Viktor Orbán

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The native form of this personal name is Orbán Viktor. This article uses the Western name order.
Viktor Orbán
Viktor Orbán (2013).jpg
Prime Minister of Hungary
Assumed office
29 May 2010
President László Sólyom
Pál Schmitt
László Kövér (Acting)
János Áder
Deputy Zsolt Semjén
Tibor Navracsics (2010–2014)
Preceded by Gordon Bajnai
In office
6 July 1998 – 27 May 2002
President Árpád Göncz
Ferenc Mádl
Preceded by Gyula Horn
Succeeded by Péter Medgyessy
Member of the National Assembly
Assumed office
2 May 1990
Personal details
Born Viktor Mihály Orbán
(1963-05-31) 31 May 1963 (age 52)
Székesfehérvár, Hungary
Political party Fidesz
Spouse(s) Anikó Lévai (1986–present)
Children Ráhel
Alma mater Eötvös Loránd University
Pembroke College, Oxford
Religion Calvinism
Website Official website

Viktor Mihály Orbán[1] (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈorbaːn ˈviktor]; born 31 May 1963) is the Prime Minister (Miniszterelnök) of Hungary and the president of the national conservative ruling party Fidesz. He was a vice chairman in the Liberal International from 1992 to 2000, a Vice President in the European People's Party from 2002 to 2012 and the Prime Minister of Hungary from 1998 to 2002. Since 2010, Orbán has been the Prime Minister of Hungary with a two-thirds majority of the seats in the Parliament of Hungary, which his party received in both the 2010 and the 2014 elections. After a 2015 by-election, the party lost its two-thirds supermajority needed for changing the Constitution, while still retaining a simple majority.[2]


Viktor Mihály Orbán was born on 31 May 1963 in Székesfehérvár and spent his childhood in two nearby villages, Alcsútdoboz and Felcsút. In 1977 his family moved back to Székesfehérvár.

In 1981, he graduated from secondary school (Blanka Teleki High School of Székesfehérvár), where he studied English. In the following two years he completed his military service, then studied law at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. He wrote a master's thesis on the Polish Solidarity movement.[3] After graduating in 1987, he lived in Szolnok for two years, commuting to Budapest where he had a job as a sociologist at the Management Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.[4]

In 1989, Orbán received a scholarship from the Soros Foundation and spent four months in Oxford, England, where he studied at Pembroke College, Oxford University.[5] His personal tutor in politics was Zbigniew Pelczynski.[6] In January 1990, he left Oxford and returned to Hungary to win a seat in Hungary's first post-communist parliament.

Orbán is married to jurist Anikó Lévai. The couple has five children.[7] He is a Calvinist, while his wife is a Roman Catholic.[8] He is very fond of sports, especially of football; he was a signed player of the Felcsút football team, and as a result he also appears in Football Manager 2006.[9]

Political career[edit]

Viktor Orbán in 2010

At the age of 14 and 15, he was a secretary of the communist youth organisation (KISZ) of his secondary grammar school (KISZ membership was mandatory for university admittance).[10][11] In 1988, Orbán was one of the founding members of Fidesz (an acronym for Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége, English: Alliance of Young Democrats). The first members were mostly students who opposed the Communist regime. On 16 June 1989, Orbán gave a speech in Heroes' Square, Budapest, on the occasion of the reburial of Imre Nagy and other national martyrs of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. In his speech he demanded free elections and the withdrawal of Soviet troops. The speech brought him wide national and political acclaim. In summer 1989 he took part in the Opposition Roundtable.[12]

Three years later, he became leader of Fidesz. Under his leadership, Fidesz transformed from a radical student organization to a center-right people's party.[citation needed] In September 1992, he was elected vice chairman of the Liberal International. In November 2000, however, Fidesz left the Liberal International and joined the European People's Party. During the time, Orbán worked hard to unite the center-right parties in Hungary. At the EPP's Congress in Estoril in October 2002, he was elected Vice President.[13]

First premiership (1998–2002)[edit]

In 1998, Orbán formed a successful coalition with the Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) and the Independent Smallholders, Agrarian Workers and Civic Party (FKGP) and won the 1998 parliamentary elections with 42% of the national vote.[13] Thus, Viktor Orbán became the second youngest Prime Minister of Hungary at 35 (after András Hegedüs), serving between 1998 and 2002.[14]

Internal affairs[edit]

The new government immediately launched a radical reform of state administration, reorganizing ministries and creating a super-ministry for the economy. In addition, the boards of the social security funds and centralized social security payments were dismissed. Following the German model, Orbán strengthened the prime minister's office and named a new minister to oversee the work of his Cabinet.[15] In the process thousands of civil servants were replaced (no distinction is made between political and civil servant posts, resulting in a strong "winner takes all" practice). The overall direction was towards centralized control.

Viktor Orbán with Tamás Deutsch in 2000

Despite vigorous protests from the opposition parties,[16][17][18] in February the government decided that plenary sessions of the unicameral National Assembly would be held only every third week.[19] As a result, according to opposition arguments, parliament's legislative efficiency and ability to supervise the government were reduced.[20] In late March the government's attempt to replace the National Assembly rule calling for a two-thirds majority vote with a simple majority, but this was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.[21]

The year saw only minor changes in top government officials. Two of Orbán's state secretaries in the prime minister's office had to resign in May because of their implication in a bribery scandal involving the U.S. military manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp. In advance of bids on a major jet-fighter contract, the two secretaries, along with 32 other deputies of Orbán's party, had sent a letter to two U.S. senators to lobby for the appointment of a Budapest-based Lockheed manager to be the U.S. ambassador to Hungary.[22] On 31 August the head of the Tax Office also resigned, succumbing to protracted attacks by the opposition on his earlier, allegedly suspicious, business dealings. The tug-of-war between the Budapest city council and the government continued over the latter's decision in late 1998 to cancel two major urban projects: the construction of a new national theatre[23] and of the fourth subway line.

Relations between the Fidesz-led coalition government and the opposition worsened in the National Assembly, where the two seemed to have abandoned all attempts at consensus-seeking politics. The government pushed to swiftly replace the heads of key institutions (such as the Hungarian National Bank chairman, the Budapest City Chief Prosecutor and the Hungarian Radio) with partisan figures. While the opposition attempted to resist, e.g. by delaying their appointing of members of the supervising boards, the government simply ignored it and ran the institutions without the stipulated number of directors. In a similar vein Orbán failed to show up for question time in parliament, for periods of up to 10 months. His statements of the kind that "The parliament works without opposition too..." also contributed to the image of an arrogant and aggressive governance.[24]

A later report in March by the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists criticized the Hungarian government for improper political influence in the media as the country's public service broadcaster teetered close to bankruptcy.[25]

Numerous political scandals during 2001 led to a de facto, if not actual, breakup of the coalition that held power in Budapest. A bribery scandal in February triggered a wave of allegations and several prosecutions against the Independent Smallholders' Party (FKGP). The affair resulted in the ousting of József Torgyán from both the FKGP presidency and the top post in the Ministry of Agriculture. The FKGP disintegrated and more than a dozen of its MPs joined the government faction.[26]


Orbán's economic policy was aimed at cutting taxes and social insurance contributions over four years while reducing inflation and unemployment. Among its first measures the new government abolished university tuition fees and reintroduced universal maternity benefits. The government announced its intention to continue the Socialist-Liberal stabilization program and pledged to narrow the budget deficit, which had grown to 4.5% of the GDP.[27] The previous Cabinet had almost completed the privatization of government-run industries and had launched a comprehensive pension reform. The Socialists had avoided two major socioeconomic issues, however – reform of the health care and the agricultural system, these remained to be tackled by Orbán's government.

Economic successes included a drop in inflation from 15% in 1998 to 10.0% in 1999, 9.8% in 2000 and 7.8% in 2001. GDP growth rates were fairly steady: 4.4% in 1999, 5.2% in 2000, and 3.8% in 2001. The fiscal deficit fell from 3.9% in 1999, to 3.5% in 2000 and 3.4% in 2001 and the ratio of the national debt was reduced to 54 percent of GDP.[27] Under the Orbán cabinet there were realistic hopes that Hungary would be able to join the Eurozone by 2009. However, negotiations for entry into the European Union slowed in the fall of 1999 after the EU included six more countries (in addition to the original six) in the accession discussions. Orbán repeatedly criticized the EU for its delay. As of Q1 2012, Hungary still does not meet the criteria for joining the Eurozone.

Mikuláš Dzurinda, Viktor Orbán and Günter Verheugen open the Mária Valéria Bridge across the Danube connecting the Slovak town of Štúrovo with Esztergom in Hungary.

Orbán also came under criticism for pushing through an unprecedented two-year budget and for failing to curb inflation, which only dropped a half point, from 10% in 1999 to 9.5% in 2000, despite the tight monetary policy of the Central Bank. Investments, however, continued to grow.[28]

Foreign policy[edit]

In March 1999, after Russian objections were overruled, Hungary joined NATO along with Czech Republic and Poland.[29] This ended Hungarian efforts to gain security in the post-communist Europe. The Hungarian membership to NATO demanded its involvement in Yugoslavia's Kosovo crisis and modernization of its army. NATO membership also gave a blow to the economy because of a trade embargo imposed on Yugoslavia.[30]

Hungary attracted international media attention during the year for its passage of the s.c. "status law" concerning estimated three-million-strong ethnic Hungarian minorities in neighbouring Romania, Slovakia, Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The law was aimed at providing education and health benefits as well as employment rights to those, and was said to heal the negative effects of the disastrous 1920 Trianon Treaty. Governments in neighbouring states, particularly Romania, claimed to be insulted by the law, which they saw as an interference in their domestic affairs. The proponents of the status law countered, that several countries criticizing the law have themselves similar constructs to provide benefits for their own minorities. Romania acquiesced after amendments following a December 2001 agreement between Orbán and Romanian prime minister Adrian Năstase;[31] Slovakia accepted the law after further concessions made by the new government after the 2002 elections.[32]

Orbán with George W. Bush in the White House (2001).

2002 parliamentary election[edit]

The level of public support for political parties generally stagnated, even with general elections coming in 2002. Fidesz and the main opposition Hungarian Socialist Party ran neck and neck in the opinion polls for most of the year, both attracting about 26% of the electorate. According to a September 2001 poll by the Gallup organization, however, support for a joint Fidesz – Hungarian Democratic Forum party list would run up to 33% of the voters, with the Socialists drawing 28% and other opposition parties 3% each.[33] Meanwhile, public support for the FKGP plunged from 14% in 1998 to 1% in 2001. As many as 40% of the voters remained undecided, however. Although the Socialists had picked their candidate for prime minister — former finance minister Péter Medgyessy — the opposition largely remained unable to increase its political support.

The dark horse of the election was the radical nationalist Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP), with its leader István Csurka's radical rhetoric. MIÉP could not be ruled out as the key to a new term for Orbán and his party, should they be forced into a coalition after the 2002 elections.

The elections of 2002 were the most heated Hungary had experienced in more than a decade, and an unprecedented cultural-political division formed in the country. In the event, Viktor Orbán's group lost the April parliamentary elections to the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party, which set up a coalition with its longtime ally, the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats. Turnout was a record-high 73.5%.

Beyond these parties, only deputies of the Hungarian Democratic Forum made it into the National Assembly. The populist Independent Smallholders' Party and the right Hungarian Justice and Life Party (MIÉP) lost all their seats. The number of political parties in the new assembly was therefore reduced from six to four.

MIÉP challenged the government's legitimacy, demanded a recount, complained of election fraud, and generally kept the country in election mode until the October municipal elections. The socialist-controlled Central Elections Committee ruled that a recount was unnecessary, a position supported by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose only substantive criticism of the election conduct was that the state television carried a consistent bias in favour of Fidesz.[34]

In opposition (2002–2010)[edit]

Orbán was awarded the Freedom Award of the American Enterprise Institute and the New Atlantic Initiative (2001), the Polak Award (2001), the Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit (2001), the "Förderpreis Soziale Marktwirtschaft" (Price for the Social Market Economy, 2002) and the Mérite Européen prize (2004). In April 2004. he was awarded the Papal Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.

In the 2004 European Parliament election, the ruling Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) was heavily defeated by the opposition conservative Fidesz. Fidesz gained 47.4% of the vote and 12 of Hungary's 24 seats.

Orbán and Hans-Gert Pöttering in 2006.

Some[who?] consider[citation needed] the election of Dr. László Sólyom as the new President of Hungary to be the supernumerary fulcrum of the party. Sólyom was endorsed by Védegylet, an NGO consisting of people from the whole political spectrum. Sólyom's activity does not entirely overlap with the conservative ideals and he championed for elements of both political wings with a selective, but conscious choice of values.[35]

Orbán and Romanian President Traian Băsescu in 2008.

Orbán was the Fidesz candidate for the parliamentary election in 2006. Fidesz and its new-old candidate failed again to gain a majority in this election, which initially put Orbán's future political career as the leader of Fidesz in question.[36] However, on fighting with socialist-liberal coalition, Orbán's position has been solidified again, and he was elected president of Fidesz yet again for another term in May 2007.[37]

On 17 September 2006, an audio recording surfaced from a closed-door Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) meeting which was held on 26 May 2006, in which Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány made a speech, notable for its obscene language. On 1 November, Orbán and his party announced their plans to stage several large-scale demonstrations across Hungary on the anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the 1956 Revolution. The events were intended to serve as a memorial to the victims of the Soviet invasion and a protest against police brutality during the 23 October unrest in Budapest. Planned events included a candlelight vigil march across Budapest. However, the demonstrations were small and petered out by the end of the year.[38] The new round of demonstrations expected in the spring of 2007 did not materialize.

On 1 October 2006, Fidesz won the municipal elections, which counterbalanced the MSZP-led government's power to some extent. Fidesz won 15 of 23 mayoralties in Hungary's largest cities—although its candidate narrowly lost the city of Budapest to a member of the Liberal Party—and majorities in 18 out of 20 regional assemblies.[39][40]

A referendum on revoking government reforms which introduced doctor visit fees paid per visitation and medical fees paid per number of days spent in hospital as well as tuition fees in higher education took place in Hungary on 9 March 2008. The Hungarian people usually call this popular vote the social referendum.

The referendum was initiated by opposition party Fidesz against the ruling MSZP. The procedure for the referendum started on 23 October 2006, when Orbán announced they would hand in seven questions to the National Electorate Office, three of which (on abolishing co-payments, daily fees and college tuition fees) were officially approved on 17 December 2007 and called on 24 January 2008. It was assumed likely that the referendum will pass, but it is uncertain whether turnout will be high enough to make it valid;[41] polls indicated about 40% turnout with 80% in favour of rescinding the three reforms.[42]

In the 2009 European Parliament election, Fidesz won by a large margin, garnering 56.36% of votes and 14 of Hungary's 22 seats.[43]

Second, third premiership from 2010[edit]

Press conference following the meeting of leaders of Visegrád Group, Germany and France, 6 March 2013

During the April 2010 parliamentary elections Orbán's party won 52.73% of the popular vote, with two-thirds majority of seats, which gave Orbán enough authority to change the Constitution.[44] As a result, Orbán's government added an article in support of traditional marriage in the constitution, and a controversial electoral reform which lowered the number of seats in the Parliament of Hungary from 386 to 199.[45]

In his second term as Prime Minister, he garnered controversy for his statements against liberal democracy. He also garnered controversy when he proposed an "internet tax", and because of his perceived corruption.[46] His second premiership has seen numerous protests against his government, including one in Budapest in November 2014 that protested a proposed "internet tax."[47]

In terms of domestic legislation, Orbán and his government have implemented a flat tax on personal income. This tax is set at 16%.[48] Orbán has labeled his government as a "pragmatic" one, citing restrictions on early retirement in the police force and military, making welfare more transparent, and a central banking law that "gives Hungary more independence from the European Central Bank." [49]

After the 2014 parliamentary election, Fidesz won a majority, garnering 133 of the 199 seats in the National Assembly.[50] While he won a large majority, he garnered 44.54% of the national vote, down from 52.73% in 2010.

Orbán ordered the erection of the Hungary-Serbia barrier to block entry of illegal immigrants during the 2015 European migrant crisis[51] so that Hungary would be able to register all the migrants arriving from Serbia, which is the country's responsibility under the Dublin Regulation, a European Union law.


"Hungarians won’t live according to the commands of foreign powers," Orbán told the crowd at Kossuth square, 15 March 2012

Orbán has been described in the media as right-wing and populist.[52][53][54] In January 2007 The Economist criticised what it calls his "cynical populism and mystifyingly authoritarian socialist-style policies".[55]

In 2000 a reporter asked Orbán the reason he was working on Hungary's fast accession to the European Union. Orbán answered "As of now we are not members of the union and as we can see there's life outside the EU. But that's not what we're working for. We're trying to make the accession fast because it may boost the growth of Hungary's economy". Orbán's opposition's parties (MSZP and SZDSZ) and their media took Orbán's sentence "there's life outside the EU" out of context and called Orbán an anti-European politician who supports the radical right-wing's opinion.[56]

In 2006 during an international conference Orbán stated that the European Union shouldn't give any moral help to the Hungarian MSZP-SZDSZ government due to their "lies and cheats" (reflecting to Ferenc Gyurcsány's speech in Balatonőszöd in May 2006). Many government politicians said Orbán attacked his own country and called him a traitor of his homeland. Orbán denied he was talking about money in his speech. He answered: "If, after all, you still stick to it I mention that the European Union does not provide any kind of aid for Hungary, you are misunderstanding the situation. That European Union funding is not an aid, that was the Comecon, my dear Communist friends, the Comecon, it was even called that way: Council of Providing Aid. This is not that, this is the European Union, where we have rights and we are exercising our rights within the European Union. This money is due to us, do you understand? We did not receive it as a support or aid, we have a right to it." [57]

José Manuel Barroso, Stavros Lambrinidis, and Orbán in January 2011

In 2007 Orbán's party was accused of communism and following the footsteps of communist dictator János Kádár. A YouTube video listed various Fidesz politicians who were formerly members of the communist dictatorship's party MSZMP. This event re-erupted in 2012 when Orbán's government put into the Hungarian Constitution that MSZMP was a criminal organisation and listed their crimes against the Hungarian people - which was the first time since the fall of communism these were stated in laws. The charge in both cases came from the left-wing MSZP who claim themselves the legal heir of MSZMP and inherited MSZMP's party fortune.[58][59]

The most stormy incidents happened in 2001. That April Magyar Hírlap made public a letter written by a reader that stated, "the killing of Orbán would do good to our nation". Also that month on TV channel RTL Klub, reporter Tamás Frei[60] interviewed a Russian hitman, asking him for how much money he would kill the Hungarian prime minister (then Orbán). Right-wingers thought it was a provocative question. Later it turned out that the interviewed person wasn't a real hitman, but an actor paid by Frei.[61] After this scandal, RTL Klub apologised to Orbán, and the Luxembourgian owners of the channel began an inquiry. Frei subsequently lost his job.


Orbán has played football from his early childhood. He was a professional player of Felcsút FC. After finishing his football career, he became the main financiers of the Hungarian football and his hometown's club Felcsút FC, later renamed, Puskás Akadémia FC.[62] He had a prominent role in the foundation of Ferenc Puskás Football Academy in Felcsút creating one of the most modern training facilities for young Hungarian footballers.[63] He also played an important role in establishing the annually organised international youth cup, Puskás Cup at Pancho Arena, in Felcsút. His only son, Gáspár Orbán learns and trains here.[64] FIFA president Sepp Blatter visited the facilities at the Puskás Academy in 2009. Blatter, together with the widow of Ferenc Puskás, as well as the founder of the Academy, Viktor Orbán, announced the creation of the new FIFA Puskás Award during that visit.[65] He played the bit part of a footballer in the Hungarian family film Szegény Dzsoni és Árnika (1983).[66]

Books published in Hungarian[edit]

  • Hollós, János – Kondor, Katalin: Szerda reggel – Rádiós beszélgetések Orbán Viktor miniszterelnökkel, 1998. szeptember – 2000. december, ISBN 963-933-732-3
  • Hollós, János – Kondor, Katalin: Szerda reggel – Rádiós beszélgetések Orbán Viktor miniszterelnökkel, 2001–2002, ISBN 963-933-761-7
  • A történelem főutcáján – Magyarország 1998–2002, Orbán Viktor miniszterelnök beszédei és beszédrészletei, Magyar Egyetemi Kiadó, ISBN 963-863-831-1
  • 20 év – Beszédek, írások, interjúk, 1986–2006, Heti Válasz Kiadó, ISBN 963-946-122-9
  • Egy az ország. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2007. (translated into Polish as Ojczyzna jest jedna in 2009)[67]
  • Rengéshullámok. Helikon Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2010.[68]



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  39. ^ "VoksCentrum – a választások univerzuma". 2006. Archived from the original on 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2010-04-17. 
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  43. ^ "EP-választás: A jobboldal diadalmenete". 2009-06-08. Retrieved 2011-06-08. 
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  62. ^ Orbán lenne a felcsúti focimese hőse
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  65. ^ Sepp Blatter az Akadémián
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  67. ^ Egy az ország – Orbán Viktor könyve Retrieved 17 January 2012.
  68. ^ Megjelent Orbán Viktor új könyve Retrieved 16 January 2012.


External links[edit]

National Assembly of Hungary
Preceded by
Leader of Fidesz in the National Assembly
Succeeded by
László Kövér
Party political offices
New office President of Fidesz
Succeeded by
László Kövér
Preceded by
János Áder
President of Fidesz
Political offices
Preceded by
Gyula Horn
Prime Minister of Hungary
Succeeded by
Péter Medgyessy
Preceded by
Gordon Bajnai
Prime Minister of Hungary