Union and in the United States, already troubled at Hungary’s backsliding from liberal democracy.

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