Hungarian opposition leader vows to restore Western alliances
HODMEZOVASARHELY – The Hungarian opposition leader wants to restore his country’s strained relations with the West – and he also has a message for American admirers of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“Let me make a strong statement to all Americans that being part of Putin’s fan club does not make you conservative,” Peter Marky Zay, who described himself as a conservative Christian running against Urban in next year’s election, said in an interview. With The Associated Press.
“Urban betrays Europe, Orban betrays NATO, and Urban betrays the United States,” he said.
Marke Zay, the 49-year-old mayor of the small town of Hodmzovasarhli, is leading a diverse coalition of six opposition parties with the goal of defeating the hard-line Hungarian leader and his ruling party Fidesz in parliamentary elections scheduled for April.
Marky Zee says that if elected, it would reverse Orban’s closer ties with authoritarian regimes in Russia and China, and improve his country’s relations with the European Union and other Western allies.
He said, “I still support Western values, and we cannot accept a corrupt thug… who betrays Western values and is now a servant of communist China and Russia.”
Ruling Hungary by a two-thirds majority in parliament since 2010, right-wing populist Orbán and his anti-immigration party have dominated the fractured opposition in all subsequent elections, consolidating their power through changes to election laws, stacking institutions with loyalists and dominating large parts of the Hungarian media.
While Orbán’s critics in Europe have warned of the alarming erosion of democracy in Hungary as its relations with the European Union erode, some of his policies – such as his vehement rejection of refugees and generous financial support for families with children – have drawn praise from the right-wing American commentator.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson broadcast from Budapest for a week this summer, praising Orbán’s immigration policy and rejecting the EU’s liberal mainstream. Rod Dreherr, senior editor of the American magazine The American Conservative, spent several months in Budapest this year on a fellowship funded by a right-wing think tank close to Orbán’s government.
But Marky Z, a devout Catholic with seven children and a former voter in Fides himself, says that despite Orban’s declarations of building an illiberal “Christian democracy” in the central European country, he considers the leader to be neither Christian, nor conservative, nor even democrat.
“True conservatives consider Christianity to be very much[the opposite]” of Orbán’s policies, he said.
The Urban Marquis party has accused Zay of being a left-wing candidate masquerading as conservative, a charge stemming from his collaboration with several center-left parties in the opposition coalition.
Last week, Marky Zee traveled to Brussels where he met some of the EU’s key figures – fueling further accusations that he aims to undermine Hungary’s sovereignty in favor of sticking to EU dictates.
A fierce critic of the 27-member bloc that Hungary joined in 2004, Orbán has compared EU membership to the 40-year Soviet hegemony that has plagued Hungary, and has forged close diplomatic and economic ties with China and Russia.
Marky Zay says that agreements with those countries on major investment projects have weakened Hungary’s geopolitical position and come at the expense of the Hungarian taxpayer.
He cites as an example a China-led project of about $2.3 billion to modernize the railways between the capitals of Hungary and Serbia, which is part of China’s “Belt and Road” global trade initiative funded mainly by the Hungarian state with a loan from a Chinese state. bank.
He said another project – a no-bid contract awarded to Russia’s nuclear power company Rosatom to expand a Hungarian nuclear power plant at an estimated cost of more than $11 billion – “contradicts Hungary’s national interests”.
Seated in his office in Hodmezovasarhely City Hall, the candidate wears a blue ribbon on the lapel of his jacket, which he said represented a “battle against corruption” against the kind of governance that has plagued Hungary since its democratic transition from communism in 1990.
He said Hungary had become “a country without consequences”, where “corruption is completely centralized and is part of the system. It is now organized by the government itself.”
If elected, Marke Zee says he will immediately join the European Prosecutor’s Office, the European Union’s independent body against fraud and corruption, and set up a local anti-corruption office in Hungary.
“Most people in Hungary are aware that there is a corruption problem,” he said. “I really hope I’ve already demonstrated here in Hodmzovasarhly that not all politicians are corrupt.”
As an independent outsider with no previous ties to Hungary’s liberal opposition parties, Marke Z. has pledged to treat corruption equally, whether committed by those currently in government or by previous socialist-led governments now in opposition. Two parties in his coalition were linked to previous corruption cases.
Recent polls show the six-party alliance in a tough race with Orbán and his party, suggesting the race will be the closest since Fidesz came to power 11 years ago.
However, Markie Zay says a media environment that favors the ruling party and an imbalance in finances will mean that elections next year will not be free and fair.
In an effort to preserve next year’s elections, the opposition coalition launched a campaign to recruit 20,000 civilian vote counters to be present at every polling station in the country.
While Marky Z. anticipates a highly competitive campaign, he believes his conservative goodwill and foreign political standing can mobilize disaffected Fides supporters and undecided voters who have been halted by corruption.
“We have to get the truth to the last house in the last village,” he said. “We have to give them real and reliable information that they have been robbed.”
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