Born in May 1963 in a village located an hour away from Budapest, in a Protestant and rural family, he had little interest in religion. This, however, did not prevent him from using it in his speeches and from presenting himself as a defender of Christian values to the head of the CDU, Angela Merkel. He obtained his law degree at the Eötvös Lorand University in Budapest, but was mainly concerned with politics. Noticed precisely for his engagement in politics, he obtained in 1989 a scholarship from George Soros’s Open Society Foundation for a stay in Oxford. The financier of Hungarian origin could not imagine that he and the notion of "open society" would, a quarter of a century later, be undermined by the promising student... At the time, Viktor Orbán was part of a young generation of opponents who maintained complicated relations with their elders of intellectual dissent. At the end of 1989, the latter formed a liberal party, the Alliance of Free Democrats (SDSz), under Janos Kis’s leadership. If one is not satisfied with merely being the liberal party’s youth organization, one must create one’s own party. And thus Viktor Orbán founded Fidesz, the Hungarian Civic Union, the only opposition party in Central Europe that managed to survive.
Liberalism was fashionable at the time: even former communists seemed to be converting. So how does one distinguish oneself from the elders while surfing the wave? By being even more flamboyant and resolutely liberal: by adding a hint of Thatcherism in the transition to a market economy, by embracing liberalism in politics and as a model for society. Viktor Orbán and his friends from Fidesz, who were young and trendy, daring and deliciously impertinent, had their own dress style, and their campaign clips in Spring 1990 contrasted with the gloom of the Kádár years and the ‘liberal' unanimity that seemed to accompany their end.
Yet, in retrospect, one can guess that the radicality of their stance prevailed over the liberalism they displayed: style prevailed over substance. Their image was clearly overdone and had something fake about it. Fidesz’s MTV-style campaign clip on Roxette's "Listen to your heart" contrasted with the Velvet Underground and the Stones that accompanied the early days of Václav Havel presidency...
Viktor Orbán was not satisfied with being the liberals' junior partner for long.
Add new comment