HODMEZOVASARHELY, Hungary (AP) — Hungary’s opposition chief desires to revive his nation’s frayed ties with the West — and in addition has a message for American followers of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“Let me state very strongly for all People that to be part of Putin’s fan membership doesn’t make you a conservative,” stated Peter Marki-Zay, a self-described conservative Christian working in opposition to Orban in subsequent yr’s elections, in an interview with The Related Press.
“Orban is betraying Europe, Orban is betraying NATO, Orban is betraying the USA,” he stated.
Marki-Zay, the 49-year-old mayor of the small metropolis of Hodmezovasarhely, is main a various coalition of six opposition events aiming to defeat Hungary’s hard-line chief and his ruling Fidesz celebration in parliamentary elections scheduled for April.
If elected, Marki-Zay says, he’ll reverse the nearer ties Orban has pursued with autocracies in Russia and China, and enhance his nation’s relations with the European Union and different Western allies.
“I nonetheless stand for Western values, and we can not settle for a corrupt thug … who betrays Western values and who’s now a servant of Communist China and Russia,” he stated.
Governing Hungary with a two-thirds majority in parliament since 2010, the right-wing populist Orban and his anti-immigration celebration have dominated the fractured opposition in all subsequent elections, and cemented their energy by means of adjustments to election legal guidelines, stacking establishments with loyalists and dominating giant parts of Hungary’s media.
Whereas Orban’s critics in Europe have warned of an alarming erosion of democracy in Hungary as its relations with EU have frayed, a few of his insurance policies — like his staunch rejection of refugees and beneficiant monetary help to households with kids — have attracted glowing reward from right-wing American commentators.
Fox Information host Tucker Carlson broadcast from Budapest for per week this summer season, and praised Orban’s migration coverage and rejection of the EU’s liberal mainstream. Rod Dreher, senior editor of U.S. publication The American Conservative, spent a number of months in Budapest this yr on a fellowship financed by a right-wing suppose tank near Orban’s authorities.
However Marki-Zay, a religious Catholic with seven kids and a former Fidesz voter himself, says that regardless of Orban’s proclamations of constructing an intolerant “Christian democracy” within the Central European nation, he considers the chief neither a Christian, nor a conservative, nor even a democrat.
“Actual conservatives take into account Christianity to be one thing very a lot (the) reverse” of Orban’s insurance policies, he stated.
Orban’s celebration has accused Marki-Zay of being a left-wing candidate posing as a conservative, a cost stemming from his cooperation with a number of left-of-center events within the opposition coalition.
Final week, Marki-Zay travelled to Brussels the place he met with some key EU figures — spurring additional accusations that he goals to undermine Hungary’s sovereignty in favor of adhering to EU dictates.
A fierce critic of the 27-member bloc, which Hungary joined in 2004, Orban has in contrast EU membership to the Soviet domination Hungary endured for 40 years, and has pursued shut diplomatic and financial ties with China and Russia.
However agreements with these nations on main funding initiatives have each weakened Hungary’s geopolitical place and are available on the expense of Hungarian taxpayers, Marki-Zay says.
He cites for instance a roughly $2.3 billion Chinese language-led challenge to modernize the railway between the capital cities of Hungary and Serbia, a part of China’s Belt and Highway world commerce initiative that’s financed by the Hungarian state primarily from a mortgage from a Chinese language state financial institution.
One other challenge — a no-bid contract awarded to Russia’s state nuclear vitality company Rosatom to broaden a Hungarian nuclear energy plant at an estimated price of over $11 billion — is “in opposition to the nationwide pursuits of Hungary,” he stated.
Sitting in his workplace in Hodmezovasarhely’s metropolis corridor, the candidate wears a blue ribbon on the lapel of his jacket, one thing he stated represents an “anti-corruption struggle” in opposition to the sort of governance that has plagued Hungary since its democratic transition from Communism in 1990.
Hungary has develop into a “nation with no penalties,” he stated, the place corruption “has been completely centralized and it’s completely part of the system. It’s now organized by the federal government itself.”
If elected, Marki-Zay says he’ll instantly be part of the European Public Prosecutors Workplace, an impartial EU anti-fraud and corruption physique, and arrange a home anti-corruption workplace in Hungary.
“Most individuals in Hungary acknowledge that there’s a corruption drawback,” he stated. “I actually hope that within the final 4 years I’ve already confirmed right here in Hodmezovasarhely that not all politicians are corrupt.”
Working as an impartial outsider with no previous ties to Hungary’s liberal opposition events, Marki-Zay has vowed to deal with corruption even-handedly, whether or not it was dedicated by these at present in authorities or by the sooner Socialist-led governments that are actually in opposition. Two of the events in his personal coalition have been related to previous corruption circumstances.
Latest polling reveals the six-party coalition in a good race with Orban and his celebration, suggesting the race would be the closest since Fidesz took energy 11 years in the past.
Nonetheless, Marki-Zay says a media surroundings which favors the ruling celebration and an imbalance in monetary sources will imply elections subsequent yr is not going to be free and truthful.
In an effort to safeguard subsequent yr’s poll, the opposition coalition has launched a marketing campaign to recruit 20,000 civilian vote counters to be current at each polling station within the nation.
Whereas Marki-Zay expects a extremely aggressive marketing campaign, he believes that his conservative bona fides and political outsider standing can mobilize each disaffected Fidesz supporters and undecided voters who’re turned off by corruption.
“We now have to get the reality to even the final home within the final village,” he stated. “We now have to provide them true and credible info that they had been robbed.”