HUNGARY POLITICS: Viktor Orbán Biography
Viktor Orbán was born on May 31, 1963 in Székesfehérvár. He spent his childhood in Alcsútdoboz, Vértesacsa and Felcsút. In 1977, his family moved to Székesfehervár where he attended the Blanka Teleki High School, from which he graduated in 1981. During 198182, Orbán did his compulsory military service in Zalaegerszeg. Since early childhood, one of his favorite past times has been playing soccer and he has been a member of several different clubs. In 1987, Orbán received his diploma from the ELTE University of Law. From 198789, he lived in Szolnok but commuted to Budapest, where he worked as a sociologist at the Agriculture and Food Industry’s Director Training Institute from November 1987 March 1988.
From April 1988, he was a research fellow at the Central European Research Group sponsored by the Soros Foundation. In 1989, he received a scholarship through the same foundation to study at Pembroke College, Oxford about the history of English liberal political philosophy. In 1983, Viktor Orbán was one of the founding members of the Juridical Sociological Collegium (which was renamed István Bibó Collegium in 1988). With several members of this collegium, Orbán helped establish a journal of sociology entitled “Századvég” and was one of the editors.
On March 30, 1988, he was one of the founders of Federation of Young Democrats Fidesz and from March 1988 October 1989, he acted as spokesperson. In October 1988, at the first Fidesz Congress, he was elected member of the Fidesz national presidency, a function which he held until October 1989. On June 16, 1989, Orbán gave a speech at Hero’s Square on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy, which brought him wide political acclaim. He demanded free elections and the withdrawl of Soviet troops from Hungary. In summer of 1989, he took part in the negotiations at the Opposition Roundtable discussions. Since 1990, Orbán has been a member of Parliament. From May 1990May 1993, he was the Fidesz fraction leader. In May 1993, he was elected President of Fidesz, and later reelected in 1994 and 1995. In 1995, Fidesz modified its name to Fidesz Hungarian Civic Party. Under the direction of Orbán, Fidesz was transformed from a radical student movement into a moderate liberal party. In September 1992, he was voted VicePresident of the Liberal International (LI) and in January of 1993, he was voted a member of the LI’s executive board. After the elections in 1994, he became the chairman of the Parliamentary EU Integration Committee and was vicepresident of the law harmonization subcommittee. In 1996, Orbán was elected president of the national committee of the New Atlantic Initiative. In 1998, Vikor Orbán became Prime Minister in the FideszMPPFKGPMDF coalition government. Prime Minister Orbán is married with four children. His wife is a lawyer.
Viktor Orbán Full Biography
Among those who do not love Viktor Orban are a clutch of leaders of Hungary’s neighbours. He has also been creating jitters in Brussels and elsewhere in the EU with his breezy nationalism. Less surprisingly, he continues to enrage Hungary’s Socialist opposition, as well as the liberals and many of Budapest’s intelligentsia and press, with his ruthless pragmatism mixed with ideological zeal, which they all decry as inimical to Hungary’s unschooled democracy and against the spirit of pluralism and fair play. Across the board, he is often portrayed as clever, tricky, populist—perhaps even a little bit dangerous.
The Romanians have been rattled by Mr Orban’s “status law”, which offers special perks to 2.5m ethnic Hungarians in Romania (and to 2.5m in other countries nearby), so conjuring up, for some, the spectre of irredentism: before 1920, Transylvania, now in western Romania, belonged to Hungary. The Slovaks are no less incensed by the same law as it applies to their ethnic Hungarians. And the Czechs are narked because Mr Orban has implied that the decrees whereby ethnic Germans and Hungarians were expelled from Czechoslovakia and had their property taken after the second world war may need revocation. The Czechs’ leading conservative, Vaclav Klaus, grimly ponders the prospect of a “Berlin-Vienna-Budapest axis” against Prague.
Mr Orban does not seem to mind much. In any event, he is far from friendless abroad. He has a soul-mate in Edmund Stoiber, the Bavarian conservative bidding to be Germany’s chancellor. The Hungarian and Italy’s prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, are pals. Austria’s ruling conservatives were delighted by Mr Orban’s denunciation of the other EU countries’ efforts to ostracise them for taking Jörg Haider’s lot into their coalition two years ago. Conservatives across the continent enjoy Mr Orban’s keenness to poke ex-communists, however repentant, in the eye.
And at home he has much to purr about. True, it was the (ex-communist) Socialists, eager converts to the market, who put the economy on track between 1994 and 1998. But under Mr Orban it has grown faster, on average by 5% a year; unemployment has dipped from 9% to less than 6%, inflation from 16% to less than 7%. Real wages have shot up by more than 17% in four years, the minimum wage by 72% in real terms since 1999. Hungary, with 10m people, has Central Europe’s perkiest economy.
Mr Orban wants his Young Democrats’ Alliance (known by its acronym Fidesz) to be an essentially bourgeois party based on Hungary’s burgeoning new middle class, supported by small farmers, provincial folk and the church. He disparages “the liberal Budapest elite”. Like Mr Stoiber, he is no fully fledged liberal, in economics or social affairs. He lauds competition in business but likes government, especially his own, to interfere quite a lot. He is more protectionist (“patriotic” is the word his party prefers) than his Socialist rivals, far more so than the struggling Free Democrats, Hungary’s purest liberals, who would team up with the Socialists if the left won the election. He is wary of letting foreigners buy land, and gives warning against multinational and foreign domination. He wants Hungary to build up its economic muscle through small and medium-sized family-owned companies and wants to help half a dozen or so Hungarian-owned heavyweights to emerge on the global stage.
But it is Mr Orban’s nationalism—a dirty word for many Central Europeans, not so pejorative in France and Britain—that makes so many people, in and beyond Hungary, twitch. Hence that bad feeling over the status law. For some it raises the Central European ghosts of the past century, when borders and peoples were so bloodily messed about. Mr Orban talks merrily of the “spiritual and cultural reunification of the Hungarian people”, including the 5m in Romania, Slovakia and elsewhere in the region. Transylvania, he says, is “part of Hungary’s living space in the Carpathian Basin”, adding jauntily that once the countries in the area embrace within the EU, then “borders [will] have no importance”. The Brussels worriers have been discomfited, too, by Mr Orban’s apparent decision to enact the status law before discussing it with his neighbours: an “unEuropean” way of behaving. And they are edgy about Mr Orban’s refusal, in the event of a hung parliament, to rule out governing with the support of the anti-Semites of Istvan Csurka’s far-right Justice and Life Party. Many of Hungary’s 100,000 or so Jews, the largest such community in Central Europe, sound nervous.
Nationalism isn’t always malevolent
Worries over the status law, which the Socialists voted for too, may, however, be overblown. Mr Orban felt obliged to calm Romania by offering all its people the three-month work permits that their ethnic-Hungarian compatriots can have in Hungary. Besides, most EU countries give perks (starting with Germany’s acceptance of ethnic-German immigrants) on the basis of blood. The Slovaks have their own status law. Moreover, Hungary was unique in Central Europe in losing two-thirds of its land and one-third of its people after that endlessly reviled Treaty of Trianon of 1920. Why should it not seek, if not to redraw borders, at least to reconnect its brethren, squashed as they have been for centuries between German-speakers and Slavs?
Mr Orban may be an awkward neighbour and a rough opponent. He may prove a tricky European. But he is an able leader of a new breed of Central Europeans for whom joining the EU is mainly a matter of self-interest; “ever closer union” in politics is not their ideal. Brussels bigwigs are rightly warier of telling such people what to do. They may even suck their teeth and shut their eyes if horrid Mr Csurka helps keep Mr Orban in power.
Quick Facts About Viktor Orbán
- Alcsútdoboz, 31 May, 1963.
- Married, five children.
- 2010- Prime Minister
- 2006 Honorary citizenship from Esztergom
- 2003- Chairman of Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union.
- 2002 Vice-chairman of the European People’s Party,
- 2001 Freedom Award of the American Enterprise Institute and the New Atlantic Initiative, Franz-Josef Strauß award granted by the Hanns Seidel Foundation
- 1998-2002 Prime Minister
- 1993 Chairman of Fidesz
- 1989 Member of the delegation to the Opposition Roundtable
- 1988 Founding member of the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz)
- Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest at the Faculty of Law (1987)
– Viktor Orbán Biography (Viktor Orbán / Economist)