Hungary's Viktor Orban to make 'significant changes' in govt
By PABLO GORONDI
Apr. 10, 2018
BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Newly re-elected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday that "significant changes" will be made in his next government.
"We will not continue governing, but a new government will be formed instead," said Orban, who won a third consecutive term — and fourth overall — in Sunday's parliamentary election. "We don't intend to extend the previous term but instead we will open a new term. Thus, significant changes and modifications can be expected."
Near-complete election results show Orban's Fidesz party winning a supermajority of 134 seats in the 199-seat national assembly. Votes sent by mail from abroad were still being counted and could slightly alter the current result, but the sweeping victory of Orban, Fidesz, and its small ally, the Christian Democratic party, was not in question.
Critics charge Orban with weakening the democratic system of checks and balances, enriching a new oligarch class of cronies with the help of funds from the European Union and greatly concentrating power. Orban is also pursuing his stated goal of turning Hungary into an "illiberal state" modeled on countries like Russia and Turkey.
Orban, however, said the country was a "constitutional democracy" and functioning as such.
"Hungary continues to stand on constitutional foundations," he told reporters. "Within those, we will do everything that serves the interests of the Hungarian people."
Asked about the "Stop Soros" bill meant to restrict the work of civic groups supporting refugees and assist asylum-seekers, Orban said it had been already approved by voters.
The proposal is part of Orban's argument that opposition parties along with the United Nations, the European Union and wealthy philanthropist George Soros want to turn Hungary into an "immigrant country," threatening its security and Christian identity.
"We submitted the bill before the election campaign so voters could make their decision ... knowing our intentions," Orban said. "This has happened, so we feel authorized to pass the law."
Once approved, the laws would force the civic groups — some supported by Soros's Open Society Foundations — to get government permits, and income they receive from abroad would be taxed. Advocacy groups could be banned from going closer than 8 kilometers (5 miles) from Hungary's borders, where asylum-seekers file claims, and foreigners without authorization to help refugees could be banned from Hungary.
Orban also said "favored relations" would continue with Poland and the German region of Bavaria, whose politicians came to Hungary to support his re-election campaign.
"They supported all that we do and they expressed the friendship of the Bavarian and Polish people," Orban continued. "For me, these two relations will be the favored relations in the future."
Some 20 percent of Hungarian exports go to Germany, whose car factories are among the country's biggest investors and employers. Still, relations between Orban and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have been weighed down by their differences over immigration.
Orban is fervently anti-migration and based his re-election campaign on the demonization of the mainly Muslim migrants coming to Europe.
Asked about possible changes in Hungary's policy toward Germany, Orban said: "We would like to establish continually improving relations with every country ... This applies to Germany, too, but I was elected not by the German people but by the Hungarians."
Orban did not directly answer a question about a report from election monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which described campaign rhetoric as "quite hostile and xenophobic." The report noted the overlap between government ads and Fidesz ads that "blurred the line between state and party" and found that state media "clearly favored" the government.
"We are grateful for the observations," he said. "Thank you for the contribution to making political opinion on the Hungarian election. That's fine."