BUDAPEST, Hungary — In his victorious campaign to safe a 3rd consecutive time period as prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orban had a transparent, pressing message: The nation was in danger from a world cabal seeking to undermine its sovereignty, and it might be overrun with migrants if he was not elected.
With his social gathering firmly accountable for this Central European nation, Mr. Orban says it’s time to take that marketing campaign continental. On Thursday, in his first tackle to Parliament in his new time period, he styled himself because the chief of a motion to reform the European Union and as defender of the sovereign rights of its member nations.
“Now we will be hunting for big game,” mentioned Mr. Orban. He offered a imaginative and prescient for Europe that stood in stark distinction to the one embraced by Western leaders like President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, with their acceptance of political and ethnic pluralism, dissent and pretty excessive ranges of migration from Asia and Africa and the Middle East.
“We need to say it out loud because you can’t reform a nation in secrecy: The era of liberal democracy is over,” Mr. Orban mentioned. “Rather than try to fix a liberal democracy that has run aground, we will build a 21st-century Christian democracy.”
He made no point out of the Hungarian-American financier George Soros, whom he demonized almost day by day through the marketing campaign, or of laws aimed squarely at establishments related to Mr. Soros. The legal guidelines are nonetheless more likely to be enacted in some type, in accordance with analysts, however there isn’t any rush, as Mr. Orban made clear in his remarks.
In energy since 2010, he confidently urged that he deliberate to guide the nation till a minimum of 2030.
As lawmakers filed into the majestic Parliament constructing beside the Danube for his or her first gathering since final month’s election, passing the Holy Crown of Hungary, worn by monarchs for greater than eight centuries, as a string quartet performed, the occasion felt extra like a coronation than an inauguration.
While populist leaders in different nations look to Mr. Orban’s political success as inspiration — success that critics say was constructed on undermining the traditional checks and balances important to a wholesome democracy — apprehensive European Union leaders in Brussels have moved nearer to tying the distribution of bloc funds to points surrounding the essential rule of law.
Mr. Orban contended in an area radio interview that Hungary has a “moral duty” to refuse to soak up refugees or asylum seekers as a part of any European quota system — setting the stage for yet one more bruising battle with Brussels.
“In Brussels now, thousands of paid activists, bureaucrats and politicians work in the direction that migration should be considered a human right,” Mr. Orban mentioned. “That’s why they want to take away from us the right to decide with whom we want to live. It’s my personal conviction that migration leads in the end to the destruction of nations and states.”
“We need the union; the union needs us,” Mr. Orban acknowledged. “We are ready to be reformers in the changes that the E.U. can’t avoid.”
In a mirrored image of his dominance domestically, he mentioned nothing about his social gathering’s legislative agenda.
“In 2014, the message was ‘Anything can happen,’ ” mentioned Edit Zgut, an analyst at Political Capital, a analysis group based mostly in Budapest. “Now the message is ‘I can do what I want.’ ”
Stefano Bottoni, a senior fellow on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the creator of “Long Awaited West: Eastern Europe since 1944,” mentioned that Mr. Orban, having secured his place in Hungary, needed to play on a bigger stage.
“He wants to represent and give voice to a sovereign Europe, a European Union of nation-states,” Mr. Bottoni mentioned.
In order to try this, he should stay a part of the European People’s Party, the continental alliance of center-right events, and affect it from inside. There are already indicators that he’s adjusting his rhetoric, if not his agenda.
It was Mr. Orban who coined the phrase “illiberal democracy” to explain his authorities. Now, he has a unique method of framing points, co-opting the time period “Christian democracy,” which has lengthy been used to explain Europe’s dominant center-right political ideology.
For generations, Christian democratic events, notably in Germany and Italy, have blended assist for free-market economics and reasonably conservative social insurance policies with left-leaning stances on points like labor rights and the welfare state.
Mr. Orban is framing Christian democracy as one thing totally different, a bulwark in a conflict of civilizations, with Muslim migrants threatening Christianity and Christian values. His critics say he’s hijacking the time period to proceed a campaign built on fear.
Michael Ignatieff, the president of Central European University in Budapest, mentioned that Mr. Orban had succeeded in making himself a significant participant in Europe — a exceptional achievement for the chief of a nation of round solely 10 million individuals.
“Is there a larger project in which he can shape Europe as a whole?” he requested. “I don’t know if he is a grand strategist or just a power player.”
It just isn’t an educational query for Mr. Ignatieff, since the fate of his university now rests with Mr. Orban. The college was based in 1991 with an funding by Mr. Soros, whom Mr. Orban has accused of all types of nefarious habits geared toward undermining Hungarian independence.
Under present legislation, the college, which has the assist of the United States authorities and highly effective figures within the European People’s Party, won’t be allowed to just accept new college students after Jan. 1, 2019. Unless an settlement is reached, it will likely be compelled to shut.
Whatever Mr. Orban’s final objectives, there may be no use for him to hurry. The political opposition is now almost an afterthought. Opposition events didn’t unify earlier than their election, permitting Mr. Orban’s Fidesz social gathering and its coalition associate, the Christian Democrats, to win a two-thirds majority.
One of Hungary’s oldest newspapers — one of many few crucial voices in a rustic the place Mr. Orban and his allies management a lot of the information media — closed in April, when its chief monetary backer pulled out.
Mr. Orban has mentioned he plans to impose a 25 p.c tax on any foreign-funded group that helps migration — a transfer that might make it almost unattainable for some organizations to proceed working.
University professors from 28 nations have signed a letter calling on the federal government to not take additional motion in opposition to these teams, and interesting to the European Union to “immediately take action to prevent this flagrant human rights violation from happening on its own territory.”
Janos Fonagy, a Fidesz member of Parliament, mentioned it might quickly go “some constitutional amendments” however individuals shouldn’t be involved.
“There is no need to fear,” he mentioned. “Those that are afraid don’t know what is happening here.”
Outside Parliament, protesters gathered this week for what might need been their final likelihood to make their voices heard earlier than lawmakers bought busy fulfilling the Orban agenda.
The temper was decidedly totally different from that within the first weeks after the election, when some 100,000 individuals took to the streets to protest their new authorities. The current crowds had been smaller — law enforcement officials outnumbered demonstrators — and their chants much less full-throated. A way of urgency appeared to get replaced by resignation.
“Our spirit has been broken,” mentioned Laszlo Horvath, a 29-year-old organizer. “What can we do?”
As night fell and the demonstration bought underway, the skies opened up. Pouring rain and chunks of hail despatched protesters scrambling for canopy.
By the time the skies cleared, just some dozen individuals had been left, shouting into the evening.