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Has Viktor Orbán met his match in Péter Márki-Zay?

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By Gábor Tanács
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Has Viktor Orbán met his match in Péter Márki-Zay?
Copyright  euronews

To everyone's great surprise, a non-partisan mayor of a small town has been chosen to challenge Viktor Orban in the 2022 parliamentary elections in Hungary. In the first-ever primary elections in Hungary, he won against candidates like the mayor of Budapest and the vice-president of the European Parliament. The father of seven, who defines himself as a right-winger, conservative and practicing Catholic, has emerged as the candidate of a very broad party alliance, made up of right-wing, left-wing, liberal and green parties. This alliance was in many respects forced upon the opposition by the electoral law passed by Fidesz. In an exclusive interview, we talk to Péter Márki-Zay, mayor of Hódmezővásárhely and the opposition candidate for the prime minister of Hungary, about the 2022 elections.

What does the blue ribbon that you and your supporters wear mean?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"It's the blue ribbon of accountability and anti-corruption. We believe that the biggest problem in Hungary for the last 30 years is that Hungary has become a country without consequences, that in an election here, the real question most of the time is, who is going to steal and how much. We believe that we must now have an election after which no one will steal. Corruption must be abolished and we want a country where corruption is not organised, but fought."

Can this be done within the limits of the rule of law and with a simple majority in parliament?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"It can be done by the rule of law. In fact, Hungary will only be a state governed by the rule of law if we make it so. Of course, we do not consider the current situation within the limits of the rule of law. We have an Attorney General who does not fight corruption but covers up criminals, we have an Attorney General who has been entrenched in power and just last week an amendment to the law further strengthened this, and we certainly consider his appointment, for example, illegitimate, as it served to keep FIDESZ in power, as did many other steps. Under the current Hungarian constitution, and indeed under the old constitution, the pursuit of exclusive power is unconstitutional."

Are you saying that this constitution can be nullified in some way even if you only get a simple majority in parliament? In that case and according to many, it could lead to a civil war situation. Are you not worried about that and what is your response to those concerns?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"First of all, whether something is legal or illegal has nothing to do with civil war because when Fidesz hacked Hungarian democracy and derailed the rule of law in Hungary, there was no civil war. The threat of civil war cannot be the subject of discussion that we must have about the rule of law. And of course, no one wants to override a two-third constitutional majority and its rules with a simple majority, you simply have to proclaim what a Constitutional Court made up entirely of Fidesz appointees has somehow forgotten to say, that these laws are invalid from the moment they are passed."

The country is still quite divided on this issue and if half of the country is called to the streets, wouldn't this cause more trouble than there already is?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"If somebody asks me that, does it mean we should not restore freedom of the press, restore democracy and replace the thieves? The fact that somebody is afraid that Fidesz wants to stay in power by violent means should not be a reason for us to accept a completely illegitimate power in Hungary."

You see no difficulty in the fact that the vast majority of your voters will be left-wing, liberal people, while you are an avowed right-wing conservative politician. How can you keep this alliance together until the election?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"The most important strategic innovation is precisely this. I was able to win in Hódmezővásárhely and the majority of my supporters in Hódmezővásárhely are left-wing people. They have accepted and also experienced several times that with the support of the entire right-wing and left-wing opposition, we can put forward someone who offers an acceptable and credible alternative even to right-wingers and former Fidesz voters, so to defeat Fidesz."

An EU and international issue for Viktor Orbán is migration and the rejection of a common migration policy. What is your position on this issue?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"Fidesz often tries to discredit its opponents and make them the target of hate by saying that they all want to take in migrants, which is clearly not the case. Now the opposition parties have agreed that the border fence will be kept, that the fence is a legitimate tool to control illegal migration. Despite Viktor Orbán's hate campaigns against migrants, which is clearly something we must reject, he has increased the number of migrants admitted as quickly as possible. In Hungary, the number of migrants admitted by Orbán has increased very quickly. In 2019 alone, 55,000 migrants from outside the EU were granted residence permits. But what is particularly outrageous to us, and the new government will immediately review this, is that Orbán and Antal ROGÁN's circle has granted 20,000 migrants residency permits under a resettlement bond scheme and some of these migrants include some who were internationally wanted Islamist terrorists and criminals. The practices that Orban has been pursuing must be stopped and changed in every sense: no hate campaigns, no inhumane conditions for people and families for any reason and at the same time, the criminals and terrorists that Orban has taken in must be removed from the country and the EU."

How would you relate to China and Russia?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"Well, on the one hand with friendship and brotherhood, there's no question about that, and also Western countries and the United States have trade relations with these countries. On the other hand, the big difference is that these countries are pursuing their own national interests in trade relations, while Viktor Orbán is only looking at corruption when he pursues relations and he is betraying his country and the European Union. What we need is an honest leader with integrity, not only for this country but also for the European Union, a leader who will not betray the European Union and NATO for Putin's sake."

There have been similar political stories to yours in the region. There's Klaus Iohannis who became the Romanian president and he was an outsider, there's also a similar story with the Slovak prime minister. But I could also mention Emmanuel Macron, who has successfully created a major party out of France's political centrism. Do you follow any of these and is there anyone you see as a role model?

Péter Márki-Zay, opposition candidate for prime minister, Hungary:

"We follow them all, we are extremely proud when an authoritarian or a corrupt leader falls in any European country. But you have to see that none of these examples were born in an authoritarian regime like Orbán's where freedom of the press has been virtually eliminated, where the judiciary has been completely subordinated to political ends and where, for example, an electoral law can be rewritten in a day, where only one party has passed the electoral law and the constitution, where only one party has representatives in the constitutional court and the media council. What we are seeing here is so authoritarian, so built on propaganda hate campaigns, it's going to be much harder to win here."

To watch the full interview of Péter Márki-Zay, click on the media player above.