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The period from 2011 to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus epidemic “has been objectively the country’s most successful decade”, Gergely Gulyás, the Prime Minister’s chief of staff, said in a debate with András Schiffer, the opposition LMP party’s former leader. Gulyás insisted that the Fidesz government, unlike its Socialist-Liberal predecessor, had been building the country in the past decade.
In the joint interview to media outlet Mandiner, Schiffer said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s response to the previous government’s “loss of democratic legitimacy” had been “brutal”, accusing Orbán of abusing his majority and neutralising independent organisations that normally provided checks and balances.
Gulyás dismissed the suggestion that Fidesz’s leadership did not tolerate open and honest internal criticism, saying many of its members freely criticised the party. Meanwhile, he accused the opposition of “hollowing-out” of parliamentary debates, arguing that “these days we can be thankful if the opposition limits itself to just insulting the democratically elected public officials in parliament without actually physically disrupting the session.” Gulyás said the quality of political discourse in Hungary had noticeably deteriorated in the recent period. At the same time, the ruling parties, he insisted, were the ones “most likely to make intellectually worthwhile contributions”. But Schiffer attributed the decline in the quality of debate to how the opposition was being forced always to react to “government propaganda”. “The quality and composition of Hungary’s current opposition [is largely a factor of] the government’s dumbed-down, stupid and extremely aggressive propaganda.” He added, however, that the older opposition parties had failed to examine the reasons why their period in power between 2002 and 2010 had been “such a disaster”.
On the topic of how Hungary is viewed within the European Union, Gulyás attributed what he called “anti-Hungarian sentiment of the Brussels elite” to “Europe’s dominant ideology in the 21st century that can be described as intolerant liberalism”. He said Hungary was fighting to restore the Christian Democratic vision of the bloc’s founding fathers. Schiffer said that while the EU was often right to slam Hungary, the approval of the Sargentini report was not a good example of valid criticism, insisting that the debate on “the rule of law in Hungary” was actually a product of what he called the “new colonisation” of central Europe.